Just before I won the toss, I explained to the United Oxford Hospitals’ captain that our ideal game is one which goes to the last of the twenty overs in the final hour with all results possible and we then win. This match went to the last over with all results possible but we then lost.
It didn’t look like we would lose when Richard Simpson hit the first ball of the game for a resounding four over mid-wicket. It didn’t look like the match would go to the last over of the day when he was out next ball, a full-blooded, low drive being superbly caught by mid-off.
All was not lost because we had a stylish number three in Nick Crossley. He was caught behind for one. Sathya Vadivale joined our other opener, Paul Wordsworth, who both played with aplomb as we rallied to 21 for 2 before Paul was bowled for 8. Richard Morris at number five was bowled for a duck and we were 29 for 4.
In Friday’s game against SOA, Tim Cranston was down at number eleven and did not bat. This time, he was number six. A century partnership ensued. With another of our opening bowlers averaging 59 (with the bat), this shows the potential of Middleton Stoney all-rounders. Tim might have cruised to a fifty in other circumstances but played a supporting role until there was less than half an hour to go until tea when he gallantly started to hit out or, in the case of his dismissal, hit up into the sky, for an invaluable 26.
George Williams had kindly stepped in to play when Stevyn Jackson had to withdraw on the morning of the game. George hit two fine boundaries in his 14 before injuring himself in attempting to hit the ball back home to Wendlebury and being caught behind. Stuart Midson had also been padded up for over two hours before he had the chance to bat.
Stuart was 2 not out when I declared at tea-time, with Sathya Vadivale on 89 not out. This was an impeccable innings against a good bowling attack and a sharp fielding side. Sathya found the gaps for quick singles, defended where necessary and only occasionally had the opportunity to show his stroke-play. His wedding preparations seem to be modelled on Ricky Hatton or Rocky Balboa getting into shape before a big fight as Sathya ran and ran on another hot and humid day.
Denise Simpson and Di Thompson provided a typically well-received tea which was indeed so appreciated by both teams that it lasted for 32 minutes, which only left time for 38 overs as against the 45 UOH bowled to us.
With the exception of Nick Crossley, we did not as a team catch as well as our opponents, either in support of James Mitchell’s fiery opening spell or when Richard Simpson and Jim Watson were bowling. We did, however, benefit from some enthusiastic and effective ground fielding, especially from twelfth man, Jack Morris, who replaced the injured George Williams, and in the form of fast running by Jack, Jim Watson, Stuart Midson, Tim Cranston, James Mitchell, Sathya Vadivale, Nick Crossley and Richard Simpson, all cutting off what looked like certain boundaries.
Like UOH, we used eight bowlers. Tim Cranston was the most economical, 0 for 8 off 5 overs. Richard Simpson made the breakthrough in the final over of his initial three over spell. The first was a maiden. A single was stolen off the second. One of their openers decided to hit the first ball of Richard’s third over for four, straight down the ground, and came down the wicket to try a repeat next ball. Richard saw him coming and Richard Morris stumped him. I also asked Sathya Vadivale to have an early spell of three overs and he also took a wicket in his third over, clean bowling the other opener. When Stuart Midson bowled their number three, some thought I took him off for an extravagant celebration which involved circling the pitch. Others saw a pattern in wicket-takers being removed from the attack. Jim Watson and Nick Crossley were unlucky not to take wickets, Jim especially so since a catch was dropped. Nick was even unluckier to hurt his back and so had to stop bowling. This led to me coming on as our sixth change whereupon Nick was at his unluckiest in having the ball hit low and ferociously to him at mid-on but, notwithstanding his injury, he held a great catch. Richard Morris then stumped another victim off my bowling and Sathya was himself tempted into a Midson-esque fist-pump as he bowled their number seven.
UOH needed ten off the last two overs. We had fought our way back into the game and had chances to break their seventh wicket partnership in the 17th, 18th and 19th overs but even Richard and Sathya couldn’t stop a UOH victory. By my calculations, we dropped six chances which UOH would have held, with James Mitchell and Richard Simpson among the bowlers whose figures would have been even better. So we could blame our fielding or our batting or our bowling or my captaincy but I’d prefer to think of it as an entertaining game played in the right spirit, which was well won by United Oxford Hospitals. They stayed for the barbecue, run by Dr Nick Thompson and Tim Cranston, to toast their victory and to enquire after the Thinking of Oscar charity, the origins of which they remembered from the game two years ago. UOH are first class opposition. Our own champagne moment went jointly to Tim Cranston and Sathya Vadivale for their 101 run partnership, which rescued us and gave everyone an enjoyable day’s cricket.