Records tumble as 3s hammer Old Whits by 321
Bhat tons up and Flanders takes 5-6 in one-sided drubbing
When Old Whits, rooted to the foot of the table and sporting only 10 men - many of whom were yet to hit puberty - rocked up at St. Alban's Road to face one of the strongest 3s line ups of the season, it was clear this was likely to be a one-sided affair. Having failed to get past 150 for over a month, the Llamas were in need of runs, and skipper Ant Ireland had no qualms about condemning the visitors to a tough afternoon in the sun, winning the toss and immediately declaring "we'll have a bat". What an absolute...
The Llamas were fielding a youth policy of their own, with five under 18s in the line-up - though the gulf in class (and Adam's apple development) was plain for all to see from the moment Ashwin Bhat (125) swatted his first boundary. On a good track and facing bowlers often barely higher than the stumps, he and Fraser McGuinnes (99) set about laying the mother of all foundations... breaking the 3s all time partnership record with a stand of 246 from 32 overs.
As the pair slowly ground Whits' 10 men (mainly boys) into the dust on a baking hot day, skipper Ireland was at times feeling like a bit of a b@st@'d... but once he found himself at the crease, was more than happy to tuck in and bolster his own stats for the season. When Bhat missed a wild swipe against Whits' impressive young leggie Archie Shuttleworth (sounds more like a Yorkshire paperboy from the 1950s, but anyway), it prompted a mini collapse, and the batsmen who had been slowly wilting in the pavilion were one after another called into action.
As is often the way, not all of those with pad rash can cash in on what appears to be a buffet scenario, and Jonny Flanders (5) hit one boundary before holing out to his horror.
McGuinness was then pinned LBW for an agonizing 99 (though given the shambolic nature of Elliot's scoring, Fraser's claim that it was actually 100 due to a missed single is perhaps more feasible than the majority of his self-promotional lies). In a time of alternative facts, it's tempting to give him his ton. Or it was until it became apparent he had already taken the liberty of crossing 99 out in the scorebook and replaced it with 100... 99 it is then.
Will Dahl (9) played on to become Shuttleworth's third victim (he got a very creditable 3-69), and having slipped to 279-4, Ireland and youngster Jacob McLoughlin found themselves in the trenches, under immense pressure to rebuild and get the Llamas back in the game. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration.
McLoughlin impressed for the third week running, playing some stylish drives in his 34 not out, while Ireland became increasingly callous and belligerent, racking up 79 not out from around 50 balls, including a shamelessly conservative 50th over. Literally conserving his average with a red-inker.
At tea, Whits received a warm and much deserved applause having stuck to their thankless task with few complaints (apart from one young lad who got a bit hot and went and sat with his grand-parents for most of the game). Thanks to the Llamas who fielded in rotation to help out.
With only 385 to defend, the Llamas knew they would have to bowl out of their skins to ensure victory. Continuing the theme of cold clinical competitiveness, Ireland opened up with Ollie Thilo (1-5) who bowled with impressive pace and movement - far too hot to handle for the Whits openers. At the other end Lodgy started with two wides then an absolute jaffa to immediately get among the wickets, picking up 2-17 from 5 overs.
When a lad who was less than 5ft tall strode out to the crease, that signalled the end of Thilo's work for the day (not before he'd given him a dead leg, mind), meaning shamanna devaraju finally got to bowl his first spell for the 3s. He bowled tightly and with no luck, beating the outside edge on numerous occasions in his six overs, which yielded 0-2.
Form bowler Brickers (1-23) was a little off colour, though one of his numerous errant deliveries resulted in a sneaky stumping down the leg side from that man McGuinness. At the other end, zen-master Nick Gavigan (0-7) was having trouble motivating himself to bowl at more than 45mph - as long as he saves it for the pressure cooker moments we'll let him off, and Whits had actually begun to frustrate the home side a little.
Stubborn micro-being Ahsan Salim (18*), who had also done a decent job bowling seam-up earlier, showed great guts and application in the face of a decent Priory attack and refused to budge, edging Whits to respectability at 51-3 from around 20 overs.
However, Jonny 'Eraserhead' Flanders was determined not to put in a TFC performance, and turned wrecking ball to bring the Llamas the early beers that had been on the cards for some time. Flanders bounded in with his springy hair-do and was too good for Whits' lower middle order and tail, taking two wickets in his first over and a hat-trick in his third (all five clean bowled) to register frankly ridiculous figures of 5-6 on 3s debut.
Whits were dismissed for 64, meaning the Llamas, those nasty, nasty bullies, had registered their biggest ever win* - a whopping 321 runs.
With availability picking up, a strong run-in could see us finish top three, so plenty of pride to play for as we head to Weybridge next.
*awaiting verification, but in the post-truth age, who cares? For the stattos, the 3s have once made it past 400, in 2014, mainly thanks to a superb knock from Rob Wood. See scorecard here.