I had high hopes for the right hand/left hand opening combination of Anthony Bissett (Tonbridge) and Martin Christopherson (Judd), but these were dashed by the excellent bowling of Finn Hulbert. He produced the classic 'three card trick' to bowl Anthony, having given him two away swingers followed by a perfect in swinger which clipped his off stump as he offered no shot.
In came Ed Hyde (Tonbridge), dislocated finger et al from the Martlets game last Friday. He drove the ball beautifully through the covers and hit several clips through mid-wicket for four, before he chased a wide one from Luke Berry (Harrow), who had kindly offered to help the Chiefs XI. Ed was caught behind for a breezy 26 off 17 balls with 5 x 4.
This left the Juniors 40-2 as Captain Toby Pettman walked to the crease, as the last of the recognised batsmen. He and Martin built quietly at first, but ran well between the wickets to put on a 50 partnership. Martin was eventually out for 19 having batted very sensibly (curiously without a boundary) for 73 minutes. 94-3.
Michael Berry (Harrow) came in at 5, playing his first game for two years having been out with a major knee injury. He seemed very comfortable and hit 3 good boundaries off the spinner, before he was out in the last over before lunch, when he was smartly stumped having dragged his foot marginally out of his crease for 14.
Nick Healy (St Edward's Oxford) had the unfortunate task of trying to survive the last few balls to the interval, but got a beautiful Yorker first up and was unlucky to be bowled. Hugo P (Tonbridge) survived the hat trick ball and we went to lunch having scored 149-5 in the session.
However immediately after lunch, Hugo had a swipe at a straight one from Luke Berry and was bowled and we were 150-6. Will Falcon (Harrow) joined Toby and punished anything loose from the spinners before smashing a drive to extra cover, where he was brilliantly caught by his schoolmate Luke for 13. Tom Whitmore (Kings Canterbury) scored 6 as he stayed with Toby for over 20 valuable minutes in a partnership of 48, which got the Junior BB over 200.
All this time, Toby had been compiling a magnificent hundred at the other end. It was a superb captain's innings. He drove the ball beautifully through the off side, and timed it so well. Sometimes it is hard to be impartial when assessing your son's performance, so perhaps the statistics will tell the story instead.
He scored 74% of the runs scored off the bat whilst he was at the crease, and 58% of the team total. His 50 came up in just 44 balls and his 100 in 92. He hit 18 x 4 and 1 x 6 (the rest of the team hit 11 fours combined) and when he was 9th out for 133, he had given just 3 chances. He was nearly run out trying to keep the strike, and dropped twice off his father's bowling... Schadenfreude.
Before the game, I had asked the top 4 to aim to score 200 between them, which brought howls of derision from the team. Well, with 178 I wasn't far off... We were all out for 228 in the 45th over, exactly at half time, which was a competitive total but achievable - perfectly balanced.
After his efforts with the bat, Toby decided to open the bowling with Will Falcon (2-21) and Tom Whitmore (1-32), who conceded the odd boundary initially, but then found their line and length well. At 40-0, the BB looked to be comfortable, however that all changed within 14 balls as they picked up three wickets. 2 were clean bowled and one was caught behind, and suddenly the scoreboard looked very different at 40-3.
Oli Healy (1-28) bowled with the wind and was tidy and accurate. He thoroughly deserved and enjoyed his wicket, calmly and efficiently snaffled by Ed at slip. Hugo (3-39) teased his leggies into the wind and bowled the no 5, trying to cut.
The Chief's XI had a packed the lower order with power in the form of Captain Matt Shales, young George Skinner (Eastbourne), Finn Hulbert and Will Montgomery. Finn scored a brilliant 100 for BB against Tonbridge just a month ago, so Toby, Ed and Anthony knew about his potential. Even though we had managed to get five wickets, it was still a close game.
Nick replaced Hugo and induced a mistake from Captain Matt, who holed out to deep mid wicket, where Martin took an important catch safely. Patience rewarded. Sam Huggett (1-28) got the talented and dangerous George Skinner, who like Luke was actually eligible to play for the Juniors, well caught down the leg side by Anthony from a leg glance.
This meant Will and Finn were together needing a run a ball - no particular difficulty for their quality and power. They seemed to be in no trouble at all until Will hit a ball to the extra cover boundary, which Sam Huggett chased down valiantly. He stopped the four and threw well to the bowler's end.
However Will had silently decided on a third run without calling Finn, who was beaten by Hugo's relay throw to Anthony, who whipped off the bails and Finn was gone, run out. A really good example of not giving up a chase and team work.
At 8 down with 40 needed, we were now favourites. Hugo produced a beauty to get through Luke Berry's defence, and when Will Montgomery (51) smashed a pull straight to the safe hands of Ed Hyde at mid wicket, he took an excellent smart catch (in his undamaged right hand), and the Juniors had won by 32 runs with 2 overs to spare. A classic finish to a great team performance. Interestingly, they faced almost exactly the same number of overs (44).
Man of the Match? Notable mentions for Ant Bissett, who took on the keeping duties and performed so well behind the stumps. The bowling of Will Falcon and Tom Whitmore at the start of the innings was excellent, and Hugo's 3 victims closed out the game. But it is hard to see past Captain Toby. His innings was simply outstanding to set up the game, and he marshalled the troops effectively and confidently in the field.
Champagne moment? There were several - Ed Hyde and Toby's cover driving was a pleasure to watch, Sam Huggett's dive and throw to help run out Finn, Martin's catch at deep mid wicket, Ed's winning catch?
All were great moments, but when our youngest player, Oli Healy, got a wicket with an edge to Ed at first slip, his whoop of delight was heart warming. Congratulations Oli.
So we have won 4/4 and move on to play the Shepway Stragglers. This will be no easier than the Chief's and possibly harder, but no one can ask more of the Juniors so far. It has been a pleasure to watch them play together as a team.