...and treat those two imposters just the same... You'll be a man, my son."
A weekend that started on the crest of a wave for our 1st XI ended in a very damp splash as I'Anson victory on Saturday turned to National Village Cup defeat in frustrating circumstances on Sunday.
After the last day controversy surrounding our 2019 I'Anson League title success at the expense of Grayswood, our 1st XI visit there this year was always likely to be one of the key moments of the 2020 season, especially with both sides having a 100% record to date and only bonus points, yet again, separating them at the top of the table.
Following heavy rain during the week to spice up the wicket, and in thick cloud and high humidity to make the new ball hoop around, it was no surprise when the hosts asked us to bat first on winning the toss. The pressure increased still further when in-form opening batsman Will Melhuish retired hurt early on with a suspected broken finger... but that, as it turned out, was far from the end of the story...
With Matron having presumably kissed it all better, Melhuish reappeared at the crease as wickets began to tumble and proceeded to hammer the Grayswood attack to all corners for a magnificent 157 not out. Perhaps the best Blackheath innings ever seen in the I'Anson League? Robust support in the middle order came from the bat of Ben Taylor (44), and we closed on a formidable 287-9 from our 45 overs. With three centuries from his first nine innings and a season average of over 100, Will "Bradman" Melhuish has now moved his status officially from "in-form" to "on fire".
(For all the season's statistics in our various squads, follow the links to play-cricket from the Cricket pages of our website).
The reply from Grayswood was typically robust, but once skipper Bertie Bertola had brought himself on for a trundle and dismissed Atkinson (65) the result was never in doubt. He finished with 4-53 and Grayswood were bowled out for 225 in 41 overs.
That still leaves Blackheath only second in the table, with Tilford also maintaining a 100% record and having more bonus points. Our meeting with them at home on 5th September now looks likely to be the title decider.
Meanwhile at the 'heath 2nd XI skipper Simon Mansell, who had already lost young Joe Dewar to a back injury the night before, was not best pleased to find on Saturday that two of his many veterans, Webb and McDermott, were only playing as walking wounded, unable to bowl. Even so, winning the toss and fielding first on a pitch still damp from Thursday's deluge, he would have hoped to put the Elstead batsmen in considerable difficulty.
Openers Pete (50) and Ollie (18) Lincoln both relied heavily on a front foot mow through the leg side, and were pleased to find the Blackheath bowlers giving them plenty of practice at that particular shot, rapidly and effectively putting on 80 for the first wicket. Order was restored by Mansell (1-17 from 9 overs) and wickets from Jamie Bloomfield (4-30) and Chris Lewis (3-27), but with a late wag of the tail the visitors were able to reach 166 all out when perhaps 120 would have been a more realistic total.
In reply, after losing Matt Hardcastle early on Jamie Bloomfield (59) and Paul Nash (40) worked steadily to put a win within reach, but when Harry Poil (18) was joined by Chris Lewis (19) there was still work to do against tight bowling in tricky conditions. Despite rummaging in his sack for a six and several other lusty blows "The Postman" Lewis was ultimately unable to deliver the victory, and we finished our 45 overs just 6 runs short of the target. A frustrating afternoon.
It was a different, and altogether better story at Gosden Common, where our 3rd XI were hosted by Bramley 2nds. Like his son-in-law Simon, skipper Colin Parrott won the toss and inserted his opponents, and similarly the opposition were able to amass 162-7 in their 40 overs. Pick of the eight bowlers used were Seb Cathrew (2-17) and Neil Cozens (2-19).
A strong start from occasional-leg-spinner-turned-stalwart-opening-batsman Tim Chambers (29) laid a platform before young stars 12-year old Rob Greenway (48) and 15-year old Freddie Hay (36 not out) took us to a resounding victory in just 36 overs, with a fine late cameo from Will Nash (16 not out).
Sundays at Blackheath provide a great opportunity to welcome a wide variety of cricketing opponents, from tough Village Cup sides to neighbouring clubs to wandering sides of all shapes, sizes, ages and standards. And so it was a great pleasure to take on such a young and keen side from the England Cricket Association for the Deaf (pictured above after the game) this weekend.
Skipper Danny Harrison won yet another toss for Blackheath and inserted his opponents, and again we saw why the weather made batting tough this weekend. After a mid-innings downpour England Deaf made 126 all out, with Simon Mansell (2-11), Stephen Greenway (3-18) and Man of the Match Dylan Toulson (3-10), another of our crop of talented 15-year olds, leading the bowling figures.
In reply, Rob Greenway followed up his 48 on Saturday with a further 45. His disappointment at narrowly missing a half century for the second time in two days was palpable, but greater success will surely follow soon. His chief partner today was Dylan Toulson who followed up his success with the ball by scoring a combative 53 not out to see us home to victory.
And finally to the (non)story of the weekend. After their crushing victories over Grayswood on Saturday and East Horsley in the previous round of the National Village Cup, the 1st XI travelled up to Eaton Socon in Huntingdonshire full of confidence for their "Round of 32" clash. Losing the toss and being asked to bat they set off at a good pace and despite losing two early wickets the third wicket pair Will Melhuish (30) and Alan Cope (33) put on 50 runs in only 64 balls. However Eaton Socon were strong opponents with players experienced in the top levels of their local leagues, and once the key batsmen had departed the going got very tough for the rest. Blackheath were eventually dismissed on the last ball of their 40 overs for only 148. A modest score, but conditions were tough and in this competition "runs on the board" are everything, so there was still a good opportunity to put the home side under pressure and force an unlikely victory.
...and then the rain came, in style. The entire ground rapidly resembled a lake, and despite the understandable keenness of the home side to get out there and capitalise on their bowling success rather than risk a lottery it was very clear that a "bowl off" was the only option. So both teams gathered in a soggy net, each player to bowl one ball at a vacant set of stumps. Sounds easy... but it really isn't. Final result - Eaton Socon 4, Blackheath 1. And so our 2020 Village Cup campaign came to a very damp end.
For some great photos of the Eaton Socon match, and of the biblical weather, check out this Twitter account...
There will be other years, other dramas, and hopefully other successes...