Middleton Stoney won the toss and batted first on another hot Sunday. New visitors to Middleton Park, Harry Baldwin’s Occasionals, opened with two good left-arm bowlers. Nick Moorman hit the first ball magisterially to the cover point boundary but was soon bowled. Howard Lancaster was joined by Tim House. Both batted well, for 8 and 16 respectively, until they were out leg before wicket. Tim Riley came in at four and Jon O’Neill at five. Jon was run out by one of their many good fielders with a little help, according to Jon, from Tim Riley’s calling. We were 44 for 4 when Mike Simpson joined Tim. An excellent century partnership included many singles. Tim Riley’s last innings, at the end of last season, was 88 not out. This time, he was bowled for 68 as tea beckoned. Chris Blackwell got off the mark on his debut. When he was bowled, we declared at 164 for 6, with Mike Simpson on 50 not out. Our opponents had not all arrived on time and their wicket-keeper was vociferous about exactly when he wanted their second drinks interval but otherwise, they had been model visitors. They did not take any catches, despite Mike Simpson giving one bowler an opportunity, but their ground fielding was exemplary.
They continued their impressive first appearance by tucking into the tea provided by Denise Simpson and Di Thompson, supplemented by a guest cake from Ellie, the wife of the Occasionals’ chairman, John Bunker. Then the Occasionals’ opening pair put them in a strong position, outlasting good spells from our opening bowlers, Peter Van de Kerkhof and Nick Williams. Chris Blackwell bowled well on his debut and I eventually managed to break the opening partnership, thanks to a stumping by Richard Morris. After the drinks interval, the Occasionals (actually, they seemed to refer to themselves as Baldwin’s) needed ninety to win from the last twenty overs and looked to be favourites. Until, that is, I took myself off and brought on Nick Moorman to accompany Mike Simpson who was, by now, sufficiently recovered from running all those singles to bowl. The run rate slowed. Photographic evidence shows the scoreboard with 15 overs to go and Harry Baldwin’s on 80 for 1, still needing 85. As the pressure mounted, Mike Simpson ripped through their top order, taking three wickets. Two were caught by his batting partner, Tim Riley, at mid-off. The second of these was out for a golden duck after Mike had bowled his other victim. There was a suspicion that the batsman who was bowled could have been stumped from his previous delivery. Mike was not just on a hat-trick but claimed that he should have had one. On that basis, I should have had two more wickets myself, with one fielder dropping a catch at extra cover and one not quite making a miracle happen at deep square leg. Just saying.
Harry Baldwin’s Occasionals still looked likely to win, so long as their captain, Rob Maysfield, was at the crease. The game turned when he was run out by some fine fielding in the deep from Tim House, who then came on to bowl three overs, taking 2 for 7 and going straight to the top of the averages. Tim’s run out or either of his deliveries which clean bowled Baldwin’s numbers six and seven could have won the champagne moment. I made a late attempt myself to get into contention by over-complicating a dolly catch at silly mid-off to Tim Riley’s bowling, holding on to it over my head before completing a reverse dive head-first into what seemed, given all the rain in the fortnight before the game, surprisingly hard ground. Mike Simpson and I came back for an over each but their nine and ten held out for the draw.
Chris Greer had nobly been our scorer for the whole game. The opposition had supplied an umpire who stood for the entire match, in exceptional heat, and who stood no nonsense, for instance when the opposition’s supporters’ club obscured his view of the scorer and scorebox. Excessively large and misplaced deck-chairs stopped play. Dr Nick Thompson not only prepared the ground but also got the barbecue going and Nick Moorman took over (the barbecue, not the ground), while Jon O’Neill and Richard Simpson, an injury-induced spectator, served behind the bar. Before the game, Tim Riley had assisted Clementine, Cher and Marc Swan to provide a colourful backdrop to the day as they arranged a new display of flowers in pots at the front of the pavilion. It was even more colourful than the language used by the umpire to suggest that the Baldwin’s chairman should move his deckchairs. The opposition stayed for drinks and food on a lovely evening, as did the home crowd, which included distinguished former club officers. The champagne moment went, with thanks, to Ellie Bunker for the cake.