Avoncroft 1st XI were winners in a competitive encounter on Saturday, but there was little celebrating done after a terrible injury occurred to Kempsey talisman Sam O’Neill. After being struck on the back of the head by a full blooded drive, Sam was taken to hospital.
Thankfully, we have learnt that he is feeling a lot better and is looking forward to leaving Coventry hospital, where he has been since Saturday evening. Get well soon Sam and we hope to hear about you back on the cricket pitch again soon.
After Avoncroft’s victory in the midweek T20 over Kempsey only three days before this encounter this was always going to be a competitive game. Both teams played their cricket hard but fair and this contributed to a real spectacle of a game in the sapping heat.
Croft were put into bat and were soon in trouble against the strong Kempsey attack. O’Neill had Will Sach removed lbw for 2 and Dan Elliott at number 3 was soon to follow edging the ball off Adam Baker to leave Avoncroft in trouble at 23-2. Croft’s other opener Matt Hare was looking relaxed and solid, taking a liking to anything short. Sam Hughes had joined him at the crease but he too fell to a good ball from Baker that cleaned up his stumps and Avoncroft were looking wobbly at 34-3. Dave Anson was next at the crease. Again, Avoncroft failed to build a partnership of note, Hare (24) dismissed next, bowled by the impressive Baker. At 56-4 Croft were looking to be heading for an early tea and this fear was growing when Anson was dismissed for 21 and the score at 61-5. Croft were staring down the barrel as a result of some good bowling, Kempsey showing one of the many reasons they were unbeaten until this fixture. The departure of Anson brought Paul Athey to the crease at number six, and after the innings he built, it is likely he will become a new fixture in the Croft middle order as someone who can steadily accumulate runs without taking too many risks. He and Craig Hughes (22) put on a partnership of 54 to restore a modicum of respectability but when Hughes was dismissed and the score on 115-6 Croft were looking down and out. Athey had at this point accumulated 31 runs and was joined at the crease by Mark Wood who had batted himself into some form the week before. A partnership of 36 was made before Wood (9) gave a simple catch to mid wicket off a loose ball that he will have felt he should have put away. This brought skipper Mark Whitehead to the crease at number 9 and the partnership he and Athey built, along with a moment or two of good fortune along the way, helped to turn Avoncroft from looking like a team destined for defeat to one who at least would give themselves a fighting chance of winning the game. Athey and Whitehead built a partnership of 104. Athey continued to steadily accumulate while Whitehead took the attack to the Kempsey bowlers with some aggressive shots. All of this could have been cut short had Whitehead been caught when he skied a catch to only a few feet away from the crease, the keeper appearing to lose the ball in the sun, the bowler calling it early and with the chance spilled, Whitehead went on to take advantage. Athey continued to push the ball around and accumulate boundaries while looking in control.
Whitehead was eventually dismissed in the 49th over, the score on 255-8 and an air of respectability restored. Athey (90*) remained there until the end – he helped turn what looked like being a difficult day for Croft in to one that might yet still yield a surprise. The innings closed on 258-8.
With Sam O’Neill unfortunately missing from the Kempsey batting line up as result of the horrific injury sustained in the 1st innings, Croft were still having to focus on the task of removing a batting line up that was one of the strongest in the league even without O’Neill.
Kempsey showed intent to chase hard from ball 1 with Robinson clattering two boundaries in the first over. Dan Elliott opening from the bottom end was looking good from the start of his spell and it wasn’t long before he took Robinson’s stumps with a fantastic delivery. Dave Anson then produced a moment of magic in the field with a direct hit run out to remove Joe Worthington. Croft were applying pressure well from both ends, Dan Elliott cleaning up Ben Ware leaving Kempsey in trouble at 20-3. Chris Jones, the Kempsey skipper, having held himself back to number 4 was at the crease sooner than he had hoped for and after the third wicket falling was joined by Josh Jones and looking to create some stability. Elliott though removed Jones and with the score at 20-4 Croft were sensing their chance. Skipper Jones though had other thoughts and his partnership with Steve Winstanley was looking like it could give Kempsey a chance at pulling the game back in their favour.
Their partnership, with some excellent shot selection, showed that Avoncroft could not afford to assume the victory was theirs for the taking and they would made to fight all the way for it. A change of bowling at the top end brought Will Sach on who bowled a fantastic spell of 6-1-16-1 to put the brakes on the scoring rate and take the important wicket of Winstanley (27) to break the partnership at 97-5. Then a spectacular piece of fielding from Dave Anson to catch skipper Jones finally started to push things back in Croft’s favour again, Kempsey now 97-6. A partnership of 42 from Padden (20) and Baker (19) gave Kempsey some flicker of hope again but when Elliott removed Padden it signalled the end, a few overs later Jovan Marcetic taking the final wicket and Kempsey all out for 147.
Croft had shown that when they build partnerships they can create scores that are defendable. Our bowling unit fired well again, despite missing Jon Hunter, Elliott producing a magnificent spell of 10-0-52-4, Will Sach bowling tight lines to finish with 6-0-16-1 and Athey and Craig Hughes chipping in with a couple of important wickets. High standards in the field again helped to keep us in the game.
The cricket had been enjoyable and fought hard and while the victory was there for Croft, everyone’s attention and thoughts very quickly returned to the well-being of Sam O’Neill. We all love our cricket at both Avoncroft CC and Kempsey CC but both teams were reminded of the perspective we should put this in when such a terrible accident happens.
Avoncroft, currently sitting fifth in the table, travel to Malvern, sixth, next week where the two teams will battle it out to see who can pull away from the mid table positions and look to start chasing the top four.
Match Report by Mark Whitehead, 19/6/17
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