The Army Lions cricketers defeat the RAF’s development side by 57 runs in Aldershot.
Winning the toss and choosing to bat first, the home side recovered from 6-4 before setting their opponents 205 to win. The airmen, however, fell short in the run chase. The fixture marked a switch from white-ball, T20 cricket to red-ball, 50-over affairs for the forces players on show. Despite no silverware being at stake, the clash between the service teams still had a feeling of intense Inter-Services rivalry about it, with the home side eager to post a competitive target. But with just six runs on the board, the airmen set about dismantling the Army’s top order. Wes Hurn nicked a John Hawk delivery into the gloves of wicket keeper Rob Smith and the home side was one down. Hawk then dismissed Liam Fletcher next ball as the batsman spooned one into the clutches of Dan Walker. Army skipper Tom Lester survived the hat-trick ball but two deliveries later, he was gone – Hawk bamboozling his opponent to continue the RAF’s perfect start.
Moments later, team-mate Dan Weldon joined in on the wicket-taking action, trapping Dan Tottle lbw. The batsman was left bemused, looking on in disbelief with his team reeling at 6-4. With the visitors keeping the pressure on, the home side looked unlikely to set a decent score. Somehow the innings kept going, thanks mainly to Viv Naker. He kept the score ticking along without striking too many boundaries, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) man making a vital 70 for his side and crucially, keeping them in the contest. By the time Naker departed, Nick Schofield was able to pick up the tempo for his team. He raced to 50 as the Army set a score of 204-9 by the conclusion of the innings – a score that had been inconceivable after such a torrid start. In contrast, the airmen made a solid start with the reply. They had enjoyed steady progress before Hurn made the breakthrough, with Tom Berzins out lbw leaving the score 42-1.
With Rob Smith at the crease and going well, the visitors appeared to be in control. Smith saw his side past 100 with the loss of two wickets but when he was out, after ballooning a mistimed shot which was gleefully caught by Lester, the innings started to crumble. The spin of Fletcher had the Air Force in all sorts of bother and the innings went into free fall. In fact, the Airmen slumped from 102-3 to 144-9 as the Army completed an impressive turnaround. Fletcher claimed his fifth victim of the match as the Air Force fell short of the target by 57 runs, their last six batsmen adding just 20 runs to the cause, concluding an afternoon of contrasting fortunes. The Army Lions continue their season next week when they host the Royal Navy’s development side. Army Lions captain LCpl Tom Lester saw first-team standard bowling from the young cricketers. He told Forces Network:
“There’s lads who are brand new today, who I’ve not really seen before – and I’m really, really impressed.”
The RAF’s skipper, Corporal Danny Gough, was positive about his team’s performance in the first half but realised they were outplayed in the second half. He said: “We had a good chance to bowl them out earlier but they had a couple of lads that batted really well. “[They] deserve the score that they got.”