New season, old friends as Martlets open 2019 with draw against Worth
Report by Ben Pullan (match manager)
Sussex Martlets 227-8 dec. (52 overs)
S. Carter 70, G. Martin 58, B. Pullan 44;
H. Kalsi 10-0-36-3, J. McLoughlin 11-1-31-2, G. Minch 4-18-2.
Worth 194-5 (47 overs)
A. Padalkar 71, J. McLoughlin 49*, M. B-Lewis 30;
H. Cope 12-1-47-2.
Despite cloudy April skies, decidedly chilly temperatures, and a stiff northerly breeze, it was with much excitement that the Martlets began their 2019 season at Worth, particularly given that this fixture has succumbed to the weather gods in two of the past four years. As is customary, the students offered their visitors the chance to have first use of what looked a decent early-season Worth deck, prompting Sam Carter to dust off his now-fading but nevertheless iconic Martlets cap, to open up yet another season for the club. He was accompanied by yours truly, who had decided to abuse his match manager’s prerogative, in order to open versus his alma mater, and also take part in a rare Fletching-Newick alliance.
The early exchanges made it look as if it had been a lengthy winter for the aforementioned opening pair, with impressive Worth new-ball partnership left-armer McAlister and fiery red-head McLoughlin (given the names and the weather, one might have been excused for thinking that we had made a trip ‘beyond the wall’) making the ball talk, and inducing several air-shots. But as the old adage goes, ‘if you are going to slash…’, and helped by Worth’s fallible slip-catching (frozen hands, no doubt), and a vacant third man, the Martlets pair began to settle into their work.
As the new ball lost its shine, we both played some nice cover-drives (yours truly spurred on by the advice of his former cricket master to his lads that ‘Pullan B. doesn’t drive through the off-side’) and before too long had put on 88 for the first wicket. That wicket duly came, when I was guilty of one hack too many, stumped off the bowling of Ramani. This brought George Martin (of Plumpton fame) to the crease, who began a characteristically sprightly innings. Soon enough, Carter passed 50, and all was right in the Martlets’ world. An eventual uncharacteristic slog from Sam resulted in his dismissal for 70, but meant that we went into lunch still well poised at 152-2.
And what a lunch it was, Pullan Snr.’s fears about a lack of booze being offered proving unfounded. Whilst the aforementioned, Carter (understandably) and Deggsy got stuck in, the rest of us – having taken our fill – headed back to the ground in the hope of an afternoon spent watching Trubby bully schoolboy off-spinners. Sadly, that scenario did not come off, and we were instead treated to an eventful innings containing an imperious back-foot punch, a convincing appeal given not out, and an unusual (perhaps unlucky?) eventual dismissal.
Meanwhile, Martin had settled into his work, unfurling (to Carter’s horror) his trademark array of reverse sweeps and laps. He was joined by Hardwicke, who batted nicely in a rare appearance for the club. In search of quick runs to set up a declaration, wickets fell: first Martin for a superb 71, then Hardwicke, then a trio of ducks from our much-vaunted lower/middle-order. It was left to Nos. 9 and 10 (Mike Murray and Ben Jackson respectively) to provide the icing on the cake, allowing for a sporting (seemingly) mid-afternoon declaration at 227-8. All credit to Worth’s plethora of spinners, who had made the second half of our innings hard work!
After a quick break, it was time for the Worth opening pair of Ramani and DeHavers to face the famously excellent (and contrasting) Martlets and St. James’ opening attack of Shaw and Murray. It was great to watch the schoolboys wrestle with the challenge of, from one end, 80 mph thunderbolts, and from the other, relentlessly accurate dibbly-dobblies. In the end, a Murray morsel proved just too tempting for Ramani, who (in the manner of many a league batsman his senior) spooned a catch to Martin at cover.
Tea was taken with Worth battling hard – but by no means out of it – at 36 for 1 from 14 overs. In an attempt to open the game up, yours truly deemed that, after tea, it was time for some spin. I was blessed to have at my disposal the left-arm chinamen (or should that be wrist-spinners, in today’s world?) of Henry Cope, and the steady-eddie off-spin of Ben Jackson. Both bowled well, but it was Cope who got the eventual breakthrough, DeHavas LBW for a gritty 16. All the while, Worth’s no. 3 Padalkar had been going along nicely, and started to unveil an array of stylish (and powerful) shots off the back foot to our spinners. He had been joined by McLoughlin (a genuine all-rounder), and begun a partnership that, on another day, might have won the match for Worth.
Indeed, as the game entered its last 20 overs, these two had reduced the asking rate to 7s. But with Padalkar’s eventual dismissal, caught by keeper Hardwicke (who had an excellent day behind the stumps) off the bowling of Cope, for an exemplary 71, and a miserly spell of right-arm experience from Deggsy to follow, Worth’s challenge gradually petered out.
A spell of aggressive off-spin from Trubshaw, some attacking field placements, and three overs of heat at the death from Jordan made things interesting, but the Martlets could manage only two further wickets, meaning that Worth sealed the draw at 194 for 5, achieved largely by McLoughlin’s 49*, and Mali B-Lewis’ gutsy 30. Mention ought to be made of my old man, who, having kindly filled in at the eleventh hour after drop-outs, fielded with commendable commitment.
Beers and samosas (kindly laid on by Worth) were taken after the game, the option of playing the game as a 50-over match next year was mentioned, and then it was back to the pub for further digestion of the day’s play.
Despite its propensity to induce draw like this, I personally favour the traditional format in games versus schoolboys, as it gives them something to play for in the event of a one-sided fixture, but I am willing to mix it up next year if Worth are happy to do so. Regardless of the result, a great day of cricket was had by all – and here’s to a cracking Martlets season!
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