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WATTY'S MEGA 2ND XI SEASON REVIEW

Editor's note: When I asked Watty for a season review, I suggested "just something brief". What was sent back several hours later was a War and Peace type affair. Move over, Jeffrey Archer! - Ed.

“I don’t think I’m going to play as much next year KC, I wouldn’t mind playing a bit more golf”

“League winning, and cup finalist captains, don’t retire to play golf” – was the reply. Maybe with an expletive or two included. Well, no maybe about it.

“Oh, OK.”

So after being talked into leading the 2nd’s for another year, the usual rigours of pre-season set in – I’d managed to keep KT Tape in business using their magical blue sticky strips to aid mobility and movement. Mainly just to move around, let alone play cricket.

Indoor nets started with their usual vigour and clamour; for every ten balls faced, at least three would clatter into the side netting, one would be a horrific leg-side long hop and you were forever living in fear of being smashed by a ball from the other net. The morning after usually contained a handful of ibuprofen, probably to deal with the pints after in the Hare. Was this really the formula for a successful pre-season? No, that was Benidorm. For those interested in joining 2016’s tour, let KC/Deardy know and they will arrange a meeting in front of the Benidorm committee.

Anyway, back to cricket based at home. During the months of April – September, my Wednesday mornings is always spent texting/calling/emailing/harassing everyone who has ever donned the whites for TSJ, just to get one/two or three teams out. One of these days, players will come back to me at the first request, and not require special treatment (ie – phone calls at 8pm on a Wednesday during selection, Mickey Jones) – but anyway, we were much better at it this year. The start of the season was a funny one, a lone second team game against Edgworth, then a gap for three weeks. No doubt everyone saw that and immediately thought to the imminent double headers later in the season, and the “how do I get the Mrs to agree to this” conversations. Or the inane amounts of gardening/shopping in order to acquire brownie points.

Anyway, Edgworth. Three half-centuries in a total of over 250, a straight-forward 160 run victory and the usual number of wickets for the best spinner to leave India, Sail. Nice start to the season, a basking hot day and KC excelled himself with the wicket he prepared. Even I scored runs on it, albeit painfully slowly as Ryan Marsh was teeing off and making me look as pro-active as a hibernating bear. Nice one, Marshy. Quotes of the day from Boris – “Watty… for the love of cricket…. Get out” (shouldering arms to four on the bounce is forbidden in Wales it would seem) – and, when Stoney walked behind the bowlers arm…. “Stoney…. The only cricketer with a strap on brain”. It was going to be a lonnnng season. Ryan Marsh immediately repaying faith with his first 50 of the year, in his guaranteed batting spot of number 4. And, Nick Marsh scoring 52 out of his 53 runs for the seconds in one innings. Keeping it in the family, I see.

The cricket bags could get locked away for a few weeks, as we didn’t have another game until the 9th May against Roe Green; who unfortunately couldn’t raise a team so forfeited. Ten points out of ten, great start. Ironically, Roe Green offered the best bowling attack in the league when we played towards the end of the season (and lost). A week later, a local derby against ELPM was on the cards; a total of 150 for ourselves was defended comfortably, bowling ELPM out for 93. Mainly thanks to a guest appearance from Rob Holt, who loves the club so much, he flew back from Japan especially to play! I lie – he said if you get a cry off, let me know. I deliberately only picked 10 so I could call him. Usual Rob happened – 3 for 55 off 16. Incidentally, this was the last game that joint vice-captain Mick Durrans played for ourselves, after three years at the club. His experience would be missed, but, it gave a chance for others to step to the plate. And that, they did. Although, poor Stoney, attempting to see off his bogeyman cricketer of big Stevie Dwyer, played two lovely forward defensive shots, before leaving what can only be descriped as a straight one, to have his off stump re-arranged. Oooops.

A week later, a delightful trip to Springhead. It was freezing, and raining. Joy. We won the toss (story of the season), and batted. For those of you who know me, two things happen when I play at Springhead. I get a duck, and Stu drops a catch off me. Neither happened this year – although 8 runs off 18 overs made pulling teeth seem pleasant but set the tone for the game. Young Marsh, Stoney, Stu and Fazwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan (who now has at least six names) chipped in, including some mammoth hitting from Stoney at the end. With disciplined bowling (on a minefield of a wicket), we knocked Springhead over fairly comfortably for another five points. 15/15. Unfortunately, Bank Holiday Mondays’ cup game to Greenfield was our first slip up; collapsing to 12 for 4 is never a good start to a game. Hopes of the cup were dashed and despite a strong rear-guard batting performance, a measly total of under 100 proved a fairly easy target; a four wicket loss could have been a lot heavier had it not been for some tight bowling early in the game.

As May drew to a close, a home-game to new opposition Farnworth Social Circle beckoned – what a game. Opening remarks from Stoney of “I’m not gonna play defensively now I’m gonna just play my game as I got bowled last week leaving a straight one and I don’t like playing defensively”. A total of almost 300 followed from ourselves, 86 from Stoney to back up his words, diving one handed slip catches and more sixes than a game of Ludo. The loss of VC Mick was a distant memory as we approached a break of three weeks sitting pretty on twenty points from four games.

