The 2024 cricket season is finally underway after weeks of abandonments and delays, and Bret wasted no time in recording the first century of the year in a thumping victory for the 2nds at Stretford.

With both Saturday games abandoned, thoughts turned to cup glory on Sunday, but sadly soggy conditions at the Meadows precluded any chance of a competitive game. The 1sts were forced to settle their cup tie with a bowl out, which is always something of a lottery. Alas a 2-1 defeat ensued meaning the side will need to focus on pushing for an immediate return to Division 1 when their season hopefully starts next week!

Over at sunny Stretford, a strong 2nd XI line up came up against a much-changed Stretford line-up, who fielded 10 changes from their Saturday win. In welcome warmth, new skipper Nick Marsh won the toss and elected to bat, with the Collins father and son sent out to open up. It was immediately obvious that playing the ball on the ground wouldn't pay dividends, with any number of early powerful strokes pulling up short of the boundary. Despite the sluggish conditions and an erratic opening attack, the score advanced to 39 after 10 overs for the loss of Sam, whose dismissal with a one handed worldie of a catch was very much contrary to the dozen or so chances shelled by the home side. Indeed they were sorely made to pay dropping Bret twice early on, as our powerhouse opener eased to a half century.

Young AJ was given a chance at number three and provided admirable support to Bret; some amusement came with the Stretford change bowler conceding no fewer than six free hits for above waist high deliveries ... all to AJ who couldn't put any of them away. One especially amusing sequence came with AJ nicking off to a no ball and then being bowled neck and crop next ball. The bowler ran down whooping only to realise it was a free hit and it wouldn't count. Meanwhile Bret was starting to open up, with the first of several huge sixes disappearing down the ground. AJ's departure brought Doc P in, but sadly a horrible swipe sent him back to the pavilion fairly quickly.

The defining partnership of the innings then arrived, as Nathan joined Bret. Nathan's sideline support of girlfriend and mother had provided plenty of amusement for the Totts spectators early on, with Marshy greeting "the future Mrs Hall" to be countered with "hopefully soon". "That's what the last three said", bantered Marshy to general mirth. Further Marsh-related shenanigans ensued when Ethan, doing a great job as the only scorer present, managed to fall through the floor of the scorebox as it collapsed under him. After several minutes of laughter, we finally asked Ethan if he was ok, though people appeared to be more concerned about the condition of the hut.

Anyway back to the action and while Nathan was struggling to get going initially, Bret was absolutely plundering the bowling, with boundaries now coming thick and fast. One six appeared to be scooped over midwicket from near ankle height, easily the shot of the day. A couple of changes of bowler provided little respite, and once Nathan got going there was carnage for 10 overs. The score raced past 200, and when Bret finally fell for a superb 133 it was left to skipper Nick and Proops to see us through to the end of the innings at 273-5.

The home side's initial reply was somewhat bizarre, with the openers crawling to 19-0 from the first 10 overs. Faisal was beating the bat regularly while Marshy was his usual self, bamboozling the batsmen with his sublime array of cutters and variations. The reason for the openers' caution became clear once the first wicket fell; Totts claimed an astonishing 6 wickets for two runs inside 5 overs, with the batsmen undone with a mix of daft shots, some inspired field placings (well done Si Marsh) and the odd canny suggestion to "bowl a straight yorker". Nathan pulled off a direct hit run out from cover, and with the Totts side retaining the intensity and quality in the field throughout, the home side just couldn't put together any sort of partnership.

The innings paused briefly due to a playcricket glitch, with a scorebook needing to be sourced to complete the innings but once the game was back underway the opening bowlers completed their spells to leave Stretford at 28-8 from 20 overs. Doc and Nick Marsh then conceded little as the last pair blocked out before the skipper ended the innings on 36. This was a quality performance in the field despite a relatively poor opposition, and a good workout for all four senior bowlers. A great start for the new captain!

Thank you to the Ruffers and Hall clans for their valued support, Ethan for his good humour and scoring efforts, and let's take this momentum into the league campaign next weekend!

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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