When Kieran Coe hitting two sixes in the same over doesn't make the top three noteworthy events of the match report, you know it's been a special weekend. With a smattering of Easter sun finally arriving to bolster playing conditions, all three senior sides took to the field to get in some much-needed pre-season competition. The firsts were set to face a mixed Walshaw side down at the Meadows while Kieran's idea of local competititon was to despatch the 2s and 3s to the far side of Blackburn to take on Cherry Tree.

With COVID and injuries causing a flurry of last minute changes, a new-look firsts eventually kicked off the 2022 campaign with a spell at the crease. Matty Hall showed some early season intent with a trio of sixes as he and skipper Fuller breezed into the 40s. The skipper was forced to retire, and despite a brief flurry of wickets, Ruffers arrived to record the first half century of the year, his 56 coming from just 59 balls. Useful runs from Burnsy, Niko and Callum saw the 1sts post a competitive 193-5 from their 40 overs.

When Burnsy could only complete four overs, it was left to Lenny to shoulder the seam bowling, and he took two early wickets to leave the visitors at 18-2. Having then put together a useful stand to take the score past 50, enter our Kiwi left arm spinner. Niko could barely have asked for a better debut, taking an impressive 6-32 from his 8 overs, including a cracking hat-trick. The visitors had no answer and succumbed to 93 all out, leaving the boys plenty of time to get in the mood ahead of the evening's race night.

Over at Cherry Tree dramas were unfolding. The first one being the inability of our glorious skipper and Hollywood Hayes to even find the ground. With sat-nav issues aplenty, and some tetchy phone calls to boot, the Hayesmobile appeared to bypass Aberdeen, Tyneside and the Menai Straits before finally arriving in leafy Cherry Tree. Meanwhile the rest of the team had located the nearby Subway and were tucking into the pre-match meal of champions while debating which of the team might be fit enough to patrol the 140 yard boundary on one side.

Having finally arrived in an agitated state "I didn't drive cos I didn't want to be stressed and now look" (edited for public consumption), KC won the toss and elected to bat on a slightly sticky wicket. Bret soon got into the swing of things and the score was rattling along. Unfortunately a mini-collapse ensued to leave us at 50-5 with only KC able to keep his end up. The innings then entered a rebuilding phase for what felt like 3 to 4 hours as the various dismissed batsmen circled the ground. We took in the beautiful gardens adorning the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the frankly enormous net cages. The innings suddenly burst into life as KC unleashed his annual display of pyrotechnics. Two sixes and a four in the same over had us all scouring the record books for the last time this happened. If anyone can find a note, do let us know. Thankfully he's not mentioned it since. Having doubled his score and brought up a half century, KC watched as Sam hit a beamer halfway across the adjacent school field before more wickets tumbled. Dom and Bradders then put on some highly useful runs to take us to a competitive 141.

With key bowlers missing, it was up to the team to pull together and show some fight. Bradders was straight on it, showing some real zip and an impeccable line. Doc P at the other end was rolling back the years and managed to stub his toe, pull his back and send down some nonsense before finding an edge which Bret took beautifully at slip. The catching would prove to be a real feature of the day, with both sides holding onto some good takes. Hollywood Hayes, the human perpetual motion machine, then came on and bowled beautifully, while the returning Kev managed to get past a stuttery start to take two wickets in an over and get us well into the game. Kev than pulled of an astonishing one handed catch at slip off Hayesy to fire everyone up.

Much like our innings, Cherry Tree's reply was anchored by a veteran who was alternating stout defence and swinging himself off his feet at times. Dom came on and showed everyone how to do it by bowling a filthy half tracker that was spooned to long on. He then settled down and bowled some lovely away swingers, while Daz was maintaining a lovely line at the other end. As the score neared 100 Proopsy came on and immediately resorted to some Bodyline bowling to gee everyone up. This was probably the point where Dickie P would have cut down a tree in his excitement. Doc P came back and managed to bowl a straight one to end the innings and leave the 2s victorious by 34 runs. A jolly good time was had by all on a nice ground in decent company; with plenty of players yet to feature, the Saturday sides are looking in positive shape.

On Sunday Katie made history as the first woman to become full time skipper of a St Johns side and not only that she managed to pick up the second hat-trick of the weekend! Totts batted first and were bowled out for 76, despite some battling innings from the Collins clan. Cherry Tree were rattling along in reply but then some inspired bowling from Awais (5-24) and Katie's heroics reduced the home side to 59-9. The last wicket just wouldn't come, however, and the 3rds lost by a wicket despite a monumental fightback that bodes well for the weeks ahead.

A top effort all round this weekend, and some great support both at the Meadows on Saturday and from some of the squad travelling to support the 3rds on Sunday. Thanks also to Hayesy (and Mel) for organising and hosting the race night (amazing that Ian found his way back in time), and to all those working the bar. Notable mentions to Tatts and Sharon and all those who worked hard on the ground and around the club over the past weeks. We'd also like to thank Walshaw and Cherry Tree for their sportsmanship and good competition.

Now the hard work starts!

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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Twitter: @TottyStJohnsCC