Avoncroft 1st team visited Hanley Castle for the first round of fixtures in the Worcester cricket league division 3. New Skipper Jon Hunter won the toss and elected to bowl on a damp track following the recent bad weather that the region has received over the last few months.
Experience duo of Paul Athey and Hunter started the season off where they finished last year continuing their strong opening partnership. It was Hunter that made the early break through trapping Nick Bailey LBW in just his fourth ball of the season. The continued pressure on the batsmen was backed up by some superb fielding by several members of croft side and it was Hunter who struck again to bowl Grant Mathews for 2.
Spinner Craig Hughes was introduced into the attack and a smart catch down the leg side by keeper Tom Murray saw the 3rd wicket of the day fall and the first of 2 wickets for Hughes. Shortly after the 30 minute rain delay the teams returned to the middle and it was Hunter who struck again bowling Mathew Pratley for 2. This left the croft on top but following the rain break the standards in the field slipped and contending with a wet ball allowed Hanley castle to get back into the game. It was then the turn of Dan Elliot to open his wicket account for the season having Olly Lewis (19) caught on the leg side.
James Downing came into the attack and he struck with his 3rd ball of the season to dismiss the patient Castle’s skipper St Leger-Chamber smartly caught by Elliot for 26. Downing then followed in his next over after pushing one through the defences of Rhys Hooper to bowl him for 1. Barrell was then bowled by Hunter to leave his Avoncroft side on top.
The impressive Benson – Smith (27*) was well supported by a couple of lusty blows by Tony Hutchins (17) before the returning Athey picked up his first wicket of the season. Another strong partnership between Benson -Smith and Jack Smith (7) allowed the Castle to be bowled out for 147 in the 48 over with Hughes picking up Jack Smith stumped by keeper Murray.
A good all round bowling performance with Hunter (4-24) and Downing (2-21) the pick of the bowlers which left croft needing 148 for victory from 43 overs due to the earlier rain delay.
The new opening pair of Elliot and Sach headed out to the crease to start the croft chase but Sach (2) was dismissed in the first over from a brilliant swinging delivery from the impressive George Barrell (4-44). Keeper Murray headed to the crease and impressed from ball one as he held together the croft chase in a calm and well-paced innings. Murray gave the bowlers no margin for error and ran well with his team mate. However, Murray struggled to keep any of the croft batsmen with him as Elliot (16), Hughes (4), Cound (2) and Anson (0) all fell in quick succession to leave the croft 56-5. It was the partnership between Murray and youngster Jonty Heslop (19) who brought the croft back into the game. This was one of the most composed innings that we have seen from Heslop who was supporting Murray towards the Hanley total.
Heslop was then dismissed by Barrell following a 53 run partnership which brought vice skipper Athey (16*) to the crease. This pair then saw the croft over the victory line with an unbeaten 41 run partnership in the 37 over. Murray was the standout batsmen finishing on 55 not out in a well-built innings.
A game which was played in a good spirit and credit must go to the Hanley groundsman to produce a pitch following a recent spell of bad weather. The croft will return to the action next Saturday (28th April) at home to Alvechurch and Hopwood where they will hope to continue the good start to the season.
Match Report by Jon Hunter, 22/04/18
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