After a huge win last week in the Manning DCA seconds comp, the local side had to learn to win another way this past weekend.
Coming off their huge morale boosting performance at South St against Taree West, they were made to battle all the way in a classic match against a tough, experienced and committed Old Bar squad.
Batting first on what was reported as another good batting deck, the visitors started carefully and had to navigate some tight bowling by the locals.
Captain Sam Bowkett again pushed the ‘top of off stump’ mantra, one that is easily stated at all levels and not often followed as much as the flingers would like.
Happily for the skipper, his example set was supported by the experienced Dave Balaam and then followed by the youngsters in Jack Howard and Adam Lewis and, again later in the innings by Liam Simpson, Daniel Fryer and James Milligan.
After early inroads saw the Old Bar boys battle to 2 for 23 off 10, Howard struck a purple patch and they were 4 for 62 at the half way mark and hanging in there.
The tight spell in blistering conditions saw it a contest against the elements for both batsmen and the fielding side as summer decided to hit early in a different way to recent tropical guises.
The drinks break had varying effects, with Ashley Kippax (18), perhaps drawing on his famous namesake’s diligence, having fallen just prior, then seeing Tom Kelly (31)and Luke Earley (20) fall short in mounting a rescue mission.
They both worked hard, only to succumb when looking set.
Unlike their superstar national representatives, they at least tried to build an innings and paid the bowling the respect it deserved.
For the home side, continuing to follow the captain’s pleas, saw him and them pleased as all bowlers turned the screws, catches and run outs from pressure resulted and the opposition were out for 92 in the 28th over.
No doubt the visitors would have been hoping to last much longer on a good deck but the Dolphins bowling attack did well in the sweltering conditions.
The only hiccup was after an apparent attack of the yips by the erstwhile straight bowling machine that Bowkett usually is.
He, like his younger team members, had tried to stem the heat by attacking a supply of iceblocks – with the sticky leftovers seeing not a dodgy effect on the leather but the hand controlling it.
Coming back for a second spell, the leader copped some serves from his young squad after bowling an over which included six wides!
Using sticky fingers as an excuse was never going to work but he did manage to snare his second wicket, that of the threatening Kelly.
With 2 for 19 for him, Howard’s excellent 4 for 10, Mulligan’s 2 for 6 and Simpson’s 1 for 10, the ball and weather had been a winner.
Or so it seemed!
The chase started well enough with Simpson and James McBride looking to build on last week’s blistering opening. McBride fell short, dismissed cheaply and perhaps being reminded how important a training session can be.
Sam Hull, so stylish in the last match, continued where he left off but when he went for a crafted 18, and the other success from last week, James Mulligan also went cheaply, the locals were suddenly 3 for 40 off 12.
With the talented Lewis also falling short, he and Mulligan obviously watching too much of our national reps and recklessly flailing, the Dolphins were 4 for 44 off 12 and the intent to score the runs in a canter falling off the rails of common sense and grinding out the win.
The Old Bar squad is renowned for being an experienced outfit which has bowlers who keep chipping away. That they did and it was Simpson, who was again showing good form, who tried to steady the ship with the old stager in Balaam.
They took the score to within the so called comfort zone (does it really exist?) until he was next out for 31.
Staying focused on the job, and handling the distractions that can sometimes come from elsewhere, is a key for all batsmen at all levels and it was a feature of the young player’s effort - which is to be congratulated in a game where the ball dominated so much.
With his departure at 5 for 77 in the 19th over, the run rate was not an issue and the target was in sight but as the break brought drama for the visiting team, so it was repeated for the home squad.
Balaam, who had shown discipline and restraint, soon went for 14 and when Nathan Fryer and Jack Howard both fell for Pekings, the Dolphins were floundering at 8 for 77.
Shane Nash (4-24) had netted the locals and things were going swimmingly for Old Bar.
It seemed a sand bank was to block a follow-up victory to last week and when Daniel Fryer went at 9 for 90, it was left to the young veteran Mick Adams, up from 3rds, to ride the wave home with skipper Bowkett.
They managed to keep their nerve and skim the win in the 26th over.
A low scoring match with real ebb and flow, highlighted by a dominant ball on a decent deck, made it a beaut game indeed.
No doubt both sides batting application and mental management of the game will need improving, notwithstanding the credit that must be given to both squads on their bowling.
Well done to both on their efforts.