Law Society – 85 AO
MSCC – 86/6
MSCC Win by 4 Wickets
M. Adams – 33 A. Silverman 26 NO
R. Simpson – 5/18 Extras 15
G. Williams – 2/12
M. Simpson – 2/16
All week the weather threatened to cut short the season for many players who were due to play their last game against the Law Society. Fortunately, once again the Middleton Micro Climate shone through and a beautiful late summers day reined down on Northern Oxfordshire. Games against the Law Society have been dating back nearly 40 years and are always played in good spirits and competitively. Certainty the game was played in very high spirits, however I think the LS would have preferred to have made it a little more competitive, however no one had banked on a Middleton team who would hold all of their catches and bowl and field as well as they have ever done.
With players arriving from all over the country, Matt Adams, the Law Society skipper for the day and also long serving fixture secretary was the local boy having only made his way from Abbingdon. As he and I strolled out to the middle to toss we admired the lush green grass of the outfield and the tinged green top of the pitch. For me at least, having chased down 200 the week before on a similar pitch and conditions, and with my fast bowlers growling at me to field or else, there was only going to be one decision should I have won the toss. Fortunately, Matt had other ideas and having won the toss himself decided to bat! I did admit that I would have also asked them to bat had I in fact been the better tosser, and so the pantomime that is captains tossing had only led to an even later start time of 1:10pm…..
The news that we would be fielding first was met with ecstasy (the legal one) from the Middleton bowlers until they saw Miles Picknett and his cohort stroll out to bat and we all remembered that if Miles got in, this could be a long afternoon. We were also joined out in the field by Dan Simpson who as 12th man offered to umpire for as much of the match as he could - I always liked Dan!
Most decisions over the course of the afternoon were easy and throwing the cherry to George Williams, wearing his Oxfordshire County Shirt with pride (not the only one on the field), and back from spells away playing county cricket and holidaying. George proceeded to bowl the best spell of bowling that we had seen from him at Middleton. His line and length were on the whole spot on and he started off with a maiden over. From the Church End, Tim Cranston took the second over and as is customary bowled some nice gentle away swing whilst he found his rhythm and warmed his back up. George’s second over was something very special……. He started with two out swingers that just missed the edge of the #1 batsman’s bat followed by (in my humble opinion) the ball of the season, which swung in, pitched on middle and seamed away to take the top of off for what was reminiscent of Jimmy Anderson in full flow (George even admitted to not knowing what the ball had done as he wasn’t looking!). Law Society 2/1. Tim continued from the other end was now starting to find his line, which was fortunate as we had a 7-2 field with two (very) silly mid offs (Simpson M and R giving each other slip practice between balls), 2 slips, a gully and a backward point. Fortunately TC dispelled with this line and length rubbish bowled a rank long hop, only for it to be smeared to Jon Springer in at backward point who clung onto the ball at the 3rd time of asking. This was quickly followed by a sensational catch by Richard Simpson at silly mid off, but this time off the bowling of George Williams. In the book it says Ct R. Simpson, Bowled G Williams. And as I have already described, George was bowling as well as Glen McGrath to pretty much every English right handed batsmen he had ever bowled against and Richard took a catch that would have rivalled anything that Ben Stokes had caught all summer. It was hit with real purpose by the batsmen, straight to Rich who just managed to keep it up by getting his fingers underneath the ball. What it doesn’t say in the book was that it was a full toss! George had two and LS were now 13/3.
Unfortunately George was limited to just a 6 over spell and finishing with figures of 6-2-12-2. The good news is that this gave Simmo the chance to come out of Middleton retirement (well where has he been all season?) and show us what the Bicester boys had been enjoying. He proceeded to bowl extremely tightly to continue where George had left off. He did however get lofted for what must be one of the biggest 6’s I have seen at Middleton Park, straight over deep mid-on and almost clearing the roller at the Heyford End. As we all admired the stroke and then commented on how much further this 6 had gone compared to MFL’s the pervious week. Mark made sure we were all aware that “it wasn’t as straight though!”. Mike eventually got his revenge, as the same batsmen then holed out to Alex Silverman at midwicket. The catch was never in doubt as far as the other 10 Middleton men were concerned. Alex on the other hand knew something that we did not……….he had never actually held onto a catch before for MSCC………..fortunately today, he did! From one classically trained artist to an another as Alex’s catch brought to the wicket the LS’s skipper, Matt Adams, who proceeded to show us what a right handed David Gower might have looked like.
