Camberley struggle to pre-season defeat.
INCONSISTENCY in every aspect of the game was the catalyst for Camberley's 63-run loss to Normandy on Saturday.
Chris Pike took three wickets but bowled too many loose deliveries, while Phil West took two as the hosts totalled 253-5 off their 45 overs, including a century for Peter Wellings.
In reply, West got Camberley off to a flyer, but the innings quickly became bogged down, with no-one other than the Camberley captain making a meaningful contribution until James Reeves played a sparkling innings towards the end.
With the sun beating down and the track looking flat, it was Normandy who won an important toss and batted first in favourable conditions. Both Pike and fellow opener Sean Clamp struggled to find consistently good areas, generally offering up at least one four ball per over.
With the score rolling along at a healthy rate, Pike did manage to snare two quick wickets, both of which clipped off stump, but Normandy continued to attack. Left-handed opening batsman Simon Carter breezed past 50 and looked set for a big score before West had him caught behind for 56.
Andrew McPherson added 44 before being Pike's third victim, but it was Wellings who held the innings together, and he completed his hundred in the final over.
Mac Syed's bowling was possibly the most impressive, as he showed good control of areas on a pitch conducive to turn. He bowled better than his figures of 5-0-32-0 suggested, as they were scewed by the batsmen looking to score off every ball in the last few overs. One particular instance saw Mark Prosser get off the mark with an enormous six straight down the ground just after West trapped Rick Mansell LBW.
In reply, last week's stand-out performer George Crowdy was joined at the top of the order by West, and the two went about the run chase in rather differing styles. The technical crowdy was happy to remain watchful while the powerful West hammered the ball to all parts. Ironically, West's best shot was one that he didn't try to hit too hard; a glorious cover drive that raced away for four.
Sadly, Crowdy couldn't repeat his innings of last week, as he misjudged one of his trademark pull shots and dragged on to his stumps with the score on 48. Dom Peter, making his first appearance of the season, came in at three, but found it difficult to get into a scoring rhythm, facing 40 balls before being well caught and bowled by youngster Chris Jones for nine.
The second wicket fell with the score on 81, and the fact that Peter and Crowdy had contributed just 13 between them clearly showed how much Camberley were relying on West to remain in the contest. So when he holed out four runs later for 58, the visitors' innings was in danger of grinding to a halt.
Syed had only just got going when he was trapped LBW by a suspicious-looking quicker delivery by off-spinner Jones for four, then both Ollie Pollard and Scott Reeves were dismissed in the same over as Camberley disintegrated to 99-6.
Steve Hulks continued his impressive start to the season with the bat as he and Sam Holmes made a brief recovery, Hulks hitting five fours before being caught at mid on for 22. Then when Holmes was superbly caught at slip off Sam Wade's bowling, the end seemed nigh.
Still 121 runs short of the victory target when Pike joined James Reeves at the end of the 31st over, most would have predicted an end within ten minutes, but there followed an extraordinary partnership which reached 57 with six overs to go. Sixty-four runs were still needed for the win, but the nature of Reeves' innings meant there was an outside chance.
Amazingly, Pike contributed just one run, as Reeves bludgeoned the ball repeatedly towards long-on and deep mid-wicket on his way to 55 not out off 44 deliveries, including four fours and three sixes.
Sadly, there followed a calamitous run out which spelt the end for Pike, who had defended admirably up to that point, and when Clamp was caught at slip two balls later, the game was over.
With just one more friendly left until the start of the league season, the game highlighted key areas which Camberley need to improve on if they're to build a serious title challange.
The bowling was worryingly inconsistent, with next to no pressure built up at any point. This was backed up by a lacklustre display in the field, with fielders repeatedly diving over or under the ball resulting in many boundaries.
With the bat, the reliance on just one or two players was made clear for all to see. Against Cove last week, the high total of 289-9 and ease of victory glossed over the fact that, aside from Crowdy and Hulks, James Reeves' 24 was the only score above 14.
Against Normandy, with the exception of West, the entire top order spectacularly failed as a unit, and, had it not been for Reeves' late barrage, the defeat would have been considerably heavier.
Obviously as players play more games they'll find their form, but a side cannot rely on just one or two big scores per week and expect to mount a successful campaign.
Leatherhead next week offers the final chance for Camberley to iron-out their performance before the league starts on the 7th of May.