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Groot Drak vs Scorpions – 09 December 2023

The dawn of a beautiful day after some summer rainfall set the scene for the last fixture of the year against our long-standing friends at their home ground in Stellenbosch.

The stand-in skipper, Jono Boulton, made his most important contribution up front by winning the toss and opting to bat on a wicket that looked like it may get tougher as the day progressed.

The Groot Drak openers started well despite a few early lofted shots from Claude Chantler giving the Scorpions some early hope. Conrad Schultz (11 from 9) – fresh off a recent 150 – had only just started firing when he was trapped dead in front for LBW bringing Mark Nel to the middle. Mark (12 from 30) managed to nudge the ball around before himself being trapped in front. Claude continued to battle through some tight bowling and challenging pitch conditions before being bowled for a gritty 36 from 52 balls. Enter Nick van Woerkom who looked dangerous from the start and quickly got to 31 from 33 balls before also being sacrificed to the dreaded LBW gods. The only other Drakie to add any decent runs was Wessel (25 from 37) who kept the scoreboard ticking along with the likes of Kudu, Alan, Matt and Ian adding some boundaries here and there but not staying at the crease long enough to do any real damage. 165 was the target set by Groot Drak which seemed about 20-30 runs short.

After a quick lunch in the shade – the Scorpions opening pair came in to face Matt Hughes and Nick – both reasonably new, but vital members to the Groot Drak family. Matt bowled beautifully and managed to complete his 7 overs for just 19 runs whilst getting a well deserved wicket. Nick was firing properly from the other end and managed to up-end 3 of the Scorpions batsmen whilst only conceding 8 runs in his 4 overs. Unfortunately Nick tweaked a well worked muscle during his last over but the hard work had been done up front and the Scorpions top 5 had all returned to the hut for just 23 runs. This included a run out from Alan that was said to be reminiscent of Jonty Rhodes’ famous diving run from backward point, with neither the dive nor the electric speed.

There was still a heap of work to do with with the likes of Haydn, Gavin, Hennie and Coachie still to bat and both Kudu (0/28 from 6) and Ian (0/7 from 2) needed to make sure they kept it tidy – a job they did very well. The spinning combination of Alan and Bruce was introduced just after lunch, much to the applause of Bruce’s daughters on the sidelines, which helped Bruce to claim 3 vital wickets. Both spinners kept the pressure on and the batsmen guessing due to the track offering plenty of turn. With just 3 overs to go and a run rate of about 10 an over needed – Claude (0/6 from 2) came on and bowled seam up to hold the Scorpions side to 136 after their allotted overs.

A few cold beers and a boerie roll were enjoyed amongst friends after the game and many memory shared of the 12 odd years of these fixtures being played. Thanks to all involved and we will see the Scorpions again next year!

Match report by Alan Sherratt

Groot Drak vs WPCC – 03 December 2023 (Alfie Cupido Memorial)

Certain dates are sacred in the Groot Drak FCA cricketing calendar. Our annual December fixture against Western Province Cricket Club is arguably the most significant, as it honours our ex-club-captain, Alfie Cupido, who passed away during this clash back in 2010.

After much deliberation, Lew and the WPCC brains trust elected to bowl first, with some heavy cloud cover looking enticing for the seam bowlers. Starting to get quite comfortable with his role as an opener, Marko Combrink opened the batting with an unknown quantity – new recruit, Conrad Schultz on debut for Drak.

The two started sedately. The ball was swinging and seaming, which restricted the run-scoring, but Marko and Conrad gave up very few chances while they got accustomed to the conditions. They both found fluidity after a handful of overs and scored freely once Dutch international, Mikkie Zwilling’s initial bowling spell was completed.

Both Marko and Conrad notched up half-centuries, taking Groot Drak past the 100 mark after just 12 overs. Marko fell in the over before drinks, scoring a well-paced 53 from 49. Conrad at this stage was dealing largely in boundaries.

Having been given the perfect platform, Alan Sherratt cameoed with 22 from 21, bringing Jonathan Boulton to the crease at number 4.

Jono (14 from 36) did his best to give the bulk of the strike to Conrad Schultz, who very quickly converted his half century into a classy hundred.

With precious few deliveries left, Matt Hughes was only required to face 4 balls, putting Conrad on strike for the final ball of the innings.

Conrad, now on 146 with just one ball to go, punched a straight drive over the bowler’s head to bring up an unbeaten 150 on debut. A more impressive first outing had surely not been seen at Groot Drak for many decades.

At an imposing run rate of 7.5 an over, Western Province would need 263 for victory.

Opening the bowling with miserly Matt Hughes (0/13 from 4), Johann Agenbag (1/25 from 4) picked up a wicket in his first over. With eight legitimate bowling options, the changes were wrung quick and fast. Morne Maritz (2/26 from 4) removed dangerous batters, Nic Slabber and Adriaan Steyn, with Zak Barnard (0/20 from 4) pushing up the hill.

Leg spin was introduced just before drinks in the form of Bruce Taylor (2/26 from 6) and Mike Devine (1/19 from 4). Both bowlers took wickets and limited the runs, which pushed the chance of a successful run chase further and further out of reach for the visitors.

