We were finally able to get our 2023/2024 season underway, after our last 6 FCA fixtures were rained out. Even though the wind pumped throughout the day, everyone was just happy to be playing cricket for a change.
The toss was offered to Melkbos Fellows, who gladly accepted the opportunity to bat first. The wicket looked like it had sweated a bit under the overnight covers, but it still felt like a track that could produce plenty of runs.
The bowlers were understandably rusty after the 7 month break, but were nevertheless fairly tidy at the start. Jannes Mouton finished his 6 over spell wicketless for 20 runs, with Zak Barnard (12/1 from 4) producing an edge in his third over, taken by Jonathan Boulton standing up to the stumps.
Claude Chantler made a welcome to return to the bowling attack and bought 2 wickets for 45 in his 7 over spell, but was not nearly as expensive as his skipper, Craig McNaught, who had the common sense to remove himself from the attack after his 3 over spell gifted the opposition 21 runs.
At drinks, Melkbos were looking on par for a decent total, at 98/4 after 17 overs.
It took Bruce Taylor 3 overs to find his mojo, while the opposition were looking to accelerate. His first two overs travelled for a whopping 23 runs, but the seasoned campaigner bowled his full spell, conceding 47 runs for 3 wickets.
Groot Drak’s best bowler of the day was without a doubt Wessel van Deventer, who showed his class by picking up three valuable wickets for just 16 runs in a very tidy five over spell.
Plenty of the Fellows batters got good starts, but no one was able to get a big score, resulting in the visitors being bowled out for 172 in the 33rd over. The total was hardly a reflection of the batting performance, as the lush, early season outfield prevented countless boundaries and probably saved 40 runs or more.
A quick bite to eat and a few refreshments later and most of the players were ready to start the run chase. Quintin van der Westhuizen got stuck in the changeroom, obviously watching AB de Villiers batting highlights, as he arrived to open the batting 5 minutes later than his partner, Mark Nel. Perhaps it was the excitement of his 41st birthday, but Mark, by his very high standards, struggled for timing before being gunned LBW on 15 from 34. Quintin also had some issues early on, with only 3 runs from his first 14 balls, but he soon kicked into gear and put his foot down, breezing past 50 and finding the boundary fence regularly.
Fresh-faced and eager to show his skills on debut, Marko Combrink waltzed to the crease and was just starting to accelerate before missing a straight one, departing for 15 from 23. Quintin was eventually dismissed after a well-paced 86 and was greeted in the clubhouse by much applause.
In at 4, Gert Uys played the first three consecutive forward defensives of his life and then attempted to get stuck in to the bowling. A six, a four and a single were all he could muster before being caught out on 11.
The hard work had been done upfront, meaning that after the two quick wickets, Groot Drak needed around 40 from the last 10 overs, with Jonathan Boulton and Craig McNaught taking guard at 5 and 6.
The Melkbos lads tossed the ball to their spinners who managed some prodigious turn, causing all sorts of trouble for the two new batters. Both Jono (12* from 28) and Craig (20* from 30) pushed and prodded the ball around without too many risks, but the slowing run rate took the game into the last over. In the end, the score was probably 20 runs light, as Groot Drak knocked off the total with 2 balls remaining and 6 wickets in hand.
A great game and a super tight finish was the perfect way to kick off the new season. A few richly deserved fines were enjoyed before wishing the Melkbos Fellows the best of luck for their season ahead and safe travels home.
Man of the match: Quintin van der Westhuizen.
Match report by Craig McNaught