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  • Darrell Butler

Match Report: Unicorns vs Weoley Hill, 8th August 2021

A sheet of cricket scorebook completed in a rainbow of colours
Match splendidly scored by Gray (out injured for rest of season)

The ruling conservatives are dominating the political landscape. The country is beginning to see the effects of its divisive European referendum a few short years ago and Prince Andrew is all over the newspapers. No. It’s not 2021, it’s 1986; and whilst the pro-European Conservatives continue to rule with an iron fist, and the Royal Family welcome Fergie into their ranks, Ann Sawyer is playing what would be her last game of cricket for thirty-five years!

Fast forward to 1st August 2021 and Sawyer would take a first-ball wicket on her return to action in Birmingham Unicorns colours. The debut would earn her another match a week later at Weoley Hill’s Valley Parkway against Unicorns’ landlords on what every weather forecast suggested would be a glum afternoon.

There are three things you can do in the United Kingdom to guarantee rain. Leave your umbrella at home, organise a Barbeque and take off the covers at the start of a cricket match. Saturday was no exception for Unicorns as under the dark but hitherto dry skies of Weoley Hill both sets of players removed the covers no more than five minutes before the rain made an appearance.

The drizzle abated just in time for play to start promptly at 1pm, and, fielding first, Unicorns got off to the most fabulous start. The rapid Tom Verow began with a maiden. But it was his opening partner who got things going. They took four wickets in two overs last time out, so it was a deserved promotion for Jay Timmins from the day’s skipper Glen Jackson. Timmins didn’t let their captain down. Opener Naresh Nithiananthan chipped the final ball of Timmins’ second over into the off side where Dan Lewis pulled off a brilliant diving catch to his left to set the wheels in motion. Verow joined in the action in the next over, beating fellow opener Guy Davies for pace to reduce the hosts to 13/2.

David Barnickle and Phillip Cole put on a watchful 50 run partnership before the ever improving Dan Lewis tempted the home ‘keeper with a leg side long hop. James Buckle took the catch safely on the mid-wicket boundary to give Lewis a well deserved first Unicorns wicket!

Sam Barnickle, joining Cole four overs before the drinks break continued the steady pace of the Weoley Hill innings whilst the pair showed respect to an inexperienced, but dangerous, Unicorns attack led through the middle overs by James Buckle’s tight line and length.

Having been given two lives, both off the bowling of the returning Sam Long, Barnackle finally departed in the 35th over when he found Ann Sawyer at mid-on while trying to increase the rate. Cole (69) fell shortly afterwards to Verow before Buckle claimed four wickets in his last two overs to restrict the home side to 206/9 from their allocation.

With seven wickets between them, Buckle and Verow set their sights on the Weoley Hill attack. Verow, in fact, set his sights on the Weoley Hill Village Hall as he launched three huge sixes alongside four more boundaries in a 28 ball 45 which was ended by a slower Nick Proctor ball gloved behind. Procter was on a hat trick when, the very next ball, Dan Lewis, promoted to three after two excellent batting performances in recent weeks, was late on a pull shot and found Sam Barnickle at mid-on. Sam Wilkes, one of the day’s two debutants, saw off the hat trick ball. Wilkes and Buckle took the score onto 106/2 at drinks which left the Unicorns 100 behind and in great shape. When Buckle was caught behind, just 10 runs later, having put a third consecutive half-century on the board, skipper Jackson and Wilkes steadied the ship but by the 30th over the required rate was climbing towards seven an over.

James Buckle plays a sweep shot to the boundary and raises his bat in celebration
James Buckle brings up his half century with a boundary

A glut of wickets followed. Wilkes, Sawyer and Jackson all departed trying to up the scoring rate. Long and Butler followed in the same fashion and by the time Rich Andrews, the only batter putting up any resistance was run out for 13, Unicorns had reached 161/9 with debutant Dilly Brainch joined in the middle by Jay Timmins. This side is full of fighters, and Brainch and Timmins proved that in those last few deliveries; keeping out some hostile bowling and both players picking up their first runs for the club. Every passing match brings more confidence, more ability and more enthusiasm from this fledgling side and the next test is a Mermaids rematch on 15th August!

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