Despite bowling largely to the tail, Alan Sherratt (3/22 from 5) was easily the pick of the bowlers, working over three batsmen with his leggies. The FCA have since launched an official investigation, as there are allegations that the pitch was, in fact, prepared by Alan himself.

In a rare showing, Craig McNaught (1/9 from 3) turned his arm over and also took four catches during the innings, sneaking himself out of TFC contention for the day.

In the end, the runs were just too many, as Alan’s two wickets in two balls drew a close to the WPCC innings, securing an eighty five run victory for Groot Drak.

Both teams paid their respects to Alfie on the pitch, before heading off to the clubhouse for fines. The evening was topped off perfectly with a braai and a few fireside beverages before parting ways.

Special thanks to Alan Sherratt, Morne Landman, Bruce Taylor and Johann Agenbag for their efforts to ensure that the game went ahead as planned.

Man of the match: Conrad Schultz
Match report by Craig McNaught

Groot Drak vs Claremont Gents – 26 November 2023

Our good mates from Claremont Gents paid us a visit on Sunday the 26th of November on a wind-still, scorcher of a day.
Groot Drak won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat on the club’s oldest, Western-most strip.

Some wily swing and seam bowling upfront from the Gents openers, Grant and Barry, caused all sorts of problems for the Groot Drak top order batters. Marko Combrink (9 from 4) fell early, followed shortly thereafter by Matt Hughes (7 from 11). It was looking to be a very low-scoring affair early on.

Fortunately Jaco Swarts and Ian Nel were able to hang around and see off the opening bowlers. The two put on a mammoth third wicket partnership of 133 runs and both batted superbly to steady the ship, each notching up half centuries at a good lick. With the daytime high reaching approximately 32 degrees, this was a seriously gutsy effort. Jaco played one late cut too many and eventually knicked off for a valiant 82 from 66 balls.

Ian started to score even more freely after the second drinks break, but unfortunately fell agonizingly short of what would have been a superb maiden hundred. His 91 from 81 had gone a long way to putting Groot Drak in a commanding position.

The middle-to-lower order failed to fire, with Morne Landman (12 from 16), Kudu Kotze (12 from 10), Craig McNaught (7 from 6), Jono Boulton (6* from 12) and Sean Petzer (2* from 4) never getting going. Nevertheless, the work had been done up front and Drak managed a formidable 254/7 from their 35 overs.

In just his second game for Groot Drak, Matt Hughes (0/19 from 5) opened the bowling with Joubert Kotze, who made a welcome return after a lengthy absence. Matt bowled with fire and should have picked up an early wicket as an outside edge flew through the hands of first slip. Pushing up the hill, Joubert bowled with varied accuracy, but landed a couple of unplayable deliveries, earning him two wickets for his trouble at a miserly rate of 3.25 per over.

With the sun pelting down, the spinners were introduced early to mitigate the fatigue factor. Bruce Taylor was the most expensive of the Drak bowlers, but his uncanny wicket-taking ability proved its worth for the umpteenth season on the bounce. Had he held on to a sharp caught-and-bowled chance, Bruce would have completed a spectacular five-for, but it was not to be. He would have to be content with 4/36 from 6 overs including a legendary caught-and-bowled that saw him horizontal while completing the catch.

At the other end, Sean ‘Sharapova’ Petzer bowled a solid spell of leg-spin that included a beauty of a delivery to clean bowl the dangerous Jacques at number three. Sean’s spell resulted in respectable figures of 2 for 25 from his 6 over allotment.

A hat-trick of crocodile catches snapped up by Morne Landman and a sharp run out from Matt Hughes had Claremont Gents reeling at 91 for 9 after 20 overs.

Because of the seemingly imminent end, the Groot Drak skipper opted against taking a second drinks break. This turned out to be a bad lapse in judgement. Garys, Reilly and Pentland-Smith, knuckled down and put on a grueling last wicket stand that lasted 15 overs and contributed 74 runs.

Bowling efforts from Kudu Kotze (0/18 from 4), Craig McNaught (0/6 from 3) and Marko Combrink (0/30 from 3) were fruitless. Jaco Swarts (1/13 from 3.4 overs) was the man who eventually took the final wicket, in the last over of the day, allowing the dehydrated players to, at last, quench their collective thirsts.

Even though the home team had managed a nearly 100 run victory, there were 22 happy faces on the field after the game. The bar and the pool got a good workout as the teams settled into a well-deserved fines meeting.

Thanks to Claremont Gents for what is always a memorable day with fantastic company.

Man of the match: Jaco Swarts and Ian Nel

Match report by Craig McNaught

Groot Drak vs Royal Artillery CC – 16 November 2023

It was exactly four years ago to the day that Groot Drak were last visited by Royal Artillery CC.
The skippers inspected the pitch and our visitors from the north decided that they would honour our age-old tradition and bat first.

On loan from Boland, young speedster Achille Cloete opened the bowling for Groot Drak. His devastating pace caused all sorts of trouble for the batters who did well to survive the early barrage. Morne Maritz (0/39 from 6) was forced to push up the hill and was unlucky not to pick up a wicket or two in his spell.

