Aberaeron (197-6) beat Talybont Rachels (194-8) by 4 wkts

Fine & Country West Wales Cricket Club Conference

AS the rain fell heavily in the early morning, the teams pondered gloomily on the prospect of even being able to start, let alone complete the match, writes Alex Pitchford.

But skies cleared around 9am, and some sunny spells and a stiff breeze dried out the ground. With heavy rain forecast for early evening and possibly some showers, the teams agreed on an earlier start and a flexible tea break, as the best chance of getting a result, both teams hungry for points in the last match of the first round of the WWCCC Fine & Country Championship.

The captains, Hywel Rees and Vinod Mathew, made the toss and Hywel had the opportunity to ask the visitors to bat first, with an obvious plan to bowl them out cheaply and make for a quick victory.

Aberaeron’s opening bowlers, Simon Mitchel and Steffan Rees, certainly did their part in this plan, bowling with good pace and accuracy, making it very hard for Rachel’s openers Vinod and Ben Harper to make any scoring shots.

Steffan, getting late movement in the air, made the first breakthrough in his second over, clean bowling Ben Harper for 2. In his next over, he had Sumesh Anthony trapped in front of his stumps and adjudged LBW for 0, giving Steffan successive wicket maiden overs.

It was looking like Aberaeron’s attack could rip through the top order, but Rhodri Lloyd-Williams joined his captain and the two of them appeared to adopt a plan to survive this opening bowling attack. Both were careful in defence and played very wisely, and despite the ball passing the bat regularly, they did get through to the first bowling change at 10 overs, but with the total on only 16-2.

Hywel took a few overs to find his range and Vinod took advantage of the opportunity to get the score moving with some solid boundaries. Steffan continued to bowl accurately at good pace, and with Hywel finding his rhythm in his third over, the run rate slowed up again. Josh Roper took over from Steffan when his spell was complete and also managed to restrict the scoring, if not to quite the same degree. So Vinod and Rhodri had managed something of a recovery at the 20 over drinks break, with the score on 62-2.

After the break, and with Hywel still swinging the ball away on tight lines, Vinod, clearly seeing the need to push things along, found his off-stump light up, bowled by Hywel for 32. This brought Mohit Mathur to the middle, which changed the momentum of the game.

Immediately using his feet well to counteract the swing, he played confidently with flourish and struck many fine boundaries to all parts of the ground, somewhat ruining Roper’s figures and giving Morgan Ashton a torrid time in his first over.

Player of the match Josh Roper
Player of the match Josh Roper (Supplied)

Rhodri and Mohit were accumulating well, building the total to 117-3, until Rhodri lofted the ball to deep wicket where Josh Roper moved himself calmly into position and then took the catch with consummate ease to end a vital innings of 33, dismissed by young off-spinner Morgan.

He continued claiming scalps, next one was Phil Abraham, bowled for 0 whilst playing aggressively towards the leg side and then Bava Vasu, having just hit a fine 6, was struck on the pad playing right back and given LBW for 8.

Graison John joined Mohit and the pair continued to build the total at a pace in a 41 run partnership, despite the return of Simon Mitchell into the attack.

Having taken some tap, Simon got his revenge clean bowling Mohit, finally dismissed for 71. Joel Abraham played the same shot as his father with the same result to give Simon another wicket. Graison (16*) and Joby David (1*) added another 10 in the remaining 3 overs to give Rachels a final total of 194-8 and their bowlers a good chance.

Simon Mitchell’s figures took a battering in his return spell, but the two wickets meant he finished with 2 for 35 off 8. Morgan Ashton once again took important wickets in his 3 for 38 off 5, but the stand out bowling performance was that of Steffan Rees with 2 for 12 off 8 overs.

The teams skipped refreshment and turned around immediately – Dave Floyd and Ceri Thomas opening the batting for the home side.

Phil Abraham immediately found his trademark out-swing and made scoring very tricky. Graison John gave a few opportunities in his second over for Floyd to play some fine cover drives for 4 and so he was replaced by Joel Abraham.

Ceri, who had just started to time the ball well, called for a quick single, but despite a full length dive was adjudged short of his ground when Vinod’s quick throw hit the stumps directly, run out for 10.

The change of bowling also had good effect, with new batsman Steffan Rees driving at a full length delivery to be bowled for 1 by Joel.

Then two overs later Joel got the ball to jag in off the seam to dismiss Floyd for 12. The hosts then were 41 for 3 off the first 10 overs – behind the rate and with 3 strong batters gone.

Still, confidence was high with Ted Trewella and Hywel Rees together, both capable of taking the game away from Rachels.

Ted started in his usual positive style, punishing anything short or wide. He was undone though when he punched a full toss from Bava directly at Sumesh to be caught out for 25.

With the score on only 74-4 in the 17th over, the team now looked to Kevin Regan for hope.

He had just started to hit the ball cleanly when he struck one from Graison straight into the hands of Ben Harper to be caught out on 10.

Having never looked comfortable, Alex Pitchford faced a ball from Bava that moved away off the seam to hit the off stump and be bowled for 3. So the home side were then floundering on 100-6 in the 21st over.

Seemingly never lacking in confidence, Josh Roper came to the crease and started to play positively, hitting mainly down the ground and often well enough to get 4.

His captain continued to play cautiously, still taking advantage of any loose balls, but mostly offering the strike back to Roper.

In this way then, as the drizzle began to fall, the pair took the home side comfortably above the required rate, and as drizzle turned to rain this seemed the most likely result – Aberaeron winning by higher run rate – as the teams left the field.

Sheltering from the rain, the teams were especially grateful for their long-awaited sustenance provided by Tafarn y Cadwgan.

The weather radar showed a potential short spell of clear weather coming and both teams were hopeful of a more fitting end to this match of twists and turns.

And sure enough, as the tea was finished, the rain abated and the players took to the field. Hywel and Roper continued as before the break and the bowlers were clearly struggling with the wet ball, so the scoring quickened.

As the total grew close to the target, confidence rose, and the scorers started getting excited at the possibility that both batters could get to 50, which would require a precise order of scoring between them.

Some debate arose as to whether to inform them, but it was agreed that any distraction from the victory aim was unwise.

But still, they effected it perfectly, with Hywel pushing a single to reach his half century and leaving Roper on 44 with the target only 3 runs away. Roper clubbed the next ball directly at the pavilion for a crowd catch and to win the match and finish on 50 himself too.

It was a day in which the bowlers generally out did the batters, with high quality bowling against strong batters on both sides.

Joel Abraham’s important early wickets in his 2 for 53 off 7.5 set up the strong position for them, but the best bowling was from Bava Vasu with 2 for 18 off 8 overs, which kept Rachels in the running until near the end.

Although the visitors were of course disappointed to get to such a strong position and not win the match, the overriding feeling in both teams was that of gratitude to have been involved in such a great game, a prospect which seemed so unlikely at breakfast time.

The result takes Aberaeron to top of the table at the halfway stage of the league, which will continue after a two week break for the T20 cup competition.