There are three guarantees in a Unicorns match. James Buckle will open with a fifty, Ezra Stock will injure someone whether friend or foe, and a debutant will take a first ball wicket. Back at Selly Oak Oval, Unicorns, bowling first, were led by the imperious Ezra Stock whose tight line, perfect length, and vicious swing rendered him unplayable from ball one. After drawing a play and a miss from opening batter Suffield twice in the first over, Ezra got his man with the first ball of the third. An unplayable inswinger reduced Mermaids to 5/1. By the time Stock struck once more in the seventh over, again with his first ball; his figures were just 2 for 2, and even such excellent figures could not do justice to how well he was bowling.
The dangerous Tom Verow was providing support at the other end with an eighth over maiden and Ezra struck again in the ninth, but not in the way he had intended. Having already teamed with his brother a fortnight ago to bring Grayson Milnes’ season to an early end, Stock piled yet more pressure on Birmingham’s health services when Vincent top edged a shorter ball into his helmet grill causing a nasty gash above the eye which would require a trip to A&E.
A brilliant opening spell finished with Mermaids 29/2 from the first ten overs, and a warning from Stock to his Unicorns team-mates about any height related jokes!
It was ironic then, that the wicket taking mantle would be handed over from short to Long. Sam Long that is. The off spinner, bowling in tandem with Stephen Hallam, began his spell without any fuss until, number five, Fahad, deposited him straight for six. Long responded. Two balls later finding a hint of turn into the right hander and clipping the top of leg stump. Long struck again in the final over before drinks. Genochio had driven a wide ball for four before Long got the ball to grip outside off stump and turn back into the off peg to claim his second victim meaning drinks were called at 72/4.
After the break Daniel Malt began to push the accelerator, finding boundaries in consecutive overs off Hallam and depositing Long for six over midwicket before phase two of the Unicorns trio of guarantees came good. Ian Sowman, on debut came into the attack. To say he gave his first delivery to Malt some air would be putting it mildly. The looping ball, on its vicious parabola, veered downwards, passing the beleaguered batter and careered into the base of the stumps. Complaints of a no ball were not upheld and Sowman had become the third Unicorn to take a first ball wicket in this inaugural season. Grainy footage of the delivery, taken from as far away as Stoke, Coventry and Wolverhampton, can be found in some of the darker corners of the internet’s X Files fan sites. James Buckle, moving into double figures for the season and Ann Sawyer, claiming her second, also took wickets as Mermaids posted 187/7 from their 40.
Part three of three. James Buckle opens the batting, gets a half-century….
The Unicorns skipper opened with Glen Jackson. Mermaids began with a couple of maidens before Buckle found the rope at the end of the fourth over. Jackson, driving through mid-on for four in the 5th and again in the 7th, was looking solid as the pair put on an untroubled fifty partnership in 77 balls. Jackson departed shortly afterwards, chasing a leg side delivery in the fifteenth which would clean up his leg stump. Hallam missed one third ball and succumbed to the same fate bringing bowler of the match Ezra Stock to the wicket. He and Buckle safely negotiated the remaining two overs before taking drinks at 69 for 2, 119 short of the target. Mermaids began after the restart with some hostile bowling. Stock and Buckle were solid until Stock played on to Blunt having just brought up the Unicorns hundred. Buckle, who had driven for four to bring up a classy 80 ball half-century continued to find runs easier to come by and was joined by a determined Tom Verow. Verow set out his stall immediately, hooking his first ball for the day’s biggest six. The pair upped the run rate until at the end of the 34th over when the drizzle had become too heavy to continue and the sides retreated to the pavilion at 142/3.
With the best part of half an hour lost, but the rain slowing, the sides returned in an attempt to complete the forty overs. Unicorns reached 160 for 3 before taking 20 off the 38th over despite a cut through backward point for what was a certain four, grinding to a halt on the wet surface. It left eight needed from 12 balls. Buckle took one from the next three balls before Verow found the offside boundary with the fourth. The equation was three from eight when Verow was given out LBW. Agonisingly, it turned out to be bat first. Rich Andrews saw off the final ball of the over leaving Buckle on strike needing three.
Two dots piled the pressure on before Buckle raced through for a single off the third. A second run couldn’t be stolen meaning Andrews now needed two from three. The next ball, an appeal for caught behind, not out, and then a swing and a miss from the fifth meant that all three results were possible off the final ball… Andrews connected, there was easily a single, Unicorns couldn’t lose… Buckle was turning back for the second but disaster! Andrews had slipped on the sodden Oval surface, and could not get home in time to prevent the run out and the match ending in a tie.
A dodgy decision, a rain delay, a soaking wet outfield and a slippery wicket all conspiring to deny Unicorns that first win, but to misquote the great golfer Tony Jacklin after yet another Ryder Cup defeat in 1983…..
“We may not have won, but now we know we can.”
Next up is a T20 v King’s Heath on Sunday 29th August at Alcester Road - 10 am start!