With the washout against Grappenhall, Hyde were desperate to play. They would be hoping for a performance similar to the one that they produced against Nantwich. On arrival at Neston, it became apparent that conditions were far from ideal. The outfield was sodden, and the wicket had an almost plasticine softness, meaning that the toss would be crucial. The coin fell the way of the Shrimps, and Neston chose to bowl first.
At first, it appeared to be a good toss to lose, and the wicket didn’t appear to be misbehaving too much. The soft wicket only succeeded in taking pace off the ball, which when facing one of the quicker bowling in the league in Ash Davis, I’m sure Partridge and Balderson were grateful for. The pair added 36 for the first wicket at a decent pace, but it was the change to spin that did for Balderson who was caught at slip after prodding at Eckard. Partridge didn’t long outlast him, being run out a few balls later, by a great piece of work by Smith left the Hyde captain stranded well short of his ground. Young survived a shout for LBW first ball, only to be trapped the same way on his second ball and was sent on his way off the bowling of Eckard. Duffy was dismissed in an almost mirror image of Balderson, prodding Eckard to Williams, and when Fitzsimmons kept up the trend, same bowler and same fielder, Hyde were in trouble. 48/5 and with the major run scoring options back in the shed, Hyde were in trouble. Fisher and Allcock tried to stop the rot, slowing the scoring down while trying to see out Eckard, who delivered 7 consecutive maidens. Fisher finally succumbed to Eckard, when he was well caught at leg slip by Stewart after flicking with the full face, completing Eckard’s 5fer. Allcock tried to accelerate the scoring, hitting a 6 that landed on the Neston balcony, but he fell victim to the reintroduction of Davis, who produced a beauty to clip the top of off. 79/7 and Hyde looked like there were going to be back on the M56 in next to no time. Whittaker and Cranmer added 19 for the 8th wicket, albeit at a slowish rate, playing the pace of Davis rather well. Cranmer was the one to depart first, to an excellent Yorker by Davis and Whittaker fell in Davis’ next over when he chased a wide one, and was well caught by the keeper, who caught the ball in front of second slip. This left Turner and Hannah at the crease to try and give Hyde something to bowl at. The pair looked to accumulate the runs, rather than smash them onto the board, with the exception of an over from Jones, where Turner hit three boundaries. Hannah, with his first extended stay at the crease, looked more comfortable than you would expect from most number 11’s, and didn’t look like throwing his wicket away, even managing a boundary from an inside edge. They added 28 for the last wicket, before Turner went aerial, hitting to the long boundary against the wind to be caught by Camden off the bowling of Smith. 128 all out, which looks like a very low score, but in a season of low scores, a bowling performance like the one produced at Nantwich would see it be enough.
With early wickets needed, Hyde couldn’t have started any better, striking in the first over, with a shorter ball from Hannah to Smith being spooned to Turner at square leg. Williams and Evans began to take the game away from Hyde, seeing out some tricky bowling from the openers, and pouncing on anything that fell into their arc, making Whittaker’s figures unusually expensive. The Change to spin did for Williams who was caught by Hannah off of Cranmer. 66/2, and whoever could grab the game by the scruff of the neck could win it for their side, as while Neston were in a strong position, a couple of quick wickets would shift momentum Hyde’s way. It was Evans who stepped up, hitting Turner for consecutive 6s which required consecutive new balls, such were the size of the hits. Evans finally departed for a very well-made 64, when he smashed the ball back towards Cranmer, only for it to stick for a brilliant caught and bowled. Eckard came in for bit of carnage and assisted Camden in making short work of the remaining runs, Neston finishing 130/3 and winning by 7 wickets.
I will not be drawn into making too many comments about the pitch, because the truth is we batted dreadfully. The top order failed to make runs, and this put a huge responsibility on the tail, which did its best. We needed a performance with the ball like Eckard produced, or a performance with the bat like Evans, but we didn’t get either. The team that got the win versus Nantwich looked like potential champions, but the team that lost to Neston looked like a team that struggle in the Prem. Hyde need to decide quickly which one we want to be.
By James Howe