Great Melton C (24 points) beat Hardingham B (6 points) by 70 runs at Mulbarton in the Norfolk League Division 4SW
An anchoring innings of 68 by Steve Phoenix was the difference between Great Melton C and Hardingham B on a hot day in Mulbarton. The pitch, baked by many days of very hot weather, provided many demons for batsmen on both sides but The Chairman kept a steady head and played an innings that would prove to be match-winning.
Skipper Clive Rennie won the boss and put his team into bat. The sun beating down and the pitch looking volatile before a bowl was bowled, openers Phoenix and Jamie Dutton plodded out to the middle and faced opening bowlers Carl Nelson and Keith Palmer. Nelson held up his end with great efficiency, barely giving either batsman room to breathe with his steady left-arm seam. He beat the bat and had many LBW shouts early on but it would be Palmer who would pick up the first wicket of the day. His first over proved to be erratic, mainly due to the pitch spitting up the ball at varying heights past the stumps. 13 runs had elapsed when Dutton played-on a full toss, another disappointing innings of 3. Kyle Weston (1) came in at three and missed a Nelson in-swinger to provide the seamer with his first wicket of the day. Duncan Greenslade provided some impetus into the innings, swiping the ball to the leg-side boundary on his second ball and continued to be aggressive before also being castled by Nelson for 14.
At 24-3, the innings was looking precarious and it was looking like the team would rely on a big partnership by the experienced Dale Weston and the not out Phoenix. However, the ball was to find the timber for the fourth time that day, dismissing Dale for a cheap 4. The young James Bridges came in at 6 and it would be his partnership with Phoenix that would prove crucial to the Melton innings. Bridges in particular felt in no mood to leave bad balls unpunished – peppering the leg-side boundary, particularly off the bowling of change bowler Carl White. Phoenix, who was certainly playing steadily by his own standards decided to up the rate, hitting 16 off the bowling off the third over of Sam Palmer who had, up to that point, bowled a tight line, only conceding 3 runs. With the score at 117-5 and the partnership standing at 67, it would be White who would make the breakthrough, with Bridges nailing the ball square on the leg-side and the ball being claimed impressively by John Bowles.
Phoenix tried his best to put on as many runs as possible, eventually finding the fielder with a lofted drive, another wicket for White. It would be White (9.3-0-46) who would end up being pick of the Hardingham bowlers, him and Will Foster (5-1-18-1) efficiently cleaning up the tail. Melton ended up on 148, which despite the pitch, seemed under par and many of the batsman feel that there were definitely more runs to be had.
Hadi Kashif was given the new cherry for Hardingham’s stab at chasing 149. The first ball, back of length, took off and whistled past the shoulders of opening batsman and skipper Tim Ecclestone. The second ball was a similar length and Ecclestone wore one on the helmet and expressed his displeasure with some colourful language! However, the umpire was happy with the situation and play continued. Kashif and fellow opening bowler Zef Ishtiaq used the pitch to their advantage, with anything on a good length being almost unplayable at times. Kashif’s second over saw Ecclestone dispatch a couple of full length deliveries over the leg-side field for two boundary fours but it would be Kashif’s next over which would see the first wicket of the innings. Ecclestone continuing his aggression drove hard and straight and Dutton took a solid catch to his right at mid-off, Ecclestone heading back to the shed with 8 to his name. Soon after, Kashif broke the defence of the other opener, Keith Palmer, for 4 and Hardingham found themselves at 19-2 in the 7th over. One always felt that if Hardingham were to have any chance of chasing the modest total with ten players, one of the openers would have to kick-on and make a score but it did not turn out that way.
Carl White provided some resistance but wicketkeeper Kevin Holmes at the other end, looked uncomfortable against Kashif and ended up spooning the ball to mid-off off his bowling, not troubling the scorers and another catch for Dutton. Dale Weston beat the defence of White (11) and it was Carl Nelson left with a young tail-end, with the score at 26-4 – 123 runs still required.
In such a difficult situation, Nelson played some fabulous strokes with freedom, Kyle Weston and Kashif’s last over in particular taking some tap. With shots all around the wicket, some aerial and some groundstrokes, Nelson made a good fist of it. Wickets fell at the other end, Dale Weston picking another, Sam Palmer (0), tamely playing the ball back to the big man and Kyle Weston picking up the wickets of Will Foster (4) and John Bowles (0) with catches from Bridges and Dutton respectively. Bridges himself bowled Kip Horton for a duck and found himself bowling to debutant Cook. However, he failed to find the stumps and the strike was handed over to Nelson. Bridges next over was to be the last of the match, Nelson finally finding the safe hands of Phoenix – falling for 39.
Hardingham’s response was 78 all out, which considering the state of the pitch and being a man down, was a solid effort. Had Melton not fielded so immaculately all round, the game could have been very close and by no means was a win ever guaranteed for Melton.B The win leaves Melton third in the league, 29 points behind Mellis and 64 points behind Hingham. Next week, Melton play at Town Close with some significant absentees against bottom-of-the-league Beeston.