Tunbridge Wells Borderers began the 2019 season in disappointing fashion at Pevensey, falling by 69 runs, failing to reach the 100 mark in a limp batting performance.
It was not the easiest offseason for the Borderers, as many as five key players moving on from an already thin squad that struggled to field full sides throughout last summer.
Among these departures are the Wood brothers, Callum globe-trotting, Emmerson to a deserved higher level of cricket with Mayfield in the ECB Premier Division, and Rob Teague sidelined due to injury, robbing the side of three key performers with both bat and ball.
Yet hope springs eternal, and an injection of lads and dads into the second team after sterling recruitment work from Chris Greenall ensuring that, pleasingly, Borderers fielded 22 players across two teams to open the season.
There were debuts in the first team for Tom Phillips, Ashish Dubey and Stephan “Jonty” Moehrke
It was a day to be sound-tracked by Vivaldi: sunshine, wind, rain, hail and sleet, an afternoon of four seasons reminding everyone of just how temperamental the British summer can be. There was, somehow, just the one delay due to a particularly heavy downpour, but ten minutes after trudging off the players re-emerged bathed in glorious sunshine.
Captain Ben Edwards won the toss and put Pevensey in to bat on a damp and green surface, hoping to extract some early movement with the new ball knowing it would become stodgy through the middle.
New ball pair Dos Freeman and Jake Lynch didn’t disappoint. Freeman, virtually incandescent that the new league regulations limit him to just eight overs, was typically accurate and threatening, and Lynch showed impressive control, too, utilising his left-arm angle to challenge the outside edge.
The duo pried two from the crease early on and were unlucky it was only two, beating the bat with regularity and watching edges fly betwixt, between and beyond an athletic slip cordon of Moehrke and Tom Fantom.
Pevensey had managed to build a partnership of sorts, but number four David Beck’s cavalier style could not last, Gareth Williams, impressive in tandem with Nick Edwards in supporting the opening pair, the man to profit as an aerial shot from Beck finally went to hand.
The fourth wicket fell soon after, Tom Carpenter LBW to Edwards as Borderers looked to assert their ascendancy.
But that wicket brought Dominic Pedroza (38) to the crease and in combination with opener Ben Pedroza (45) gave the innings the solidity it needed. The pair played relatively risk free cricket, taking their opportunities to pick up runs in dribs and drabs.
They never truly got away, in part due to an exceptional fielding effort from a lively Borderers side, as well as an economical spell of holding spin from Ashish Dubey, unlucky to come away with just the one wicket on the day.
At the other end the ball was tossed Harry Latham-Coyle’s way who kept the scorers busy with an eclectic spell characterised by extras, non-turning spin more mystery to the bowler than the batsman. Indeed, Latham-Coyle suffered the ignominy of taking a wicket from a free hit, twice, and saw two tough chances put down off his bowling. He was lucky not to go at more than seven an over.
Still, the spin twins kept things relatively in check and Borderers closed their innings in the field brilliantly, Freeman, Lynch and Edwards returning to rip through the lower order, backed up by some excellent fielding.
Both Moehrke and Phillips grabbed a brace of catches on debut, while captain Edwards took the catch of the day behind the stumps, as well as notching a stumping to rid Pevensey of B.Pedroza of the bowling of Dubey.
Fantom chipped in with a brilliant direct hit from the long-on boundary, and Pevensey were eventually bundled out in the last over of the innings for 161, Edwards and Freeman the standouts with figures of 8-2-20-3 and 8-1-12-2 respectively.
It was a solid score on a lethargic pitch and slow outfield, but not one beyond the capabilities of a fully-functional Borderers batting lineup.
They paired experience at the top, the late arriving Chris Berry with the freshest legs after just 25 overs in the field paired with Nick Edwards in the hope of setting a solid platform on which to build.
It got off to the worst possible start, Edwards leaving the first ball of the season, a hint of nip back in to the right-hander enough to clip the top of off stump and send Edwards back to the sheds.
It was the first of six for the impressive Graeme Corbishley, consistently threatening the stumps with impressive control throughout his eight over spell, four maidens and eight runs his miserly returns.
He soon took the wickets of Fantom and Phillips, the former boled by a ball just flicking the leg bail, the latter adjudged LBW to one that perhaps kept a little low.
That brought Ben Edwards to the crease with the team, again, in need of a captain’s knock and some fire-fighting from number five.
He responded with perhaps the knock of the day, a bright and breezy 35 featuring some eye-catching shots down the ground, crisp of timing and typically quick on anything remotely short of a good length.
Finding good support initially from Berry, seeing off a testing new ball spell from Corbishley and Robert Adams, and then Stephan Moehrke after Berry’s dismissal from 15, Edwards looked in good touch, continuing his strong form from last season.
With Edwards and Moehrke at the crease, Borderers still had faint hopes of overhauling Pevensey’s score, the pair pushing the scoring rate with a succession of boundaries and taking quick singles to rotate the strike.
But those hopes were ended, rather, when Edwards thumped one to forward square leg, the fielder holding on superbly to his left. It was a blow Borderers could not afford, and one from which they never recovered.
Moehrke’s enterprising debut knock was ended on 19 by the returning Corbishley, and from there it was something of a procession, Dubey gone for one to Simon Palmer at the other end.
Lynch (one) was bowled trying to open up the offside while Freeman went first ball, yorked by Corbishley, leaving him on a hat-trick.
Number eleven Williams survived the hat-trick ball and blocked out the rest of the over, securing himself a red-inker, Latham-Coyle the last to go for seven from Ben Pedroza’s third ball, Borderers all out for 92, Pevensey deserved victors by 69 runs.
A heavy defeat, yes, but there were positives to take, notably the promising showings from the debutant trio, settling into the spirit of Borderers cricket with energy and enthusiasm. Borderers take ten bowling points from the defeat.
Firle, defeated by Glynde and Beddingham in a tight first game of the season, are the visitors to St. Marks next Saturday, both teams looking to get on the board after opening defeats.