There’s a moment at every sporting fixture, regardless of age and discipline, where the “home” side, generally assembled in waiting (although not always in MSCC’s case) literally size up the arriving team and more often than not, tremble and quake as they make daft and not entirely rational judgements based on the oppositions’ appearance.
These days, size and maturity shouldn’t really worry the selected players. The bigger figures, the better. However, I remember at prep school one year, I was asked to politely inform the driver of the visiting team’s minibus to move the vehicle; I asked the lightly moustached, strapping, six footed fellow to do so, and was laughingly told he was the captain of our opposition. I trembled and quaked that day.
Old Leightonians optimistically started to arrive on time, (optimistically because the doom and gloom merchants had expected biblical thunderstorms). Looking for clues to any possible advantage, as you also do, we counted nine, carrying a few trophy boxes and extremely smart blazers. Gulp, but maybe they had just come from over-celebrating at a club dinner, which surely would give the home side a head start if true…
MSCC had beaten OL last year, chasing down a respectable total. But this year, the Reading based outfit looked younger, leaner, and their kit bags were astounding. One was so large, it possibly housed their remaining two players. So perhaps they had come for revenge, to thump us in the manner that a workmanlike international team had just done sixty-six miles away earlier in the day. Were MSCC to be the England rabbits this day?
Simon Lee and his canny committee of strategists (we discuss important matters such as jam then cream on scones or cream then jam, or will the captain bowl more than one over) decided that our run of draws should come to an end, and so win or lose we should chose to bowl first if we had the chance; we did, so we did.
Old Leightonians sent in their Narayanasamy father and son combination (while the wife/mother of the two scored) to face Simon Pettit and Rob Barton, who had eyed up the conditions [ humid, very warm, fair wicket ] and realised that today “Man must work by the sweat of his brow whatever his class…” and they demonstrated that class immediately. Only 20 off their opening nine overs, despite many chances (e.g. Rob’s first ball) and near misses. Simon, swinging the ball prodigiously, then started making inroads; he had the fortunate survivor of that first ball escape well caught by the returning and half recovered (not for long I’m afraid) Richard Simpson.
Rob Barton had brought his sons Matthew and Elliot, presumably to watch in awe at his sporting prowess. They would have been proud of his bowling for sure. Even more so of his catch at gully had they not been deep in conversation and looking the other way. Still Rob, you can show them the match report; it was a well taken and pivotal catch as it removed their dangerous captain.
Obviously having enough of the debated pros and cons of Cornish or Devonian scone presentation, Simon Lee brought himself on to bowl and was encouraged to settle into a rhythm. He did exactly that. Three of his first five overs were maidens, and the batsmen looked bamboozled (a fine word). Simon Pettit continued picking up wickets and had the first three before drinks were taken. Orange squash and water.
On that note, and possibly providing insight into being abstemious, Leighton Park School, the alma mater of our opposition, was founded on Quaker principals, or testimonies, but contrary to popular belief, many of the early Quaker boarding schools in centuries past actually built and housed breweries, in order to provide healthful drinks for their students.
Back to cricket. Jack Morris joined the attack with captain and his spin twin, together tightening the noose. Jack bowled another one of those parsimonious spells he is getting a name for, ending up with 5-0-11-1.
The dangerous Barratt was well caught on the ropes by our lead bowler Simon Pettit, after the one that failed to turn from Simon Lee deceived him… Tight figures from the skipper : 9-4-11-2.
The two Tims, Riley and House had a short spell each. The latter finding a few ridges in the pitch but little else, and the former tempting out the most obdurate of the OL batsmen, whose scoring pattern up to that moment was 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,6, Out, stumped; well waited Richard Morris.
Their long-standing keeper Charlie Allen looked like an immovable object at the wicket, but Simon Lee out-thought him, which seemed to end the possibility of a late surge in runs. Simon Pettit returned to the attack and added another fifer to his collection, clean bowling the last two and ending up with 13-1-37-5.
Apart from his two predictably secure and well-judged catches, Richard Simpson’s welcome return had been memorable for the wrong reasons. Bowling with the wrong arm, he then managed to leave a ball while concentrating on turning his ankle rather badly. We wish him a speedy recovery.
At tea, still under blazing skies and high humidity, the visiting captain deliberated whether they should bat on, was asked whether they were looking forward to being invited back, and duly declared.
A multitude of Morris family members greeted the two teams in the pavilion and served up a memorable feast. Morris Snr. Snr. is himself an Old Leightonian and between them, they ensured that there was no rush to go back out onto the field of play, although Richard Morris had been instructed to swap his pads and open the batting. So no clearing up for him then.
Richard was joined by Tim Riley’s teaching colleague Chris Price, and the two set about blunting the attack. Chris hits the ball mighty hard – “so musical a discord, such sweet thunder” could have been written for him as his first delivery was middled to the boundary. But he perished for 9 trying the repeat the feat.
The leaner, but not fitter (he had pulled a hamstring that morning) Jay Mumtaz hobbled to the wicket, but sprinted a single, as he joined Richard in bringing the target below 100.
The latter took the leather off the ball and himself back to the pavilion without looking at the umpire. Stevyn “Recovered and on Time” Jackson’s innings was noticeable for its intent but also its alacrity, and MSCC were in that usual position of chasing a modest total but looking slightly nervous.
Jay thought little of nudging to victory and kept momentum going; but he fell for 23, and MSCC still needed 46 to win.
Tim House had “taken tea and comfortable advice” from the guru of run chasing, Michael Simpson, who told him that a Vice-Captain’s innings was called for. He was joined by Tim Riley and the two took the game to the Old Leightonians, and before they could regather a threatening attack, had done the necessary.
The two chased down the total with time to spare, added a half century partnership to the books and ensured that the bar was welcoming all-comers a little earlier than might have been expected when the kit bags arrived at 1.30pm.
There seem to be a few permanent truths at Middleton Stoney Cricket Club. Everyone gets a warm welcome, there is a fine diversity of bitter behind the bar, Tim Riley offers to man the BBQ, the weather forecast is inaccurate, fitness, or lack of, tends to determine the team selections, and Old Leightonians always provide fine opposition on and off the pitch.