Middleton Stoney do not have the best record against United Oxford Hospitals, with three defeats and a draw over the preceding four years. 2018 saw a team keen to stop their momentum, encapsulated by the prompt arrival of our secretary, Stevyn Jackson, who was duly awarded with the privilege of opening the batting. He and Tim Riley tucked into the bowling and looked to have blunted the scalpels of the UOH. 56 partnership, without too many scares, a fast outfield and both looking good. 12 overs gone.
However, after 13 overs, with Tim Riley gone for a typically correct 23, immediately followed by Tim House, that momentum had swung back to the visitors. When Jacob Ford-Langstaff received a beauty, MSCC were teetering on 61 for 3. Still, Stevyn was still there and was joined by Ford-Langstaff senior, a man in form.
Unfortunately, their partnership was short lived as the secretary unluckily perished for a well struck 30, and the next pair only had time for a brisk briefing before Ben Breaker’s bails were broken (read that carefully) by their canny, somewhat loopy, spinner.
MSCC 5 down for just a few more than their opening partnership had put on. Paul Wordsworth joined Mark F-L and the two re-built the innings. Mark kept out several nasty deliveries while punishing the odd bad ball, and Paul replicated that, whilst seemingly pushing his body to the limit. At one stage he followed a slow drifting ball so closely that he keeled over as it mesmerically made its way to the keeper’s gloves.
The two pushed the score along, and closed in on their century partnership when Mark fell for a well-crafted 56 as he pushed for some late, fast runs. Joined by Richard Morris, and then Rob Barton, Paul brought the home team up to 165 at tea, with a stoic and stylish 28 not out.
The Barton clan had kindly arranged to do the tea this week, and what a tea it was. Rob had mentioned that their house had been dominated by baking, and the cakes were there to prove it. The Victoria Sponge was masterful. And several of his family were there to hand out and help (impressively, even cups of tea to order), so many thanks to the debutant tea-provider.
Rob left the washing up and opened the bowling with Paul Wordsworth who had just about cooled down from his long innings. UOH were surprisingly out of the blocks fast; not out of the pavilion, as there were still sponges to enjoy. But they tucked into our bowling as they had done to the cucumber and tuna sandwiches. (A fine combination, rather like their openers).
50 on the board without loss, at five an over when the captain called the changes, bringing himself onto bowl. As often happens when he allows himself an over, he struck in his first few deliveries, as an audibly fizzing, and visually spinning cover drive was (gratefully) pouched.
The second opener was still looking dangerous and it took a double act of class to remove him. Trying a quick single to Jack Morris is daft. He didn’t know that until Richard Morris had smartly whipped off the bails and he was brilliantly run out. Champagne, “Pierre Gimmonet et Fils” perhaps.
OUH had depth to their batting line up however and the score was ticking over. When their next wicket fell, a fine catch by Mark Ford-Langstaff off a fully flighted one from Jack Morris, they had edged up to 98 for 3, with their most dangerous batsman at the crease and well set, and plenty of overs to play with.
Tim House, Tim Riley and Jacob Ford-Langstaff all had a bowl and either tried to frustrate or trick them out, but to no avail. Simon Lee called on his new “all-rounder” Mark F-L, who settled into a good rhythm, and duly bowled the aforementioned threatening batsman for 47.
Hardly giving away any runs, he then had another, very smartly taken by Richard Morris, standing up and slickly taking a solid edge; MSCC had a glimmer of hope with five down and overs running out.
But 165 was never going to be enough unless MSCC took early wickets, and so it proved as their anchor batsman survived until the end and closed off the game with time and five wickets to spare.
United Oxford Hospitals had done it again. They stayed and enjoyed the BBQ that Michael Simpson had kindly managed. MSCC will no doubt welcome them back another year with the thought and hope that we can change the course of the recent results.