Just as Tim was finding his “Wheels”, he was replaced by Richard Simpson, who continued where he left off the week before, complementing Simpson Sr, with a fantastic display of tandem spin bowling that England can only dream of in the forthcoming series against Pakistan in the Middle East. When Matt Adams came to the crease the score was 26/4 and he and the #4 batsmen, Frape, started to knock the ball around and put on the LS’s highest partnership. It was eventually ended when Mike took his second wicket thanks to an LBW decision, the score now 55-5. The new batsmen brought with him a bowling change in that Mike Simpson was replaced by yet another fantastic spin pair, but this time it was Jason Williams who accompanied Richard in an all legspin attack – something we are unlikely to ever see England do again, have they done it before? Where’s Simon Lee when you need him!
Richard started to have their batsmen in all kinds of trouble, and Jason bowled as well as I have seen him bowl keeping his end very tight whilst wickets began to tumble as Richard took advantage of conditions. Richard bowled their numbers 7 and 8 batsmen, one was a seemly unplayable ball that turned so hard it could be heard ripping off the pitch from midwicket, pitching around leg and hithing off stump. This was then followed by the first of his two LBW decisions. As we know umpires have always liked to show a bit of personality with their signalling and decision-making. Dan Simpson, having studied the laws of the game all season is no different. However unlike Rudi Koertzen’s slow arm, death signal or Steve Bucknor’s, seemly infinite contemplation, Dan has decided on the John Wayne shoot ‘em up method of umpiring. The ball hit the pad, and seemingly in pure telepathy with his brother (knowing there was probably a chance he was going to appeal) his finger was up as quick as it takes his dad to drink a bottle of red wine, even before Richard could start his appeal or Tim House could lead the close fielders in the biggest appeal of the day. The man was of course plumb LBW, but I dare say he would have liked at least the gesture of contemplation! With a view to opening it up a little I asked MFL to warm his arm up in case Richard went wicketless in his next over. Sadly, all this did was to boost Richard’s competitive spirit and having taken another fine catch, this time off his own bowling, to remove the LS’s skipper for an extremely graceful top score of 33, he eventually finished off the innings with another LBW shout which brought up his 2nd consecutive 5 wicket hall. Eventually finishing with figures of 9-0-5-18.
The Law Society All Out for 85, 30 mins before tea. Middleton’s bowling and fielding were immaculate with special note to Jason Williams, firstly for his bowling and being so unlucky not to get a wicket and secondly for the only miss field of their innings which involved him trying to stop the ball with his boot but only succeeding in kicking it 30 yards in the wrong direction which cost us a run.
I agreed with the LS captain that we would have a 20 minute spell batting before tea, needing 86 to win. As is now customary, we did it last season as well, Jon Springer and I opened the batting, being our respective last games of the season. My intention was to go out and have a swing knowing that we had an exemplary batting line up to come. Also knowing that Catie Williams and Jon himself had made the teas and there would a good selection of Gluten Free cakes for me! Note to all – please make me GF cakes in the future – THANKS! Unfortunately, having smashed 3 fours to all parts of the ground, it was Jon who then picked out their square leg (who sadly could catch) and he was the one enjoying the cakes at tea. 22-1. He did stick around long enough to see me hit my first 4 of the day (the fact that it was also my first 4 and last of the season is irrelevant) which was a lovely lofted on drive over the head of Mid On. I think someone mentioned shot of the day, or was it season? Anyway, Nick Moorman and I safely guided us to tea with no further losses.
Tea was of course a fantastic affair with cakes and sandwiches etc and did I mention the gluten free cakes?!! Thank you to the Williams and Springer gangs for preparing and clearing up.
After tea we set out making a little heavier work of chasing the small total than we would have liked. I was given out LBW (my nemesis) by Dan Simpson (the batsmen’s nemesis) for 10. Which brought to the crease Alex Silverman. Alex and Nick put on 20 odd before Nick was caught, bringing man in form, MFL to the crease. Mark was extremely unlucky not to get 100 the previous week and even more unlucky to hole out for a 4 ball duck this time around. He was closely followed by George Williams who made a 2 ball duck, which brought to the crease Mr Dependable, Jason Williams. As wickets tumbled at the other end, Mr Silverman set out despatching the LS men to all corners of the ground. The last time he played in the fixture he was unfortunately hit by the ball whilst running between wickets, which broke his hand, so he had a score to settle. And settle he did with an unbeaten 26, mostly run in 2’s! He was accompanied at the end by Tim House who finished Not Out 0, and who kindly allowed Alex to hit to winning runs.
A lovely late summers day, against wonderful opposition. An emphatic Middleton Win and talk of a trophy in years to come to mark our 40th anniversary of playing against the Law Society.
Thank you to all those who played and supported, it was a pleasure.