Twin centuries for Lewis Balcombe and a first club 100 for Swampy

Preston’s Australian star Lewis Balcombe achieved the rare feat of twin centuries at the weekend, making 114 in the Herts league on Saturday and 100 not out in the Beds league on Sunday. With Iain Purton making his first ton for the club in the Sunday twos, it was mostly a great weekend for the club….

    Preston 1st XI v Bishops Stortford 2nd XI, SHCL Div 2A

A thoroughly commanding performance from Preston saw them register a thumping 137 run victory over Bishops Stortford 2s on Saturday and retain top spot in Herts Division 2A. Stortford surprisingly chose to bowl first on an excellent batting surface and a bowler’s graveyard all game. Preston racked up an impressive 292 for 6 from their allocated 50 overs, with Balcombe registering his 3rd league hundred of the year, ably backed up by James Stevens (31), Jack Stevens (35), Ben Hill (26), George Biggs (19) and Dan Plumb (25*).

Stortford’s run chase started brightly reaching 52 without loss by the 12th over, with the lightning quick outfield aiding their cause. The introduction of slow bowlers Pete Murrell (10/3/26/1) and veteran Dave Fleckney (9/1/42/4) saw a big change in momentum as wickets began to fall at regular intervals. The visitors perished to an array of attacking strokes, falling to 123 for 5 by the 30th over. With the introduction of Jack Stevens (5/1/16/2) and two run outs from excellent Preston fielding they dismissed the visitors in the 39th over for 155.

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    Preston 2nd XI v Holtwhites Trinibis 2nd XI, SHCL Div 5A

The Saturday 2nd XI moved to within 16 points of escaping the relegation places with their fourth win of the Div 5A season. With four league games to go, their chances of survival were boosted by a 3 wicket victory at 2nd placed Holtwhites.

Ever-fluctuating availability led to several seasonal debuts in the starting XI and there were some signs of rustiness as some familiar faces from earlier campaigns (Anthony Ender, Henry Morecroft, Glen Thompson, Charlie Bruce) settled in. Choosing to bat first, Holtwhites scored quickly but also lost wickets reaching 53-3 after 11 overs with Ender finding some bounce to pick up a couple from good catches by Will Mercer and James Skirrow, following an early breakthrough by Ollie Gallimore (1-44). A fourth wicket partnership of 74 was gathering some momentum for the home side but the introduction of slow bowlers Bruce (3-28), Riant (3-22) and skipper Ash Catlin wrested control for Preston, with Holtwhites taking just 80-6 from the last 30 overs. Their eventual total of 184-9 might have been smaller but for 32 extras and a host of dropped catches and both teams will have fancied their chances at tea.

Ender went early, driving to mid-off, as Preston replied but Will Mercer and Has Ashraf (26) ensured that the innings did not become bogged down as the Holtwhites bowlers were put under seemingly unaccustomed pressure. As home morale crumbled, Catlin (24) kept the scoreboard ticking and Mercer played a good range of attacking shots to make a run-a-ball 65 before taking one risk too many. As had been the case the previous week, Callum Blair looked really assured in seeing the team home to its target with more than 13 overs to spare. His unbeaten 37, combining with the plucky Thompson in an important stand of 36, meant that a couple of late wickets did not cause undue concern and 30 points were taken from one of the season’s most difficult fixtures.

More widespread changes to the line-up seem likely for this Saturday’s key game at home to lowly Bentley Heath but the improved confidence from successive victories promotes hope of further resistance to the drop.

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    Preston 3rd XI v Hemel Hempstead 4th XI, SHCL Div 9B

There is no Third XI report as everyone has already forgotten what happened.

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    Preston 4th XI v Wheathampstead 3rd XI, SHCL Reg Div B East

Preston 4’s made the short journey to Kimpton hoping to continue their recent run of good form, this week against a Wheathampstead 3’s side pushing for promotion. Skipper Saunders was not unduly troubled when asked to bat first on a reasonable looking wicket, however, looks can be deceiving and with Garnham (1), Zahir (7) and Saunders (4) all out caught off mistimed shots to young opener Birkwood (3-23) Preston were in trouble at 21-3. Carter (10) was bowled soon after and it was left to Biggs and Ogden recover the innings, until a pirouetting Biggs (34) was bowled having completed a hook shot two seconds before the ball kicked up and looped onto his stumps. When Ogden (38) drilled a drive straight to cover, the innings collapsed as the remaining four batsmen mustered just two runs between them (Bruce 1*), Preston reaching a disappointing 113 all out off just 21.4 overs.

