Irvine 75. West of Scotland 76-4. West win by six wickets.
With last week rained off, the aim was to get back to winning ways against Irvine, who beat West earlier in the season. This time there was no mistake. Irvine were terrible and West easily took them apart.
Conditions were bowler friendly. The ball both turned and seamed throughout the match. Irvine batted first and it was clear they were not the side we faced earlier in the season. One of the openers tried to play a forward defence to a bouncer, a batsman was rapped on the pad before his front foot had landed another could hardly put bat on ball. 16-3 from 10 overs.
The batting was so poor, all we had to do was put the ball in roughly the right area and watch wickets tumble. Only one player looked like he could score runs, and the tail was a shambling combination of blockers and sloggers. Their number 11 looked like he had never played cricket before. He would not have got into our third team. That said, everyone bowled well. This team managed 215 against us earlier in the year so it wasn't a total shoe-in. West still needed to bowl well, and we did. There was almost a hat trick with two in two and the third ball running close.
There was precious little fielding skill needed as Irvine took no quick singles at all. West did drop a couple of catches and misfielded two so it wasn't perfect, but it was far better than the average for this year.
The party was interrupted with Irvine having a couple of decent bowlers. A big hitter was promoted to opening: His mission was to win the game in short time as rain was about. I approved of this tactic as winning quickly is the sign of a strong team. Sadly, he was out first ball defending onto his ankle and the ball spinning back into the stumps. Ridiculous and freakish.
The other opener was sublime, looking like he would never get out and, with precious few boundaries available, looked to pick up quick single aplenty (16 in total). At the other end, our number three got a bad LBW (I know all batsmen think they get bad decisions, but even the umpire admitted a mistake on this one). Then number four seemed to get a good ball from the opening seamer and nicked off. We were three down in the first 10 overs. Every wicket was from a defensive shot, rather than a poorly played attacking stroke.
I was still not concerned. We were ahead of D/L and had plenty of batting to come. Even when we lost a fourth wicket, West only needed 30 or so runs to win. And this pair saw the game home in 26 overs. The rate was slower than I would have liked (2.89) but when you look at the difference in control (79% compared to 60%), I don't think we missed out on too many scoring opportunities, it was just difficult to bat even against average bowling.
Despite it being a comfortable chase in the end, it wasn't fully convincing. One player said he thinks we are not good at chasing. Looking at the stats, I disagree. When West bowl first, we have won five from seven, losing an average of six wickets per game. The average chase is 132 - a testament to the quality of our bowling and fielding - so getting there six down makes it seem like we are struggling, when actually we are doing the thing that matters; winning.
Could we chase better? Of course. Our best chase was 162 and both losses came when the target was over 200. Are we doing well at it at the moment? Good enough to get the job done. It's a skill to develop for bigger challenges, but right now we are still going the right way.