There was great on-field success for Belvoir CC on their inaugural pre-season tour up north.
It began with a memorable victory over Washington CC in a game which saw the start delayed following a gust of wind that blew over both sightscreens. Losing the toss, Belvoir were put into field in what appeared to be favourable bowling conditions – and with only 10 men due to Xanti Xipu turning up late following a lengthy train journey from Bournemouth.
However, Washington’s top order batsmen made light work of the Belvoir attack in the opening 15 overs, racing to 173-2 including an over of 28 off a disconsolate Sam Penford. Skipper Lewis Dann got his arm around him which paid dividends a few overs later.
A monumental collapse ensued following the dismissal of Reggie Mitchell, Washington’s skipper and opening batsman, for 98 by Penford (2-77). Washington’s innings closed on 217-9 from 20 overs, with Joe Bottomley (3-30) and Olly Elson (4-37) being the pick of the Belvoir bowlers.
In reply, Belvoir started strongly with an assertive 68 from 44 balls by Tom Neville. The Belvoir batsmen showed great cohesion through the middle orders to keep the run rate stable which allowed tail-enders Fraser Fentem (61) and Dan Gibson (35) to steer Belvoir home to a three wicket win in 17.1 overs.
Many celebratory drinks were had to celebrate the win later that night which led to five guys turning up late the following day at Durham University for the final game of the tour, nursing the sorest of heads.
With ominous overhead conditions and rain forecast, Belvoir again lost the toss and were this time put into bat by the hosts.
The visitors made a solid start before a short rain break after 12 overs – the score 80-1 from 12 overs, with opener Ryan Lewis being the man out after chopping on for 30. Fellow opener Wilson (playing against his own university side) was soon back in the hut after being bowled by Solomon Kwayside.
This brought skipper Dann to the crease with Neville before another rain break at 19 overs with the score on 126-2.
Once play resumed, Neville brought up his second successive 50 of the tour with a glorious six over the clubhouse, off Smith. Following a slight middle order wobble, brought about largely through the accurate leg spin of Horace Tuptup (4-24), a late flurry from Bottomley (27no) and Xipu (23) saw Belvoir close on a respectable 205-8 from their 30 overs.
In reply, Durham University made a solid start before the dangerous Gibson (2-48) struck twice in quick succession to remove the openers, before Bottomley backed up his performance with the bat to remove the rest of the top order with figures of 3-39.
The rest of the Belvoir attack chipped in with key wickets throughout to leave the game finely poised at 176-7 with five overs remaining, with Durham bat Archie Empress looking comfortable on 39.
When Empress fell on 49, Durham required only 10 runs from the final three overs. Cometh the hour, cometh the man – and that man was Tom Butterworth (1-17) whose introduction saw Belvoir clinch victory by only seven runs in the penultimate over, courtesy of a glorious catch at gully by Alex Forbes.
Perhaps the most staggering stat from the innings was the astonishing seven caught and bowled wickets taken.
Following the success of the trip and the welcome received from both hosts, it seems certain that the tour will be repeated next year.