May 27th 2017
Super 2nds dig deep to stay top
Sam Nailor's seconds had to strain every sinew to maintain their 100% record, squeezing out a victory against Hythe & Dibden III at Blackfield.
After substantial overnight rain it was good to actually get a game on, but with much dampness around amid rumours of a misbehaving deck, it was a natural choice for the Hythe skipper to ask Sway to bat first.
Hythe opened their attack with two youngsters, Dan Duell (10-0-33-3) and Tom Jones (10-1-25-0), both of whom bowled well with Jones in particular giving very little away. Sway's opening partnership of Dan Stevenson and Adam Clark found the going tough - tricky batting conditions combined with relatively long damp grass in the outfield meant that runs were at a premium. With the score on 19, Clark perished for 11, caught of Duell but the skipper Nailor then settled down with Stevenson taking the score on to 60 in the 19th over - not bad all things considered with Stevenson looking in good touch.
The introduction of Jamie Fletcher, however, sparked a mini collapse as he accounted for Stevenson (23), Nailor (19) and Dave Marshall (5) all of whom were variously deceived into playing shots on seemingly tempting balls that gripped. Chris Hammond was however still out in the middle and using all his experience, played relatively within himself as he looked to steer the visitors to a defendable total. The relatively slow scoring rate was relived during a brief but entertaining 3-ball cameo by Reece Owen (8) but on his dismissal Alan Laws did a marvellous job of supporting Hammond, playing with a straight bat until he too finally succumbed to Fletcher's (10-1-41-4) box of temptations - almost spinning 360 degrees before the ball actually arrived at his stumps!
Whilst frustratingly Hammond was run out for 49 near the end, Sway had made it to 151-9 giving their bowlers something to bowl at.
Early wickets and or pressure was going to be key but to start with things did not seem to be going Sway's way as the Hythe openers made steady progress against Sway's opening attack of Nailor and Sam Harvey. So when an easy chance to catch out dangerman Sean "the guru" Tongs was not taken, it was hardly surprising that some the senior Sway players expected this to be a pivotal moment.
Sway did get a breakthrough when openener Meriden was caught a point off Nailor for 7, but Tongs progressed the reply steadily with the home side reaching 48-1 off 18 overs, seemingly well placed. Alan Laws, however, claimed two wickets in quick succession as Hythe were reduced to 51-3. Tongs was still there, however, and there then followed a period of play that resembled an extended period of safety play between "Steady Eddie" Charlton and Cliff "the grinder" Thorburn! Marshall had been introduced as Laws bowling partner and proceeded to produced a spell of very tight lines. Tongs, for his part was resolutely determined not to cede what he knew to be a crucial wicket which Marshall was equally determined to give him absolutely nothing to work with. In the event it was honours even between the two old stagers - Tongs had kept his wicket intact for a late charge, but Marshall's spell of 10-3-13-0 meant that the home side would need in excess on 7.5 an over off the last 10.
The game was very much in the balance but the pendulum swung towards Sway when Tongs was finally caught off Laws. Gareth Mead and Martin Duell in Hythe's lower middle order, however, still had both the power and the experience to bring home the bacon for the home side so the fate of the game lay in the hands of spinner Michael Allport, playing his first game of the season. The youngster kept his nerve under intense pressure and aided by sharp fielding on the mid-on & mid-off boundaries by Clark & Stevenson, Hythe were restricted to a series of singles when at least one boundary an over was needed. Mead was caught in the deep by Clark to give Laws (10-0-43-4) his 4th wicket and Allport (5-0-22-2) deservedly picked up two wickets - Ford stumped and Fletcher bowled.
Hythe were now running out of wickets but a target of 28 runs off the last 3 overs still mean that there was work to be done by Sway to seal the win. Sam Harvey returned and had the dangerous M Duell caught for 27 leaving it to the skipper to claim the final wicket as the home side were bowled out for 135 - 16 short of their target.
This was a great performance by the whole team who will go into next week's traditionally tricky encounter at Godshill full of confidence.
Michael Allport - stepped up to the mark with final spell under intense pressure