It was another weekend of quite remarkable action, both on and off the field. Unusually, we're going to kick things off with a trip to Thornham and the second XI game, where the day's biggest story was about to play out.

Thornham is a pretty ground, set in picturesque countryside with a glorious church and fields to three sides and a derelict garden centre abutting the A664 Castleton to Middleston thoroughfare to the other. At around 11.45am on Saturday it was also the place to see half a dozen TSJ players convulsing in mirth at the latest emanations from "Hollywood" Hayes. This week's amusement surrounded the nickname "Chewy" we've bestowed on Awais.

"I don't get it, that Chewy name"
"You know, Chew Bacha, like the Star Wars character?"
"Oh. I thought it was Backa Chew"
"Nooooo. Did you think it's RD22 as well?"
"Oh right. Silly me. I've been calling him OB"
(and on and on it went)

Apparently we have a new Bradders.

Anyway to the action. On a lovely day and with a nice firm wicket and quick outfield, and a depleted TSJ bowling attack, and a strong Thornham line up and Jupiter aligning with Uranus, it was essential that skipper Watty did the right thing and won the toss for possibly the first time this season. Obviously he didn't. So we bowled, to the pleasing backdrop of Thornham's version of Dickie P on a tractor and sporadic smoke from wildfires. With only Awais of the front line seam attack available, it was up to him and the Doc to front up. Awais managed to nick a couple of early wickets, thanks to a nice grab at slip from Watty (possibly only the 4th best catch of the day) and a somewhat controversial LBW from Jonesy, who drew some wrath from the departing batsman but hey we've all had them this year.

With Doc P keeping it tighter than the opening scene from Watty's new favourite film, the Thornham innings was trickling along at around 2.5 runs per over. Doc bowled through, his 14 overs costing just 23, with Mooro putting in an exemplary display behind the stumps with the ball turning square at times on a favourable wicket. Something had to give, and after Watty had begun quite economically, the dismissal of Hughes for a painstaking 30 from 84 balls (incredibly including two sixes) sparked a change. Smith and Adnan upped the run rate, and this continued to rise through the last 15 overs as the Asian middle order kicked off, aided and abetted by one over from poor Watty who saw four misfields all go to the boundary. Thankfully, that blip aside, we kept up the enthusiasm and energy, even having time for a running gag about which letter of the word "Dickinson" on the boundary board the fielder at cow corner should be standing by.

With pace off the ball seemingly the best approach, the stage was set for Big Ben Baker, playing his first 2nd XI game in some time, to throw down some absolutely filthy left armers. This led to perhaps the most fun 45 minutes I've had on a cricket field in years, stood at slip as the scene unfolded. Something was happening literally every ball. Admittedly some of those things included the ball disappearing halfway to Yorkshire, but incredibly the lad picked up 5 wickets. The dismissals included two of the best catches you're going to see on a cricket field, including a skier to long on that Katie looked to have absolutely no chance of taking until the ball literally thunked into her right hand, producing whoops of joy and some general incredulity. Watty took his third blinder in a fortnight at midwicket, while Sam also took a decent catch despite performing a juggling act that Penn and Teller would have appreciated. There was just time for Ben to ask one of the Asian lads if he'd ever hit any sixes, following up with "go on, what's the furthest you've ever hit one?". The lad remarked that Ben should wait until the end of the innings to see - and pleasingly he didn't hit any.

The teams adjourned for the best tea seen outside of Crompton Meadows in 2022 - thumbs up to Thornham for their all round hospitality and friendliness, why can't all clubs be like this? Plus it's always a bonus to see players washing their feet in the sink during the break.

Given the conditions and the shortage of regular bowling, a score of 207 seemed gettable, though a good start was definitely needed. Doc and Watty got us off to a quick start, but then Doc fell to perhaps the best catch of a remarkable selection, skying the ball to long off where the fielder ran back about 30 yards, took a screamer and then did 14 laps of honour including a quick dash down the rakes and hoes aisle of the garden centre. The Fabulous Baker Boy then took to the field to see if his returning luck would continue. He smacked a couple of boundaries and with Watty at the other end finding more edges than a bag of 50ps (and severely annoying the opposition in the process) the score passed 50. Ben's dismissal then sparked a neat little stand between Watty, who by now had realised it was possible to score in front of the wicket and Mooro, who brought out all manner of lovely off drives.

