Barber in fine form as Gillingham start campaign with victory against Aylsham

Jordan Taylor batting for Swardeston, with airborne bowler Sean McCabe for Norwich in the Carter Cu

Jordan Taylor batting for Swardeston, with airborne bowler Sean McCabe for Norwich in the Carter Cup cricket final. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Gillingham travelled to Aylsham on Saturday to begin their 2017 campaign in Division Two East of the Norfolk League.

Both captains preferred to field first on an early season pitch and it was soon clear why as Gillingham, having been asked to bat by their hosts, were reduced to 6-3 within the first three overs.

Both Aylsham openers found significant movement in the air and off the pitch and offered few scoring opportunities.

Gillingham skipper Barber and Liam Smith were under significant pressure and took contrasting approaches to rebuilding the innings, Barber looking watchful to see off the openers whilst Smith sought to find the boundary and place some pressure back on the bowlers. Smith dominated the scoring in the following overs with a flurry of boundaries causing the home side some alarms, especially as the half-century partnership was brought up in just nine overs.

Smith pushed on whilst Barber continued to steadily accumulate and brought up a rapid 50 in the 19th over containing nine fours and one six. Smith’s aggression finally brought about the end of his innings, advancing past a wide delivery to be stumped for 54 but having dragged Gillingham right back into the game at 89-4.

From that point on Barber took over, astutely rotating the strike whilst punishing anything loose to keep the scoreboard moving. The total passed 100, then the 120 figure discussed as the minimum requirement on a challenging pitch as Barber brought up his half-century and continued to marshal the lower order as the total grew. Barber’s innings finally ended in the 32nd over, bowled for 59. The remainder of the lower order chipped in to secure the fourth batting point before the innings closed in the 40th over with the total at 166.

The Gillingham total looked above par given the playing surface and slow outfield and Aysham were soon under pressure as Rusted and Matt Smith gave few scoring opportunities in the opening overs, Rusted’s (1-17) movement too much for opener Hussein who was cleaned up in the fifth over. Bingham and Deller then progressed cautiously to see off the remainder of the openers’ spells before Deller, one of the few batsmen to time the ball well, tamely chipped Barber’s first ball to square leg for a fortunate dismissal.

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From that point on the Gillingham bowlers dominated with Barber and Le Versha (2-18) effectively ending any chance of a successful chase. With wickets falling at regular intervals it was only Aylsham opener Bingham who offered any resistance, facing 27 overs for 23 runs before becoming the seventh wicket to fall with the total at just 66. Barber capped a superb all round display with four wickets for 28 runs from his 10 overs. Jackman (2-3) and Stevens (1-4) then wrapped up the tail to dismiss the hosts for 91 and round off a strong performance in the field, securing a 75-run victory.

Gillingham host Southwold at Ringsfield on Saturday with a view to building a firm platform for the remainder of the season.