On a hot day (32 degrees) a 45 over match was agreed on and the Bay City Beavers captain Mahmadullah won the toss, then had no hesitation in asking the VoP team to bat – as the pitch while a good one, had a definite green tinge and some juice in it. The Beavers are on a 10 match tour of NZ and came into this game having won 3 and tied 1 of their 5 games to date, so were obviously going to be very useful opposition – and so it proved!

After an early wicket, young James Hamilton looked in good form, but after he’d smoothly stroked 5 boundaries in his 11, just about everything went wrong that could! As firstly he was unluckily caught behind down leg on a “strangle” and sportingly walked, then 2 disastrous run-outs in 3 balls torpedoed our middle order and had us reeling at 20/4. The batsmen then naturally dug in, as the Beavers team bowled very tightly and backed it up with very keen fielding, and a sharp catch at slip then saw the scoring dry up completely for over 5 overs. So when we stopped for drinks after 22 overs, the score was only a very sickly 24/5.

And things only got worse, as firstly Paul Bateman (batting well on 12) top-edged a pull on a high full toss and was caught – but it should have been called a no-ball! Then almost unbelievably we had a 3rd run-out, after a total miscommunication, although the run outs were partly as a result of the scoreboard pressure they were putting us under. And then another wicket fell immediately, played on – so the score had slumped from 15/1 to an extremely sorry 31/8!! But the pitch though it had some early life wasn’t a minefield by a long way, this startling collapse of 7 wickets for 16 runs was a mixture of good cricket by them and both bad and unlucky cricket by us. The captain then attempted to dig in, and finally runs started to come in the form of our very confident no 10, Tony Gray.

He batted aggressively but sensibly, picking the right ball to play some wonderfully timed drives to, including twice comfortably clearing the pavilion with lovely big straight hits. So the score at last progressed, and eventually, this 9th wicket recovery partnership reached a very commendable 60 runs. The batsmen’s plan was to get to 3 overs to go, then try and increase the overall low run rate, but alas off the 1st ball of the 3rd to last over the captain holed out on the mid-wicket boundary (unsuccessfully trying to implement the plan) – then compounded this by thoughtlessly not crossing, leaving the last batsman on strike who was caught 2 balls later. Which left Tony stranded high and dry on 41*, a most splendid innings indeed in the circumstances!

The Beavers had bowled and fielded extremely well, with just one hard chance going down, and after an excellent lunch, their openers then showed plenty of application as they chased our very insubstantial total of 91. And in the heat, the pitch had long since flattened out into a very good batting deck, so obviously our only chance to get back into the match was going to be early wickets.
But well as our bowlers performed and hard as they tried, despite some near misses the score had reached 44 before “golden arm” Hamish Cochran conjured up a couple of quick wickets – which were at least the result of a couple of good bits of cricket by the Valley, through a full stretch diving catch at mid-on then a smart stumping by Tony Dannenburg (who kept very well indeed).

Their no 4 then attacked with some big hits and though he nicked out during a good spell by Chris House, their captain and his partner eventually saw them home. But it had taken them over 37 overs to get past our very modest total, as the wholehearted effort in the field by our Valley team was at least something to be proud of. Best of the bowlers was Stan Woolliscroft, who always bowls beautifully here, and he was desperately unlucky not to get at least one wicket in his very fine spell of 7 3 6 0. Brian Plaskett was also commendably accurate with 4.1 1 4 0, but try as we did we just didn’t have enough runs to play with.

The Beavers, and their partners, were a most friendly group indeed, and (apart from our batting collapse!) the whole day with them was an absolute pleasure and the game couldn’t have been played in better spirits. While in the after-match speeches they kindly presented Beaver caps to Tony for his fine innings, plus James for his sportsmanship. And they also invited the Valley to send a team over to play them, I have no doubt at all that they would be splendid hosts – maybe this could be an add-on to the next Millbrook trip? 🙂

While big thanks are due to our esteemed President Scotty who, given the hot day plus the extra numbers there, was kept very busy indeed with the drinks supply! He did an absolutely splendid job solo behind the bar and with the excellent lunch, for which everyone was rightly very grateful. And so the sunset on another splendid day at the beautiful Valley of Peace, and for me, it was a particularly memorable one – as since I was lucky enough to play my first game there in 1979, this means that I have now played there in 6 decades! Although in all that time I had never played against a team from America before, but what a very good team it was……..

Bert Walker
(captain – lost the toss, lost the game!)