Mike enjoys good day for Seconds

Kent v Leicestershire, Second XI Friendly (4-day), Day 2


REPORT | By Pete Johnson

We arrived at Beckenham CCG for day two of the four-day SEF against Kent. At Beckenham CCG there is a 2,000 seater stand at The City End that was built some five years ago, I am told. Just before the start of play there were nine spectators sitting in this stand, two groups of three, one group of two, and one other person flying solo.

Additionally, there were some 30 or so other spectators sitting around the ground, the majority of them on the benches backing up to the Crystal Palace Training Ground.

The large crane positioned precariously on top of a nearby block of flats, under construction, stood dormant. I noticed the previous evening that the crane driver finished work at 5pm sharp, must take him at least half an hour to get to his car from up there!

Just before play started a well travelled gentleman named Jim came to ask for a scorecard. He informed me that he had been on 141 grounds across the UK that have staged First XI or Second XI in the last 30 years, and that he keeps all the scorecards. The mind boggles at the size of his mountain of memorabilia, a bit like my own plethora of football programmes I suppose. He told me that the next new ground to be graced with his presence was in the Bristol area, Bath CC.

Leicestershire posted a total of 457, five players making half-centuries, and two other players within touching distance of half-centuries. A career best score of 59 for Ben Mike, who backed up his runs with a couple of wickets late in the day. Kent in reply were 230-3 at stumps trailing by 227 runs, Zac Crawley and Joe Weatherley both posting centuries.

The players took to the field on a bright sunny morning, Adam Ball of Kent having been called up to the Kent First XI squad for Kent’s NatWest T20 Blast game v Hampshire at The Ageas Bowl.

Leicestershire resumed on their overnight 334-7, the two Bens, Messrs Raine 50* and Mike 0*. Mike was quick out of the blocks taking a couple of boundaries off seamer Charlie Hartley, one being an exquisite cover drive.

Mike then took a boundary through wide mid-wicket off the pacey Grant Stewart. Stewart followed this up with a bouncer from the following ball. Mike was confidently in line, pushing a single. Raine meanwhile took boundaries off Hartley and Hamish Kingston.

Just after 11.40am there was a loud rumbling overhead as a departure from Stansted was on a somewhat lower flight path to other aircraft that had passed over the ground. If we thought the aeroplane was noisy, that was just a prelude to a 20 minute period that would have had the Noise Abatement Society reaching for the panic button.

One of the Beckenham CCG groundsmen decided to mow the grass immediately in front of the pavilion. His petrol mower was as discreet as a pneumatic drill, and you really did struggle to hear yourself speak. When he switched his mower off it was silence personified but that was only a temporary haven of tranquillity as he would eagerly start it up again some 30 seconds later.

It was brought to my attention that said groundsman was the brother of Nigel Llong, formerly of Kent, who officiated in the Foxes’ Blast game at Derbyshire on Sunday.

Raine (66) went caught in the gully by Sean Dickson off Hartley. I referred to Ben Raine as Nelson in my jottings yesterday, guess how many balls he faced for his 66? 111, no more needs to be said, apart from that a flock of pigeons were circling overhead looking for somewhere to settle as Ben made his way back to the pavilion.

An accomplished, and typically gritty knock from Raine, good to see him back on the field again as he continues his rehabilitation from injury, Leicestershire now on 377-8 from 108.2 overs.

Trialist Chris Jones, who played for Surrey 2s last season joined Mike. The pair both looked extremely confident, and a delightful partnership ensued. Mike really went to town on Kingston - no members of UB40 in sight - putting a short pitched delivery over the ropes at long-leg for a maximum.

Jones followed with a square cut for four off Stewart that was purely dismissive. Stewart, however, is a probing and challenging bowler. He delivers bumpers consistent with the number of Novice Hurdles that you would find on a Racecard at Folkestone.

