Orsett and Thurrock 1sts
Harold Wood 223 All Out
O&T travelled to 2nd place in the league, Harold Wood, in what must had been looked at as a must win Shepherd Neame League fixture after their disappointing performance last week at home to Belhus.
O&T arrived early, determined not to allow poor preparation, identified by skipper Paul Bennett as a key reason for last week’s failure, to play any part in this week’s result.
After their sharp warm up session, O&T won the toss and the skipper, unsurprisingly, elected to bat first with the outfield looking fast, 300 was not an unrealistic target.
Umar Ayub and 1st team newcomer Fahad Anwar opened the batting for the visitors.
A steady, cautious, start from both batsmen with Ayub looking particularly watchful saw O&T progress to 49-0. Anwar looked nervous early, but soon settled connecting with a couple of nice shots that relaxed him into his innings until a c hange of bowler at the pavilion end, saw Richard Brabner sending down a short wide one. Anwar swung, but mistimed, and was caught at cover by Hafiz Afzal.
Paul Bennett came to the crease mostly free of the infection that plagued him last week. Ayub and Bennett began to play some wonderful strokes to all parts of the ground, the lightning quick outfield helping their progress.
Ayub, in particular, looked in total control, watchful and risk free as he got to his 50 and he looked set for the next milestone.
The pair made serene progress to 146-1 before Bennett pushing Umar Ayub for a second run that was never really there saw the excellent Ayub run out on 70.
Will Gibbon strode to the crease looking confident having made 81 a fortnight ago at Woodford Wells.
By this time Harold Wood had gone to their pair of spin bowlers and both batsmen were clearly feeling tied down with little opportunities to score over a period of ten overs or so. With the score at 153-2, Bennett, under pressure to score, swung hard at one from Hafiz Afzal and edged behind to Craig Perrin, out for 46.
Enter the classy Mark Pavitt who had worked very hard in the nets in the week and it was clear that he was determined to put the innings back on track.
But O&T were to receive another immediate blow when, at the other end, Will Gibbon, still feeling the pressure because of the poor run rate, tried to hit back over the bowlers head, but he got under it and was caught by a running Richard Brabner, 157-4.
Nawaz Ahmed Jan and Mark Pavitt began to play some lovely strokes and the travelling home support were beginning to feel much more optimistic as they pushed the score along to 250-4, before Nawaz called, “Yes!” for a run. With Pavitt half way down the wicket Nawaz changed his call to, “No!”. Pavitt was caught in no man’s land and had no chance to regain his ground and was easily run out for an agonising 48. O&T were now 250-5.
Vice-Captain Kirk Laws, nursing a self-inflicted headache made his way out but it was to be at the other end that the next breakthrough for the home side would come with Nawaz’s attempted sweep finding nothing but thin air and he was out, plumb lbw with 1 ball remaining. Dan Laird then entered for the last ball of the innings, but looking to hit the ball in to the next post code, Laird was caught and skiing a delivery to the mid off region.
During the break the talk in the crowd was that O&T were probably 30-40 runs short of where they needed to be given the quickness of the outfield.
George Pavitt opened the bowling for O&T and first ball Afzal edged to Will Gibbon at gully who dropped an easy chance much to the vocal disappointment of Pavitt the bowler. Gibbon was clearly distraught at this, continuing to chastise himself as Pavitt took his mark for the next delivery.
Mark Pavitt took his mark at the Ice Cream end of the ground and sent one down. A huge appeal from the O&T players but umpire Towler was not having any of it. The very next ball also rapped the pads, another huge appeal. But this time Towler had no hesitation in raising the finger, Harold Wood 29-1.
George Pavitt at the other end saw left hander Shihan going for a drive over the bowlers head, but he got under it , high , and was caught by Aggy Tahir at long on, 49-2.
16 year old Tom Redman came on for Mark Pavitt, the batsman attempting to cut saw a difficult chance low down to Fahad at point but it fell just short of him.
