Woodhall Spa Cricket club’s 2018 season got underway at the weekend with three of its four senior sides in action.
On Saturday, Jack Luffman’s First XI came out comfortable six-wicket winners in their opening Lincolnshire ECB Premier League fixture at home to Boston.
Despite the dreadful weather leading up to the weekend, the ground staff of John Luffman, Nigel Salmon and Roy Hornsey had worked wonders in preparing a pitch and an outfield of the highest order.
Skipper Luffman won the toss and elected to bowl first, handing debuts to overseas recruits Harsha Vithana and Brandan Laurenzi.
The former is an experienced Sri Lankan top order batsman who has experience of playing for Sri Lanka A and has been to UK shores in previous years, while wicketkeeper and batsman Laurenzi is just 18 and has arrived from his native New Zealand to add to his cricketing education.
The home side started well with the new ball and opening duo Joe Irving and Alex King were in no mood to hand out easy early season runs to openers Tom Poole and former Spa player Ricky Lovelace.
King struck the first blow of the season when he forced yet another error from left-hander Poole, whose leading edge this time found the gleeful right hand of Ross Dixon, who took a typically fine, athletic catch high above his head at cover point.
This brought another former Jubilee Park man to the crease in the shape of Jonny Cheer, and together with the watchful Lovelace, they put together a strong, albeit steady stand.
Luffman rang the changes and youngsters Alfie Lindsey and Jack Cooke both bowled tidy, short spells before Dixon (1-63) joined the fray with 14 overs of tight leg spin.
King (3-29) re-joined the attack and claimed two further wickets before Irving (3-57) returned for the death overs.
Throughout this time Cheer had played a masterful innings and had reached a well-crafted century as he helped his side post a total of 212-7.
Despite the early loss of Henry Wilson (5), Spa’s replay got off to good start thanks in the main to the returning Sam Evison, who played an aggressive innings and looked in fine touch during a stand of 62 with Vithana (20). Evison lost his wicket for 55, an innings that included 11 boundaries.
Spa were placed well at 89-3 but a further stand of 96 between Prasanna Jaaywardena and Joe Irving further solidified the commanding position.
Both were in good form and combined rotating the strike with some lovely drives through the on and off side.
Jayawardena passed his first half century of the season and, when it looked like the two would take their side to victory, Irving picked out cover for a well-made 35.
It was then left to Luffman (11 not out) and Jaywardena (74 not out) to take the Spa men home to a well-deserved 17-point victory.
Spa travel to Alford on Saturday.
Away at London Road, it was last year’s champions taking on Matthew Sargeant’s runners-up in the South Lincs and Border League as the Spa Seconds took on their Sleaford counterparts.
Sargeant won the toss and elected to bowl and would’ve been reasonably happy in bowling out the hosts for 174.
On a slow and low track neither discipline was too easy but a dogged 80 from opener Godby set the foundations for the home side’s total.
For Spa, all the bowlers used tried hard to find the breakthroughs needed and the returning Connor Parsons looked in decent form taking 2-54 but it was the evergreen off-spinner Matt Haslam who was the star of the show.
His wily slow bowling was just too much for the home side’s middle order and he was twice on a hat-trick ball.
However, this was not to be on this day but he did manage to take career best figures of 8-22.
In reply, Spa were well placed at 79-1 but the double loss of captain Sargeant (31) and Tom Dixon (37) halted the progress of the run chase somewhat and only 15-year-old Ollie Caswell reached double figures with a gritty 30 as the visitors were bowled out for 136.
The chase was hampered severely with a hand injury to the experienced Jack Hughes who was only able to bat low in the order and he will be hoping to be fit for Saturday’s visit of Billingborough.
On Sunday, the Wanderers Seconds, led by Adam Barker, started their Lincoln and District Division One campaign with an excellent nine-wicket victory over a strong Caythorpe side.
Chasing 153 for victory the Spa reached its total with the loss of just Brandan Laurenzi.
Fellow opener Henry Wilson (59 not out) and Harsha Vithana (60 not out) found the home surface to their liking as they showed some good early season form.
Earlier in the afternoon the Spa bowlers and fielders were themselves in good order with John Temperton, Sam Cooke and Tom Caswell the pick of the attack.