It’s all change in Division 6 East again as sides begin to settle into the new season. Menheniot Looe, after conceding their first game are now hot on the heals of Gunnislake after a convincing victory at Duloe, leaving them only one point behind. Perhaps the Gunnislake team were suffering from vertigo after two victories in the opening matches? Or was it the selfless act of lending star player Andrew Morris to Callington Seconds? Either way, the team came down to earth with a bump.
It was an experienced eleven who earned selection, with one of the youngsters suffering a viral infection and two at a football presentation. Instead Gunnislake fielded a team that might have been disqualified in a higher level (are beta blockers allowed in professional sport?). Still they seemed to give Ian and Sylvan a second wind today, and Iain Barker also fared quite well, despite complaining of a dodgy knee. Adrian Cameron missed the match with a sore hip.
True to form, Gunnislake lost the toss and were asked to bat. Due to late arrivals they opened with Stephen Lees and Sylvan Pook. A bright start was interrupted by two early wickets, bringing David Emmerson and Ian Mill to the crease. They began to rebuild; I would like to say steadily, but Emmerson opened his account for the innings and season with a huge six over long on and into the neighbouring gardens. Mill was more circumspect, but lent good support as he found form after a slow start to the season. Seven of Emmerson’s first scoring shots were boundaries, by which time Menheniot Looe had placed five fielders on the fence in an arc between square leg and long off. A score in excess of 200 was possibly on the cards, but Menheniot Looe captain Mark Grassam broke through, bowling Mill for 35 and then inducing Emmerson to sky one to backward point. By then Emmerson had scored his maiden half century, ending on a career best 69. From 141 for 3 Gunnislake went off the boil; Grassam replaced himself with Sean Simmons, leading the experts watching on the boundary to query his tactics (we are all experts when watching from the pavillion). Hmm, once again the armchairs know-alls were wrong, as Simmons bowled a double wicket maiden. As wickets tumbled around him Brian Martin went into his shell, the last nine overs added a paltry 17 runs and Gunnislake closed six runs short of their fourth batting point, on 154 for 8. Pick of the bowling was Mark Grassam with 3-17 and Simmons with 4-16.
In previous games this was a winning score, but after that end to the first innings Menheniot Looe started their reply with their tails up. Captain Grassam led from the front, and was clearly the best batsman in the match, as he mixed sound defence and good footwork with some brutal driving. (Play Cricket has subsequently confirmed this analysis). Higgins lent sound support, but was out bowled by Barker attempting to up the run rate. Mark Hepplewhite quickly followed, blasting a wide ball to be smartly caught at short extra cover (caught Martin, bowled David Gray). But Menheniot Looe were always well up with the run chase, and never really looked in trouble. The final chance for Gunnislake came and went in the thirty fourth over, as Grassam got a leading edge to a ball from Pook. It looped up in the air and hung around long enough for Pook to get under it. In two split seconds Menheniot Looe had their hearts in their mouths, Gunnislake’s spirits soared and sank again as the catch was agonisingly spilled. Might it have just given Gunnislake a glimmer of hope? We shall never know, for there were no second chances. Menheniot Looe cruised to victory with four overs to spare. Grassam finished on 88 not out, but an approving mention should also be made of young Jay Mason who finished undefeated on 37 at the other end. Barker was pick of the bowling, his ten overs yielding one of the two wickets for a mere 21 runs.
Major congratulations to David Emmerson for his sixty-nine, but Grassam was the clear difference between the two sides. Perhaps revenge is best served cold after Andy Astley’s heroics in the corresponding fixture in 2017? In the meantime, we dust ourselves down, ready to go again next weekend, when we have two fixtures, with Werrington at home on Saturday and Liskeard away on Monday. Watch out for Nigel Dennis and Andrew Cobb in those two!