Witham got the 2019 season off to a winning start on May Day with a stirring victory over Shepton Montague, chasing down a target of 104 with 5 overs to spare on an evening where the momentum ebbed and flowed in and out of both teams' grasp in much the same way the ball did for much of the game.
With the admin of the first match of the season finally resolved - climbing over the fence to get to the pitch and breaking into the clubhouse to get in - the match finally got underway and Witham's opening bowlers set about the Shepton top order with the kind of accuracy and verve rarely dreamt of on the opening day of a new season. Once Lloyd found the facilities, he was soon firing down some unplayable pace, only to switch tactic again and remove the opener with a first-over beamer special to put the home side on the back foot.
George then stepped up determined to claim his first scalp of 2019, duly removing two in two balls to set things up for a magical first-over-of-the-year hat-trick only to go and plonk one down leg side. By the time the hosts' fourth wicket had gone down, Montague were on the ropes, their scoring curtailed by the regular tinkle of ball on wicket. That, however, merely brought a couple of likely-looking big swingers to the crease, and Fitzgerald and Payne both rode their luck as they mounted something of a recovery.
Some sharp chances went down, almighty dives were taken off, shoulders were left in divots and balls were completely ignored as they plopped by the feet on a topsy turvy day in the field for the Witham. Arthur and Henry took over bowling duties and finally the breakthrough came, leaving a wagging tail for Doug and Steve to have a go at, the latter putting in the kind of final over that a captain dreams of as the Montys somehow dragged themselves past the 100 mark - a respectable total that had looked nigh on impossible after 8 overs.
With the sun already making its way behind Glastonbury Tor, openers Chris and Will showed remarkable patience in the early stages of the Witham reply, but it was a tactic that paid off in spades. Once the two tight seamers had been negotiated and the second-string attack took to the line, both batsmen opened up and the runs rained down. A couple of almighty sixes from Wild - one a beamer picked right off his nose and wafted over his head with aplomb - paired with some fine stroke play from Chris and eased any lingering doubts among the rest of the Witham order.
Chris fell for 17 after being caught LBW, at which point Arthur settled in and Will upped the ante even further, accelerating Witham into the kind of position not even the mighty WFCC could falter from. Like Chris, Arthur was trapped LBW by McCoy and Will nobly retired as he reached 50 with another crushing six, but as cries of “CHOKE” came out from the field, Doug and Lloyd steered the visitors to safety with five overs to spare, the team clicking nicely for a morale-boosting first foray into what looks like being another season for the ages.
- Doug Gray