Avoncroft 1st team visited Netherton for the second league game of the season on what was an unusually warm and pleasant day for playing cricket. With regular skipper Jon Hunter away, Paul Athey stepped in and continued the club’s run of winning the toss, choosing to bowl first.
The first 15 overs were a nip and tuck affair, with a good Netherton start pulled back firstly by a smart piece of awareness from keeper Sam Hughes to stump Nawaz for 10 and then by an excellent ball from brother Craig Hughes to dismiss Lowe for 25. With Hughes bowling well at one end, Croft opted to take pace off the ball and introduced wily seamer Andy Pittam, making a rare foray into the first XI. Hughes and Pittam keep things very tight, limiting the boundaries and varying their pace to good effect. Pittam produced an exquisite ball to bamboozle Hall, bowling him for 11 with the Netherton batsman audibly displaying his frustration that he had misread the ball. At this point, Netherton were 76-3 and the game was nicely in the balance.
What followed was a perfect example of how to rebuild an innings. Troy Lee and Paul Harris patiently played themselves in before expanding their range of shots to good effect. Craig Hughes finally made the breakthrough, dismissing Lee for 67 thanks to a good catch from debutant Steve Eastham, who added really energy and skill to Croft’s fielding display. The partnership between the two Netherton stalwarts had been worth 78 however, and the hosts were now firmly in the driving seat. This was cemented when new batsman Hassan Shah went on the rampage, hitting the luckless Hughes for six 6’s in an over – Hughes final figures of 2-87 off 14 not doing justice to his role as the pick of the bowlers over the course of the afternoon. Netherton looked to push home their advantage and, despite two late wickets for Paul Athey, they finished on a dominant 274-8 off their 50 overs.
The afternoon had been made worse by an injury to top order batsman Will Sach which meant that Croft set off with only 10 men to chase down their tricky target. After 12 overs, the chance of victory had all but evaporated as opposing skipper Danny Lowe picked up three quick wickets, leaving Croft languishing on 34-3. Josh Cound and Sam Hughes (18) started to rebuild the innings but with Croft falling further behind the run rate, their focus switched to holding on for the draw. Jonty Heslop (12) and Paul Athey (4 not out) played useful supporting roles but it was Cound whose mature innings held everything together. Cound batted for 40 overs for his 41 not out, enabling Croft to hold on for useful if largely unsatisfying losing draw.
Avoncroft 1sts continue their league campaign this Saturday at home to Malvern.
Match Report by Paul Athey, 9/5/18
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