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Montgomery CC vs Southend CC - Sunday 14th June 2009 - Shoebury Garrison

Montgomery CC: J. Gillies, M. Aggus, A. Heath, R. Clayton, T. Smith, M. Couzens, A. Drake, J. Aggus, D. Champ, C. Smith (cpt), J. Mooney

M

ontgomery CC’s fifth game of the season was a home game against Southend CC – marking the first occasion that Southend had made the trip to The Garrison with all prior games being held at Southchurch Park.

The record of the fighting rats against Southend thus far read played 5, lost 5 and with Southend regular Dave Enderby admitting early on that the side taking to the field would be stronger than normal (though mercifully devoid of any marauding Antipodeans), it was evident that the Monties would have their work cut out.

The MCC were again without wicket-keeper/batsman Olly “Chris Gayle’s sunglasses are nothing” Pidgeon and so rocket arm Alex Heath would be taking up position behind the timbers.

With usual second change bowler and general squealer Gareth Turner out of action this week and Captain Baker still recovering from his long term arm injury, the MCC welcomed back prodigal son’s and former MCC regulars J. Mooney and A. Drake.

With the “usually better” Aggus returning to the line-up, Daniel Champ bowling like it was 2007 and Tom “Vettori” Smith improving his seam up each week, the hope was that the Monties would be able to keep Southend under wraps, despite the absence of Baker and other MCC bowling regular Steve Brown.

Acting Skipper C. Smith, complete with beard, won the toss and the MCC was to bat.

Our last outing against Southend CC had seen the MCC limp to the paltry total of 69 all out, with only three batsmen getting into double figures.

However, with in form Mark Aggus fresh from two consecutive 50’s and with Clayton and Heath both having hit 40’s this season, hope remained for a competitive total, especially with the game at The Garrison – where the fighting rats still post a winning record. Not to mention that Chris “I am still dangerous” Smith was undefeated in three innings.

With the sun blazing down on a glorious June afternoon, made for cricket, MCC openers Gillies and Aggus strode forth to take guard.

The pitch was hard but early indications showed that the bounce would be unpredictable – some keeping low, others lifting off the seam with good carry. Southend opening bowler Kenton, was bowling at a brisk pace with some away movement, backed up by an aggressive Southend field – featuring three slips and a gully.

After two quiet overs, with Gillies guiding one ball down to third man for a boundary and Aggus blocking out a maiden, Kenton struck – bowling Gillies all ends up for 4. Heath was in at three and saw out the remainder of the over cautiously.

Both batsmen had run well during the game against Wakering, earlier this season, pushing the singles hard, testing the fielders and continued to do so here, Aggus happy to push the ball into the gap and run, leaving the bigger shots to Heath.

The MCC had moved to 31, with Heath having just pulled Kenton for six when he mistimed one off his legs to be easily snaffled at square leg for 17.

Clayton was in at four and in good form, having recorded his best score of 42 in the MCC’s previous game against Leigh-on-Sea.

However, he was only able to make a single before Kenton claimed him as his third wicket, bowled.

The MCC were wobbling now at 32-3 but with Aggus still in to marshal the troops and Baker now donning the umpire’s jacket to impart some Foster’s laden, words of wisdom, there were still plenty of overs and wickets in hand to build a solid total.

T. Smith was in at five and was just settling into the crease when a dubiously high ball took a ricochet off his bat and hit the stumps, leaving him to depart the field with 9.

Couzens was in at six and short on form but with the Southend bowlers yet to cotton onto the simple requirement of bowling a straight delivery to remove him, he stayed at the crease with Aggus who had by now found his range and was moving towards another excellent score.

Southend turned to spin and both batsmen were able to score freely, Aggus bringing up his fifty with his sixth four.

However, he wasn’t able to go on from there, eventually bowled by Enderby Jnr for 52 after a partnership worth 82 had moved the Monties to 137-5.

Returning MCC legend A. Drake took guard at seventh but was unable to repeat previous heroics against Southend and departed for a duck (Drake/duck – you couldn’t make it up)!

J. Aggus was in at eight and he and Couzens continued to keep the score ticking over, Couzens bringing up his maiden fifty with his 10th four. Inevitably, though the straight one did arrive and Couzens was promptly bowled, like Aggus, for 52.

D.Champ marched in purposefully at nine, with Dangerman C. Smith warming up at 10 and bludgeoner generale Mooney waiting in the wings at 11. DI.

However, neither of the MCC dangermen were required, Champ and Aggus seeing out the remainder of the 40 overs and taking the Monties to 186-8, Aggus finishing unbeaten on 19, Champ on 7.

It was a defendable total, even more so when it was revealed that Southend skipper Enderby Jnr had broken his finger trying to catch an Aggus Snr maximum and would be unable to bat.

With that news and some excellent tea courtesy of Vettori and Turner consumed, the fighting rats took to the field of play, aiming for an improved fielding display, after their game versus Leigh.

With the strip on the very edge of the square, one boundary was very short at square, the other vast, so skipper Smith made sure all gaps were plugged.

Champ and Aggus Snr opened the bowling, both immediately into a good line and length and Heath looking very sharp behind the sticks.

Champ was first to strike – bowling Doggar for 7 with Aggus not far behind removing Elliot, also for 7.

The Monties were looking good, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Champ’s second duly arrived as he took his second caught and bowled to get rid of Kenton for 2, rewarding him for an impeccable opening spell.

Couzens and Mooney were next into the attack and after Couzens bowled Cranes for 21, trying to pull a shorter ball that stayed low, Mooney announced his return in spectacular fashion, with one of the wickets of the season – plucking a straight drive out of the air, low to his left, off his own bowling.

Southend now looked shaky but had more left in the tank – Southend stalwart Enderby Snr and the hard hitting Callaway.

Callaway played some big shots as Southend got to the interval more than half way to their total, despite the Monty’s much improved fielding display.

Enderby continued to nudge and nurdle but when Couzens bowled Callaway for 34, the match turned back towards the MCC.

Conviction that victory was achievable was further strengthened when Smith T had Kearney caught by Mooney, during a hostile spell.

With Smith rotating his bowlers and still able to call on the excellent Aggus Snr and Champ, Couzens bowled straight through.

Tension began to mount and when the returning Champ had Wheeler caught for 10 by Gillies, the run rate had risen to just shy of one a ball, with only one wicket left.

Enderby continued to battle and with last man in Bridge, throwing his bat at anything and everything, the feeling of pressure continued to build.

It was evident amongst the fielding side as well with Gillies and Smith both going for a catch and getting in each other’s way and then Aggus Snr dropping one he would have held onto at any other time.

With Southend within touching distance of the MCC score but now needing more than a run a ball and with only wicket left, would Aggus be left to rue this missed opportunity.

Huzzah, no, Aggus himself made amends – having Enderby caught behind by the superb Heath, leading to celebrations across the field as the MCC recorded their first victory against Southend at the sixth attempt.

Standout bowling figures of 8-1-37-3 for Champ and 8-2-13-2 for Aggus Snr with Couzens pitching in with two, Tom Smith and Mooney each with one.

All in all an excellent performance by the Montgomery, easily their best of the campaign and hopefully a standard that can be adhered to for 2009’s remaining fixtures.

Matthew Couzens

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