By Chris Shenton - 25th June 2012 11:12am
The 1st XI made the short trip to Hartford for a must-win fixture. Man-of-the-match Neil Humphries came to the fore with bat and ball as Audlem won by 55 runs in a low-scoring game played on a wet and very green wicket.
Despite the conditions, when skipper Chris Shenton won the toss he had no hesitation in electing to bat to try and gain maximum points. Audlem opening pair Qhama Matthews and Andy Rothwell got the innings off to a quick start with Rothwell hitting two boundaries in the opening over. The early talk in the Audlem dressing room was what kind of total to post before a declaration, however after their woeful batting displays of recent weeks, they should have known better. Rothwell once again this season looked in great touch before somehow finding yet another way to get out, top edging an extravagant sweep shot off the experienced bowling of Rob Whittle with the score on 17.
Five runs later, Matthews was run out when looking for a quick second. With two new batsmen at the crease Audlem looked to re-build the innings through the returning Andy Capper and Kemal Toraman. A couple of lusty blows from Toraman proved to be a false dawn and soon after he top edged Whittle and was comfortably caught. When Capper was bowled by Praveen Pattisapu Audlem were 32 for 4. Within the next 14 overs Audlem lost Toby Banfield, Oli Burney, Rich Brown and Shenton, all given lbw off the bowling of Pattisapu.
At 54 for 8 Audlem had collapsed, not for the first time this season, and were just looking for some kind of total to give their bowling attack a chance. Simon Swift and all-rounder Humphries came to the rescue. Swift once again looked in little trouble as he obdurately blocked at one end whilst Humphries attacked from the other. Together they added 48 for the ninth wicket and took Audlem past the 100 mark. Both batsmen soon fell to Pattisapu (7 for 41) and the Audlem innings came to a close at 105 with Humphries making 32 and Swift 19, with Stuart Heaps the not-out batsman.
After tea Audlem, for the third time this year looked to defend a very average total. Opening bowlers Burney and Swift set about the challenge with some good pace bowling and Burney made the early breakthrough having David Brandreth trapped lbw. This, however, proved to be only a minor hiccup for the home team as Jonathan Turner and Geoff Sharp looked to go on the attack, some big hits and some lucky edges saw Hartford race to 31 for 1 and within 75 runs of a deserved victory.
At this point Shenton made a double bowling change and replaced the fiery youngsters with the experienced pair of Humphries and the returning Brown, who had made the long trip from London to make his season's debut. When Brown was dispatched for two boundaries in his opening over it didn't look like a great change, but yet again in this strange season there was to be a dramatic twist. Brown, in his second over, bowled Turner for 21 and when Matt Tasker was superbly stumped by Banfield off Brown, Audlem sensed there was a change in momentum. Humphries soon had opener Sharp trapped lbw and Sam Westwood caught at gully by Matthews.
More mayhem was to follow as Mike Fielding was trapped lbw by Brown and Humphries then took two wickets in two balls with good catches held by Toraman and Capper at long on and long off. The hat-trick ball somehow missed the off stump of Pendlebury but the resistance didn't last much longer. Brown bowled Matt Pendlebury and the victory was wrapped up when Humphries trapped Whittle with the ninth LBW of the game. Hartford had collapsed from 39 for 1 to 50 all out, Humphries taking 5 for 11 to add to his match winning knock of 32, and Brown an excellent 4 for 16.
Audlem gained a crucial 25 points and Hartford 5. Despite gaining maximum points, the 1st XI are still 43 points behind second-place Wilmslow Wayfarers and 59 points behind leaders Wilmslow, who visit the Gorse Croft on Saturday in the match of the day which starts at 1.30 pm.
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