Ashburnham vs Eastbourne Martlets, 2019-09-22

Timed game: 5 hours including tea break, 1 innings each. Ashburnham won the toss and chose to bat. Ashburnham 223/5 d from 36 overs. Martlets 224/7 from 36 overs.

This was my first timed game. Of course, rarely does a team ever get 20 overs (the minimum for the last hour) done in an hour, the normal rate is more like 16 an hour and so the last hour, and the game, is longer than those naughty lying clocks tell you. Given the size of the ground and the frequency with which balls need to be hunted down from hedges and the surrounding fields I’m surprised that the over rate here isn’t noticeably lower than that. The captains agreed beforehand that there would be a declaration at tea if necessary, which would come after 2h20 – all very friendly. I was accompanied by player-umpires, but did square leg duties as normal.

There had been rain overnight, a short shower shortly before play started, and it was very humid, with the forecast promising more rain. Thankfully the forecast was wrong, and while it was overcast until the last half hour there were no interruptions. The pitch which had apparently been bone dry and dusty when mowed the day before was, thanks to the overnight rain, green all over, but the ground was firm all over. It wasn’t very helpful to the bowlers, with no-one really getting the ball to turn much and only one getting noticeable swing.

The game started off extremely high scoring, the first two overs going for 11 and 12, but soon settled down to 6-ish per over. Ashburnham’s openers both got into the 40s, one of them out for 49, and their number 4 got a very good 72*. I thought the Martlets were being very conservative with their appeals. There were a couple of balls when I was surprised they didn’t appeal for LBW. I would have turned them both down, but even so, I’m used to a lot more appeals in league games.

After tea, the Martlets’ innings started just as fast, with 15 and 8 from the first two overs, and the seventh, which understandably was that bowler’s last, went for 20 – he finished his spell on 1/50. The other bowlers were more frugal though, and at one point I wondered if Ashburnham might be able to bowl them out in time. However, the game was won by the Martlets’ 5th and 6th batsman. They came in respectively when the scores were 111 and 113, and made an excellent 70 partnership during which number 5, who was clearly normally a tail-ender, very uncomfortable filling in up the order, made all of 8 runs from 39 balls while his partner tonked it all over the place. While he was clearly uncomfortable at the crease he played a magnificently safe innings, never going for shots beyond his ability, leaving balls when he could, and playing solid defensive shots when he had to. Once those two were out there were only another 34 required and plenty of overs left, so I expected a Martlets’ victory if they played sensibly. And that’s how they were going, until a terribly expensive last over finished the game, with four byes from the last ball. That last over was an anomaly in some otherwise good bowling figures, that bowler getting 3 wickets for 59 runs, having bowled 13 overs (2 of which were maidens) without a break.

One notable feature of the game is the methods of dismissal. Ashburnham’s dismissed batsmen were all caught, while none of the Martlets’ were. I wonder just how rare this is.

I think I had another good game, my one minor error stemming from it being my first timed game and so not being as familiar with this format as I am with limited overs games. There aren’t supposed to be any drinks breaks during the last hour of play, but because they had previously been scheduled for 1h10 into the innings and we started the second innings late as tea was taken rather leisurely, drinks came on after the first over of the last hour. What I should have done is, when my watch buzzed at me for the start of the last hour, called for drinks at the end of that over, and then signalled the start of the last hour when we started the next over. A trivial matter really, and I’m not going to beat myself up over it!