Batts bowls. That was the new departure in our penultimate fixture of the season. We have known that, as a newcomer to the game as well as to the club, Stuart Batts bats and fields. As an assiduous attender of Wednesday night practices, he has bowled in the nets. But this was his first opportunity in the middle, in a match, after the club’s senior professionals had noticed his development of swing. Missing the guidance of the net, he started with a wide but then bowled two spells, one from each end, to return figures of two overs, 0 for 2. Well bowled, Stuart! He also ran the barbecue for the first time, after instruction from Tim House and a cameo appearance by fellow newcomer, David Lewis.
If you think the barbecue is complicated, try herding the players into position for the annual club photo, which was taken by Dr Nick Thompson just before the match.
The Law Society won the toss and batted first. Simon Pettit bowled one of their openers for a duck and their number three for 4. This took him to the top of the leader board for wickets during 2018, one ahead of the previous leader, Tim Cranston, who had made what I was going to call the schoolboy error of not being available, although schoolboys tend to play week in, week out. Martin Randall opened the bowling at the other end and soon bowled their number 4 for a duck. After six overs, the Law Society were 12 for 3. Their other opener was hitting the ball hard and raced to 40 before he was well caught at cover point by Jon Springer off my bowling. To say that their recovery continued is an understatement as their captain at number 5 scored 115 not out and their number 6 was 45 not out when they declared at tea on 207 for 4. We used eight bowlers and delivered 46 overs. David Lewis, Mark Ford-Langstaff, Stuart Batts, Tim House and Tim Riley all bowled well. The most economical was Stuart Batts. The least economical was myself. The most overs were bowled by Simon Pettit, 13 in two spells. Jim Watson kept wicket impeccably (unless we count the dropped catch off my bowling, just saying), conceding no byes. Martin Randall was the pick of the ground-fielders, using his slide tackle technique even when others had not imagined there was the slightest opportunity to bring it into play.
Patricia Lee, Georgina Lamb and Rona Hickman had prepared a delicious tea. Whether the Law Society only bowled 42 overs because of a slow re-start as the tea was too enjoyable, or because their first change set a world record for adjusting his field, is a moot point.
Tim Riley and Howard Lancaster opened our batting, coping admirably with a very fast and hostile young bowler from one end and a wily bowler from the other. Martin Randall and I should know because we umpired for the first hour, before the club Chairman came to the rescue (for me to bring out the drinks, aided and abetted by David Lewis and Andrew Hickman). Martin was replaced by Howard Lancaster who umpired through to the close while Tim House and Jon Springer took over from Peter van de Kerkhof at the other end. Before that, after bringing up the 50 and having seen off the opening bowlers, Howard had been given out LBW to the first change, much to his (Howard’s, not the bowler’s) surprise. On paper, we had an exceptionally strong 3, 4 & 5. On the pitch, however, Tim House and Mark Ford-Langstaff were each caught and bowled by the second change, who held two very firmly hit shots, before Jon Springer was bowled by the third change. So we were 85 for 4 and struggling. But our 6 & 7, Simon Pettit and Jim Watson, hit the ball hard in good partnerships with Tim Riley. Simon scored 30 before joining the ranks of the caught and bowled, out to the fourth change. Then they brought back earlier bowlers who bowled Tim Riley for 87 and Jim Watson for 26. David Lewis on 6 not out and Martin Randall on 2 not out looked to be in control but we had run out of overs. David Lewis and Martin Randall showed in the penultimate over how they can hit the ball but protected the tail, of Stuart Batts and myself, by playing out the last over more cautiously. Batts did not bat. Yet again, then, it was a game where all results were possible at the start of the last over, at the end of which we were 191 for 7 and the match was drawn. Tim Riley’s perfectly paced 87 followed his 109 in the previous game v Turville Park.
Simon Pettit and Howard Lancaster ran the bar. Jim Watson was in demand as spectators booked the last places at the end of season dinner. Mark Ford-Langstaff had helped to put out the boundary flags, which record the award-winners for 2017, and now helped to bring them back to the pavilion. A new set will be ordered after the last game of the season, next Sunday. There was much discussion of who should win this year’s awards, amid continued attempts to take a defining photo of 2018, for the Michael Martin award. The Law Society stayed and won the champagne moment for the second of their three caught-and-bowleds. Conversation flows after all of these games which go to the last of the required 20 overs in ‘the last hour’, partly because everyone has an opinion on decisions and incidents which might have cost us a victory. If instead of giving myself another over at the end of the Law Society’s innings, I had brought back Stuart Batts, would their total have been under 200? If a catch off Simon Pettit’s bowling had been held at deep mid-wicket, would they have reached 175? If Martin Randall had remained vertical on or approaching the boundary, would the Law Society have beaten Turville Park’s score of 252? And why, when they hit the ball straight back to our bowlers, did we acquire injured hands and feet, whereas they took three out of three catches? I write that ruefully, although the feeling is gradually coming back into my left hand. Finally, Jim Watson lost his title of most talkative fielder at square leg. Admittedly, now that he keeps wicket, Jim doesn’t have as much chance to talk to the umpire but Simon Pettit has assumed the mantle. There was much to talk about, thanks to good opponents who played the game in the right spirit.