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29 Jun 2013 - David Harkin

The Vine marched down to Whitstable top of the Kent Premiership and aimed to secure a further 20 points. Winning the toss, Harkin elected to bat (allowing the Vine the opportunity to pick up 20 points) and Hammond and Kirk-Patrick immediately took off. Kirk-Patrick continued his good form in the seconds by playing freely, but attempting to clear the field early in his innings he was back in the pavilion for 39, disappointing considering the start he had made. Hammond was joined by Boardman (37), but the afternoon belonged to him. Hammond played intelligently to pass 50 and then as the confidence grew, he began to destroy the opposition with real intent, strength and skill. Never has someone hit the ball so hard at this level of cricket as Hammond raced to his first ton of the season and eventually finished on 140* (including 15 fours and 4 sixes). The Vine finished on 260, a competitive score or a small ground?

After another first ball wicket from Leach, the Vine suddenly found themselves under an element of pressure, when Whitstable opener Sinclair (88) played with the same aggression as Hammond, scoring runs for fun. Fortunately enough, the Vine always had a chance at the other end as Gethins, Thompson, Shaw, Smith and Leach continued to edge away at the attack. Gethins made the breakthrough of removing numbers 3 and 4 before the vital wicket of Sinclair. At 130/4 the game still looked fairly balanced, but began to lean towards Whitstable as Appleby (64) and Dale (23), both under 16, looked to continue to frustrate the Vine with batting way beyond their years.

Going into the last 10 overs Whitstable were 214/5 with the game completely in the balance. Gethins finished with 4-87, but it was the re-introduction of Leach that proved to be the vital change as he gave the Vine a glimmer of hope with 2 quick wickets in one over. Although there were some late blows by Sergeant the Vine picked up numbers 8 and 9, and going into the last over Whitstable needed 16 to win.

An early boundary didn’t rattle the nerves too much until the second ball. It was hit deep towards John Gethins, who to everyone else in the ground, looked as though he had no idea it was coming; in fact, he just couldn’t see the ball, a cry from the team and a sudden moment of concentration meant Gethins snaffled the catch and the Vine were in celebrations as they stole 20 points and remained top of the table. Leach finished off with a fine 5-29 off his 8 overs, taking his total to 13 wickets so far this season.

Saturday proved how competitive this league is as bottom side Whitstable gave the Vine their toughest challenge this year. Harkin’s men now concentrate on Dartford this week at home….whilst the beer festival is on!