Avoncroft Sunday XI began their league season with defeat away at Astwood Bank. The side has showed their early season promise with an opening day friendly victory over Old Georgians and following two cancelled fixtures due to poor weather, were eager to get going in the league.
If the blazing heat wasn’t enough to contend with Avoncroft lost two players the night before and started the game with only nine players having not been able to find any replacemements. Losing the toss and being asked to field was always going to make things difficult however bowling Astwood Bank out cheaply was probably the only realistic way of winning the game.
Martin Cound opened the bowling with his usual accuracy and bowled his 8 overs for just 26 runs in blistering conditions for May. Dan Elliott also bowled with good pace and accuracy and snared their opener Hancox down leg side with a good sharpe catch from Ollie Brookes.
At drinks Astwood Bank were 100 for 1 off 20 overs and on a good wicket and fast scoring ground Croft could be proud of their efforts up to that point. However Astwood Bank having wickets in hand and Croft only nine fielders proved to be too much in the end.
Ed Pugh bowled well in the middle overs and bowled Shepard for 84, however Bank’s number three Browning made it through to his hundred, finishing not out on 102. Bank would close on 272 for 2 from 40 overs. Some big hitting and exploitation of gaps in the field coupled with wayward bowling at the end made sure Bank had posted an imposing target. I took comfort from the fact that last season we were able to chase down 248 against them and that with two fewer players they only posted 24 more runs.
In reply Croft got off to a great start, Dan Elliott and Jonty Heslop played positively and put on 30 from the first 3 overs. This opening partnership, formed last season has the potential to be explosive with both playing a succession of drives to the boundary. Dan fell on 20 when one kept slightly low and snuck through.
Skipper Christopher Pitt joined Jonty in the middle and both settled into the chase nicely, the pair mixed quick singles with finding the boundary on a regular basis and at drinks Croft found themselves 115 for 1 from 20 overs. Post drinks however Bank tightened up and four overs went by with only ten added to the total. This proved fatal to the chase, Jonty made it through to his first 50 of the season but shortly after fell without adding to his total, bringing an end to a 91 run partnership with Chris.
Max Jukes played some nice shots but was undone on 11 and then shortly after Chris was bowled by Sharpe for 47 trying to push up the scoring rate. Josh Cound played with his usual stroke play but fell for 19. Croft then collapsed to 191 all out.
Croft were left to rue what might have been had we been able to play with 11 players. However I was proud of the effort the side put in, keeping positive in the field and giving everything we could. Those that played can hold their heads up high. A particular thanks to Martin Cound and Pete Jukes who altered their plans to help me out at short notice.
Croft move on to a home fixture against Barnards Green next week.
Match Report by Christopher Pitt, 06/05/2018