The Cranston Family produced an extraordinarily good tea which many players and spectators treated as an invitation to perform a balancing act. The challenge was to build a tower of sandwiches, crowned by a scone with a strawberry on top.
On the field of play, both clubs and captains believe in balancing acts (and believe in cricket teas). Mark Austin of Banbury, for example, ensured that his whole team were engaged during our innings, with star bowler Richard Simpson keeping wicket and each of nine other players getting the chance to bowl. Banbury dismissed four of our top five batsmen cheaply (openers Tim Riley 8 and Mark Ford-Langstaff for 8 each, Danny Clark 14, Sathya Vadivale 1). They had some chances to take the crucial wicket of Tim House but just failed to jump high enough for catches or to hold them. At 80-4, the question was whether anyone could support Tim House in a sustained partnership. First came Jim Watson, who batted well, the pair taking us to 110-5, and then Jacob Ford-Langstaff at number 7 played his part in a 92 run partnership. Jacob’s 34 was impeccably orthodox, except for his accomplished reverse sweep which was one of his boundaries. When Tim was out, David Lewis joined Jacob and they took us to 231. When Jacob was out in the last over before tea, we declared at 231-7, with David Lewis on 10 not out.
More than half our runs were scored by Tim House, batting at number 3. It was a classic innings by Tim, restrained where the bowling demanded circumspection but aggressive whenever possible. On reaching his hundred, and therefore his honours board, he judged rightly that the team still needed him there. With time for four more overs before tea, he was on 125 and it dawned on Richard Simpson that his Middleton Stoney record of 163 not out was under threat. Richard knows that Tim has scored 26 in a single over. Having missed two chances to stump Tim earlier, this became personal. A swift, neat stumping ensued.
Banbury’s ground fielding was first class. When Elliot Barton, who also plays for us, was feeling unwell, his place was taken by super-sub fielder Tim Riley who took a superb tumbling catch to thwart Jacob Ford-Langstaff’s first fifty for MSCC.
There had been some good umpiring stints, with LBWs given by three different umpires, not just batsmen-in-waiting but also a spectator, Jamie Lee (not while he was spectating but during his spell as an umpire). Sathya Vadivale combined umpiring with not only spectating but also photography. This has been known before, of square leg umpires desperate to win the Michael Martin Award for Photo of the Season, but Sathya took this to a new level of opportunism in recording a Tim House 6 while umpiring at the bowler’s end! I don’t mean that Sathya swivelled, whipped out a camera and captured the ball sailing over the boundary. I mean that he caught Tim House swivelling as he played the shot. Sathya had struggled with multi-tasking in the days running up to this match. He did manage to email fellow senior officers of the club to warn that only he should collect the long-awaited caps he had ordered from Trysports on our behalf. This was presumably because he entertained some doubts about the colours or just could not quite believe that the caps he had expected for the start of the season were here by the game which marked the middle of the season. In the busy life of a teacher whose summer vacation has just begun, however, he had failed to get to Trysports while they were open. He was also late in bringing his bat down on a ball that kept low and was one of those LBWs. David Lewis, who had started the trend for LBWs while umpiring, managed to combine batting with his own attempt at the Michael Martin Award through the ingenious art of time-lapse photography. In only his second innings of the season, he managed to photograph himself hitting the ball for the first time with the bat he had bought from Trysports.
If time lapse has been the story of the first half of our capless season, no time was lost by the home side or visitors or spectators in attacking the tea mountain provided by the Cranston family. Team Cranston came in numbers for each of three generations (in contrast to the Moormans who, for once, did not materialise in any of their regular three generations). They established a new precedent as the most senior Cranstons had been to Wimbledon and so had a strawberry theme, which was much appreciated. Opening bowlers, Tim this week and chairman Peter van de Kerkhof last week, seem to like long spells and to switch ends. So Tim Cranston served behind the bar up to 9pm, having earlier placed the sandwiches on the bar but the cups of tea at the far end under the honours board, drawing attention to those who have scored a century, taken five wickets or won the Michael Martin Award. Tim himself qualifies in two of those categories.
