BY PETER WISEMAN
After the suspension of the league in 2020, the Premier League returned to Foxgrove under leaden skies but without the heavy rain predicted although there had been steady rain for most of the morning.
The visitors were promoted Holmesdale and they would be facing a Beckenham side very different to 2019 shorn of its two ‘stars’ and with a collection of decent players still ‘bedding in’. Acting captain Johan Malcolm won and elected to bat on a firm, greenish track unaffected by water under the covers.
Finn Bryan immediately displayed his new-found authority and was looking to score runs freely and the partnership with newcomer Nick Rigg looked set to blossom until Rigg was caught in front by first-change Will Harby.
The free-scoring James Fear combined well with Bryan who was, by now, hitting the ball with great power and accelerating the run rate nicely. With recovering skipper Alex Senn exhorting the team on animatedly from the boundary, a fine fifty partnership developed and Bryan duly completed an excellent fifty in 57 balls before being bowled by the leg-spinner, Mike Bryant, for 58.
Enter Rithik Hari, free now from university studies and displaying again the great maturity he showed in 2019. His arrival pushed the run rate on and his running between the wickets was superb as Fear continued to bat solidly without dominating as much as in previous matches. Just after the fifty stand was reached, tragedy struck as Hari (22) was unfortunately run out returning for a second run off a wide and then Fear holed out to visiting skipper Luke Blackaby off the left-arm spin of Dom May next ball for 25.
With two further wickets falling to make the score 151-6, it was time for Johan Malcolm to display his class aided by Rob Clements and, after 40 overs, Beckenham closed on 179-6 with Malcolm unbeaten on a fine 36. In the scorebox, the home scorer, ever the eternal pessimist, thought the score had fallen short.
Holmesdale openers Bissett and Fawcitt then faced the new-look home opening attack of the vastly-experienced Jahid Ahmed and Kamron Takhar and it was the former Essex and Blackheath man who made the first breach by bowling Bissett.
The arrival of Barbadian keeper Carlos Maynard began to push the score along with the new batsman immediately impressing with some delightful cover-driving.
Just when Maynard looked to be dominating the home attack, the introduction of Shojib Ali paid dividends as he had Fawcitt caught behind by James Balmforth and then trapped the dangerous Maynard in front for 24 and then Cameron Pitt added to the visitors’ woes by having Harby well held by former university colleague Rigg.
At 61-4, the neat, compact Luke Blackaby demonstrated his class by shoring up the innings with fine support from Mark Epps. The pair took the score past the hundred in the 27th over and Beckenham’s total came under serious threat.
But it was Johan Malcolm who stopped the rot with a beautifully bowled spell of off-spin that removed Epps and then McDowell to make the score 128-6 but the dangerous Blackaby was still there and completed an excellent 50 in 80 deliveries including two big straight sixes.
As the overs ticked away, Malcolm struck again as did Pitt but Holmesdale were not finished yet with Surguy striking some fine blows but it was the return of Ahmed to bowl his final over who captured the important wicket of Blackaby, caught by Shojib Ali who had previously dropped him and the match was now all but taken from plucky Holmesdale’s grasp.
As Malcolm bowled the final over, Surguy was well stumped by ‘Barney’ Balmforth from the final delivery to end what had been a really nice match played in an excellent spirit and much enjoyed by the players and officials.
For Beckenham, the wily Johan Malcolm took the bowling award for his splendid spell of 4-28.
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