The Middleton Stoney – Didcot fixture is in its second year. 2016 heralded the introduction of the two clubs with a double header that saw MSCC victorious on both occasions, but only after the victors had chased down an imposing 240+ score. Didcot knew what lay in store.
Simon Coates, the affable and conscientious captain of Didcot started the build-up to the 2017 game in probing and subtle form (much like his opening bowlers when their time came) by inquiring which, if any, of the 2016 victorious MSCC players would be selected, and hinting that Didcot may be slightly under-strength this year.
Simon Lee, our equally affable and conscientious captain chuckled, and picked a team that would hopefully replicate 2016. The game was afoot.
MSCC chose to bat and sent in the latest debutant to the club, Charles Olver, with Tim House. An elegantly crafted opening partnership of 32 ensued, at three an over. It might have been more had the rains not slowed the outfield and if someone had been minded to warn the newcomer that sumptuous drives along the floor seldom reached the boundary at Middleton Stoney in such conditions. Running them is less embarrassing than admiring them as they stop a yard from the rope and then scurrying a single.
When Tim was out for a well-crafted 20, who would have thought that his obvious disappointment could have lasted until the match fees had to be collected…
Richard Simpson joined the fun, and as Didcot’s talented opening bowlers tired slightly, he reverted to form, peppering the boundary and prompting Charles Olver to replicate the aggression at the other end. The two soon departed however (for 27 and 30), leaving MSCC at 85 for 3 off 20 overs.
Jon Springer’s welcome return to the club saw him link up with Jay Mumtaz, and the two of them set about Dicot with the power you would associate with all three. Despite pretty fine bowling, they added 67 in good time, and Jon raced to yet another half century. When he was out, with the score at 152, Didcot may have felt they had done the hard part well.
However, Joe Moorman is a man in form and with his usual elegance and reach, his chanceless 30 helped add another 60 onto the score card alongside Jay, who eased his way to 47 before neglecting to hog the strike, thereby missing out on what would have been a well-deserved half century.
200 plus at tea, all the batsmen contributing, and the prospect of a Peter and Judy tea made for a happy break.
Dan Simpson has very kindly volunteered to play for Didcot when they were in need of reinforcements, and there were smiles all round as he strolled out to open the batting, especially from his younger brother who unexpectedly opened the bowling.
But the plan predictably backfired miserably and Richard failed to dismiss his brother. In those first two overs, he took 2 for 2 instead which might have made up for it, especially as both batsmen had been advised by Dan, at length, as they came to the crease, how to play his brother’s spin. Champagne.
James Mitchell got the “unlucky” end and although he bowled with rhythm and pace, he was unlucky not to add to his wickets this year, although 7 overs for 7 runs had a fair ring to it.
When Tim Cranston joined the attack, his bowling prowess (not batting this weekend) helped to reduce Didcot to a potentially early dinner, and twenty minutes in, at 10 for 4, Jay’s tandoori marinated chicken (great recipe by the way) was being laid out in readiness for the culinary master class that Simmo was ready to demonstrate on the BBQ.
But Didcot gritted their teeth and the middle order looked stubborn. Even if they couldn’t chase down the imposing total, they were going to do their best to see the game out. Simon Lee prised out their most determined young player for a gutsy 25, (it turned; just saying) and Tim Cranston was then brought back into the attack and repaid his captain’s intuition with another two wickets, bringing him dangerously close to a fifer and a jug.
MSCC nipped out seven of the Didcot team when they threw the ball for the last over to Tim C in an unlikely attempt to win the match or for the possibility of seeing him take the five wickets he deserved. No miracle on the former. His, and the last ball of the match however, found the edge, flew towards, … and then past the slips. Game drawn and fair enough, as MSCC batted well, and Didcot never gave up.