Since I last found the time to post here the Fifths have shown a definite improvement, although as yet we still haven't won a game. We should have won one or possibly two but our batting simply hasn't been strong enough to take advantage of some very impressive work in the field. Our lowest ebb came against Onneley & Maer at home, where our 9 men conceded 247 for 3 before they declared and bowled us out for 24. Not the worst defeat I've been involved in, but this very much fitted the pattern of teams having one player scoring big runs that made the match unwinnable for us.
Three weeks later against Hales though we surprised ourselves. There was loads of rain around that weekend and we were amazed to get a game at all, but I'm so glad that the Gods allowed us a window to get a match in. I opened the bowling with Paul - a very impressive new player - taking the first over and at the other end, myself. The thinking was that I might as well get a bowl while the ball's dry, and I'd take myself off when it started to get too slippery. It never did though, and I bowled straight through - 15 overs, 3 maidens, 4 for 46 were my figures, with Paul taking 2 for 9 from 10 overs. We bowled them out for 95, but unfortunately I think we lacked a little belief in our batting and were bowled out for 59. We were all a bit peeved about that one but it showed us, for the first time I think, that we weren't quite the useless no-hopers we had been at the start of the season.
Next up against Norton-in-Hales you could see the improvement in the way the team played. Twice Norton threatened to take the game away and twice we pulled them back in, bowling them out for 167 - perhaps a bit high but not that far off a par score. Rhys Wilson was the star taking 6 wickets, and again it's as if he never previously realised his own strength. We had a bit of a shaky start before a shower of rain took us off, and with an hour lost we resigned ourselves to batting out for a draw, which we got without too much fuss.
There was another strong bowling performance the following week against Porthill, all the more impressive considering we had three players I'd literally never met before. All out for 116 with your humble narrator picking up 3 for 30 from another extended opening spell, and again I felt the sniff of a chaseable total. Sadly though we crumbled again and were all out for 45, and after getting ourselves into good positions three times without winning I think the guys felt this one was if anything more frustrating than against Hales.
This weekend we played the 4ths for the third and last time this year, but I was absent due to another commitment. I handed the team over to Manu, who did a great job getting the team together and leading them for the day. They held the 4ths down to 195 for 8 before they declared with five overs remaining, the wickets spread liberally between Rhys, Paul, James Waz and Manu, and this time instead of the 4ths having 2 centurions they only had one make it past 50. In reply there were some surprise performances with Callum and Waz both making the 30s and looking very good, and Ben making a nice 20 after some coaching in the week from a mate of his. Manu came in at 121 for 9 and muscularly saw the team past 150 for the full compliment of batting points but was bowled with about 10 minutes left of play. All out for 157 but another encouraging performance against a very strong side.
I watched the second innings and it was curious to note the contrast between the sides. The 4ths were all serious, rather aggressive, and far too ready to turn on their own players when something went awry. The 5ths seemed almost to revel in the contrast: enjoying themselves, enjoying each other's company, backing their team-mates and cheering any noteworthy achievements. They're a really good bunch of guys.
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So where has my exceptional form come from? I'm damned if I know. My last three bowling performances total up as O36 M5 W7 R103, giving me an average of 14.71, a strike rate of 30.86 and a barely credible economy rate of 2.86. Yes, you read that right, two-point-eight-six. Maybe it's just a minor statistical fluke, or maybe after five years I have finally got the hang of this leg-spin lark...