Turbulent times in a bid to stop the rot

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AFTER a turbulent week in the life of Skegness Cricket Club, in which the captaincy changed hands in less than ideal circumstances, the first decision for new/stroke old skipper Wade McCall was whether to bat or bowl first on winning the toss in their local derby with Boston.

The latter have been enjoying a successful season in the upper reaches of the Lincolnshire ECB cricket league, while the seasiders are in a fight for survival which partly contributed to the shake-up which occurred in the club hierarchy over recent days.

After some hesitation, he opted to bowl first, thus putting to the test the side’s resolve to maintain energy and commitment levels for the full fifty overs in the heat of the day.

Setting an early example and providing encouragement to the cause, his fourth over dismissal caught and bowled, of young county opener Johnny Cheer, for just two, was an ideal start.

This was followed by a barren spell of 30 overs in which character in the field was put to the test by a fine partnership of 121 between Boston Aussie opener Matt Ward and number three Josh Newton.

The Skegness attack lacked penetration and variety, particularly after the skipper pulled up in his seventh over, with an achilles problem.

A series of like-for-like seamers were tried and failed to make inroads, but the ground fielding and enthusiasm did not waiver from high standards throughout.

The introduction of off-spinner Norman Brackley into the attack, just before the drinks interval, was to prove a brake on seemingly unhindered Boston progress.

First victim was Newton (54), who departed just after completing a stylish half century.

A mini flurry of wickets, including dismissals in three successive overs, were to follow, and prize scalp was that of Ward, neatly taken down the leg side by keeper Carl Wilson, tantalisingly one short of his ton on 99.

Brackley eventually finished with the very creditable figures of four for 57 off his 15 overs, but a marker had been laid down by Ward and Newton so that, with wickets in hand, the visitors, mainly through the efforts of captain Paul Timby (27) and a late innings cameo of 22 not out from Elliott Wilson, achieved their primary target of maximum batting points, closing on 228 for six.

On a excellent track, there was no reason, despite a searching and well-balanced Boston bowling line-up, why the home side should not make a decent fist of achieving their target.

A steady start, in the face of some probing bowling from ex-county opening bowler Wilson and left-armer Scott Elleray, was served up by Brackley and Peter Houghton.

The latter was to prove the backbone of the innings, continuing his rich vein of form this season, with an ever eye-pleasing 65 off 118 balls.

However, top order wickets fell steadily at the other end, and it was only when the opener was joined by his skipper immediately after the drinks interval, with the score on 80-3, that Skegness prospects perked up and the scent of a morale boosting victory was temporarily in the air.

The incapacitated McCall, with the aid of a runner, set about the visiting attack with a vengeance and before long hit county debutant, slow left armer, Tom Baxter out of the firing line.

A run a ball stand of 63, despite the defensive Boston field settings, was beginning to cause concern among the visitors as the seasiders advanced to 141-3 after 36 overs, putting themselves in with a fighting chance.

The 37th over saw the return to the attack of Wilson and proved the turning point in the match, the first of his four wickets in this spell being off the final ball, when McCall was adjudged lbw in what some viewed as a contentious decision.

The skipper’s 43 off 40 balls had put his side back in the mix, but the virtually simultaneous departure of the experienced Paul Butler and anchor man Houghton around the 40th over, signalled the death-knell for Skegness hopes.

The all too familiar tail end collapse ensued, as not even the consolation of a third batting point was achieved as the last wicket fell on 174 in the 46th over.

A valiant effort in many ways overall, but loins must now be well and truly girded for this Saturday’s crunch relegation tussle with Woodhall Spa on away soil, their next opponents having leap-frogged over them on Saturday to the all important third from bottom spot, with just two points separating the two sides.