A village cricket team pulled off the most unlikely win to climb off the foot of the table after turning up with “six cricketers and two old men”.
Betteshanger Colliery Welfare, who play in Division 1 East of the Kent Regional League, have been struggling for players all season due to work and family commitments.
They could only muster eight for their game at Saltwood, including 64-year-old captain Clive Towe and 73-year-old Charlie Wray.
But it turned out to be an afternoon to remember with Joffy Towe - son of Clive - and James Marsh scoring centuries in an opening stand of 233.
Marsh was eventually out for 127 and Towe went off the penultimate ball for 128 as Betteshanger closed 40 overs on 285-3.
Michael McNicholas (5-39) starred with the ball as Betteshanger’s eight men somehow defended the total on a fast outfield, bowling out Saltwood for 275, to win by 10 runs.
Towe, who described the team as “six cricketers and two old men”, said: “It can be quite disheartening if you turn up and someone says, ‘By the way, we’ve got eight players, and one of those is me, who’s 64, and another is Charlie, who’s 73.’
“We had a bit of luck after losing the toss because Saltwood put us into bat.
“I was pleased with that because the last thing you want when you’ve got eight men is to run around for 40 overs with the ball getting smashed all over the place and you end up like sopping wet rags at tea.
“We had another bit of luck, and I’m not being nasty to Saltwood because they’re a decent side, a good bunch of lads and a wonderful club, but they dropped a lot of catches.
“With James and Joffy making centuries we came off at tea having made 285-3 thinking, ‘Well, that isn’t bad!’
“But as tea’s coming to an end you start thinking, ‘Now we’ve got to go and field’ and the players are asking what field we’re setting.
“I said we’d have a bowler and a wicketkeeper and everyone else spread out.
“It was a little more technical than that, we asked the bowlers to do us a favour and bowl on the offside so I could get away with just putting one fielder on the legside.
“Saltwood’s a lovely ground, with a fast outfield, if you beat the fielder, even with 11, it’s a boundary, but Michael McNicholas bowled absolutely brilliantly and got a five-fer.
“As they’re getting closer, you’re thinking, ‘We haven’t scored 285 and got this close with eight players just to lose in the last over’ but we managed to win and when you come off, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, how did we do that?’”
Betteshanger’s victory, their second of the season, moved them off the bottom of the table.
“To get 20 points is always good because you start thinking, ‘OK, next week can build on that,’ added Towe.
“Our problem all season has been struggling for players.
“We’ve had some cracking games, but lost them, and you come off thinking, ‘If we’d have had 11, we’d have won that.’
“We’ve got a core group who turn out every week and are absolutely brilliant but I’ve got about eight who are just not available all the time because of work and family commitments and stuff like that, which is perfectly understandable.”
If you’d like to join Betteshanger, call Clive Towe on 07714 344715.