A 2nd consecutive away fixture found us travelling to Roald Dahl territory at Great Missenden to take on the Pelicans.
The Captains cunning ploy of an e-mail call to arms for a 2 o clock start to encourage timely arrival for the actual 2.30 pm start time was largely ignored, particularly by skipper for the day Jon Springer who arrived just in time to participate in the toss at 2.20pm. Volunteers for a stand-in for the stand-in were thin on the ground but thankfully Jon made it in the nick of time and duly triumphed at the flip of the coin, putting us in to bat.
So 10 vs. 10 was the order of the day. Last week’s top scorer Richard Simpson was unavailable (for football reasons) but with in-form opener Dan Simpson eyeing the shortish pavilion side boundary on his walk to the crease with new opening partner Chris Nourse, the sun shining and the outfield looking quick, the team settled on the balcony to welcome a challenge to last weekend’s Usain Bolt like start . The writer was still gasping for air at promotion to the rarified atmosphere of a number 3 slot when ball number 1 to Dan had more changes of direction than the Kennedy bullet, promptly dislodged an off-stump and he found himself heading in to bat. Subsequent discussions with the bowler revealed he had absolutely no idea how he had conjured up this miraculous delivery but nonetheless 0-1 after 0.1 overs gave the scoreboard a rather binary look.
The pronounced slope of the pitch was providing challenging batting conditions early doors with their other opening bowler exploiting some decent bounce up the hill and the ball keeping low going down the slope but the score had crept up to 16 in the 6th over when Chris having advanced to 6 was given out more for the look of sheer guilt on his face than the feather to the keeper. Jon to the crease and a pugnacious start, 4 dot 4, got the scoreboard advancing. First ball of the 8th over and an attempt to tickle a leg side ball round the corner caught a bottom edge and dollied up to the keeper to bring about the writer’s demise for 8 and 3 down quickly became 4 as Will came and went in the same over for 4. 28/4 and new man, Tim’s friend, Matt Dipple in. More of a bowler than a batsman he had advised pre-match but equally importantly he had brought along his young lady who was proving a rather professional (coloured pens and everything), if overworked scorer (in the wickets column at least). Change of umpires brought numbers 1 and 3 batsman in to undertake white coat duty and Dan immediately earnt himself an afternoon of 3rd man to 3rd man duties by triggering the skipper. Plumb as plumb could be according to Dan and Jon with statesmanlike gravitas, worthy of a skipper departed with no comment (possibly). With the score at 33/5 in the 10th over and opposition talk of a 20/20 game an early return to Oxfordshire beckoned.
Liam Randall was in next prompting a polite enquiry from the opposition as to whether they should go easy on the young man. Politely declined on his behalf by Dan (and fully endorsed by his father) who instead instructed them to try their utmost to “pin him” in the best interests of character building etc.
The afternoon took a turn for the better at this stage when after nervously seeing off the oppositions number 3 left arm slow bowler (one of those you know you shouldn’t but invariably are more than likely to get out to) a useful partnership began to emerge. Matt, proving his earlier comments were pure modesty took the lead and ably assisted by Liam, after surviving an easyish dropped catch, saw the coloured pens whirring into action and the score ratchet upwards. Surpassing the Aussies first innings total of 60 at Trent Bridge was met with a cheer from the boundary line and soon the 50 partnership had been comfortably passed with Matt’s own half century quickly following. Even an attempt to stem the flow of runs by bringing back the opening bowlers was met with short shrift as Liam took consecutive boundaries off their main man who eventually finished with figures of 6/33. Liam eventually fell on 25 at which stage an air of respectability had returned to the scoreboard with three figures comfortably passed. Matt then went on the charge, one mighty six arrowing in towards Tim’s daughter, obliviously facing away from the action, may have tested their friendship but for the intervention of yours truly in what proved to be Middleton’s best fielding moment of the afternoon. Tim and Olly came and went bringing Simon, another promotee (from 11 to 10) coming in to join Matt as tea approached. 158/8 was reached as the strawberry sponge emerged from the fridge at which point the skipper opted for an aggressive declaration, thus denying Matt (84 not out) the chance of a well deserved ton on debut.
After 10 overs of the Pelicans innings and the score at 14/2 Jon’s decision looked an excellent one. Olly had taken two (one bowled and an LBW that had a hint of umpire’s revenge about it as I don’t think the ball was out of Olly’s hand before the finger went up) and both he and Tim were bowling superbly. Nothing there for the batsmen to hit and Tim could count himself incredibly unlucky to remain wicketless in his spell. The openers were replaced by Simon and Liam which coincided with the arrival of a big-hitting number 3 and the onset of some poorish fielding. Down to 9.5 fielders as the writer’s right foot gave up in protest at two games in a weekend we were briefly buoyed by Jon taking a smart catch off Liam’s bowling. Debatable whether thigh-pad or glove but a polite enquiry saw the end of their number 4 who was so aggrieved he sent his father out to square leg to heckle the awarding official shortly afterwards. 90 runs required off the customary final 20 but one-way traffic unfortunately as Pelicans knocked the runs off for no further loss of wicket and 8 overs to spare as the Middleton bowling attack struggled to contain the number 3 who finished on 81 not out. Highlight of the final session was the Pelicans umpire (and wicketkeeper) hoisting his artificial leg head high to signal leg-byes to a rather hard of hearing scorer/colleague.
Bowling figures Olly 2/53, Tim 0/23, Simon 0/30, Liam 1/20, Matt 0/26 and Will 0/2.
Thereafter followed a lovely BBQ before hitting the road. Nice ground, lovely company, game played in the right spirit. Look forward to a rematch next year.