Sipping a post match beverage in the early evening sun and having volunteered for the privilege of compiling the match report, skipper, Simon Lee, enquired what the theme of the report might be. Cue much gnashing of teeth and several hours of sleep lost searching for the "theme" before it hit me right between the eyes - SUPERHEROES - weren't expecting that were you?
Driving into Middleton Park and being dazzled by such an idyllic setting you may be forgiven for sometimes forgetting the hard work that goes into getting games on week in week out. From the ground and clubhouse preparation to the making of the teas. From the skipper organising and agonising over team selections to the players giving up their spare time to play. Willingly, unpaid and for the love of the game. Heroes, one and all.....Superheroes at that.
Sundays Guardians of the (Middleton Stoney) Galaxy arrived in their usual dribs and drabs. It was the writer's season debut and first to say hello was our very own Superman, Simon Pettit. With no telephone box available for a quick costume change, the changing rooms had to make do and resplendent in white, Simon was transformed into his alter-ego "Stuart" Pettit - Oxfordshire Over 50's debutant and first ball wicket taker.
The skipper won the toss and inserted the Strollers. In extremely warm conditions, Simon/Stuart opened up with a maiden, the first of 18 (yes 18) overs for the afternoon.
The writer opened up from the other end. An early long hop was brutally dispatched by Strollers opener, Ward into our skippers shoulder/torso. Lesser mortals may have exited the field on a stretcher. Not our captain. Not even a rub of the offending body part was noted. Iron Man indeed.
After a slowish start from the Strollers and an early wicket for Simon, Ward and Jenkins accelerated the score with a partnership of 66. The latter fell LBW, again to Simon before the skipper turned from Iron Man to Spider-Man, weaving a web of bamboozallling spin that saw the end of Ward (66) and his replacement in short order, both expertly caught by Hawkeye, Mark Ford- Langstaff, deep on the long on boundary. The scoring slowed with tight spells from Tim House (1-7) David Lewis (0-23) and Mark (0-7) whilst the return of Mr Pettit for a second spell saw him rack up a superhuman and well deserved 5-fer (5-52). The writer, asked to return to the attack for a final couple of overs, had stiffened up a little but dragging himself up to the crease (not unlike the Hulk) managed to bag a late wicket (1-29) as the hosts declared just in time for tea at 175-9 from 49 overs.
Athis and family provided a delightful tea, fit for Champions, and enjoyed by all before play resumed on the stroke of 5pm.
Bat(s)man and Robin (I'll let you decide who is who) strode to the crease to commence the Middleton reply. Nick fell early on, played on, but Howard stayed on (and on). Some lovely shot selection was interspersed with a run of dot balls as the innings moved into obdurate territory (obdurate being the excellent word used on several occasions in post match analysis). Tim Riley who had kept energetically earlier in the day kept Howard company for a while before falling to a catch behind.
Hawkeye (Mark F-L) came to the crease but initially failed to increase the tempo and with the 20 over siren sounded (18 having been bowled) the score stood at 53-2. Howard finally succumbed caught and bowled to the accurate Warry (3-21) with the score advancing to 86. Tim House strode in carrying Thor's hammer and soon set about delivering some lofty blows as Mark also accelerated.
The target looked to be in comfortable range until Mark was unluckily stumped for 35 and thereafter Tim looked on as sidekicks came and went. Strollers brought on their secret weapon, a 14 year old Boy Wonder, Master Higgs. In quick succession he dismissed Middleton numbers' 7-10 with a devastating spell of 6-1-4-17. When Tim did get the strike he made the most of it and with an over left the target was 16. Captain America was Tim's batting partner but unfortunately we were unable to "Marvel" at another Middleton win as Tim Riley chose to put future selection in jeopardy by triggering Simon with 3 balls to go and 15 still required. Tim was left stranded on 45 not out as the always welcome and excellent opposition enjoyed a closely fought victory.
Post match, Stevyn Jackson sizzled the BBQ, Simon Pettit ran the Bar, Stuart collected match fees, David tried to find the seven (?!) studs he had lost during the afternoon, the skipper made a magnanimous speech, awarding the Champagne Moment to the aforementioned Boy Wonder and much amiable chat was enjoyed by all until it came time to depart to Galaxies far far (and near) away.
Superheroes one and all.
- Martin Randall