The 1st team made the long journey to picturesque Exning for their last away game of the season knowing only a win would do. Having left in the early hours, by the time they arrived everyone was looking forward to the game despite the early start and the autumnal weather. With the pitch looking green the home side won the toss and decided to have a bowl looking for some early movement. There was a first team debut for youngster Alex Godley who had already impressed in the warm up game.
Openers Ian Catley and Tom Sinclair took to the crease hoping to see off the new ball. After some early boundaries, the slowness of the pitch was becoming apparent as the ball was stopping in the surface. This proved to be too much for Sinclair as one sat in the pitch and took his leading edge. Catley soon followed for his obligatory 20-something as he was trapped LBW at the second attempt. That brought the two in form batsman to the crease and the skipper James Bell and aussie Ben Caplikas began to push on. The wicket wasn’t playing like it does in Melbourne and Caplikas was also dismissed from a leading edge looking to turn one into the leg side. Despite being three wickets down the run rate was still healthy and the confidence in the side meant that we continued to score well and keep the pressure on the fielding side. Pete Kligerman joined his captain at the crease and some selective hitting meant the score moved on with consummate ease. Singles were on offer and these were taken when need, and the odd bad ball was put away. However, there was some drama as Kligs was dropped three times by the same fielder at cow corner (or straight mid-wicket depending on who you ask!) in the space of just a couple of overs.
The score was now beginning to tick along at a rate of knots and JB was now looking ominous hitting boundary after boundary against the helpless Exning spinners. As he approached his maiden Division Two century, there was a cluster of wickets at the other end to increase the pressure. Kligerman was bowled, trapped on the crease, followed by a contentious LBW decision against George Northover and suddenly all the pressure was on the captain to score the runs. He was joined at the crease by Keith Sargeant who was able to rotate the strike well as runs were now coming easily. JB brought up his century with yet another shot down the ground, much to the joy of his teammates and probably his dad who had decided to miss such an important game for a weekend in Spain! The less said about the better! The score finished on 234 for 6, our highest of the season so far.
Following an unbelievable tea, the visitors trudged out to field knowing that the game was not over and that with Braintree likely to record another win, there was to be no letting up. Russell Measor and Steve Moriarty took the new ball and bowled with great control early on as the pressure began to grow on the home side from the first over. Mozza claimed the first wicket as the scoreboard pressure took its toll and a big heave across the line ended in leg stump being pegged back. That brought the home side’s star batsman to the crease and everyone was fully aware the game was on the line. A partnership then ensued and although the required rate was going up the home side seemed to be in control. The introduction of Kieran Savill brought some control to the game for the visitors and he claimed a couple of wickets with some particularly flighty bowling. The highlight of the day must be the Exning opener going back to one from Savill but only managing to cut his leg stump rather than the ball which was simultaneously hitting off stump! The most bizarre dismissal of the season without a doubt.
However, with Tim Catley (no relation unfortunately) at the crease, the home side were still confident of chasing their target. As the innings was drawing to a close, Exning’s Catley began to free his arms and deposited his namesake over the leg side boundary twice in an over. With the required rate now at 9 an over the pressure was eventually too much and Savill had the batsman caught at long on by Russ. A fantastic catch under some serious pressure and the game then looked to be won. Without their star batsman at the crease the score effectively came to a halt and as the final ball was bowled the home side were just 13 runs short. A really mature performance from everyone holding their nerve under pressure again and a fantastic knock from the captain James Bell to set the game up. Well batted skip!
‘Spud of the Day’ went to Ben Caplikas for once again forgetting the warm up equipment. After such a good performance there wasn’t much arguing and after some tactical voting, Bencap was left with his fourth award of the season! On to the last game of the season we go against Ipswich knowing that a win will secure the title.