Mike and Jones were untroubled by the short stuff on offer. After the annulment of #lawnmowergate we witnessed the Crystal Palace FC squad training on their nearby pitches. They were doing short sprints and then started some drills with footballs. I kept nipping out onto the pavilion balcony trying to spot Jeffrey Schlupp (ex-LCFC).

Back to the cricket, the Foxes innings was still going strong. Mike and Jones brought up their 50 partnership from 74 deliveries when the total reached 429-8 from 120.4 overs.

Three runs later Mike went to his 50 (5x4,1x6) from 72 balls. This was Mike’s maiden 50 for the County Second XI. He looked very accomplished, and hopefully it will be the first of many for the LCCC Academy young man as he develops in his cricketing journey. A very good prospect in the making.

Mike’s innings (59) came to an end when he was caught at deep backward square leg by Crawley off Ollie Hills. A superb innings from Mike, posting a career best score at this level.

As the wicket fell just four minutes before lunch, it meant that the food had to be put on a low light as nine wickets were down. Richard Bell joined Jones, who took a maximum over long-on off leg-spinner Jan Gray, and followed it up with a four off Hills.

Bell (0) was the final wicket to fall when he was caught by keeper Jordan Cox off Hills. County all out for 457 from 126.4 overs. Jones finishing not out on 44 (5x4, 1x6) from 63 balls. A fine effort from the young off-break bowler. Chris ‘The Scorpion’ Jones really did put a bit of sting in the tail.

However, this was not his highest score at this level, as he rattled up 79 for Surrey 2s against Somerset in 2016. The innings ended at 1.08pm and lunch was taken. I managed to fight off the hunger pains during the eight minutes of ‘extra time’.

Crawley and Sean Dickson opened for Kent but the Spitfires’ Dickson, a triple centurion earlier this season, was soon spitting fire himself. In the fourth over of the innings, Dominic Manthorpe’s second over, Dickson offered a leg-side catch to keeper Bell, that was gleefully accepted. Kent 6-1 from 3.4 overs.

We then witnessed a partnership of 203 between Crawley and Weatherley, the latter being on loan from Hampshire.

In chronological order, milestones along the way were:

- 50 partnership after 16.4 overs.

- Crawley 50 (8x4) from 81 balls, score 101-1 from 27 overs.

- 100 partnership from 145 balls, 107-1 from 27.3 overs.

- Tea 115-1 from 33 overs, Crawley 61* Weatherley 46*.

- Weatherley 50 (8x4) from 92 balls, 121-1 from 34.2 overs.

- With the score on 148-1 they had a bit of a scare when Jones uprooted a stump with a direct hit, from distance, but Weatherley had just made his ground.

- 150 partnership 240 balls, 156-1 from 43.2 overs.

- Crawley 100 (16x4) from 161 balls, 205-1 from 54 overs.

- 200 partnership, 306 balls, 206-1 from 54.1 overs.

With 10 overs of the day remaining, Mike was reintroduced at the Pavilion End, and proceeded to pick up a couple of wickets. Crawley (103) went caught at deep backward square-leg by Jones. Calum Basey joined Weatherley.

It did not take much time to count Basey’s runs as he became Mike’s second victim when a rising delivery brushed his gloves, and went through to keeper Bell. Basey (7) having to face music of the chin variety, on occasions, during his ‘set’ in the middle.

Hartley was sent in as nightwatchman as only five overs remained in the day. Weatherley went to his 100 (10x4) from 174 balls, Kent 229-3 from 63.1 overs. The pair safely took Kent into stumps on 230-3, Weatherley 101* Hartley 0*.

Good to see Neil Dexter bowling 12 overs (0-50) having shared the new ball at the start of the innings. Manthorpe 1-37 from 11, Mike 2-44 from 10, and Fazakerley 0-38 from 12 all gave good support, as did Jones who delivered 20 overs from the City End returning figures of 0-53.

It looks an extremely good batting wicket at Beckenham CCG, wickets being at a premium in the match. Over the two days just 13 wickets have fallen, all being caught.