Three of RACC’s top four fired with good scores of 71, 46 and 48, putting the pressure squarely on Drak early on.

Achille ended his seven over spell with very tidy figures of 2/13, including two maidens.

Second-and-third change bowlers Ian Nel (0/66 from 8) and Zak Barnard (1/46 from 6) toiled hard with limited success before the first drinks break.
After 20 overs, the visitors were cruising at 121/2.

Desperate for a breakthrough, Groot Drak opted for some leg-spin. Queue Mike Devine and Alan Sherratt.
Mike’s first ball was a long-hop down the leg side, which was paddled straight to square leg, where Alan took a good catch to earn Mike his first wicket of the day. The two bowled beautifully in tandem, with Mike nabbing wickets at regular intervals and Alan strangling the middle order batters. Mike ended up agonizingly close to a five-for, thanks to a dolly being dropped at short fine leg. Nevertheless he posted handsome figures of 4/35 from his six overs. Alan too got amongst the wickets, picking up 2 for just 29 runs in his spell of 7.

The Drakies had brought the game back into contention, having restricted RACC to 234 for 9 after 40 overs.

After lunch, the Royal Artillery gents saluted the Groot Drak flag with a customary brandy and took to the field for the run chase.

Groot Drak’s openers, Claude Chantler (27 from 25) and Chad Ayford (17 from 24) both looked the part, but failed to contribute serious runs as they fell victim to Nick Schofield’s lethal swing and pace.

In at number 3, Alan Sherratt could only muster 14 runs from 19 balls before being gunned LBW, precipitating a middle-order collapse. This saw Jono Boulton, Craig McNaught, Morne Landman and Morne Maritz only contribute 14 runs between them.

The lower order of Ian Nel (22 from 26), Achille Cloete (17 from 10) and Zak Barnard (17 from 23) posted a few useful runs, but at the end of the day, Groot Drak were bowled out for a paltry 151 in the 31st over. It’s worth mentioning that Nick Schofield took a very well-deserved five wicket haul, that could very easily have been 6 or 7 wickets.

Outplayed in every department, the home team was fortunate to only lose by 80-odd runs. RACC were, quite simply, too good on the day. The one-sided result didn’t dampen the spirits however, as everyone enjoyed a beverage on the pitch while listening to Richard von Hoesslin recount the club’s history for our visitors. Fines were dished out in the shade before all were treated to a braai for the books. Special thanks to Hugo Brink and Morne Landman for their contribution to what was a very special dinner.

We wish the Royal Artillery the best of luck for the rest of their SA tour, but more importantly best of luck to all that they play against!

Man of the match: Mike Devine
Match report by Craig McNaught

Groot Drak vs Battersea Badgers – 11 October 2023

Saturday the 11th of October 2023 saw The Battersea Badgers descend on Groot Drak. A first time direct booking from this London club had everyone hugely excited. The weather was 10 degrees cooler than the day before, much to the UK visitors’ relief as they strode out to inspect the pitch.

After a short and well received explanation, the toss was foregone and the tourists happily settled into the shade and sent out their openers.

Johann Agenbag opened the bowling coming down the hill and was simply unplayable. Bowling his spell of 8 on the trot, he went for only 9 runs taking one wicket. Our young debutant ringer, Nick Van Woerkom charged up the hill and fired them down, finishing an impressive 7 over spell for 2 wickets and going for just 18 runs.

The Badgers started exceptionally slowly and the Drakies might have been forgiven for premonitions of an early finish and beers in the pool, until the Australian pair of Cornish and Knight came to the wicket. Bravely recovering from food poisoning, these antipodeans living South of the Thames weren’t going to let a dodgy seafood pasta at the V and A Waterfront get them down. They went to town on the balance of our bowlers. Regulars Claude Chantler and Bruce Taylor bore the brunt of the onslaught, going for more than 10 an over, seeing the visitors post a very respectable 226 after their 40.

In response, our opening bats did not trouble scorer Ken Lumb too much at all. Our second debutant, young Matt Hughes, batted beautifully, smashing 34 off just 20 runs in his stylish 70s white bucket hat. Father and son duo, Jono and James Boulton (11 yrs old) spent some family time at the crease adding on 18 runs before James was left to bat for a total of 36 balls, maturely defending his wicket and giving the strike to number 7, Nick Van Woerkom. Nick attacked the ball from the get go, hitting cleanly and sweetly timing the ball to the boundary with ease. I must say, one of the better batting displays I have ever seen at the club. Joined by Bruce Taylor, focused on needing to make up for his very expensive bowling, he poked and prodded, slowly coming out of his shell, until he too was nonchalantly dispatching half decent deliveries to the rope. Well done to Nick (98* off just 76) and Bruce (48* from 47) getting us over the line with 4 overs to spare.

The visitors enjoyed pitch drinks and the historical talk by Richard Von Hoesslin. Fines were a hit and the lamb on the spit went down almost as well as Robbie Frater’s complimentary red wine on the tables. A massive thanks to all involved in organizing a very, very special day.

Match report by Jonathan Boulton