Last season's corresponding fixture saw a 135 run victory for Middleton. Keen for revenge a number of our younger opposition were to be found warming up (?) at 1.30, a full hour before scheduled commencement of the game. Admirable preparation but given the extremely warm weather perhaps home tactics of a later arrival and pre match sit on the bench chatting were a more appropriate and energy conserving preamble.
Middleton had arrived in dribs (Randall, Lee, Van de Kerkhof) and drabs (Simpsons R & M, Crossley, Willcock, Pettit and Morris (junior), hungover (Danny Clark) and in one case after the game had started and without trousers (Secretary Jackson). A sympathetic opposition player kindly provided a spare pair to prevent a visit to lost property.
The pitch was in tip top order and with sun forecast until at least 6 o clock, Messrs Van de Kerkhof and Pettit opened up the bowling. Season debutants Clark, Crossley and the writer slapped on the Factor 50 and joined their colleagues sweltering in the field.
Old Leightonians opening pair scored steadily, aided and abetted by the occasional bout of fortune, Simon being particularly unfortunate in finding the gate (at least twice) and the edge (once). The slip cordon chance was not to be the last drop of the afternoon.
Danny Clark, whose blood test pre-match had produced a lager positive result, had sobered up sufficiently by the 15th over to get the captain's call for a change of pace and what a master stroke that proved. "Old Twinkle Toes" (a newly remodelled run-up with some nifty shimmying to start) followed up a first over maiden with 2 wickets in his second over. Jack Morris confidently held on to an uppish off drive at extra cover and the incoming batsmen departed bowled 2nd ball for 0. Sandwiched in between the wickets the skipper just failed to hold onto a nervous prod close in (dropped chance 2). The unlucky Mr P was replaced by Andrew Willcock whilst Danny continued to keep things tight at the other end, another bowled victim (the dangerous opener) saw final figures of 6 overs, 3 maidens, 3 for 7. Messrs Willcock, Crossley Randall (dropped chance 3 in the slips) and Morris bowled reasonably without denting the wickets column further as Hayles for the opposition scored nicely. Spin returned in the form of Simpson Snr which produced a further 2 wickets (1 bowled and 1 stumped) and another dropped chance number 4 (Secretary Jackson diving in the opposite direction to the ball at square leg). Hayles reached his 50 before becoming the stumped victim.The skipper then got his obligatory one over pre tea as Old Leightonians advanced to a very competitive 183-5 off 45 overs.
Following a delicious high quality Morris family tea the opposition elected to declare and openers Simpson Jnr and Stevyn strode to the middle to commence the Middleton reply.
Richard set off quickly but the Old Leightonian opening bowlers, soon fell into a steady and accurate rhythm and aided by a regular fall of wickets (Jackson 2, Crossley 7 and Willcock 5) the scoring slowed. As drinks signalled the 20 over countdown the score stood at 73-3. Richard advanced to his 50 (51 balls) surviving a boundary drop in the late 20s and joined by Danny the score accelerated. Richard eventually departed for 66 with 83 still required. Danny was joined by Mike and with the two opening bowlers taking a breather the scoring rate picked up further. Danny fell bowled for a well paced 44 and with 6 overs remaining all results (including rain which had just started to threaten) were still possible.
24 runs needed from 6 overs was the Middleton requirement as Simon Pettit joined Mike at the crease and the opening bowling pair returned seeking to skittle the tail. Game well and truly hurtling towards a thrilling finale.
Thereafter followed some quasi-risky but nonetheless excellent running between wickets (Mike requiring extended post match recovery from his exertions) some lusty blows and a champagne moment from Mr Pettit in helicoptering a 4 to the fine leg boundary to seal the win with 9 balls to spare (Mike 36 n.o., Simon 15 n.o.) and a continuation of the fine Middleton start to the 2017 campaign. A standing ovation duly followed from an enthralled crowd.
An extremely enjoyable match played in fantastic spirit and very many thanks to our opposition who stayed around to enjoy the rest of the beautiful evening, a couple of cold drinks and an excellent BBQ courtesy of Secretary Jackson (borrowed trousers were duly returned).
Looking forward to the return next year already.