Under what has become traditional Wednesday evening cloud, the half-dozen Middleton Stoney players who had arrived early enough to await news of the toss were pleased to hear that they were batting first.
Skipper Lee’s broad grin when leaving the field betrayed his thoughts on being fortunate enough to lose the toss and get away with it. Perhaps, having stuffed us earlier in the year, the Strollers were just trying to give us a fighting chance. However, with Tim Cranston absent and Simon Pettit banished to the lower middle order, there seemed little possibility that we would find ourselves at 3 for 2 again.
Or so we thought; Tim House slapped the first ball of the match (a slow long hop) straight to mid-off. Thankfully the fielder dropped the straightforward chance, and we were off and running. Tim wasted no time in tucking into the bowling, enjoying himself so much that he declined to allow Howard Lancaster much of the strike during his 26-run stay which included a big 6 into the undergrowth beyond the scoreboard. The pink ball was finally located, only for Tim to return it to almost the exact same spot from the following delivery.
After Tim contrived to run himself out by virtue of chancing a single to their best fielder, Joe Moorman settled in with Howard. Scoring wasn’t easy on a slowish pitch against slower bowling, with Howard eventually perishing on 25 looking for one big shot too many. Matt Dipple walked to the crease, and seemingly unable to hit the ball to the boundary, decided to hit the gaps and run hard instead. Joe (20) walked past one from their leg spinner, stumped by a mile – which was probably good news for the cars lined up on the leg side boundary.
Jon O’Neill came to the crease and hit 3 of his first 5 balls for boundaries. At the start of French’s final over the batsmen met in the middle; “This bowler knows what he’s doing, if it’s straight then block it” came the advice from the other end, leading to Jon swiping at the next ball and being bowled, middle stump. Sathya Vadivale entered the fray which precipitated an entertaining final few overs, including many ramp shots and several hard-run 3s and 2s. The innings was brought to a close on 141-5 (following last week’s 141-6), Sathya unselfishly run out for 14 off the final ball looking for a third run despite not actually hitting the ball off the square. Matt ended on 30 not out and several pounds lighter.
Dave Lewis opened the bowling in the second innings, and was soon into a good rhythm. His third over brought the wicket of one of the opening batsmen, caught in the deep by Simon Pettit – reward for his “good F and G” (flight and guile, for those unaccustomed to Vadivalespeak).
Despite an impressive spell from the top end, Jamie Garrard finished wicketless, 0-14 off his 3 overs. Rob Barton and Simon P came on as first and second change bowlers and continued to keep things tight, Rob only conceding his first run from his 12th ball, by which time he had bowled their number 3 bat. The other opener remained however, and had taken a liking to the extra cover boundary. It was fortunate then, that Simon should bowl what Tim House described as “ball of the season” to him – swinging in and then seaming off the pitch to bowl him. Simon, loath to agree with anybody, replied with “not just this season, mate.”
Simon Lee stationed himself at short midwicket next over and took an excellent low catch, and with that wicket, the game died, Strollers never looking likely to chase the score down; despite a few more lusty blows from their number 5 before Matt bowled him as revenge for one leg-side hoick too many. There were further wickets for Matt, Simon and Sathya, including Dave’s first ever catch on a cricket pitch which earned him the game’s Champagne Moment.
St Clements Strollers ended on 96 for 9, Middleton Stoney winning the game by 46 runs. The evening’s most important work was done by Rona operating the barbecue and Simon P manning the bar.