A very impressive Luke Blackaby hundred was the catalyst in Holmesdale’s win over top-of-the-table Bromley at Montreal Park this weekend. A win which has catapulted the Dale back into the title race and takes their winning streak up to four games in a row.
Winning the toss on a hot Saturday afternoon, Blackaby had no hesitation in choosing to bat first. However, the innings could not have got off to a worse start as ex-Pakistan and Kent all-rounder, Yasir Arafat (4/44), ripped through the Holmesdale top-order, removing Bissett, May and Brabham for single figure scores and leaving the side reeling at 19-3 inside five overs.
This meant Blackaby and Miller were at the crease much earlier than they would have liked but the pair proceeded to see off the opening bowlers. They then looked to accelerate against the spinners and played with a calm, professional expertise which removed the sting from the visiting attack. Miller was the first to reach 50, with an array cover and straight drives peppering the boundary alongside some superb running between the wickets. Blackaby then upped his scoring rate, launching Bromley stalwart, James Butterfill, and skipper Pip France, for a couple of maximums. When Miller finally fell for an excellent 85, the Dale had moved onto 215-4, a partnership of 196, and they were very much in control of the game.
Blackaby was joined by the swashbuckling Harbig who muscled his way to 22 off 19 balls, including a lusty and tile-removing blow onto the clubhouse roof. But it was Blackaby who was, once again, the star of the Holmesdale batting show, scoring his 119 off 142 balls, and not offering a single chance to the fielding side. However, when he was removed, the Dale scoring did slow in the last few overs as the Bromley bowlers restricted Holmesdale to 277 when a score of 300 looked more likely at 40 overs.
An energised Holmesdale entered the field after tea, knowing that restricting Bromley to less than 277 would require nothing less than an exceptional effort with the ball as the visitors boasted current and ex-county players, Richard Selvey-Clinton and Sam Smith, alongside Arafat.
Blackaby, slightly sore after his hundred, opened the bowling with Gallagher and the pair bowled tightly in the first ten overs, with minimal loose deliveries. Smith (11) tried to force the issue but Blackaby (2/28) had him caught by Bryant at mid-on, bringing Arafat to the crease. Blackaby immediately created a chance with Arafat knicking the ball through to a diving Brabham, but the Holmesdale keeper couldn’t cling on and the Dale wondered if they would rue that missed opportunity.
Harbig and Bryant replaced the two opening bowlers and kept the pressure on the ex-pros, bowling tight lines. Clinton especially couldn’t really get going and Harbig caught him by surprise with a short ball which he could only hit to Bissett at deep square leg. This meant that Bromley were 62-2 at 17 overs and with plenty of work to do.
Bryant (0/30) continued to keep the ball on a string, but once he had bowled his spell, Arafat decided to take the attack to the other spinners, May and Bissett. However, the Dale kept picking up wickets with first May (1/54) bowling Wilson (24), then Bissett (1/36) having Muyeye (5) caught by Epps in the ring and then Miller running out Logan (2) with a direct hit, reducing the table toppers to 170-5 off 34 overs.
Despite the loss of these wickets, Bromley only required 100 off the last 16 overs, a target definitely possible with Arafat still in. Yet, Blackaby had other ideas and he brought himself back on and removed the danger man with his third ball for a very well made 93. Paceman Jamie Monkhouse than entered the attack and proceeded to produce a great spell of death bowling, removing all of the last 4 wickets and finishing with figures of 4/29. This meant that Bromley were bowled out for 229 – 48 runs shy of Holmesdale.
This victory puts Holmesdale right back in the mix for the title as there are just nine points between them in fourth and Bromley, who sit top of the table. At the halfway stage, the Dale have won six of their nine games. Next weekend, they have the return fixture of third-placed Bromley Common, who they beat on the first day of the season, and will be looking to make it five wins on the bounce.
Kent Cricket League Premier 2nd Division: Bexley 2nd (166-9) beat Holmesdale 2nd (165-9);
Holmesdale 2nd XI visited top-of-the-table Bexley on Saturday. On a warm day, Holmesdale won the toss and elected to bat first. Roffey and Martin opened with confidence punishing the bad balls. Before Roffey (21) fell to the bowling of Furze (1/35) being caught at mid-wicket. Martin continued to bat sensibly until falling for 20 getting caught behind, bringing the score to 56-2. Shamash (6) failed to get going falling victim to an LBW off the bowing of Ritson (1/27). Brown and Surguy attempted to absorb some pressure as the Bexley bowling attack bowled consistently good areas, giving little away. Surguy’s eyes lit-up to a wide ball from Crawly (2/23) but failed to get over it, cutting straight into the hands of the point fielder for 2. Brown (11) followed suit to the bowing of Bains, cutting a wide one, but catching a thin edge, and being caught by the keeper. This took the score to 78-5 and brought Holliday and Lovelock to the crease who looked to steady the ship. They achieved this to some extent, but Holliday was eventually bowled by Crawly for 9. Lovelock played to his strengths dropping the ball into the gaps and running well with his new partner, Hudson, who looked comfortable striking some big sixes. The partnership of 46 ended as Hudson was caught for 22 off the bowling of Hobbs-Moore (2/25). With support from Brushett (13) and then Grove, Lovelock took the away team to 165, before being run out on the last ball for 40. An excellent rescue job considering the place the top had left the Dale in.
The away team knew that they have to bowl well to defend 165. Bexley openers Barton (28) and Terry (47), got off to a positive start. They were coasting well until Hudson (3/29) struck with the home side on 71 and then again on 84. These two quick wickets lifted the tails of the Holmesdale bowers, with Richard Holliday (2/30) soon chiming-in taking the wickets of the experienced due of skipper Abbas (9) and Bains (2); the former from a lightning slip catch by Brushett, the second by a speedy stumping from Roffey. The home side were now 91-4. Wells (17) and Furze (37) swung momentum back in favour of the home side. But then Hudson, on for his second spell, had Wells caught mis-timing a pull shot and Lovelock ended Furze’s stay at the crease as he was caught behind. The home crowd were getting nervous now as the score was 146-6. Hobbs-Moore (3) then fell to the crafty bowling of Brushett, again caught by Holliday. One run later Brushett (2/32) struck again, dismissing Naylor (4) from a poorly controlled flick of middle stump. With the pressure now fully on the Bexley tail-enders, Ritson called a foolish run, and the composed Hudson threw down the stumps with a direct hit taking the score to 153-9. The Holmesdale bowlers continued to apply the pressure taking the home side to 40 overs without getting that final wicket. With some scuttling between the wickets for some quick runs, Patel (2) and Crawley (5) finally scampered a quick single to cross the line just in time before the bails were whipped-off for an attempted run out to tie the game.
Holmesdale had fought-back tremendously in the field to very nearly defend their total. But, unfortunately, 165 was not enough runs. Now at the mid-way point of the season, Holmesdale 2nd XI travel to Bromley Common, looking to make improvements on the first half of the season, just as they did last year.