On a cracking summer’s afternoon at Warnford, two Hoggets teams (Talbot-Williams (Team A) and Ashton (Team B)) took each other on in a 25-over match. Comprising players in the U16, 15, 14 and 13 age-groups the first task, ably completed by Toby Talbot-Williams, was to select two balanced sides. The fact that the winning side only had eight balls to spare shows that he did it well. Toby, captaining his eponymous team, won the toss and put in Team Ashton. Gabriel Ashton created a batting line-up, carefully putting himself number 11. The openers, Ollie Waters and Ben Foster went out to face a pacy and hostile opening spell from Sebastian Norris and Toby Yates. The former was faster, but the latter pitched it up a bit more. The pitch was quick and the outfield quicker, but the openers negotiated the pace and combined well for a first wicket stand of 39 when Waters was dismissed during a fine spell of leg spin from Barnaby Talbot-Williams. Foster, looking classy, relaxed and in control, was joined by Will Matthews, and assisted by extras, put on 52 for the second wicket. Foster retired at 53* and then came a remarkable spell from Ben Wright including a hat-trick as he bowled out Nick Moore, James Sandars and Rufus Bowder with the last ball of one over and the first two of his next, ending with figures of 3 for 13 off 3. This tore the heart out of Team Ashton’s middle order, and along with good spells from Pete Vail (2 for 20 off three overs), Will Jonas (a very economical five overs for 27) and Chris Van Der Walt (2 for 8 in one over) and Thomas Moore (14 from one over) put real pressure on the batting side. But some fast scoring cameos from Sebastian Ellis (8 from 7), Isaac Low (12 from 9), Hamish Croft (16 from 8) took the score up to 176 with one ball left. Croft was facing, called for a run and Gabriel Ashton, who had not faced a ball, hesitated and was run out.
In came the Team Talbot-Williams’s openers, Will Jonas and Finn Cunningham, looking at a required run rate of just over seven an over. Sebastian Ellis opened the bowling accurately down the hill, and Hamish Croft rapidly and penetratingly up the hill, soon changing ends. Croft castled Cunningham, giving great hope to the fielding team, but in came Felix Northover at 6 for 1. He settled in, notably scoring four fours in a row off Gabriel Ashton’s medium pace, and with Jonas put on a very classy stand of 86 runs punctuated by drives off back and front foot on both sides of the wicket, good running and clean hitting. Northover retired on 53* off 36 balls giving only one chance – a dropped catch at wide mid-off – and Jonas was bowled by Isaac Low for 38 from 34. The opening pair were followed by Seb Norris and Chris Van de Walt who took the score on to 144/3 when, after some powerful ball-striking, Norris was bowled by the pacy and economical Nick Moore. Van De Walt guided the team home with eight balls to spare, losing only one partner, Thomas Moore bowled by Foster, on the way. Team Ashton did well to slow the scoring rate and put pressure during the last overs with fine spells from Low (1 for 26 in 3 overs), Matthews (0 for 8 in 3 overs, very economical), Moore (1 for 19 in 3 overs), Waters (2 overs for 17 runs and Foster (1 for 2 off 1 over). The game ended with a nice four from Toby Yates.
Overall, there was some outstanding cricket; great pace and spin bowling, some really good individual and partnership scores, energetic fielding. The rapidity and occasional waywardness of the Talbot-Williams team bowling attack was evident in the 24 byes, mainly fours, and 9 wides conceded. The quality of Oscar Maclay’s wicket-keeping for Team Ashton resulted in no byes, and its bowlers only delivered 1 wide in the match. So, two very different sides met and had a hard fought game that could have gone either way, but the difference was really down to Northover’s exceptional batting, and Wright’s hat-trick.
Congratulations and thanks to Emma Talbot-Williams for setting up the match and getting 22 players onto the pitch on time. The only poor performance during the day came from the scorer / author of this report, who consistently failed to acknowledge the umpires’ signalling promptly, and was quite rightly admonished for it; must try harder.