MSCC 130 All Out. Stragglers 80/7. Match Drawn.
Shakespeare (the Bradman of writing) died 400 years ago this week. As we stood fielding in the cold, our jumpers heavy with rain and the light fading, I wondered if he had ever made it the few miles from Stratford to Middleton Stoney in late spring. A day like today could easily have inspired “The Winter’s Tale.”
Stragglers of Asia, minus their skipper this year (he of several centuries on this ground) won the toss and put us in to bat. “As you like it” our captain Simon was heard to say and as it turned out our batters probably did enjoy the better conditions on a difficult day for run scoring.
Nick Moorman and Jon Pilgrim, on his welcome return to Middleton opened the batting and assessed the conditions. Stragglers' medium paced opening bowlers pitched the ball on a challenging length and it was difficult for the batsman to pierce a solid ring field. Hitting over the top was a regular temptation, even ‘Prodder’ went the aerial route on more than one occasion. Jon (4) was first to go and last season’s leading batsman, Richard Simpson then strode to the middle. The tempest that followed only lasted 10 balls but yielded 22 runs as Richard took on the two gentlemen of Stragglers and showed us what’s possible when you have a good eye, a heavy bat and the ability to rewrite the script. Unfortunately, he fell too soon, caught in the outfield for 22.
Mark Ford-Langstaff was next in and was quickly joined by Tim House following the dismissal of Nick, also caught in the deep (not a sentence you have to write very often). The score by now had progressed to 39/3 and a period of consolidation was in order. Cups of tea for all during the drinks break (have I mentioned how cold it was) were most welcome and clearly helped the batsmen who added 34 runs before the introduction of the lively T Vila led to an edge behind from Mark (16). Vila bowled very well for his figures of 5 for 22 although Tim played him superbly as he accumulated 38 runs before being caught. Alex Silverman had contributed 5 in this time and maybe it was the sight of Mike Simpson arriving at the crease in Tim’s spare jumper that contributed to Tim’s downfall.
Sathya Vadivale was next to the crease and had an excellent view as the umpire considered Simmo to be or not to be out LBW. Out it was (for a duck) and Simmo trudged back muttering something about slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Sat (14) and Paul Wordsworth (13) both fell to Vila but not before entertaining us with a very close run out that saw Sat diving for his ground. Shakespeare did mention an earthquake in Romeo and Juliet but it would be far too unkind to reference that here. Instead I shall quote Alex who said of Sat just as the bowler was running in to bowl, “He’s got it all.” Cue Sat’s stumps flying everywhere!
George Williams and Simon Lee took us to tea with one run apiece as Middleton reached 130 all out. Stragglers only conceded one extra in our innings, very impressive.
“Give them great meals of beef and iron and steel, they will eat like wolves and fight like devils.” (Henry V). It was raining by now and cold. Our priority was hot tea, cake and sandwiches rather than any metal based sustenance. Thankfully Tim, Lucy and Dodie House rather than Henry V were in charge and we enjoyed a marvellous tea complete with crustless sandwiches and a particularly good batch of chocolate brownies. Our thanks to the House family.
It looked for a time like the game might be abandoned due to the rain but it relented and we resumed just a few minutes later than normal. It was distinctly gloomy and more than one fielder with cold hands was seen praying that the hard new ball wouldn’t come anywhere near them. Nick Moorman missed a trick when he dived over a ball to avoid chasing it early on. Running warms you up, Nick!
George Williams and Paul Wordsworth opened the bowling and Paul was first to strike as he bowled one of the openers cheaply. George bowled particularly economically but it wasn’t until the introduction of Sathya that the next wicket fell. Opening his box of tricks early, Sat’s first ball was deadly accurate, didn’t spin (or pitch for that matter) and clean bowled the surprised batsman.
The next wicket was a comedy of errors that ended in a run out courtesy of quick thinking by Richard following a throw from George that had Tim falling over the wickets at his end.
3 wickets down and less than 30 on the board. Could Middleton press home the advantage? The world’s a pitch, and all men are merely players…..and each must play many parts. Simmo hadn’t played his part as a batsman but now with ball in hand (and a towel in the other to try to keep the ball dry) he was a force to be reckoned with. Rocking up to the wicket and sending down grenade after grenade the batsmen didn’t stand a chance. Two LBW victims were adjudged plumb in front by the umpire and Tim took a sharp chance behind the wicket to remove another. Simmo finished with 4 for 14 off 8 overs despite having only 10 fielders at one point as Alex left the field to start the BBQ.
Wickets were falling as steadily as the drizzle and with the required run rate creeping up, Stragglers batsmen decided that the better part of valor is discretion as they doggedly battled on. Even the late introduction of Nick Moorman bowling with pace to a test match field of four slips and a gully couldn’t bring about a breakthrough as Stragglers finished on 80 for 7 and amid much ado about nothing, settled for the draw.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Hopefully next year.
Mark Ford-Langstaff (inspired by William Shakespeare)