After the 1st XI express train hit the buffers in the rain at Eaton Socon last Sunday, followed by more wet and stormy weather during the week, it was always going to be a challenge to maintain the head of steam that had put us in the leading group at the top of I'Anson Division 1, but despite a few bumps along the way we managed to stay on track and we roll onward.
When groundsman Terry Brockman finally found a dry moment on Saturday morning in which to take the covers off and work on the wicket, only to get soaked by yet another downpour as he sat on the roller, he could have been forgiven for turning the air blue, even though the sky definitely wasn't. It was no surprise that visitors Frensham, on winning the toss, asked us to bat and it immediately paid dividends as Will Melhuish, the mainstay of our batting with 3 tons to his name this season and an average well over 100, fell cheaply for 2 along with opening partner Rob Parrott (9).
Fortunately other Melhuishes are available, and older brother Pete (above) was only too happy to step in and remind "Junior" of the family pecking order. His patient 65, supported by Tommy Dann (24) and Ollie Arengo-Jones (36), was the backbone of a tricky innings as we struggled to 189 all out in the 41st over. Not bad in the circumstances but a far cry from the 280+ of last week.
If Frensham sniffed victory at teatime they were soon smelling something less appealing. A frugal opening spell from Ben Taylor (6 overs 1 for 9) applied the pressure and then it was tall teenager Ed Eves who, by consistently hitting the seam and putting the ball in the right place, got the bounce and movement needed to reap the rewards as he took 3 for 13 in his 6 over spell. Once Blackheath had the upper hand they never lost it and despite a fighting 43 not out from Tim Knight it was left to off-spinner Tommy Dann with a lovely display of flight and guile to mop up the tail, taking 4-20. Frensham were hustled out for 130 in just 37 overs, and although front-runners Tilford also won, we narrowed the gap and things are now very tight at the top.
Meanwhile the 2nd XI martyrs went on their annual pilgrimage to Tongham, the shrine of St. Fosters, to face a well-oiled Tongham 1st XI machine who had a 100% record this season. Winning the toss skipper Simon Mansell had no hesitation in inserting the hosts on a damp pitch. Unlike last week when wayward early bowling let the openers get away, this time some disciplined stuff from seamers Breach, the skipper himself, Bloomfield and McDermott meant a slow start. However, as the ball softened and the early movement disappeared, pinch hitting no.4 Tyler Carrington (67) was able to hit his way out of trouble and put pressure back on Blackheath. Even after he departed, the hitting continued from a strong lower order and despite a good bowling and fielding display we could only limit the hosts to 236-8 from their 45 overs on a small ground with a surprisingly fast outfield.
In reply a lot rested on the young shoulders of big Ben Stefanik and the pick of last week's batsmen Jamie Bloomfield. Once they had both departed early, deceived by the unorthodox Moyle, the innings never really settled. Matt Burch, Ben Bushell, Chris Boucher and Chris Lewis all played some crisp strokes but, perhaps pressured by the size of the target, all gave their wickets away with rash shots. Only 15-year old Seb Cathrew (20) showed the necessary application and fought for his runs before he too was undone. When the innings finally collapsed to 116 all out the weary pilgrims were only too happy to head for home.
And finally in Saturday's round-up, to Grafham where the 3rd XI hosted Headley 3rds. Winning the toss, asking the visitors to bat, and allowing 10 of their 11 players to muster a mere 61 runs between them you'd think Blackheath were well on top in this one... but then you'd notice that opener Ben Homewood topped that up slightly with his individual score of 174 not out, and the picture looks rather different!! Set 238 to win from 40 overs Blackheath never really stood a chance, and despite 29 from Neil Cozens and a season's best 26 from Will Nash we were skittled out for 115.
Sundays at Blackheath are usually friendly affairs, and often family ones too with fathers and sons an increasingly common element of the team. This week's Sunday team featured no fewer than four Arengo-Joneses (Dad Ollie, plus sons Ben, Jake and Jasper), Tommy and Ollie Dann (pictured above), Paul and Will Nash (cover photo, top), and brothers Ronny and Danny Harrison.
Contrary to legend our visitors the Mogador Wanderers had not journeyed many days from The Shire but in fact from a small hamlet on the hills above Reigate. Asked to bat first they made steady progress against a young Blackheath bowling attack and some brilliant fielding. Danny Harrison's miraculous diving catch on the boundary near the yew tree would have been one of the highlights of the season... if it hadn't been a no-ball... and if he hadn't then dropped a sitter in the same area a few balls later. Danny's luck being what it is, the photographer only captured the second incident!! (see below, watched by new recruit James Ladd-Gibbon and, on the bench, Katie Arengo-Jones and Ollie Dann).
Mogador's innings was eventually ended by a run-out thanks to a superb flat throw to the top of the stumps from 8-year old Ollie Dann, and they finished on 200 all out.
Ronny Harrison, along with brother Danny, started the day in Newquay, Cornwall, so could have been forgiven for displaying a bit of "jet lag" by the time he'd driven all the way home and came to pull on his pads in late afternoon, but it never showed. He cruised through the gears and notched his first century of the season - seen here on reaching the milestone and being congratulated (presumably?) by his brother.
Once he had departed it was left to Tommy Dann and James Ladd-Gibbon to turn on the style and give us a glimpse of what they, too, are capable of as they took us to a comfortable win.