When they joined the Birmingham Unicorns, nobody could be more deserving of the term beginner than Jay Timmins. Jay's powerful interview with Pride of the Terraces (link) explains why. So when they stepped up to bowl their first over, ever, not even the wildest of Hollywood screenwriters would have scripted the outcome.
The Unicorns were sliding towards a heavy defeat against England's Cricket Association for the Deaf (ECAD) despite Ezra Stock's faultless 46 not out on his return from injury. The watchful opener's beautiful cut through backward point and up the hill for four in the third over signalled his intentions to continue where he left off before injury forced him out of the last three fixtures.
He was supported by Glen Jackson who reached 16 with the aid of two hooks to the boundary from no balls before departing thanks to a leading edge giving the impressive leg spinner a simple caught and bowled. James Buckle continued to support Stock who took back to back boundaries through mid-on and then through the covers in the 14th over. He began to go aerial in the 18th, clearing the mid off fielder to take him to 32 when the searing Selly Oak Sun took its toll. With Stock retired, Grayson Milnes joined Buckle who, having found The Valley's picturesque brook, went on to find the palms of deep mid wicket with the spare ball.
Milnes and Hattie Wright steadied the ship until Milnes played on in his second Unicorns fixture. A late collapse followed as the hosts looked for quick runs in the last five overs before Stock came back in, and, with the help of another dogged debutant, Alex Smith, guided Unicorns to a defendable but below-par 128/9.
Chasing 129, the visitors made a positive start, racing along at more than 5 an over, and finding the rope regularly. By the time they had brought up the nelson, only Grayson Milnes had a wicket to his name thanks to a sharp Simon Satchwell Giles catch in the covers. With fewer than 20 needed to win Jay Timmins was brought into the attack for their debut over.
The rest will go down in history.
The over got off the best possible start. Jay attacked the stumps. The batter played all around it. Middle stump was rocked back leaving a stunned Timmins to be mobbed by their teammates.
Jay wasn't finished yet. In fact, Jay had barely started. Their second ball swung wildly outside off stump after pitching in line. Spooked, the batter played for the swing third up but only succeeded in bottom edging onto his stumps. Timmins had their second in what was fast becoming Unicorns' greatest over.
Generating the sort of swing Sophie Hitchon would be proud of, Timmins once again attacked the stumps, this time they rearranged middle and off to send the Unicorns field running in to celebrate with a now utterly perplexed bowler. 4 balls, 3 wickets and Jay Timmins was on a hat trick.
This isn't the west end, but the theatre of cricket! Tension in the air, a hush of anticipation surrounded The Valley, could it possibly be? Slips in place, gully, the covers up, mid-wicket in short, 9 hungry humans surrounding the bat, tails well and truly up. In came Jay now seemingly bowling 10 times quicker, this one was wide bringing the batsman forwards, foot off the ground? Butler thought so. Off came the bails, all eyes on the umpire as the keeper pleaded, begged, implored that they raise a finger. Not out.
The hat trick wasn't to be for who is now the Unicorns' odds on favourite for "most improved player'' award but it was a debut over which everyone present will talk about for many years to come.
There was more to come. Having just about earned a second over, Timmins was at it again! Deciding that attack was the best form of defence, after taking two in the leg side, the set batter chipped a full length ball back to Timmins. Catch it was the cry. Time stood still. They clung on! Three wickets in their first over and now a caught & bowled for the collection! This was the stuff of fairy tales! Jay Timmins was on a five-for… but runs were still at a premium for the hosts.
Sensing blood, after Jay had carved through the middle order, Lachlan Smith joined in, clipping the bails with what appeared to be a leg cutter and from 114/1, the guests were reduced to 121/6. Unicorns, sensing an unlikely victory, were suddenly impassable in the field, everything was being stopped...
The Hollywood screenwriters would have, no doubt, found those extra four wickets from somewhere; alas, this is real life and our visitors hadn't read the script. But despite the scorebook reading "ECAD win by four wickets", Jay's opening spell was a win for all of us.
Match photo credits: Ann Sawyer