It was to a surprisingly bright late-April morning that the Martlets opened their 2017 season in the delightful surroundings of Worth School. A typically contrived ‘toss’ saw the schoolboys win and generously insert their guests on what looked like an invitingly flat deck.
The Martlets duly got off to an absolute flier, thanks to some rusty bowling from the Worth seamers, and some notably less-so batting from the experienced opening pair of Carter and Martin. The latter looked in particularly fine fettle, racing to 80-odd before lunch, an innings that was characterised by some crunching drives through — and sometimes over — the covers.
Credit where credit is due, Worth did a fantastic job in the field to stifle the Martlets’ initially rapid run-rate. Their wayward seamers were replaced by some accurate spin from Marley (leg-spin) and Nayee (left-arm orthodox), the latter going on to complete a phenomenal five-fer, relying on subtle variations of pace, flight and angle on a wicket offering little or no turn at all.
Nevertheless, they were swept in Compton-esque style by the helmetless Carter, who came into lunch on 60-odd not out, and looked dead cert to record his tenth Martlets’ century (though he claims he has a few more than this). Nevertheless, perhaps due to the changing weather conditions or some post-lunch fatigue, an uncharacteristic rush of blood saw him fall short. No need to worry, as a very composed innings from veteran Martlets debutant Hardwicke set up a mid-afternoon declaration.
Sadly, the flat deck, unusual timings of the day, slow over-rates, and a possibly belated declaration from skip (oops) meant that it was going to be hard to manufacture a result. The record-breaking Worth opening pair of Padalkar and Nayee hinted at what the schoolboys might have achieved, the latter of whom crunching three pristine cover-drives off Davies’ first over, but understandably chose to treat the innings as an early-season net, rather than throw their wickets away. Nayee went on to carry his bat for a chanceless 80-odd not out.
Indeed the meticulous coaching of Raj Chaudhuri was evident, as the schoolboys dealt with the pace and hostility of Shaw with admirable technique and courage. Some turn extracted by Waylett (two-fer) gave us a glimpse, but the game was very quickly closed out, despite some absolute pies being offered by yours truly and Carter in an attempt to open it up.
A special word of thanks should be given to my old man, who helpfully broke his thirty-year Martlets’ hiatus, only to accept graciously number 11 and injure himself, getting his ankle in the way of a Jordan Shaw thunderbolt. Life just isn’t fair!
Nevertheless, a bore-draw result belies what was a lovely season-opener and hopefully the first of many Martlets v. Worth encounters. Several pints were drunk back at the pub, and everyone went away excited for the season’s prospects.
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