Expectations were low after a week of rain pounded the longsuffering wicket at Underhill, but the sun shone brightly all Thursday, meaning the big match against the arch rivals would go ahead.
If expectations were low, numbers were even lower. Five Badgers arrived by the 5:45 kick off, and a further two by 6pm. Thus, the opposition kindly agreed to let us bat first, as we promised a full complement was en route.
Looking through the scorebook for names who’ve avoided batting so far, Chris Price promptly put his name forward to open the batting, but had a change of heart after four balls and ran himself out. He clearly wanted to practise his umpiring. Thomas Sr. was then joined at the crease by a resurgent Iain Sullivan, putting on a steady 33 partnership, before being caught out. Tomos Jr. had no interest in batting with his father, lobbing a bottom edge down leg side for an easy caught behind so he could concentrate on the bowling line-up and learn the names of the fielding positions.
Craig tried to pick up the pace, Anthony Coles tried to keep pace with the former captain, but both succumbed to two further good catches by a good fielding side. In fact, the only thing slower than the wicket was the Badgers’ scoring – even Rhodri had to resort to a couple of sixes, with hardly any balls reaching the boundary. Then came Alyn Ridler for a final flurry - under the pressure of performing in front of his boys and a lady we presume was his wife – and with the score at a mere 80, his two 4s in the final over could prove very valuable.
It is worth noting a rare occurrence – Paul brought his son, Harley, along, and they even batted together, meaning that two father-and-son pairings batted together in the same innings.
The star batsman was Rhodri, hitting a strong and stable 33.
A target of 90 seemed too low for a strong opposition, so the big guns were brought out with both Labbetts opening the bowling, with quite some pace (and occasional bounce) from both. Paul smashed the stumps over with the first ball of the innings, with the opening pair conceding just 9 runs between them from the first four overs, giving plenty of hope for a close game.
Next up were Dave Bratley and Iain Sullivan. Dave’s persistence with the nets is certainly paying off, clean bowling a good batsmen to keep the wickets falling. But they were tumbling frequently the other end, with Iain coming down the hill to bowl that rarest of Badgers feats – a wicket maiden.
Continuing the family tradition of the evening, Thomas and Tomos joined forces (fathers and sons had now both batted and bowled together in the same match) to keep the scoring low. Although no wickets were taken in these four overs, only 11 runs were conceded.
With the fielding impeccable, led by Craig who was determined not to allow any singles when the ball remained on the square, hope turned to optimism. Next up was a reluctant Craig himself. Why he should be so reluctant we’re not sure, as he clean bowled (or should that be rolled?) two fine sloggers. The wickets kept tumbling, and Craig rose to the top of the leading wicket takers for the season, returning figures of 2 for 13 off 2.
With Alyn Ridler and Anthony Coles unable to bowl, another over each was required. The Labbetts returned, and were again mean with the ball, going for 7 between them (and Harley was most unfortunate not to take a debut wicket, a catch being dropped on his final ball). Then the star bowler returned, insisting that he couldn’t possible change ends to run uphill, Iain’s final over so two run outs and another clean bowled (he finished with 2 for 5 off 3).
Taking three wickets in an over, the optimism evolved into expectation, with all fielders now looking nervous, determined not to let victory against the old enemy slip. However, with all bowlers bowling straight and true, 22 required off the last two was always a big ask against a Badgers side filling with confidence. T+T kept the scoring low enough, with Rhodri taking another wicket in the final over, taking the tally to a frustrating 9 wickets (when did we last bowl a team out?) Victory was secured by 8 runs in a low scoring game, with the Badgers faces failing to hide their glee, and a little bit of shock. Let’s hope this first win since the tour last year is a sign of a good season ahead.
A word must be said about the opposition also – we again failed to reach 11 players, but the captain had no hesitation in offering us a fielder to plug the gap, and that on top of allowing us 3 overs each (they bowled the usual 2 for each of the ten players) as well as allowing us to bat first. This was a match truly played in the spirit of the Badgers, which is nearly as important as the win!
Underhill Park, Mumbles, Swansea
CAPTAIN - Dave Smith 07941 255846
VICE CAPTAIN - Simon Jones 07590 677504
Guildhall Pitches - 3.30-4.30pm - 635411