This year, the selection committee, possibly struggling to find a balanced structure to the two teams, opted for a basic alphabetical solution, and so the club players were divided by the first letter of their surnames; on paper they were listed as the A Team (very fitting) and the Z Team (say no more).
With a happy inevitability, the occasion coincided with the 90th birthday of our respected and illustrious President himself, Ian Davenport. A generous crowd gathered, mainly because of Ian and his family, partially for the friendly atmosphere, and possibly for the promise and hope of some competitive and skilled cricket. Three out of four isn’t a poor return though.
As is customary, important and a real fillip for MSCC, we were delighted to welcome several debutants to the field. The captain of the club, Simon Lee called upon David Lewis and Chris Price, both with intimidating reputations garnered from nets and hearsay that Simon was keen to propagate before the first ball was delivered in anger. The vice-captain of the club, Tim House, happily introduced father and son duo Rob and Elliot Barton, as well as the aptly monikered Stuart Batts.
After a winter in Australia, we also welcomed back Richard Simpson. He was unable to play because of injury but umpired for the entire game. This was much appreciated, as was Chris Greer’s efforts scoring which he did all afternoon.
A healthy response to availability meant that it was agreed to play 12-a-side, but both teams started with 11, as the two S’s for slow, (alphabet), Sathya and Stevyn, were true to form.
Tim H won the toss, decided to bat and started with the Barton boys. A good moment as they strode out together, and not such as great one as Rob walked back soon after, clinically run out by his son.
Simon Pettit was bowling well, and to a newcomer such as Elliot, experience at his home ground counted, and Simon started his healthy haul of wickets for the day.
Two of the returning sons of the club, David Cole and Wil Harris took their guards again, and in contrasting styles pushed the score on beautifully, one nurdling and the other smacking the ball around. The A Team began to pick up the pace when Wil’s popular ambition came to an end, and we nearly witnessed a shambolic moment, rather than Champagne when the two Simons very nearly collided whilst attempting to catch him off a huge top-edge.
Mark Ford-Langstaff joined the fun and started to build another useful innings. But Jack Morris was bowling like a veteran, and slowed the run rate, ending up impressively restricting the A Team to 11 runs off his 7 overs. Jack was also involved in two run outs later in the match in an excellent contribution to the cause. Michael Simpson was also bowling well, and when joined by Sathya, they ripped out the heart of the middle order, two in two balls and then Nick Moorman before he really got going.
The A Team needed some impetus and left that to the captain, who pushed on, at the expense of some of his players (run out and deprived of strike) but was brilliantly and unselfishly supported by Stuart Batts and Max Langdale, and as tea beckoned, they pushed the score to a nearly respectable 143, and feeling that was a fair total to keep any punter interested in any result, declared.
Sathya had picked up 3-12 and Simon Pettit 4-24. Captain had dropped Vice-Captain, and obviously in penance had only given himself one over to bowl, which was a shame. David Lewis had lived up to his fearsome leggie reputation, the Chairman did what he does best and frustrated all who faced him, and the Z Team had a pretty good day in the field.
The favourite at this stage was always going to be Athis Vadivale’s tea, and so it proved. A long and beloved tradition at MSCC, the feast was, once again, a masterpiece, so many thanks to Athis. Due to the expected support, many others also brought in a serious collection of cakes and sandwiches which were gratefully and thankfully accepted and devoured.
The third debutant to open the batting, Chris Price came out with his colleague Tim Riley, and the two of them were scoring at four an over, with attractive stroke-play when the latter fell to Tim Cranston; the start of his five wicket work of art.
But the Z Team continued at a pace. Jay Mumtaz joined in the fun, although he watched the fall of Chris and then Marc Swan as the score rose at the required rate. Three down, plenty of overs left and 80 or so to win.
Jacob Ford-Langstaff had reverted to leg spin this year but couldn’t quite persuade the batsmen to risk coming after him. Wil Harris bowled well from memory, as did Rob Barton (but claimed his arms and legs refused to work in tandem). Elliot Barton then tried to outdo his dad, but parity was had between the two.
The Z Team were 80-3 at the 20 over mark, and the smart money was on them. 63 required, 8 wickets in hand. Tim House reverted to old-timers and brought himself on to bowl in tandem with Mark F-L. It seemed to do the trick, Jay fell for a cunning ploy and Mark bowled steadily and with guile. Sathya and Michael Simpson, both experienced and classy batsmen, found runs hard to come by. As Simmo’s chatter diminished, it seemed his side’s chance did as well, followed by his stumps as Tim Cranston came back on for a devastating finish, ending up with 5-33.
The always dangerous Simon Pettit looked like re-weighing the scales in favour of Simon’s Z Team, but then Mark F-L brilliantly held onto a caught and bowled before trapping Sathya LBW. Match back in the balance, with only a dozen needed off two overs, although Jack Morris had just fallen having held up one end cleverly to allow the runs to come from the hard-hitting Pettit. It was touch and go when Jim Watson arrived at the crease, and he did just that, tearing up and down the wicket for a series of twos.
It seemed unlikely there would be a winner as the last over drew to a close. Five to win needed off the last ball, and the captain having spread his fielders around the boundary rope (patrolled particularly well by Jacob Ford-Langstaff). A no ball kept the match in the balance; but there was to be no last gasp glory moment, and although a scampered two brought the scores within a run of each other, the match was drawn, and another President’s match had proved enjoyable as always.