Late September, and yet there was sun in the sky, warmth in the air, and an end-of-term excitement around the ground as MSCC prepared for the last hurrah of the season. The pitch looked amazingly good, despite the recent terrible weather, offering hope for those looking for batting targets and encouragement for the hopeful leading wicket takers.
However, MSCC were facing Gloucestershire Gipsies, always a strong side. Two years ago, they had chased down a total near 170 with three balls to spare (remember that) and last year had been a close fought draw. The Gipsies have an admirable record of “going for it” against MSCC, and this year was to be no different.
MSCC chose to bat first, sending in two of the three Tims, Riley and House. Once again they got off to a steady start, the latter passing his personal milestone of 4 to take the lead in the season’s run scoring race. They both played well, put on fifty plus for the first wicket, (Tim House caught for 30) and seemed to pave the way for an imposing total.
Tim Riley remained at the crease in partnerships with Mark Ford-Langstaff (9) and Jay Mumtaz (8), but the Gipsies had upped their game and slowed the run rate down. Fortunately, for MSCC, Tim Riley had moved to a chanceless 50 when the collapse arrived.
The score stuttered from 101 for 2, to 112 for 7 as Howard Lancaster, Mike Simpson, Adrian Langdale and our latest re-recruit, Nick Williams were undone by the experienced spin attack.
Tim Cranston arrived at the crease with his mind surely on wicket taking (needing two to become the leading strike bowler for the club this year). But his well-founded status as a MSCC all-rounder now shone through at exactly the right time, and he battered the attack, with a 29 ball, 32 not out. At the other end, the opening batsman, Tim R had also raised the tempo, and ended on a stylish, yet gritty, 88 not out, thereby finishing, as he had started, with a 50+ run Tim-Tim partnership. 176 for 7 declared seemed to be an appropriate total.
Middleton Stoney teas are always worth waiting for, and we were treated to a real feast thanks to the Cranston family and Rona Hickman. The proof was in the pudding as the Gipsies delayed their innings in favour of enjoying the treats on offer.
Bowling decisions could have been tricky for the skipper Simon Lee for this game. He started the day needing one wicket to draw level at the top of the season’s wicket takers, but then again, Tim Cranston only needed the two, Michael Simpson just the five…
Nick Williams had seemingly been given a twenty-nine year rest between overs, so he should have been fresh as a daisy when Simon Lee asked him to share the new ball with (unselfishly) Tim Cranston. You could immediately tell that Nick had bowled here before as he settled into an incredibly effective rhythm and conceded very few runs off his 11 overs. Welcome back.
The early damage was caused by these two; at 24 for 4, everyone in the MSCC camp was happy as both had taken two wickets, Tim C had reached his aforementioned personal milestone (and later passed it with 4 wickets, all bowled) and the Gipsies looked in real trouble.
But they rallied and an onslaught began, with two of their talented batsmen moving to, and near, 50’s in quick time. Simon Lee had tried his hand/arm, in an attempt to stem the run rate (which he did) and reach that elusive 20th wicket for the season (which he didn’t).
There was a sigh of relief when the next wicket fell, and MSCC possibly fell into a state of “organised loafing” for a while, having noticed that the required run rate had crept towards the realms of improbability. But that state of laissez-faire was soon shattered as the Gipsies’ skipper, another from the Beer clan, came out to bat with purpose (to win), power (six out of his ten scoring strokes being boundaries) and timing, as he swatted a six to win the game, with three balls remaining.
That was quite a run chase, in the gloom, but nothing less is expected when you play a Beer-led Gloucestershire Gipsies side.
A thoroughly enjoyable game to finish off an entertaining and progressive season for MSCC.
Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed so much, especially to the unsung heroes who come to the games, help around the club, volunteer for teas before being asked, ditto the barbeques, clear up after a game and genuinely make Middleton Stoney Cricket Club a welcoming place to visit and a pleasure to be part of.