Richard Simpson’s average for this season is now 259 but that’s enough about his bowling. No, it’s his batting average after four games in which he has scored 128 not out at number 5, 22 not out batting at 8, 41 not out at number 6, and now back to 5 he was out for 68. So we are expecting great things when he resumes his position as an opener.
That said, today’s openers Steve Jackson and Dan Simpson looked comfortable, as did Graeme Delaney at 3. They were all out caught, unlike skipper Jon Springer who was bowled for a duck. Tim House and George Williams supported Richard with 18 and 16. Tim was bowled by an unusual delivery. Our best ever number 8, apart from Richard Simpson last week, then strode out to the crease. Mike Simpson was our secret weapon. He strode back for a duck, whereupon Jason Williams was out first ball. Simon Lee thwarted the hat-trick and was not out on 9, with Oliver Selway not out on 1 when the captain declared at tea.
And what a tea we had, thanks to Patricia Lee, Georgina Lamb and George Lamb who between them produced the food, the look, the sound and the atmosphere of Victory in Europe in 1945 and of victory in the Victory Tests v the Australians that summer. There had been a suggestion by the grounds manager that tea could have been taken outdoors, in the style of a 1945 street party. This was given short shrift by curmudgeonly captain Jon Springer who insisted that tea had been eaten here indoors since 1801 and it would take more than a Victory in Europe to justify departing from this tradition.
During our innings, some words had been exchanged between Richard Simpson and a Toad. So there was some VE style celebrating when this particular Toad edged the first ball of their innings from Olly Selway to Tim House. Perhaps a line from the Vera Lynn song we heard during tea had a subliminal influence although ‘Tell them I won’t be long’ might have been used by various batsmen on both teams.
Tim House kept brilliantly, taking three catches and stumping their leading run scorer. George Williams was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 28 off 9 overs. Olly Selway took 1 for 25 off 8, Mike Simpson 0 for 13 off 6, Simon Lee 1 for 12 off 5, Richard Simpson 1 for 13 off 6, Jason Williams 0 for 10 off 2 and Graeme Delaney 1 for 4 off 1. There were two other catches and a run out. Richard Simpson caught a skier and Jason Williams caught a thumping shot off Graeme Delaney’s opening Dambuster of a delivery, another brilliant bowling change by canny captain Jon Springer.
Perhaps the best fielding, however, was needed to dismiss Stuart Frith for 15, after his partnership with the Toads’ top scorer, Thompson (later stumped for 38 by Tim House off the bowling of Richard Simpson), had saved the game for the Toads. Taking two to Richard Simpson was taking a liberty too far. Richard was fielding in a neighbouring constituency but threw in hard to the bowler’s end where George Williams gathered the ball well and took off the bails. There was a slight suspicion that Stuart Frith, normally as sprightly as Graeme Delaney, eased up like Usain Bolt in the 100 metres final in the Beijing 2008 Olympics although in this case because he (Stuart, not Usain) wanted to get on the road back to Harrogate. Fogden and Chubb played out time.
George Williams is not quite as quick with the barbecue as with the ball but he completed a good all-round day by working hard to feed people five and six times his age. Mind you, he was also five or six times older than other customers as a feature of the day was the number of babies, toddlers and other young children who supported the Toads. Their mothers and a worried home team managed to keep these young visitors safe even when Richard Simpson was batting and threatening the boundary. Greg Pearson, former captain of Middleton Stoney, took on a full team of two year olds in the nets. The Club President, Ian Davenport, and his wife, Julia, graced us with an appearance on his birthday, as they do almost every week of the season. The weather was dull but not the company.
So this was a good day in Middleton Park. As so often, it was the extras which made it special – the extra atmosphere which comes from yet another first class themed tea, following on from the Delaney 60th birthday champagne tea last week, from the fabulous family support enjoyed by the opposition and indeed from the Extras section of our innings which accounted for half the difference between our totals. No Balls were a distant third with 7 but it wasn’t until the exit poll that anyone would have predicted that byes (20) would have out-performed wides (17). Perhaps the generous umpiring early on in the game was to blame as wide-ish deliveries were not called as wides even though they then by-passed the wicket-keeper and first slip. In contrast, we only gave away 2 runs through Extras.
Apart from the misguided attempt to sledge our one batsman who is averaging over 250, the Toads were good in the field, with some very smart catching and only one or two smart people dropping sharp chances. They were also scrupulously fair in umpiring when it came to decisions, if not with their cheerleading (eg ‘Come on boys, there’s two there’). Their captain was gracious enough, having won the toss, to put us in to bat, and to round off the day by thanking us for the game and especially for the tea. As we had come in for tea, of course, that Vera Lynn recording was playing ‘We’ll meet again’ which we hope is the case with the Toads ‘some sunny day’.