Setting the scene, a swirling angry mass of clouds had been seen hovering over the pavillion at Middleton Park and over most of Oxfordshire on the morning of the game. A few emails had hit the inboxes of the team from skipper Tim House that morning, saying the weather was holding but the chance of a game was “50-50 at best”. Several attempts had been made to contact the opposition to no avail, as they had already confidently set off in anticipation of a fine afternoon of cricket.
Would the weather hold? Well, yes it did for the toss at least, although walking back, our skipper’s face looked more grim than the skies above. Oh no, surely not, was the cry!! The toss was lost, so a long cold afternoon in the field beckoned for the Middleton team. Right on cue as we went onto the field of play, it darkened further and within 45 minutes the rain was falling, and did so on and off for most of the game. Credit was due to Invalids who offered to stay out in the field when it did worsen, and the scoreboard looked to be against them.
That aside, the game started on time, and the Invalids’ opening batsmen duly appeared at the crease. A slow start but then a fine ball by Paul Wordsworth took down the stumps with a reassuring thud like sound. The other opener was looking ominous and threatening with a fine straight back lift that looked well coached and classy, but masked an ability to bash the ball high into the heavens off the back foot. He did this with some gusto, hitting James Mitchell for a very impressive six that somehow managed to avoid the cars parked under the trees. No 3 had by then already been sent back to the pavilion (a fine catch taken by Martin Randall and second wicket for the Professor). It appeared James had tactically lulled the six hitting opener into a false sense of security, as he then bowled a bouncer at him that was beautifully hooked (a rare sight at Middleton) in the direction of the boundary. Suddenly, a wondrous and vibrant apparition appeared out of the gloom and rain; Paul Wordsworth taking the ball high and moving fast; catch of the month/season perhaps? The ground erupted, the gloom subsided and an early tea and rapid run chase and departure was discussed as being on the cards.
Wickets then fell aplenty. Their captain and stylish batsman managed a strong determined 36 before he had his off bail clipped by a beauty from Joe Moorman; ball of the month maybe. The middle order proceeded to collapse with 5 to 9 in the order managing 12 between them, thanks in no small part to some excellent Middleton bowling from Messrs Moorman, Simpson, Mitchell and House, ably supported by Martin Randall and Jim Watson. Invalids were at 99 for 9 at one stage, which meant the scoreboard had a wonderful symmetrical appearance the like of which may never be seen again. Another memorable moment was the no 7, (who had arrived via TrySports, and was fully clad in brand new kit), struck his first ball firmly, and was immediately run out by the MSCC skipper. Tim proved the age-old adage that you should never run on a (terrible) misfield; he recovered, gathered up the ball, spun round, threw hard and hit the stumps directly.
A reversal in fortune then followed for Middleton, as the no. 10 was still there, and he set upon the tiring bowling and managed to notch up a rapid 44, ably assisted by an obdurate number 11. Middleton needed 150 exactly to win.
The tea that followed was a great relief for the chilled, no I mean chilled, fielders, as there were hot sausages, hot sausage rolls, a delightful Victoria Sponge (courtesy of Mrs. Simpson) who said she had to make it on the day. The explanation she gave was if it was made the day before, it would have been eaten by the male occupants of the house, who shall remain nameless; but you know who you are!!!
The run chase towards the 150 then followed. A fine start from the two openers, with the skipper leading from the front, well supported by Tim Riley. 60 without loss was on the board, and a few more followed until Mr. Riley was bowled for 29. This brought Jay Mumtaz to the wicket having spent some time considering, and debating, which of his fine collection of bats he would use. He batted steadily until he was caught attempting to hit over the top. Mark Ford Langstaff, in at his usual no 4, then batted with his customary determination with a couple of fine 4s, until he was out on 16. Then, with the end almost in sight, the skipper was out LBW on 48, and MSCC were 119 for 4, with 7 overs to go, and two new batsmen at the crease. The opening quick bowler came back on, and was supported by a very good left arm spinner, who has already taken 3 wickets (and who had also been their unexpectedly strong number 10 batsman). A solid steady endgame was then played out with Middleton reaching the 150 needed with 8 balls to spare and Messrs Moorman and Jackson finishing on 20 and 14 not out respectively, both batting confidently and calmly to the end.
A great game played in bad conditions, in a great spirit with a close ending. The pavilion welcomed the damp players back in, with all the electric fires burning away, giving off a warm and welcome afterglow. A fine team effort by all, and enjoyed by both teams.
S A Jackson