A year ago, Mike Simpson concluded his understated report of our 9 wicket victory over regular Yorkshire tourists, Blue Lion, by claiming that ‘We look forward to welcoming the Blue Lion back to MSCC in 2015.’ Mike glossed over the match-winning performance of Richard Simpson, five wickets and an unbeaten century at number three, let alone my non-bowling, non-batting captaincy, but did rightly praise the supporting role of Dan Savin, who took two wickets and scored 40 not out.
This year, we welcomed Blue Lion without having Richard or Dan or reporter Mike in our team. Amidst nine changes, only Olly Selway and myself played for Middleton Stoney in both the 2014 and 2015 sides. As captain David Cole pointed out in his post-match speech, on one view we only lost this year’s game by 8 wickets and therefore over the two years we are one wicket ahead. The view from Yorkshire, however, was that we lost by 10 wickets, so they are one ahead.
The scale of our defeat was not the only controversy of the day. Our skipper won the toss, considered the monsoon conditions of the morning, the forecast of good weather later in the day, the strength of the opposition and the advice of all and sundry to bowl, but then decided to bat first. Not everyone agreed with this decision, especially with the benefit of hindsight.
Tim House was soon well caught by their keeper down the leg side and walked, much to the surprise of umpire Paul Wordsworth. The other umpire, Olly Selway, then gave our other opener out leg before wicket, much to the surprise of batsman Nick Moorman. Nick was so far down the wicket, he could have whispered his reaction to Olly.
A change of umpires was called for and the middle order began to build our innings. Jon Springer was our mainstay with a fine 56, including a powerful 6. Jon was possibly reacting to an email from club secretary, Jason Williams, encouraging supporters to attend this match by describing Jon, the club’s vice-captain, as well as David Cole, the club captain, as short of runs recently. In an otherwise bleak June for Middleton Stoney, Jon had already scored 79 against Steeple Aston and 60 against South Oxfordshire Amateurs.
Jon was well supported by Nick Crossley (13), Mark Ford-Langstaff (14) and Paul Wordsworth (12) who each survived for some time against an impressive bowling attack. J Hatchard, for instance, came on as Blue Lion’s second change and only conceded runs off two deliveries out of his first five overs. Blue Lion used eight bowlers, six of whom took a wicket.
Coming in at number eight with twenty minutes to go before the normal time for tea, Wil Harris made an adventurous 31, before being run out. Sathya Vadivale, David Cole and Olly Selway scored 1 each, the last two being not out when the captain declared at 5.10, with tea having been delayed to accommodate our struggle to reach a competitive total.
If tea had been put back by another hour, if we had batted on, if we had survived and if we had doubled our score, we might still have lost. Instead of which, Blue Lion were chasing 165 for 8 declared. Olly Selway (7 overs, 0 for 42) and Simon Lee (7 overs, 0 for 36) opened the bowling but Blue Lion’s opening batsmen were untroubled by this pairing or by our first change bowlers. Paul Wordsworth and Sathya Vadivale. The latter was the most economical (5 overs, 0 for 25) and the most threatening until Wil Harris almost took two wickets caught and bowled while Nick Crossley, Jon Springer and Mark Ford-Langstaff all bowled well for four lively overs between them when Blue Lion were close to their target. By now, their numbers three and four were at the crease, their openers having retired after scoring glorious fifties (R Carr 69 not out, D Watson 63 not out).
The Laws of Cricket suggest their innings should be recorded as retired out (Law 2, 9 b), in which case it was a narrow victory by eight wickets, whereas the spirit of the day was that, as our eight bowlers didn’t actually take any wickets, it seemed more like a ten wicket defeat.
We are not ones to indulge in stereotypes but, having now lost to two Yorkshire touring teams in June, this match was like playing against a bowling attack consisting of Fred Trueman, Jason Gillespie, Bob Appleyard, Bill Bowes, Ray Illingworth, Hedley Verity, Wilfred Rhodes and George Hirst, when they were at their respective peaks, then in turn bowling to Geoffrey Boycott and Len Hutton, with Brian Close and Darren Lehmann to follow.
We also managed to lose to three clubs from closer to home in June. So we have every chance of having as good a season this year as last if we win all our games in July, August and September.
All-round performances by Jon Springer and Wil Harris were highlights for us, as were the great crowd, the magnificent annual village barbecue before the game, the wonderful Vadivale tea and a well-paced Moorman barbecue after the match. So some of us enjoyed three meals in between being slaughtered by Blue Lion. Many thanks to all the chefs and to the bar team of Tim Cranston and Simon Pettit who served throughout the day.
Well played, Blue Lion. We look forward to welcoming you back to Middleton Stoney in 2016.