After spending over half an hour discovering the local attractions of the Earley area, WSL 1st XI finally arrived at the ground they had been searching for and they were in for a shock. Not only was the playing area the size of a postage stamp and the school pitch looking unfavourable with weeds growing on good bowling lengths but the outfield in some areas had not been cut for over a week. Thus begins the report of the most protracted game is WSL history where a staggering 129 runs were scored with 19 wickets falling in 61 overs of at times farcical cricket. Need I go on?
So with 10 minutes to go before the start time WSL captain Andy Malliff won the toss on a school pitch and had no hesitation in bowling first. However, WSL only had 7 men and with the tricky ground to find, they sent Siva Kumar (once he had got changed) to the road to usher them in.
The rest of the team changed al fresco ignoring the fact that the opposition had a female player and when Kumar came back empty handed the game begun with WSL conceding 4 from the first ball courtesy of byes. This was as high as the run rate got as Malliff and opening partner Kumar tore the Earley batting apart.
First up was opener Shacklady who was excellently caught behind by the now arrived Gandhi. To the wicket strode the confident Ollie Johnson fresh from his century last week. This time round he was much briefer playing a superb forward defensive to the first ball then completely missing the 2nd. Earley were 8-2 and worse was to follow as Malliff after having Aduri dropped by Connor at short gulley bowled opener Bye. By the time Kumar had Aduri caught by the impressive Sharpe and Malliff taking the scalp of Watts again to the now safe hands of Sharpe, Earley were 16-5.
WSL were eyeing up a very early finish and with chances coming all the time we hopeful of wrapping things up early. However, a partnership of 40 frustrated WSL and in spite of the fact that the grass was so long that any pleasing shot trickled to fielders in the ring, it was becoming clear that both batting on the pitch and scoring runs through the outfield were going to be difficult.
First change duo England and Venkata made the relevant breakthroughs with the help of a miraculous one handed catch at short square leg from captain Malliff and with that seemingly disappeared Earley’s hope of posting any such total eventually succumbing to a lowly 64 all out from an incredible 33.3 overs. Surely this game was in the bag for WSL and with a hot tea promised for 16:00 openers Gandhi and R Sainani walked out with the captain’s words of patience and platform ringing in their ears.
However, it seemed that the difficulty with scoring runs from the Earley innings had transferred to WSL and turgid didn’t really do the game justice. Both openers were out cheaply with number 3 Sharpe falling too to leave WSL at 15-3. There was a sense of “everything will be ok” as we retired for tea on 18-3 and following an excellent meal Waltham set off in pursuit of the victory that they deserved.
Sid Sainani got things going well taking Gore for a maximum in the first over back and rocketing the flagging run rate and achieving a tenth of the score in one hit. It was however to be short lived as Lean came on to bowl and with his extra height exposed the shocking pitch much more than the other bowlers. Waghorn got a shooter which barely got off the ground and Connor capped the worst day in WSL colours for a long time with a rapid two ball duck to another grubber.
Earley were sensing something and when Venkata and Malliff fell bowled by the impressive Lean the unthinkable was happening. However, watching the carnage at the other end was Waltham’s matchwinner Mathur who scored 19 valuable runs to take his side to the brink but was there a twist as with 10th man England already at the crease chipped to mid off and was taken.
Thankfully the batters had managed to cross and this left England 4 balls to salvage victory and he did it at the first time of asking squeezing a short ball behind square leg and scampering a single to finish the game.
This was an awful game of cricket played on the worst pitch for many years and without doubt the most atrocious outfield ever seen at league level. However, a win is a win which will keep WSL in contention for the league leaders position.