Kytes welcomed Predators (well that's what it said on the label, though it turned out to be more of a J1C Variety Pack) to Shizuoka for their first official trip to the ACO. Being a fool, the Captain decided to stick to an earlier commitment to bowl a max of 5 overs per bowler, which he'd volunteered before opening the can. Conditions were pretty much perfect, with high cloud and a gentle breeze. The Captain won the toss and snapped up the chance to bat first.
Toddler turned up late and slightly the worse for a late night out with the Predators the previous night, and was dropped down the order for his troubles. Alphonse and Pants strode and trotted out respectfully to open the innings, with Alphonse now confident in opening gear and determined to improve on his 93* vs Nagoya and bag his first Kytes ton.
Alphonse and Pants got the innings off to a flier, caning the early offerings from Francois and Robin for 44 runs in 6 overs, but when Pants lost his off stump to Robin, Leigh joined Alphonse and things came over all sedate. Morty and Punchoo tightened up even further and boxed Leigh in quite effectively till a loose low drive gave Andrew a sharp low catch at short extra cover.
In came the Captain to see Alphonse through to drinks on a respectable 90/2. Nick showed his interest in all this by heading off into Abekawa on his bike.
As so often, the break disrupts a partnership and the Captain was soon back on the Terrace, craftily yorked by Graeme after filching a hatful of wides in a stand of 55. The next few wickets came and went in something of a blur, as Kytes lost 6 wickets for 60 runs and Alphonse's score crept up to the magic 3 figures (in spite of batting with a bat that seemingly had no middle) and his frustration mounted as the prospect of being left stranded in the 90s drifted from [Highly Unlikely] to [Nailed On].
Suresh gifted Punchoo an easy catch, Brent hit a few sweeties before skying a pull (great catch, Asanka), Nathan was the latest "Yes.... No.... Sorry mate" victim, Nick sliced his favoured back-foot heave to cover before he could get going (well held, Suley) and Don Prelis played an awful limp flick round a straight one from Jeff.
No team collapses like Kytes.
Enter Doc Todd, back from the future and unlikely ever to be conceived by a delivery again. 3 times, Doc Todd dotballed the first five balls of the over. 3 times, Alphonse muttered "If he hits a single off the last ball, I'm not fakkin running!" 3 times, Doc Todd hit a single off the last ball. And 3 times, Alphonse, bless his little legs, fakkin ran.
Todd did at least manage to stay with Alphonse long enough for him to bring up his hundred (122 balls, 14x4), Kytes first ton in over 2 years. Congratulations, Matt!
His work done, and after one sumptuous pick-up onto the ground-golf ground, Toddler consented to a suicidal run to give Alphonse the strike, bringing The Grand Old Man to the crease. Andrew decided to play his trump card for the last over, bringing 12-year-old Liam on to bowl and testing the compassion levels of Alphonse on strike and your correspondent umpiring at the bowler's end. No mercy from the batsman, who tried to smack every ball out of Shizuoka, but your correspondent duly wilted, allowing a strike zone as wide as the pitch is long in order to ensure a swift and relatively painless end to the over.
Kytes finished on 214/9 from their 40 overs, with no-one besides Matt getting past 20. Not a bad total, but nowhere near what it should have been thanks to some pretty clueless batting in the middle order.
Morty (6-0-0-14) was easily the pick of the bowling, Punchoo's first spell also deserves mention and Jeff bowled well after a loose start.
With all that running around, poor little Alphonse's legs weren't up to opening the bowling, so the Captain gave the newbie to Suresh and Nick.
Jarrad and Suley were Predators' openers for the day. Suresh bowled his usual bag of "Cut me!"s and wobbly peaches and got one past Jarrad's uncharacteristic waft to leg in his second over. Suley was in good touch, but Nick had the Lone Tree End sewn up with an excellent new ball spell.
Morty joined Suley and these two made hay off Suresh while dotting back Nick's offerings. Suresh eventually got Suley leg before with some pad or bat first debate, but no argument from Suresh. Kytes' loaner Brent sent down two overs of wides to put Predators back on track but the next ten overs from Lalith and Alphonse tied things right back up again, with Alphonse bagging Jeff's wicket along the way. One play and miss by Jeff had Alphonse effing to be heard all the way to Kyushu. It is your humble correspondent's theory that Little Alphonse has to swear like this because if he held it all in, one day his little head would pop, like a zit, but redder.
The Captain and the Doc were next up with the ball and these two stuck to the run-a-ball requirement to keep Predators in check. Chanaka's charmed life was ended by a superb throw from the deep from Suresh and more sharp fielding quickly accounted for Asanka. Graeme tried to slog his way to victory but only managed a skied hoik back to the Captain. 6 down, 52 to win and one last change, Leigh and Nathan to bowl the last 8. The first 3 were on the mark and Leigh picked up the wicket of Andrew with a ridiculous half-tracker that somehow dipped onto the stumps. But the next 2 overs were positively flayed by Robin and Morty to take Predators home with 3 wickets and 17 balls to spare.
Morty (91 off 93, 11x4) also made the difference with the bat for Predators, solid and safe all the way through, offering only one half-chance, and then cutting loose at the end. Robin contributed 24 runs off 10 balls to their unbeaten partnership.
Morty also managed to raise the biggest cheer of the day with a lofted drive over mid-on that bounced twice before leaving a ball-shaped dent in the passenger door of the Doc's DeLorean.
One advantage of the Captain's generous offer to restrict Kytes' bowlers to 5 overs was that at least 8 Kytes got to bowl, and some who'd slipped out of the regular reckoning got a chance to force their way back into contention. Nick (5-1-0-16) and Lalith (5-1-0-14) duly did this with stingy, accurate spells, and Alphonse (5-2-1-11) also bowled excellently, but there too many wides and boundary balls in other spells to really crank the pressure up.
The fielding was top notch, with barely a fumble, and there was only one ridiculously hard (honest!) missed chance.
Thanks to Predators for a good, close match and good company during the match and the barbie afterwards. We look forward to seeing you again.
Thanks also to the various Kytes and Predators groupies that spent all or part of the day with us.
Man of the Match: Chris Mortimer - A tight spell with the ball to keep Kytes in check early on and barely a false stroke with the bat to see
Wombats Predators home. Sorry, Matt!