The 2nd XI’s impressive winning run was brought to an end at the weekend, losing by the slender margin of 3-wickets at home against a strong Box 2s side in what proved to be a low-scoring but high-quality contest.
Although Tom Bew (45) and Tony Trotman (35) came good for their side during the middle phase of the 1st innings, in the end Melksham were undone by a slow start and a tail end collapse, condemning them to a below-par total of 162. Although hosts showed tremendous fight in the 2nd innings to ensure the visitors would have to work hard for their victory, in the end Box who held their nerve; chasing down the target with 2 ½ over to spare and in the process usurping Melksham at the top of the Division 8 table.
Box certainly had the better of the opening of the innings despite failing to make an early breakthrough. Both opening bowlers produced tight opening spells which bogged down Melksham openers Daniel Carpenter (14) and Ian Doyle (24). Having made a paltry score of 41 by the 19th over, both batsmen were then bowled by Box’s first change bowlers soon after.
Thankfully Melksham’s fortunes would improve from this point, with the more progressive pairing of Trotman and Bew taking the game to Box. Both batsmen were able start finding the boundary more regularly, and by the 31st over the pair had steered Melksham to the solid position of 112-2, giving their side a great platform to push on from as the innings entered its final third.
Things would sadly unravel dramatically from this point onwards however. Trotman and Bew’s quickfire dismissals brought middle-order batsmen Dave Light and Matt Hunt to the crease. Both made solid starts to their innings, but when Light was bowled for 15 all hell would break loose for Melksham. Mark Mullis and Tom Watling were both dismissed for ducks to help Box Bowler Henry Gibbons claim a hattrick, before Steve Burns (2), Chris Long (6), and Andy Footner (0) were all sent back to the pavilion soon after in what proved to be a complete tail-end capitulation; all whilst Hunt was largely stranded at the other end.
A bowling performance of the highest quality would be required if Melksham were to have any chance of a successful defence. The early signs were encouraging, with 5 maidens from the 1st 8 overs being capped with a wicket from opening bowler Footner. Box remained resolute throughout the following overs though, reaching a score of 50-1 by the 15th over to give themselves the early advantage. Fortunately, Long popped up with 2 much-needed wickets for Melksham, ensuring that his side remained well in the contest.
The wickets dried up after this point, but thanks to a spirited effort from Melksham both with the ball and in the field so did the runs. After 35 overs Box had only 120 runs on the board; and when Trotman finally picked up Melksham’s 4th wicket soon after, there was suddenly real belief from the fielding side that they could yet force their way to an unlikely victory. A galvanised Melksham then picked up 3 quickfire wickets, including 2 in 1 over from Hunt; truly leaving the game in the balance. However, there was to be a final cruel twist, with Box’s number 9 Kevin Dolman smashing 12 runs in 3 balls to snatch the victory for Box.
Defeat leaves the 2s in 3rd place but just 5 points from top spot, setting up what promises to be a tasty matchup with 2nd placed Trowbridge 3s this coming weekend.