He was a Did Not Bat in this match, as was Rob Barton. They opened the bowling. Tim’s first ball was hit for a very firm 4. Rob’s first two balls were hit for 6s. With Banbury making 74 from our first ten overs, I turned to spin, promising Rob that I would bring him back on to bowl as soon as his son, Elliot, a regular for Banbury Colts, came out to bat. Three Banbury players reached double figures, each in double quick time. All three were bowled by Danny Clark. The openers were out for 71 and 47, Richard Simpson at number 6 for 31. Sathya Vadivale bowled their number 3 for a duck and had two LBW appeals accepted, not a high success rate per appeal but crucial nonetheless. From 107-0 and coasting to a victory without needing any of the last 20 overs, Banbury were suddenly in trouble. As wickets started to tumble, Richard Simpson at the non-striker’s end called for an adventurous single to where a leg slip might have been. He made his ground but Jim Watson swooped and threw to the far end where Danny Clark completed the run out. The other three wickets were taken by David Lewis who turned the ball prodigiously. One was stumped by Tim Riley and two were deceived by the spin to be caught at mid-on by Danny Clark, one when he was fielding at mid-wicket but sprinted and dived, the other to win the match. Mark Austin at number 11 played a captain’s innings but was left stranded on 9 not out. One of those LBW victims was Elliot Barton. There was a suspicion that he walked as the second batsman dismissed in Sathya Vadivale’s double wicket maiden rather than await the promised next over from his father, Rob. And so, with three wickets each for three spinners, plus a run out, it was a very rare innings at Middleton Park which did not yield a single wicket to our faster bowlers, not even when Jacob Ford-Langstaff had two short spells of real pace. The strip had been prepared by Simon Pettit, who was playing elsewhere but seemed somehow to produce a pitch that turned rather than one which favoured his closest rivals for the most wickets in the season award. Still, it was good enough to have well over 400 runs scored in the afternoon.
There were various possibilities for the champagne moment. The Cranstons capped their tea by producing salad to accompany the barbecue, for instance, and Tim Cranston slipped out from the bar to take one of his carefully composed photos from inside the pavilion which might just rival the work of the photographers on the boundary and in the middle. Talking of Sathya Vadivale, had our Hon Secretary produced caps, that would have been a contender. Tim House’s double of sprinting a long way round the boundary twice to stop successive balls going for 4 could have merited a magnum, especially as it followed his century and some fast running between the wickets. Indeed, the match-winning partnership between Tim and Jacob had several moments of high quality. If Sathya was recording audio as well as video while umpiring, we might even have the transcript of the conversation when Tim seemed content to saunter through for a single only to hear Jacob call confidently that they should run 3, which they did. On balance, though, I gave the champagne moment to Banbury CC’s Richard Simpson for that stumping to preserve his Middleton Stoney CC record.
Having lost to Banbury in our inaugural fixture last year, this was an enjoyable victory. Banbury brought a very young side and gave each player a chance to shine. They looked at several stages as if they were going to romp home to a ten-wicket victory but Middleton Stoney’s three spinners, bowling in seven short spells, turned the ball and the match. Tim House’s shot selection was as controlled as the manner in which the young Banbury players set about building their tea selection. Thank you, Mark Austin and Banbury CC for aiming high all the way through the day, in both innings, at tea, at the barbecue, started by the Cranstons and served by Tim House, just to give him something to do, and at the bar, served by Tim Cranston. Thank you also to the Banbury scorer and to our own Chris Greer, who had a very busy day. Well played, Tim House, Jacob Ford-Langstaff, Danny Clark, Sathya Vadivale, David Lewis and the Cranston family. With nineteen players batting and fifteen players bowling, this was a beautifully balanced example of friendly Sunday cricket. The strawberry on top of the day was the spirit in which the match was played.