“This will be a question in a pub quiz one day,” said ex-skipper and middle order biffer Paul as we passed 175. “When was the last time Menheniot-Looe third team got maximum batting points?” Having stumbled upon a dry day and a full team of eleven players for the first time in a fortnight, any success on the field would come as a bonus. Five of them in fact materialised, as we recovering from a tortoise-like start to post a decent total of 189-4 from 40 overs.
Openers Pat and Tom laid the platform, then encased it in concrete and dropped it to the bottom of the ocean, with a patient 19-over partnership of 39. Thankfully number three Zac saw the need for a bit of urgency and wielded the willow in fine style, hitting 11 fours and a six in his unbeaten 83. Some late heaving, and a generous helping of wides from Tideford’s second string bowlers, got us to what the PR-trained professionals call a “working total”. It soon became an unemployed total hailing the first bus to the Job Centre.
The difference in quality between second and third teams at this level is often most obvious in the top order batting. The game was effectively up as the opposition’s openers put on 73 for the first wicket in quick time. Tom bowled a quick but erratic spell down the hill to give us a sniff, exploiting the dry conditions to extract some bounce out of a pitch which usually resembles a patch of marshland. But sloppy fielding and too many wide deliveries put paid to any remaining hope, and the visitors edged home with four overs and plenty of batting to spare.
I bowled six overs for 26, my usual inconsistency bemusing the batsmen into submission. After standing at slip listening to skipper Mike complain that he couldn’t set a field if we were going to bowl both sides of the wicket, I wanted more than anything to provide a bit of control. Easier said than done. A couple of loopy beamers gently threatened the left-hander’s skull, while one pea shooter double-bounced just millimetres past his partner’s off stump. In between there were some decent balls, and I took my cap content in the knowledge that although I hadn’t sparked a miraculous comeback, at least I hadn’t made things worse.
So a handful of precious bonus points, some signs of improvement and reasons to be cheerful. What is it the pros say after yet another defeat? “We’re a young team and we’ll learn from this.” “We can take the positives and move on.” “Put this behind us and look forward.” Next week we go to top of the table Saltash, unbeaten after four games and front-runners for the title. Bring your positive thinking caps, lads. We’re going to need them.