James Eaton Reporting
With the rust barely shaken off through cold, sporadic pre-season friendlies, the mighty Windsor 3s powered their way to an emphatic victory away to Slough 6 in their new home at the Windsor Boys’ School.
Having narrowly missed out on promotion last year the 3s needed to avoid a repeat of the whimpering capitulation this fixture yielded almost a year ago to the day at Lascelles Park, and come out of the blocks punching if league glory were to come this time around. With fresh faces, new bats, and the sense of enthusiasm only the first game of the season can muster the 3s set about their campaign with renewed vigour: big hitting, consistent line and length, and tight fielding combining in a complete team performance that is so often the key to winning these fixtures.
With the outfield still sweating from early morning showers, on a hard, but fairly green pitch that screamed “bowl on me”, Captain Charters lost the toss and graciously accepted the offer to bat first sending out Hodgey and Rich Noble to feel out the early overs and see off the opening seamers. Immediately the decision to bowl rewarded Slough, with Noble snicking behind on his second ball to a vicious, away-swinging spitter. At 0-1 the memory of Lascelles briefly showed its face again, but “new boy” Eaton, getting his chance in div 9 having spend 2021 shuttling between the 4s and the 2s, strode in at 3 with a different design on the day. With Hodgey and Eaton carrying over an average partnership of 96, the boys set about neutering the difficulties of the pitch. Leaving anything outside off, each batsman took to scoring runs in their own way and while Eaton got on top of the bounce, sending anything that strayed scything it’s way to the boundary, Hodgey went aerial, clearing the boundary no less than 3 times in short succession. When Hodgey eventually lost his stumps to a good ball for 31, things looked a little better at 70-2. A few overs later, Eaton fell snicking the ball onto his own pads for 32, and with no DRS available and plenty of batting to come, reluctantly dragged himself back off to the changing room rueing the missed opportunity for big runs. With runs on the board there will be more chances, surely.
The Ghost of Lascelles then reared its ugly head with a flurry of Windsor players falling before being able to play themselves in, Slough’s bowlers finally finding a line and length to trouble the edges. Charters, Singh, and Ziemkendorf fell in quick succession to leave Windsor 79-6 at drinks, scratching their heads at what might be a respectable score to salvage the match. That turned out to be 138, with Woodbridge plus more “new boys” Warren and Tanasi supporting a feisty and stinging 25 from Perkins, their wickets falling with just enough irregularity to get through some decent overs.
While 138 may not seem defendable in most scenarios, this is of course Windsor 3 with their reliable bowling spine of Perkins, Chander, and Ziemkendorf often capable of 10 wickets between a combo of any two of them, and Captain Charters musing that adjusting for the tricky pitch this might not be a terrible score once the day was done. Full of quiet confidence, and eager to lay down a marker for the rest of the season, the 3s spread out around the field, chirping happily away while Charters drilled the usual orders to stop the 1s, and explaining one too many times what ‘in line with me’ means.
Up steps Perkins for the first ball, marking his run with care and precision, calmly tossing the ball between fingers while eyeing the trembling Slough batsman with distain. A hush descends on the field, traffic on the relief road stops, clocks freeze, and history converges on this moment. Then, with an almighty crack off the bat, Perkins’ opening salvo careers off to point, Noble standing firm and taking the catch that redeems his earlier troubles with the bat. One down, time unfrozen again, and Windsor are going places. What follows, however, is a little less exciting as Raj, in at number three for Slough sets about mimicking the Windsor batting innings with a series of aerial shots and smashes along the floor that would fly up into the crowd off the rope were there either of those things actually here. His attempts are in vain, however, as Eaton pulls off an impossible catch running away, over-the-shoulder, as Chander’s metronomic wicket-to-wicket seamers pay out and open his season’s account. He’ll end the game on three, as Ziekmendorf calmly cradles a sky rocket a few balls later, and Noble again plucks a limp Slough poke out of the air. There is more joy for Perkins as a leg stump goes flying, before Ziemkendorf and Warren swap into the attack.
Warren proves to be a fine addition to the 3s bowling cohort, with a consistent line and length delivering two ‘proper’ wickets caught behind by Singh debuting for the 3s at keeper. Furthermore, Warren’s team spirit shines through sacrificing his own figures to offer fielders catching practice and an early beer at the clubhouse as Slough’s number 9 attempts to hit out. Of course, he wins this particular battle despite a few punishing hits. At the other end, Ziemkendorf keeps things ridiculously tight. So painfully tight to the opposing batsman infact, that in lieu of being able to hit the ball, they decide to cover drive their stumps instead. Hans will later raise a cold beer to 2-4. More importantly these figures include 3 maidens which should please a few fantasy team owners who, like this writer, also made him their Captain. After all, who would bet against a Ziemkendorf?
A 60 run victory is wrapped up with Warren’s third wicket in Slough’s 23rd over, the ball nestling gently into the hands of Woodbridge at square leg. It is an apt ending to the game and caps a complete team performance where everyone contributed in a meaningful way, wringing out the maximum with both bat and ball on a tricky pitch, then stepping up exactly where and when they were needed with strong fielding. And while ultimately it will be availability that dictates to the 3s how consistent they can be across the whole season, today’s opening squad of faces old and new has proven that there is plenty of depth at this club and a desire to win, and win well, above all else. Captain Charters has some interesting choices ahead, for sure. Promotion surely has to be the minimum aim, and on this performance there is no evidence that it’s not in reach.