Unfortunately a familiar collapse ensued; from 81-2 the innings slowed and then imploded, with a handful of run outs and a somewhat dubious stumping of a not best pleased Sam - he disappeared up a far bank for a while in scenes eerily reminiscent of Rowdy's long trudge up his famous hill by the M62, and his usual infectious cheeriness also disappeared for a few hours. A final total of 148 was creditable but ultimately short on a day when we gave it everything despite missing a handful of regulars and against a team who look very strong, especially with the bat. The innings slide also curiously coincided with the welcome support of Katie's other half and Danni Collins, who was sporting what appeared to be knitted trainers. To her credit, she fired back when I asked if they were Fairtrade, pointing out that they cost more than my weekly salary - magnificent. I thought there was a cost of living crisis on!

Speaking of some kind of crisis, Hayesy then emerged from the dressing room sporting an immaculate shirt and possibly the finest tan coloured loafers you could ever see. Move over Danni, this was a while new level of footwear game and we all cooed and ahhed appreciatively. "You must be off somewhere nice" we enquired. "Mother in law's 70th" announced Hayesy proudly, with the day nicely bookended in laughter as Mooro chirped up "yeah, probably just your scene, that".

have it!

Meanwhile back at the Meadows, the firsts were engaged in a wholly more serious contest against Darcy Lever, with their lead in the title race needing to be cemented. The usual excellent fielding and bowling performance had the visitors at 87-7, but then an annoying rearguard action led by *their* Burns (48 not out from 34 balls) elevated the total to a far more serious 148. Niko picked up another four wickets to continue his excellent all round season, while Burner and Ry Marsh grabbed two each.

The Totts run chase began well enough and had proceeded to 56-1 before the day's other drama ensued. Firstly Niko was out and then Matty Hall was given out stumped for a quick 27, a decision leading to some dissent and a 5 run penalty. Not ideal and no doubt this will be sorted out quickly. From this point the innings stuttered along, with all the middle order getting starts but not pushing on. At 128-7 it was looking dicey, but Nathan then stepped up for the second time in quick succession, knocking a quick 35 to take us in sight of victory, composed Ruffers and Ry Marsh eventually taking us to 149-8 (a pleasing symmetry with the visitors total of 148-9).

So the firsts march on and maintain a 10 point lead at the summit of Division 2, while the seconds still remain in sixth place in Division 4, despite a short losing run. Lots to play for next week, with a tasty home clash against Woodbank for the twos!

Meanwhile a very youthful Sunday side took to the field at Elton. Indeed, such was their youth and vigour that had Duncan played he would have comfortably exceeded the combined age of all 10 teammates considerably! That's not mathematically true, now that I think about it, but you get the point. Youth and vigour! Long gone are the days when we had to rely on players in their 60s and 70s turning out - it's been a good 7 days in fact. Anyway onto the action. Totts batted first and unfortunately Mooro couldn't replicate his Saturday form, falling for a duck, while only Sam got into double figures from the top order. His 24 was precisely double the next best score, with young Jack Schoey the only other lad to pass 10.

A total of 74 was always going to be difficult to defend, and Elton set off at a canter. Indeed for a long period it looked as though they'd romp home by 10 wickets, but there was a pleasing moment as James KB snaffled his second wicket of the campaign to at least put a dent in the scorecard. A valiant effort for a very young side against more experienced opposition and plenty as always to work on.

Thanks as ever to all the supporters, ground staff, bar staff, teamakers and all those who contributed in any way shape or form this weekend, and to Hayesy perhaps most of all for starting and ending our 2nd team day out with considerable laughter.

To view scorecards from all our games, view the TSJ fixtures and results on CricHQ or check out our fixtures page.

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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Twitter: @TottyStJohnsCC