Looking to protect their unbeaten start to the season, the 1st XI hosted leaders Netherton in an early-season top of the table clash on Saturday.
Having been asked to bat first, Croft started brightly with guest opener Alex Brunt holding up an end whilst the more aggressive Chris Pitt went after the bowling, hitting a six over extra cover from his second ball of the match. After Pitt departed for a breezy 14, Brunt was joined by Tom Murray and the pair started to build a sizeable second wicket partnership. Brunt looked good in his first Saturday innings of the season, displaying some clean hitting before chasing a wide ball and being caught behind for 34 with the score on 87. In the face of some tight Netherton bowling, Murray continued in his usual unruffled manner, timing the ball exquisitely through the covers on a number of occasions. Croft struggled to find the necessary support to Murray, with a regular fall of wickets keeping the visitors slightly on top. When Murray was finally dismissed an elegant 57, Croft had slumped to 161-8 and despite some late order hitting from skipper Jon Hunter (14), the innings ended on 178 all out from 41.4 overs.
Looking to defend a score that was probably 70-80 runs below par was always going to be an uphill struggle but Croft got off to a great start with Hunter dismissing both Netherton openers in the early exchanges. Paul Athey also chipped in with the key wicket of Troy Lee for 8, leaving Netherton on 26-3 and the game nicely in the balance. Paul Harris and Mohammed Nawaz set about rebuilding the innings, batting sensibly until two excellent pieces of fielding sent them back to the pavilion; firstly a sharp catch at slip by Matthew Palmer off the bowling of Hunter to dismiss Harris followed by a direct hit from Josh Cound to run out Nawaz. Cound also got in to the act with a caught & bowled wicket in his first over before Hunter (5-40 from 17 overs) completed his 5-wicket haul to leave Netherton reeling at 96-8.
The league-leaders are known for their strength in depth and this became evident as Simon Oseland and Jack Green started to drag them towards their target score. The experienced Oseland batted beautifully, picked off the opportunities to score with ease whilst Green offered solid support from the other end. With Croft short of their usual bowling options, Cound and Andy Pittam bowled tightly to keep the score in check but the Netherton pair offered up no real chances in a ninth wicket partnership of 70 before Paul Athey returned to remove the belligerent Green for 14 with Netherton needing 13 more to win. Oseland, joined by captain Danny Lowe, continue to lead his side towards victory hitting a textbook lofted drive for 4 to tie the scores and take him up to 75 not out. This left Lowe on strike for the next over needing one to win but, from the fourth ball, Athey (3-40 from 14.4 overs) found the perfect yorker to knock out the middle stump and spark excited celebrations from the sizeable Croft crowd. A tie was the perfect result for a game played between two strong sides, neither of which deserved to go away with the loss. Avoncroft picked up 14 points to remain second in the table as they travel to play a strong Martley 1st XI this weekend.
Match Report by Paul Athey, 22/05/2019
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