Lower orders assert themselves
At the start of play it seemed that only a plague of locusts of biblical proportions could add to the selection difficulties faced by the harassed home club. Several stalwarts from recent seasons were now either retired because of domestic commitments, available only on an irregular basis or were having a delayed start because of university exams. On top of that the late May holiday, work schedules and injuries, both short and long term, compounded the problems. With the second team having seven members of it aged seventeen or under resources were fully stretched and Craig Smith was signed on the day to complete the first team. His speed and enthusiasm in the field was of great value as he saved two certain boundaries as well as cutting potentials twos into singles.
Ashley Armitage, in the absence of Chris Flanagan, opened with Nathan Appleyard and it was the latter who provided much of the early scoring momentum. Ashley had made his first appearance of the season the week before in the second team and the improvements in his batting over the last couple of years, after starting out as a tailender, were readily apparent. He defended soundly and made some good forcing shots on the off side only to have the misfortune to have one or two of them well fielded in the covers when boundaries looked certain. After reaching 20 Nathan was caught from a lofted drive and Kris Thackray (3) soon followed, bowled by Andy Haigh to give the latter his second victim. Alex Topham was quickly into his stride but off spinner A McLeod ended Ashley's patient innings when he played on with his score on 11 and the total 53/3.
Alex had looked untroubled in reaching 20 when he got a top edge to an attempted pull off McLeod and wicket keeper Gledhill took an easy catch. Having got off the mark with a well timed on drive for three, Josh Booth (4) fell to a catch at square cover when limited foot movement was a factor in his dismissal. With Ryan Hunter also quickly departing for three, 72/6 put the visitors well on top. Neil Booth, once again on first team duty, was batting patiently whilst always looking to pick up singles and twos and Joe Law (8) helped him add 24 before the latter was called for a suicidal run by Neil after the latter tried to take advantage of a dropped catch. Of the seven wickets to fall at least three of them had been down to batting indiscretions rather than supreme bowling skills.
Tom Broom then batted well as he and Neil kept the score moving as the overs began to run out and Nathan Appleyard reappeared to act as Neil's runner when he stretched a hamstring. After just over an hour's patient resistance Neil was caught in the penultimate over for an invaluable 39. Tom ended on 20 not out with Lee Booth on one. The total of 138/8 looked a little on the low side but was welcome after struggles earlier in the innings had made something rather less than this look more than likely.
Just like the previous week's game quick inroads were made into the visiting batting. Joe Law opened the attack in the absence of Greg Holmes, unavailable because of work schedules in a new job, and he dismissed the first four in the Holmbridge order. Lee Booth had Andy Haigh caught at the wicket and when Joe (5/25), nearing the end of his spell, bowled Mark Beaumont the total was 45/6. M Abbott hit a rapid 17 before being caught at square leg by Greg who was fielding as a substitute. The bowler was Alex Topham. At 74/7, sixty-five were still needed but, just as in the Thornhill & Westborough game, a powerful tail began to wag a less energetic dog. Craig Furze had started in defensive mode but newly arrived S Heppenstall, the visitor's opening bowler, saw a significant change.
The latter adopted an uncomplicated death or glory style of batting and bludgeoned several boundaries, including one six, as the score suddenly moved along with great rapidity. On 117 C Furze, by now also well and truly in attacking mode, was caught at long on by Alex Topham from Tom Broom's bowling for 35 but Heppenstall continued undaunted and was helped when G Peck struck a couple of fours before being bowled for nine by Kris Thackray. Last man G Parr played the last ball of the over safely as well as five balls in the next after a leg bye from the first delivery. Three deliveries later Holmbridge celebrated their first win of the season as Heppenstall drove a ball to the cover boundary to end on 38 not out thus ensuring a one wicket triumph for the visitors. They had now won three of their last four games at Thurstonland, one by two wickets and the other two with the last pair at the crease.
The previous week had seen 117 added by the visitors for the last three wickets, although unavailingly, whilst this time from 45/6 the next three put on 96 for Holmbridge. The fat lady certainly appeared to be in need of some appropriate lubrication for her throat as far as Thurstonland was concerned.
Team: Nathan Appleyard (w/k) Ashley Armitage Kris Thackray Alex Topham Josh Booth Neil Booth Ryan Hunter Joe Law Tom Broom Lee Booth Craig Smith.