When Greenfield visited on 20th June, with a rather different looking bowling attack than in the cup game, spirits were buoyed that this could be our chance to seek revenge for the last few games against them – unfortunately, losing the toss and conceding 221 was never a good start, and, despite edging towards a point thanks to Nick Fletcher and Smiffffffffffffffffffffy, we were bowled out for 168. Slip up two was followed the week after by slip up three – losing at home to Swinton Moorside in a low-scoring game; despite bowling them out for 107 after Sail’s 7-24, we were knocked over for 90. Moorside were already hot on our heels, as were Greenmount and Greenfield – could these ten dropped points be crucial? We had another break to contemplate, and, it fitted in well – all hands on deck for Totty’s Big Day Out, which was as busy as ever until the heavens opened and almost five thousand people disappeared quicker than when there’s groundwork to do.

It was all building up to Greenmount away – “Battle of the Lines” – and, a momentous day for King Boris as he was honourary captain for the day, returning to the club he first played at 42 years ago. Or, in our language, when he was 95 years old. A team talk consisted of an insistence to “get a point…. Then four…. Then five…. And if you can’t get anything, make it bloody hard work boyo” – the tone was set when, after losing the toss, we had Greenmount at 50-5. Then, young Brooky, who is rapidly learning how to display the same agility and mobility characteristics in the field as an Aircraft Carrier, decided to drop what can only be described as a pie worthy of mention in an Greenhalghs’ catalogue – 50 for 5 then became 180 all out. He had some serious making up to do – especially after he made a slight error of judgement to run Ryan Marsh out at the top of the order. I say a slight error, Usain Bolt would have struggled to make the run. Fortunately, Brooky decided to score 35, and, coupled with a 30 from Watty, 30-odd from Hayesy and a belligerent tail performance saw us sneak a point, making Boris a very happy man and keeping us in the race.

Luckily, five default points came our way the week after as Elton couldn’t field a team. Normal service was soon resumed with two thumping wins over Edgworth and ELPM respectively; ELPM by 10 wickets as Stu Batigan held possibly the catch of the season, left handed, over his head in the slips – Dasher became the only number three to ever get pad-rash (and almost held a sprawling, one handed slip effort too), Mahmood and Sail knocked off 96 in no time and the three Durrans boys returned to a warm reception.

As July became August….. the rains arrived with Springhead on a saturated Saturday. Quite how we almost lost this, I have no idea – Paul Meehan (playing his first 2’s game for 25 years!!) skittled Springhead with a five-fer; unfortunately, we batted with the collective nous of a fencing club as several batsman (I say batsman in the loosest term), decided to waft aimlessly at balls well outside off stump and give catching practice. Standard story – Keith Lees 5-for-not-many-off-a-lot. Luckily, Rowdy and Mickey Jones saw us through to 8pm for a hard, hard fought two points. It was all squeaky tight at the top of division three ...

Fortunately, the day after was a much brighter affair for our trip to Greenfield. After losing the toss, we were invited to bat on a lovely track, if slightly damp at the ends. Blistering batting from Mahmood and Ryan Marsh, backed up by Paul and Watty chipping in with unbeaten 20-odd’s each saw us post 177-5 off our 40 overs. Highlight of the innings – Greenfields’ “ringer” who was trying to be Oldhams’ equivalent of Shaohib Akhtar didn’t quite realise that the shorter/faster he bowled, he made it easier for young Ryan to dispatch him over the rope for 6. And, when Ryan launched him over his head for six (which cleared the clubhouse), despite Ryan’s insistence, the comment of “fetch that” was definitely muttered. Possibly with a suggestion of “why don’t you” at the start of it. And a swear word. Naughty, Ryan. Anyway, for some bizarre reason, Danny Baycs decided to roll the wicket and with that, killed off any hopes of Greenfield winning the game. We knocked them over for 88 and Mr Adidas secured a MoM performance with a 6-fer to back up his half century. Comedy moment – Watty at first slip after their captain played and missed four on the bounce. “Do you want us to send you a piano down……. You might be able to play that”. (Copyright, Macca). Some excellent fielding from Stoney under the helmet, to back up a fine opening bowling spell as well. Five points, Greenfield out of the race. And, a great catch from Danny Ash to remove a dangerman.

A double header the weekend after, the usual stresses of finding 33 able bodied humans to wear the badge. Task succeeded. A trip to Roe Green saw us slip to a very unexpected loss – what an excellent set of lads. Unfortunately, Crabbers wasn’t best pleased as there were two drops in two balls. A six wicket loss was the result, and, whilst trying to lift morale afterwards, a comment of “the drops wouldn’t have made any difference lads, lets just win tomorrow” was greeted with the retort of “it would have done to my ####ing figures!!!!”. Thanks, Crabbers. He was happy enough after the game though, we had a curry, he had a lot to drink and had to be carried to/from a car and put to bed. Behaviours which are standard for him whenever he has a drink. Just ask him about Whisky Wednesday.

