MILLERS PUT TO THE SWORD AS NIKO GOES LARGE

The 2022 season is underway, and already a string of exceptional performances have lit up the TSJ sides. Our two Saturday teams recorded comprehensive victories against long time rivals ELPM to ensure a flying start to the new campaign while the thirds fell short on a tricky trip to Egerton.

Down at Croft Lane, the 1sts found themselves in early trouble at 38-4, with the top order failing to fire. However the batting has strength not seen in some years, and pro Burns and last weekend's bowling star Niko fought back with a century partnership. With Burnsy having departed just short of a deserved half century, the Kiwi powerhouse blazed on, adding another 104 with Millers old boy Matt Smalley. Despite scoring at a run a ball, Smalley was playing second fiddle to an astonishing knock from Niko - he powered his way to a highly impressive 146 from just 101 balls, despatching the bowling to all parts and notching several sixes to go with 22 boundaries. The innings closed at 290-9 from 43.4 overs, leaving the home side facing a really stiff challenge. Former TSJ man Ry Wilkes picked up four wickets for the Millers.

Despite Lenny's absence, the TSJ bowling line up is also impressive; Burns picked up three early wickets, and once the obdurate Robbo fell to Niko, only Tom Partington offered much resistance. He slammed a trio of sixes in his 40, but became one of three wickets to fall to the relentless line and length offered by Nick Marsh. Nick picked up 3-6 to complement the excellent work at the other end from Niko, who managed double jug avoidance by picking up four wickets to go with his 146!

Down at the Meadows, an entirely different type of contest was underway. Matty Bradshaw, who spent much of the pre-match warm up battling a lump hammer, rope, pegs and the 'ball stop nets', picked up his good form from pre-season and sent down a pretty rapid first few overs. It's rare to see a Crompton Meadows wicket offering genuine pace and bounce at any time, let alone in April, so this was a treat. Meanwhile Si Marsh continued to show everyone that a two pace run up is the way to go with some highly skilful seam. Once opener McCaffery had nicked to Clive, the innings imploded. A calamitous run out of former TSJ seamer Matt Hilton exposed the middle order to Marshy's wiles, and he cashed in taking a bagful of wickets. The fielding wasn't quite as sharp as last week, with three catches going down, but despite a couple of late cameos and some brave batting from a couple of young lads, the innings closed on 70. Marshy again took the honours with 6-28 from his 14 overs, while Bradders was impressive in his opening burst. IMagine how good he'd be if he just bowled at the stumps? ;)

The key in the reply was to start steadily; veteran pair KC and the Doc took to the task and once each hit a pair of boundaries the innings was nicely set up. With the wicket offering a lovely even bounce, the Doc opened up and despatched McCaffery halfway up the car park before KC fell to a ball that bobbled around before running onto his stumps. Russ joined Paul in the middle and departed to a typical early season shot, spooning the ball to cover, before the Doc cut loose and finished the game off in quick time. He raced to 57 not out from just 37 balls as the Millers bowlers were put to the sword. An 8 wicket win was secured in just 11 overs leaving plenty of time to have a second tea and enjoy the afternoon's work.

On Sunday Katie's thirds travelled to Egerton to see if a clean sweep could be secured. Having lost the toss, the Totts bowlers found it tough going. Prescott raced to a quick 50 before retiring, while Taylor anchored the innings, batting through for a neat 72 not out. Late impetus from captain Stafford (48 not out from 32 balls) took the score past 200, leaving a very tough target. Katie and Tatts shared the four wickets to fall, while Awais was the most economical of the bowlers, conceding 32 form his 9 overs.

The Totts started in encouraging fashion with Donny and Sam taking the score to 27 before the first wicket fell. Unfortunately a clatter of wickets left the innings in some trouble at 54-5 before Awais and Mooro steadied the ship. The run rate was creeping up all the time, and when both batters departed for well made 30s, the tail then couldn't quite see it through to the close, the last wicket falling on the fifth ball of the final over. There's plenty to work on, but some encouraging signs of development nonetheless which will give the side lots to work on in the coming weeks.

So two convincing wins on Saturday and a battling performance from the 3rds means it's an encouraging start to the season. With key players still to return, signs are good for a very positive 2022.

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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