On a bright and breezy Saturday in the Lake District, the weather flattered to deceive as much as Shires Seconds. A batting line up that boasted fifties for the club (or for Chorley CC) right down to ten suggested the promise of an ice cold Stella Artois on a summers day, yet delivered all of the enjoyment of a warm, non-alcoholic beer, over Zoom in January.

Things started well with P.Yates going along nicely and G.Bleasedale looking more solid than at the start of the campaign. Then disaster, G.Bleasedale taking guard out of his crease and remaining there for the duration, until he was stumped (off a fast bowler). Enter Captain Gould, who after easing his way in became apparently bored and started to take the game away from Coniston. Now I am not suggesting the Umpire was concerned about the form on show, however the lesser capable of Coniston’s opening bowlers (looked like a rocker was actually a decorator) some how bowling right arm round managed to get the ball to pitch inline and straighten with a quick, short ball that would have seemingly slowed, and dropped in mid-air to clatter in to middle stump, so clearly out LBW. Adam Murphy then joined the stage and continued his season of classy drives before Paul Yates (looking equally as assured) was caught magnificently behind for 20. Murphy supported by Foy continued until being rattled by a full ball to the foot from the away team’s impressive Mike Burton (4 for22) ahead of being clean bowled, but not before Steven Foy fell to the same fate having been duped into school yard tittle tattle.

Luke Bray was then LBW first ball to Burton before Gould Junior and Coulton set about a salvage task. Coulton was solid enough to see off the tiring Burton and J.Gould played some nice shots in his 17. However just as when a recovery looked on the cards Coulton fell (for 9) LBW to a combination of poor shot selection and a grubber of a bounce, with the emphasis on the latter. Once Mike Mead fell for 1, a total of just over three figure looked the best case possible…… … enter the great philosopher Phil Oliver (more on that later) and Shireshead’s very own Jack Leach (Will Greenwood). What happened next was the stuff of legend as Oliver dispatched the tiring bowlers to all areas to score 66 of 30 balls, with Greenwood contributing brilliantly….3 runs not many, but without him Oliver would have been stranded. The fireworks were ended prematurely – now I am not suggesting people in the field all afternoon were hungry, however when Oliver was run out, 2 Coniston players suggested he was miles in (only in cricket). All out for 172. Based on the talent in the team, a 50 or two light, Had it not been for the last stand it could have been a whole lot worse.

The second innings started with some wise words from Oliver; “you have to get the ball to bounce when you bowl!” Yates and Bray heeded initially and whilst Warne looked to cut loose he never really got going before Paul Yates had him caught by G. Bleasedale… G.Bleasedale then followed this up with a remarkable piece of fielding in the deep to brilliantly slide, gather the ball and then knock down middle stump, all for nothing as the batsmen was miles in. Yates then induced another catch to increase hope that Shireshead would make the most of the opportunity Oliver had created earlier with the bat. For the next period of play things remained tight. Simpson then started to free his arms, but was stopped in his tracks by the impressive Greenwood for 45 (the first of 3-34). This brought Mike Burton to the crease who continued his influence on the game by at first nervously, then authoritatively cruising to 52*. Progress was slowed by what could be described as a sublime run out by S.Foy (could be, had G.Bleasedale not earlier demonstrated that it’s not hard to do). As the game was again getting away from the team from Forton, the ball was tossed Oliver in the hope of more magic, and had DRS been available at least 2 LBW decisions would have been given, but alas, it was unfair to over rely on Oliver again and Coniston reached their target with 9 balls to spare.

In summary. Should have scored more. Phil did. Could have won. Didn’t.