Sussex Martlets 283-8 (40.4 overs); T Pullan 136 (98), J Cooper 52
Horsham CC 267-8 (38 overs); J Willoughby 114 (50), J Willis 61; W Pickard 3-46, M Trubshaw 3-39
Report by Ben Pullan
On a roasting, high-summer’s afternoon at Horsham, the Martlets played out a well-fought, thrilling draw against a strong mid-week XI put out by the home side.
The agreed format was what Horsham skipper Chris Shambrook described as ‘proper cricket’, an afternoon declaration match concluding with 20 overs from 6.15. Much to the joy of the visiting Martlets, our aforementioned host, with no toss required, offered us first use of what looked a belter of a deck – a chance for the top order to get stuck in to the bowling, and the lower order pints in front of the World Cup semi-final. As skipper, I decided to lead with my strength, going for a formidable SJM / Fletching top three of Ollie Bradley, Jack Cooper and Toby Pullan.
Our two opening bats made light work of Horsham’s new ball pair, in particular Cooper who unveiled his full repertoire of punishing strokes. Indeed, such was his dominance that, by the time Bradley (no stodger he!) was out for 11, we had 54 on the board. The Fletching and Martlets newbie went on to complete a whirlwind 33-ball 50, before ‘bottling it’ in the tenth over, chipping an easy catch to long-off.
All the while, three-time (senior) Martlets centurion Pullan T. was setting about his work with characteristic diligence, first punishing anything overpitched by the Horsham seamers, and then delivering a masterclass in milking their spinners. He was joined by Hector Maclean, who also played Horsham’s spin-heavy attack with assurance, before being undone by a decidedly sharp-looking quicker ball.
Nevertheless, Pullan, alongside new man Arthur Pickard, continued to wear down the Horsham attack. As he cruised past fifty, mumbles about the inevitability of another T. Pullan Martlets hundred were being aired in the bar. Our anchorman lost partners Pickard for a characteristically classy 32, Trubby for a belligerent 8, and – sending several scrambling to get padded up – Fin Tomlinson for 0, but eventually brought up his century. I, being one of the aforementioned sent sprinting to the dressing room, missed this moment, so apologies for a lack of report on shot to get there / celebration.
Anyway, with three figures achieved, as expected, carnage ensued, with Pullan intent on smashing everything in his zone out of the park. One lofted drive cleared not only the enormous Horsham straight boundary, but also the tennis court fence beyond. Eventually, he was out stumped, for an epic 98-ball 136, allowing his brother and Ben Jackson a quick slog before a declaration at 283-8.
Going into tea, I was confident, but not overly so, given the opposition had such names from the top echelon of Sussex club batting as Willoughby, Haines and Willis. Sure enough, the Horsham top order soon had me wondering whether any Martlets score would have been enough on this motorway of a wicket. Billingshurst (I know, ringer alert) Aussie overseas Willoughby, in particular, unleashed a devastating assault on our young opening bowlers, hitting three fours and three sixes within the first two overs. Such was the awesomeness of his ball-striking that, within four overs, the Horsham score read 59-1, the aforementioned having achieved a 17-ball 50.
Thankfully, during this time, Tom Haines of East Grinstead and Sussex had spooned a Tomlinson long-hop to Maclean at midwicket, so we were spared punishment from both ends. He was replaced by Joe Willis of Horsham 1s fame, who quickly set about giving as much strike as possible to the Aussie maestro. The carnage continued; being honest, overs 1-18 were some of the worst of my captaincy career, as I had no idea how to stop this wrecking ball.
Bowlers started to hide, fielders to back off… Credit where credit is due, Pullan (showing he has more than one string to his bow) stuck his hand up, and delivered five overs of excellent change-up medium pace to a deep-set field when the heat was properly on. Mention also ought to be made of Maclean, who came back well from his first two overs going for 29. But in the blink of an eye, Willoughby had pulled off a 42-ball century; I feared a very early finish. Thankfully, experience stood up, as veteran Martlets off-spinner Trubshaw finally turned one past Willoughby’s outside edge – thank heavens! – and Pickard held his nerve to complete a critical stumping. The opener walked off with the score on 158-2 off 18, his own contribution a breathtaking 114 off 50 balls.
As we entered the final twenty overs, the equation seemed simple for Horsham: 121 required with eight wickets in hand. Nevertheless, with their maestro out, we were all able to breathe a little easier in the field. Bowlers, and fielders, began to warm to their task. Trubby, helped by some superb catching from Maclean (who went on to take four outfield catches – a Martlets record?), winkled out their middle-order. Fellow off-spinner Jackson also bowled nicely. Going into the final seven overs, the Horsham score read 227-5, all three results well and truly on the table.
Here, youth stepped up for the Martlets, Paddy Cooper (under-13) and Wilf Pickard (under 14) both delivering their right- and left-arm (respectively) medium pacers well. The latter merits particular credit, having been the new-ball bowler who got the most tap from their opener. Indeed, helped by some excellent catching from Pullan and Trubshaw, he came back so well that he almost pulled off the most unlikely of Martlets’ wins. Nevertheless, to hold our opposition to 267-8, from where they were, represents an outstanding performance. In the bar afterwards, the opposition skipper heralded the day’s affairs as ‘a superb game of cricket’ – and, despite the pain endured at times in the field, I wholeheartedly agreed!
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