Luckily, the day after, we had an away trip to Social Circle to ease the sore heads. And, a 68 run victory with yet more runs for young Marsh, a six-fer for Paul and a fairly straight forward return to winning ways. Highlights of the game? One of the Social Circle lads saying something not nice to Paul – Paul decided to get very angry, bowl very very fast and the result was 6-16 off 10. Oh, and the revelation that Stevie Brooks simply cannot field. We now grade his fielding efforts on the scale of Neville (shocking), Clive (woeful), Birdy (OK-ish), and Cathie (outstanding). We haven’t graded anything above Clive this season in the field, just FYI, Ladbrokes have said Birdy/Cathie options will be suspended shortly and are offering 4/1.

Last weekend of August saw a lovely bank-holiday fixture at home to Greenmount – and, rather bizarrely, we were done and dusted inside 2 hours. After winning the toss and batting (taking the groundsmans’ advice, thanks KC), Greenmount were all out for 59, after a fast start, reaching 21-0 off four overs. The bowling change ensured the brakes were slammed on. Five wickets a piece of Fazzal and Sail, at one point, we had everyone fielding on the square to support excellent, aggressive, around the wicket bowling from Fazwaaaaaaaana, including Stoney under a lid.. Knocking the runs off should have been straightforward – D.O.T.D (Of The Day – you can guess what the first D stands for) award goes to the skipper who promoted himself to three hoping to score some runs. Unfortunately, I was still on the plane home from Santorini when I faced the first ball which rapped my pads. Jebby must have felt sorry for me, giving it not out. However, I was definitely in passport control for ball two which knocked off stump flying before I could even get my duty free out. Well done, Watty. Good one. Kudos to young Marsh (again) – a blistering 40-odd not out to secure the win. Greenmount were out of the race.

Business end of the season. All the talk was about a famous, history-making double championship – could we do it? Would the weather penalise us? Long story short, we had to beat Swinton Moorside who were hot on our heels. The game against Elton on the Saturday was somewhat a dead rubber – attentions were firmly on the Sunday game. However, massive thanks must go to Elton for getting a game on. A T20 was played in great spirits, Paul carried his bat for 63, George and Ryan got into the teens and the most offensive looking six singles were scored before Watty hit a straight six. Innings like that are those which make cricketers consider retirement. Bowling wise; tidy attacking lines from Si Marsh (originally in as a wicket-keeper) and rotation from the other end saw us collect a five point win. A nice warm up for the big one….. made sweeter by United hammering Liverpool. And, impeccable work from behind the sticks from George – “pages six through fifteen, dear boy”.

Sunday arrived, it was a bright, sunny day – and the nerves were jangling. After winning the toss and batting first, we were off to a flyer. Paul reached his 50 with the scoreboard only on 63; Mahmood started to score freely and progressed to 31 before he was caught playing one shot too many. At 3, George came in and calmly supported with his usual classy style. As Paul approached his century, opposition players were commenting on the innings, and how key it could be. After bringing up his ton with a delightful pull for four, Paul was out for 105, bowled by one that snuck through the gap. In came young Marsh, and, tee’d off in his usual manner. Funnily enough, Aside from Paul, the other batsman all registered scores of 31. 209-2 and tea.

After tea, Hayesy and Fazzlepops set about taking the ten wickets. The bad ball was punished, Hayesy produced a real snorter to get the first wicket and Fazz worked hard, with not much fortune, A double bowling change saw Mahmood and Brooky come on, and, after a nervy start for Mr Adidas, he managed to get control of the game and nipped a couple out – even Mickey was coming to the party with two sharp stumpings, clearly worried about his place for next year so sending a timely reminder that he’s not a bad keeper! Speaking of tidy – Brooky’s fielding yet again left a lot to be desired, dropping two more catches. Perhaps he should imagine the ball is a pint, he seems to have no issues holding them (or a pint of wine). The final bowling changes took place, Mahmood was replaced by Paul and Brooky for Nick Marsh – (despite his woeful fielding, it was openly said that Stevie's bowling spell was the best he had bowled, even more impressive than his 5-fer for the firsts) – tight, controlled bowling saw the chances coming….. the game very much swinging both ways. The rare bad balls going for four, an over or two of pressure, then a wicket – 120-4 became 150-7….. a difficult chance was put down by Mickey, and Nick Marsh took 3-11 off his short spell of four overs, taking Tottys’ last wickets in the NMCL, finishing the game with Moorside on 162ao, and, a second successive title for the 2’s to close our stay in the NMCL.

Huge thanks must go to:

KC/Dasher/Dickie P/Clive – excellent wickets prepared all year

Morar – teas each week

Kherys – having a scorer who you can rely on to be spot on each week makes it easy for the umpires

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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