Skipper Beno, now on for George Pavitt at the pavilion end, and this saw a spell where the Redman/Bennett axis were building the pressure , 94-2 off 21.
It was Bennett who was to make the next breakthrough delivering possibly the worst ball of the innings so far, sitting up waiting to be creamed over cow, but somehow Hussain made a complete hash of it ,dollying to Danny Laird at backward square leg, 100-3.
Redman, heaping pressure on batsman Craig Perrin at the other end, forced him into taking a shot on, but he holed out to Mark Pavitt at long off 100-4.
The very next ball Redman nearly had another, with the batsman attempting a cut, but it went straight to Laird at slip, however the very tough chance went down.
Next over a ball was driven back to Bennett who tried to take the one-handed chance to his left hand but he couldn’t hold on. Were O&T going to rue these chances?
Shortly after O&T could relax a little with Tom Redman, bowling possibly the best spell of his O&T 1st XI career to date, had Fahad trying to smash it through the covers. But it was edged behind to Ayub, who actually managed to hold on, to the amazement of the traveling support. All the players went up, the kids in the neighboring playground 300 yards away went up, and people on the tennis courts were heard to say, “He smashed that!”, but it looked like umpire Towler was going to be unmoved. After a short, but very dramatic pause ( And worrying for the visiting supporters), umpire Towler raised the finger and Harold Wood were 5 down for 114.
Aggy Tahir now bowling from the Ice Cream end, on for excellent Redman (Who finished with figures of 10 overs 2 for 27), saw the batsman drive back to him low down but he couldn’t take the tough chance.
Bennett then finished his excellent ten over spell with figures of 1 for 25.
Aggy Tahir was now O&T’s main weapon and had Chris Bennett smashing down to long on to the ever reliable hands of George Pavitt who took a straightforward catch. Six down for 119.
The batsmen continued to push the ball around and Harold Wood made progress to 148-6 before Aggy Tahir had Shahbaz Khan smashing him back over his head towards Mark Pavitt on the long off boundary. Pavitt caught the ball but to the watching O&T supporters on the opposite boundary it looked like he had dropped it, as he was looking down at the floor behind him. But in fact, he was checking that his feet were not over the boundary line. Umpire Towler walked towards the fielder, the nervous O&T fans looking on, wondering what the decision would be. After a brief conversation with Pavitt, Towler turned to the batsman and raised the finger. A nice piece of patient, considered umpiring and Harold Wood were 7 down.
A few overs later, Richard Brabner, seeing that Wood needed to push the score on was clean bowled by Will Gibbon, 174-8.
But it was by no means over, as Harold Wood’s Hamzah Ikram favouring the reverse sweep rather successfully pushed on to get his well-deserved 50 and the team score onto 209-8 off 44.
Skipper Bennett then decided to turn to his opening bowler, George Pavitt. The first ball of the over Ikram swung hard, top edged and the ball sailed into the air above Pavitt’s head. As far as his teammates and the crowd were concerned, Ikram might as well start walking off, but unbelievably Pavitt dropped the ball despite getting two hands under the ball. The crowd were dismayed and it looked as if O&T might have blown their chance of a valuable win. This coming a week after Pavitt had been heard telling a busy Orsett clubhouse that whenever the ball is up in the air and within reach of him, the batsmen may as well be already walking off. Rumours that he has made himself unavailable for the next game due to the embarrassment remain unconfirmed.
However, the very next ball, with Taqi Abbas on strike, trying to smash over to Nawaz at long on, he was caught, 210-9.
Harold Wood, with a masterly Ikram making the most of things, pushed on to 222-9 with 4 overs left.
George Pavitt rumbled in from the pavilion end to Harry Thompson who played hard to Will Gibbon at mid-on, who redeemed from the first ball of the innings by taking a nice catch low down, and Karma was restored to the Pavitt/Gibbo relationship, 223 all out.
A very good win for Orsett & Thurrock and evidence that work in the nets in the week, combined with the right preparation, can make a huge difference to the outcome come Saturday afternoon.