In reply, the Preston bowlers couldn’t quite find the same devilment in the pitch. Hamilton (1-19) did force opener Tamsin (4) to glove one behind however Flaxe (33) and Stevens (32) took the Wheatos most of the way to victory, helped out by a few dropped catches along the way. Late wickets to Bruce (1-20) and Ogden (1-14) and a run out earned some consolation bonus points but Wheathampstead ran out comfortable winners at 117-4 off 30 overs.

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    Sunday 1st XI v Great Brickhill, Beds league Div 1

Muzz has done it! We’ve a toss on a Sunday!!

Batting first, Max and Wilson quickly put out their darts, wacked on the pads and went out to open up. Something I never thought I’d see was Max playing genuine cricket strokes but it happened and my god they were glorious, until he missed one and was bowled… Wilson then departed after a brilliant catch from their overseas, to the joy of the change room Max got it all on camera, brilliant. This brought the bromance together, Biggsy and Balco. Biggsy smashing them to the boundary with ease whilst Balco was searching for the middle of his bat but it just could not be found. Biggsy was then out for a beautiful 35. Tom Mercer then came to the crease looking like a hollow shell of a man, after a music festival the day before, batting in sunnies was probably a good call from Merc, surprisingly hit some nice shots before missing one. Muzza then joined Balco in a 93 run partnership in pretty quick time, Muzz playing some wonderful sweeps and reverse sweeps, this time not getting hit on the pad?!? Weird. He was then out for 39. The Adonis Skirrow came out and played the best 3 shots of the day before being dismissed lbw, what a good looking bloke though. Papa Bav made a quick fire 20 then departed. Leading to the biggest heartbreak story of the day, Kayos heading out to the crease with Balco on 94, you couldn’t have scripted it better, the master and apprentice. Well the apprentice took a cheeky single leaving the master a little short out of his crease and Kayos was run out for 0. Miles then came and went. Now for the feel good story of the day, Kroney came out with 3 balls left in the game, Balco at the other end on 98. Kroney plays what only can be described as the perfect back foot defence then scampers through for a single putting Balco on strike who then hit one just wide of mid on Kroney being the legend he is comes back for 2 and dives gracefully into his crease! Kroney has done it, calling “in” as he put his bat down, my hero! Oh yeh that meant Balco got his 100 but who cares, Kroney dived! 272 the final score.

Then to bowling.

Bhav and Kroney opening up and both doing a fantastic job, picking up a wicket a piece. Then Muzza did what he does best, keep the run rate down and take wickets. Miles snagged his first wicket when the batsman chipped one up to mid wicket and Balco ran over dived full stretch in the air and to his right plucking it one handed, I still don’t know if he’s landed yet? Air traffic control called the club to question what was happening around 5:30 last night (can you tell I was happy with the catch?). Anyway, we move on. Max then picked up a wicket all because of the fantastic glove work of that man Kayos, keeping back to Max turned out to be a great idea. Kayos then taking the form of a baseball catcher proceeded to have a fine day with the gloves. Muz bowling at the wrong end in his eyes took 3 late wicket with Tommy Mercer who came on to bowl and tidy up the tail.
We bloody won a Sunday game! You beautyyyyyy.

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    Sunday 2nd XI v Knebworth Blues

The Sunday 2’s always manage to field a team in the beautiful surroundings of Fairfield Park and so it was on Sunday as a mixed team met up with old foes Knebworth Blues. Skipper Biggs won the toss and gave openers Purton and Gambo a chance to redeem their weekend having been bowled out for 23 the previous day. Gambo (4) soon nicked off to KB’s Stones (2-33) but with Purton accumulating his runs carefully, others were more flamboyant, albeit shorter lived, runs coming from a succession of partners Mark Ponder (16), Luke Ponder (22), Rupert Bruce (18) and Gabe Ryan (23), to take Preston to 161-4 at 25 overs. Purton had his sights firmly set on a big one, sweeping through the seventies and eighties in double quick time and pushing ones and twos through the nineties to reach his maiden Preston 100! Having unselfishly offered to retire with his hundred, he was given two more overs to the drinks break. Taking 34 runs off of those two overs he showed what a destructive batting force he can be and eventually retired on 137* to the embrace of his teammates. The Preston tail saw the innings through to 253 all out off 40 overs, young debutant Tom Harvey making an encouraging 13.

With Swampy having set up a potential victory, Luke Ponder (6-1-28-1) and Gabe Ryan (8-2-13-4) all but ensured it as they produced a superb spell of opening bowling to remove the dangerous Baker and Boon plus two of their teammates to leave the Blues struggling at 21-4. Skipper Saunders hit a defiant 30 but when he was bowled, others quickly followed until a classy 52 from John Inman helped take the innings from 63-7 to 122-9 off 40 overs, Preston running out winners by 131 runs.