Steeple Aston are one of the strongest teams we play, and last year they handed us an absolute drubbing. Seeking to avoid another humiliation, the selectors picked a strong batting line-up which happened to feature five wicketkeepers, giving captain Simon Lee plenty of choice behind the timbers.
The sky was dark and foreboding and the wicket had a touch of green to it, so the Steeple Aston skipper had no hesitation in inserting MSCC when he won the toss. Tim Riley and Nick Moorman opened the batting and they made steady and controlled progress to 33 before Tim cut a ball to gully and was sharply caught off the fielder’s bootlaces.
Shortly after, Nick was caught behind and graciously walked following a fine nick to the keeper. This left Jon Springer and Tim House to rebuild the innings, and they did so masterfully, but scoring was restricted by some miserly bowling by Steeple Aston. Jon was finally caught having amassed a patient tally of 17 that would have been worth 50 on another day.
In times past this might have signalled an MSCC collapse, but Tim and Dan Simpson stood firm for almost an hour, progressing the score and giving no chances to the Steeple Aston bowlers. Tim and Dan both perished with the score on 99, and handed the baton to Mike Simpson and Howard Lancaster to advance the score.
A flurry of runs followed, with some smart running between the wickets. One quick scamper proved too much for Howard as he pulled his hamstring and had to be withdrawn from the field, bringing the Engineer to the crease as light rain started to fall.
I always enjoy batting with Mike and together we pressed the score on nicely. Steeple Aston brought their opening bowlers back on and we welcomed the extra pace, allowing us to push the ball into gaps and strike some lusty boundary blows. I perished on the final ball before tea, attempting a somewhat agricultural heave to mid-wicket. Mike was deservedly our highest scorer on 32 not out.
The Springer family served up a fantastic tea with the players enjoying sandwiches and home-made cake. Sadly Howard was unable to take to the field in the second innings, so Sue Morris generously postponed her tea to drive home and collect Jack’s kit so MSCC could continue with eleven players after the interval.
Rain was steadily falling by the time play resumed, but we were determined to take the fight to opposition. Simon Pettit and Paul Wordsworth opened the bowling, but the Steeple Aston men were in fine form, striking the ball to all parts. Nick Moorman replaced Simon and received similar treatment. At 95 for none, it looked as though Steeple Aston would cruise to a comfortable victory.
Captain Simon made a crucial change and brought himself onto bowl. In what turned out to be a one over spell he dismissed the Steeple Aston opener, well caught by Jon Springer at long on. Sensing an opportunity to turn the match, Nick produced a superb delivery to clean bowl the no. 3 batsman before he could get off the mark. Mike replaced Simon and we struck again and again; a great catch by Paul off Mike’s bowling and then an absolute stunner by Tim House off Nick’s bowling. Tim leapt like a salmon to pluck the ball from the sky and snare the other Steeple Aston opener, who had scored a serene and chanceless 56.
The pressure was starting to mount on Steeple Aston, and what had seemed an easy chase started to look increasingly challenging as the runs dried up. The energy on the field was palpable and substitute Jack Morris in particular was tireless in the field, cutting off every ball that came his way. Mike had the batsmen playing and missing before giving Tim House his second catch of the day. Nick finished his spell with excellent figures of 3 for 32 from his 11 overs.
Another shrewd change from our skipper saw Tim Riley join the attack, who struck with the first ball of his spell. The Steeple Aston man played all around a straight one and was bowled. Steeple Aston were inching towards the line as the overs ticked away, and despite the best bowling efforts of Tim and Mike, they secured victory with five balls to spare. However we certainly put up a much stronger fight this year, claiming 7 wickets for just 40 runs after their opening stand. All of our batsmen reached double figures and we were strong in the field with four great catches.
There were many candidates for the champagne moment, but in the end our skipper rightly chose to recognise David and Ann Moorman’s diamond wedding anniversary. In the end, all you need is love (and cricket).
THE ENGINEER & THE MATHEMATICIAN (22 years together this week)