Both sides had secured promotion going into this final league fixture of the season, so this was effectively a play off for the Regional Division A East title. The winner would be promoted two divisions to 10A and the loser / league runner up would play in 10B. Phil Smith had a reasonably strong side available and the Village were in confident mood on arrival at the Old Haberdashers recently refurbished Clubhouse. Having lost the toss, the skipper was soon strapping his pads on, after being invited to bat first. He and Dan Penny got the innings off to a flyer and the score was past 50 without loss at the end of the 7th over. There were plenty of loose balls to capitalise on and Dan Penny (35) in particular took full advantage.
The skipper then nicked off to first slip, bringing the in-form Karan Chand to the crease. Runs began to dry up dramatically as the two change bowlers found a nagging line and length and a bit of movement off the pitch, demonstrating the importance of bowling a good line and length on this deck. Karan (37) prodded and poked but managed to stick it out. Dan Penny hit one up in the air to mid-off. When Sanket Shah paid the price for some ball watching, poor calling and dodgy running, the Village were beginning to wobble. However, a stand between Karan Chand and Matt Hawkes progressed the total to 110-3 after 27 overs and a decent total was still on the cards. The innings fell away badly after that. The brittle middle and lower order, who in fairness have had limited opportunities to bat for long periods this season, crumbled and the innings came to a close in the 38th over at 137 all out.
Tea was ordinary but optimism remained, as the Village bowling attack is probably the most potent in the league. Karan Gupta and Tommy Smith bowled decent opening spells without quite troubling the Old Habs openers regularly enough and the odd bad ball was harshly punished. The fast start that the Village needed failed to materialise. In the end it was a run out affected by Karan Gupta, his fifth of the season, which broke the partnership. The Old Habs skipper was at fault but he was making amends by proving difficult to shift.
All the bowlers tried hard but struggled to build the necessary pressure on the often aggressive Old Habs batting line up. It was Andrew Godfrey who eventually provided a ray of hope when he took two quick wickets. Another run out and another quick wicket left the hosts wobbling with 6 wickets down but by this time they only needed another 15 or so runs to win. It is always criminal not to use up the full allocation of overs in a short format game and this was perhaps where this game was lost. Anything around 160 to 170 would have proved a much stiffer target for the home side, who ended up cruising to victory with several overs to spare.
The Village 3s did not perform at their best in this crucial encounter. It is difficult to say whether this was because of the quality of the opposition, or because we were just a little below our best. Probably a little of both is true. We would have needed to be at our best to beat Old Habs II, who are a decent outfit at this level and deserved to take the title. Congratulations to them.
Despite the loss, this has been a fine and successful season for the 3rd XI. 12 wins and 4 losses from the 16 games played is an excellent return. Promotion was the main aim at the start of the season and this has been secured. We move out of the Regionalised divisions and as a result will be playing 45 over a side cricket next year rather than 40. This will be beneficial to the development of what is quite a young side. The contribution of the Club Juniors has been excellent and is a major reason for the team’s success. Fielding and bowling in particular has been of a very high standard. Batting consistency remains elusive but the longer format should help this. It was Colts Manager and Skipper Phil Smith’s stated aim to bring as many Juniors into the Adult league sides as possible. There are many potential 1st team cricketers coming through the ranks. We can only hope that they continue to enjoy their cricket and stick around long enough for the Club to benefit from their talents for the long term. Roll on the 2020 season. A top half finish in Division Ten B would do very nicely.