After the torrential rain of Thursday, we turned up at Cloakham Lawns expecting a damp green one. We weren't surprised to see exactly that, and the toss took on extra significance with the threat of rain in the air.
Reddick (Senior) called it right and wasted no time asking the hosts to bat. Drew opened precedings with a maiden, loaded with 'ankle busters' as the wicket misbehaved as expected. With an embarrassment of bowling riches at the skippers Skippers disposal, Joel Heatley was given the opportunity to open at the other end. With the uneven bounce and short boundaries there was a chance that too much pace on the ball may see the edges fly to the ropes.
It proved to be the right decision as Joel struck in his first over, removing Farley easily caught at point by Sinth. Drew plugged away at the other end, but with opener Leadbetter going nowhere near anything off the stumps, it looked like a low score was going to be on the cards. Unfortunately, the early scoring was done by edges and extras as the ball flew off the edge through the vacant 3rd slip area for four and a few non-bouncing shooters found their way past Lucian for byes or wides.
Unperturbed, the skipper kept Drew going and took the chance to shuffle the bowling pack by bringing the returning holiday maker Alex Bate into the attack. Alex tuned in after a sighter of a first over and then he and Drew really quitened things down (not that Axminster were looking to score freely). Drew removed Bicknall's middle stump for 16, with the score at 29 for 2. With the wicket not showing any signs of improving, it was important to try to shoot Ax out for a low one, and as the Ax batsman looked to survive rather than score, a different approach was required.
Drew completed another good stint, finishing with 2 for 25 from 8 overs, with most of the 25 coming from inside or outside edges. There was only one thing for it - unleash 'The Hoop' / 'WTM' (Wicket Taking Machine) Jim Wenley. Having claimed a 7 for last week, Jim was presented with his Club Tie to rapturous applause before the match started. Clearly on a high after this accolade, Jim struck with his very first ball - good decision skipper! After Jim's first four overs he had 2 for 2, including 3 maidens, reducing Axminster to 70 for 5 after 21 overs.
Alex Bate bowled well with no reward, so after an opening spell of 0 for 17 from 7, the ball was thrown to Naj to work his magic. Once again, a wicket was claimed in a bowlers first over and at 72 for 6, the question was could we finish them off for under 100. Naj continued to beat the bat (and the stumps) and after a spell of 5 overs 1 for 14, a change was needed to make something happen.
Sam Dibbling put up some very stubborn late resistance, scoring a chancy 26 before being removed by the returning Alex Bate. AB Struck again with his very next ball, removing Captain Sean Perry for a Golden.
Dibling and Cross had added 44 for a frustrating 7th wicket partnership and with Perry's exit Ax were 116 for 8. Jim had again bowled very well claiming 2 for 21 from his 9 overs. The time had come for the long awaited debut of Jit Singh. After finally managing to complete the red tape required to register Jit (DCL gave approval on Thursday). Jit hit the spot from ball 1 and bowled with pace and control and was rewarded with 2 for 8 from his 3.2 overs. A great start by Jit, and I'm sure he will take a lot of wickets over the rest of the season.
After some frustrating moments, some dropped catches (by Jim off of his own bowling - obviously didn't want another tie!), we finished Ax off for 123 in 40 overs. Probably 25 or so more than we would of liked, but with our line up we were confident.
After the customary Axminster feast, Lucian opened with Sinth and wasted no time in getting our chase off to a flier. Lucian smashed (yes, smashed) 16 from the first over and the signs looked good. Sinth seemed somewhat stunned by Lucian's first over onslaught and thought he had to keep up. Having reached a couple of wides, swung at one and missed, he edged his 4th ball which carried to slip and was claimed. Ouch! 17 for 1 in the 2nd over. No worries, we had the inform Naj and Alex to come, so 20 points was still do-able.
Slight hitch, the pitch was still misbehaving and we were 49 for 3! Lucian thundered on regardless and batted as if we were on a 'road'. He rode his luck a little, being dropped a couple of times, but hitting the ball so hard that he sent one fielder off in search of an ice pack.
Drew got one that stuck in the pitch and chipped it back to the bowler for 9. 67 for 4, Lucian 45 not out - what was going on? As the pressure mounted on Lucian, he continued to bludgeon the ball to all parts, bringing up a richly deserved 50. Despite no one else making double figures, our 12th batsman Mr Extras scored 28 very useful runs!
Lucian perished with 11 runs needed to win for an excellent 69, and it was left to some watchful batting from Joel (8no) and Alex Bate (4no) to see us home, reaching 124 for 6 in just 22 overs.
18 points was a good return and allowed us to stretch our lead at the top by a further two points. We now enter a very important phase as we host Upottery (4th) next week, Kentisbeare (3rd) away on the 23rd, and then the big one at home to Feniton (2nd) on the 30th. Three positive results over the coming weeks should open up some daylight at the top as we go into the second half of the season.
The strength in depth at the club is phenomenal this year, and it was thanks to the variety of bowling options available to the skipper that we managed to take the ten wickets required on an awkward wicket against a stubborn Axminster.
Another fine team performance with everyone pulling in the same direction, good catching (well taken diving catch from Alex R) and alert fielding (Jit always looking for run out's) which will stand us in good stead for the much needed promotion to C Division.
There is no doubt that our bowling attack is generally far too good at this level as the batsman just can't touch many of our bowlers.