There was a buzz in the air from the off. It is one of the games each year we always focus on; it lived up to all the hype!
On a warm day the crowds got bigger throughout and the atmosphere intensified. What a win for the Mighty House against our arch rivals Portland, We stood tall and put on a performance to be proud of.
The Compton boys turned up to the ground early, setting up and getting into their warm ups. It was a strong side despite a number of regulars being unavailable. After putting the shout out for the team it was looking worrying half way through the week. We had good players just not in enough numbers. However, Giles, Max Dangerfield, Max Brill and Alfie Reynolds (for his 1st team debut) became available to put us in good stead. Yet we still needed one more and the man to step up was Chicky, playing his first game of cricket for two years!
After I had discussed tactics and the pitch with Terry and Billy, I went to meet their captain in the middle for the toss. We won the toss and interestingly both teams got what they wanted. The House were in the field.
Alex Mullings opened down the hill and bowled with calculating accuracy that only an accountant could have. Mixing his lines and lengths subtly to find out what shots their openers were playing, he soon had the more aggressive of the two openers caught by Dan, who is laying out a strong case for being the club's most reliable fielder. A strong pull shot to mid-wicket taken which brought their captain to the crease.
At the other end Max Dangerfield (what a name!) was bowling fast and in great areas. His first ball crashed into their left-handed opener's front pad and if we had DRS I think Max would have been checking Billy's decision. Max also created another (half) chance with the ball just out of reach of the outstretched Tom Paradise. Nonetheless, despite the swinging ball making it difficult to control, it was another top spell of bowling from the young quick, and one that alongside Alex's gave us a tight start and the pressure was on Portland. Tom Paradise and Chris were the first change bowlers and Paz couldn't get the rhythm up the hill and Chris couldn't get any coming down. I brought myself and Dan on and felt I needed to step up and if Friday night's nets were anything to go by it was going to be a big ask - just ask Shan and Chris who took me apart! The first ball I bowled was a loopy full toss that got punched for four. That was the only loosener I needed and from there on I felt good in my action. It helped having Dan bowling consistent line and length from the other end. Portland were only one down with 109 on the board after drinks at 18 overs at this stage. We were not flat in the field, Max Brill in particular standing out in the field and saving 30 to 40 runs throughout the day, however, we needed to break the partnership; the pressure was on us. After drinks the pressure finally gave. With Pricey's words from earlier in the week ringing in my ears, coming on later meant that their skip played an aggressive shot to a good delivery of mine sending the ball into orbit and the luck had turned for the mighty House and the ball fell into Joe's lap at long on. On another day that ball may have gone for 6 but not this time. That, along with the crowd, gave us the lift we wanted to push us through. Dan and I kept things tight throughout our spells until Joe came on following Dan and Chris returned bowling up the hill following on from me.
Joe's introduction brought immediate success with another wicket. I had judged the overs correctly and both Joe and Chris wrapped up the innings bowling with pace and hostility. Joe employing a mix of back of a length and fuller balls with Chris bowling full, in swinging yorkers. It was a great spell of death bowling from them and well backed up in the field, Max B, Max D, Paz and Chicky all dynamic. However, Chris wore one to the shin in his follow through that would have broken the bones of lesser men! It is a testament to the team that in the second 22 overs we restricted Portland to just 107 runs, giving us a target of 217 to win. Still it would require our highest score of the season to win this, but the pressure was back on Portland now.
The top order wasn't easy to decide. We had excellent players but in the absence of Harps we only had one out and out opener in Joe. However, after a little persuasion Giles stepped up for the club and donned his pads. It wasn't just the mighty House who were up for this, Portland wanted the win and the bragging rights too. They put their best foot forward and bowled well up front. Joe got a streaky boundary to get us off the mark but was then bowled by the perfect yorker. Not much he could have done about it! That brought Chicky to the crease, and it almost felt like the Compton of old. Giles and Chicky stood strong in the face of some good bowling, some loud appealing and more than a little chirp. To his credit Billy was also not swayed by the vociferous appealing, trusting his judgement and playing in the spirit of the game. The partnership between Adam and Giles continued and two of the fittest men in the team were pinching singles amongst playing some powerful shots and deft touches. It was a joy to watch, as i'm sure the supporters would agree. As the partnership flourished the crowd got more involved and soon the atmosphere was palpable. It took a bit of misfortune for the 114 run 2nd wicket partnership to be broken. A ball stopped in the pitch ever so slightly and Chicky was out C&B but not before reaching a well played and well deserved 50. Giles continued from the other end, now supported by Chris. Chris may have been lucky early on with a ball falling just short of a close fielder and a couple of LBW shouts - neither close but both loudly appealed for. Despite Giles passing 50 for himself it was Chris that was the aggressor hitting some big 6s and powerful 4s. One of the 6s was helped over the boundary just by the scorebox, but the less said about that the better! Live by the sword die by the sword. And that is what led to Chris' downfall, playing across the line to a leggie and having is stumps disturbed. That brought Alex to the crease but runs were still required. Giles and Alex looked good at the crease with a couple of quick singles chipping away at the deficit but one quick single too many meant that Giles was run out to a direct hit and the whole dynamic of the game changed. Now Portland felt they were in with a chance and the pressure was back on us. Dan came in at 6 and looked to steady things up but just as the pressure was easing we lost Alex, and Max D stepped up to the crease. We know he can hit the ball but this time he was undone by their leggie's quicker ball and it was the debutant, Alfie Reynold's turn. We still needed about 30 runs and the overs were ticking by. The game was on a knife edge! The crowd knew it, the players knew, the whole of Portland knew it! But Alfie and Dan saw us home. Alfie punishing the good and bad balls alike and then the crowning moment, in true Compton style, Dan scored the winning runs with a straight 6 into the field!
What a game!
Man of the match is shared between Giles and Chicky for a 114 run partnership for the 2nd wicket that broke the back of the total and the morale of the opposition!
Special mentions to Max Brill for being fantastic in the field and for also being our luck rabbit's foot: twice played against Portland and twice won. Also a mention to the support, as there was a great atmosphere at the club and it was our 12th man. New faces alongside the old guard, support from past players, club legends and all those in attendance. It was a perfect Compton evening !