New opponents are obviously tricky to predict; in terms of timekeeping, batting line up, bowling line up, as well as numbers of players. MSCC had welcomed HBO as opponents in 2018 for the first time, so we were unsure what to expect. What we did know was their team spirit and playing ethos is based on a love of the game. Last year’s match had been a close-run thing, ending in a draw.
We also knew that Rob Masefield, their captain had lost eight consecutive tosses, (he asked, “what are the odds on that?” and I believe they are 1 in 128).
So MSCC of course were very ready and expecting to bat first.
Let me describe the Harry Baldwin Occasional innings.
Predictably, (not much else was afterwards), a few of the visiting team were still on the motorway as the bell tolled.
Alex Ooms was making his debut for MSCC and opened the bowling. It took him three balls to match that with his debut wicket, a well taken catch, low to his right by Tim Riley behind the stumps. 0-1. Tim Cranston’s competitive instinct kicked in, and very soon it was 0-2 as he took a simple C&B. Rob, whom we knew to be a useful batsman, looked comfortable until Alex managed a facsimile of Tim’s previous wicket and HBO were 23-3.
It might have been fair to think at this moment that the chilly weather was not going to worry the fielding team for too long. But the visitors’ next two batsmen, Jones and Barr-Sin have obviously just negotiated the M40 and could obviously play a little. The former in particular was hitting the ball cleanly, and began to add an air of respectability to the scoreboard. However Middleton Stoney’s fielding was exceptional (especially Tim House who was impenetrable in the covers - Ed), and there was the sense that one of the partnership preferred chatting to batting as the bowling had been, and was to become, tight and challenging.
Matt Dipple joined the attack, and the axis of the game was once again tilted. He bowled the hard-hitting Jones with movement off the seam, proceeded to clip three more of the bemused visitors (one to a fine reactive catch in the slips by Nick Moorman) and had his (probable) final ball to try to claim a fifer. Which he did. Convincingly. A guttural yelp of delight from Matt, and congratulations were very much in order.
Harry Baldwin Occasional were in trouble, and the Middleton Stoney team were somewhat too openly preparing for either a welcome early tea, or an unwelcome early bat before the cake. Stuart Batts was thrown the ball to clean up the tail, with the visitors limping around 90 for 8. Tanvir Faysal, who had never recorded a 50 for the visitors looked uncomfortable for one ball on the day, popped one in the air, and was dropped…
While eschewing the club’s motto of “heroism without risk”, he gambled all, and then managed to steer, whilst accelerating, the team to a potentially worrying total of 163 all out, with his own contribution of 53. An impressive innings. The visitors now seemed to be the ones looking forward to tea.
Karen has very kindly stepped in to take care of this most important part of the day, and once again did not let us down. Anyone who has yet to put their name down for a slice of this responsibility, (probably due to an allergy to washing up liquid, limited access to their kitchen or fear of competitive cake-making) can always ask Karen to represent them.
Mark Ford Langstaff, playing his first game of the season and feeling behind in the run making stakes, went out with Howard Lancaster to chase what they might have once thought was going to be a sub-century total. However, the seed of an idea must have been planted in Mark’s mind, as about this time last year he had opened with Howard and gone on to record his debut MSCC century.
They started well, and Howard’s ever-growing stature as an opening batsman was witnessed as he struck just about every delivery mighty hard. The last one, so hard that the bowler could not get out of the way and Howard was caught and bowled.
Jim Watson took up the position of number three, and again displayed a free-striking and aggressive style that had seen him notch up a very good 30+ last week. But he too perished soon after, allowing Tim House to enter the fray, fresh from a recent run-fest. When he fell, the third MSCC in single figures, there was a hint of that MSCC “creak” that we had hoped was a thing of the past.
Mark was showing that in fact this is an easy game, and marched on forcefully to a 50. Tim Riley backed him up with his casual version of tip-and-walk, and very soon the skipper (who by the way had earlier only allowed himself one over in the day, again) decided to publish Mark’s score from the boundary. He needed 12 for a century, while MSCC only needed 11 to win…
At this point, the visitors were still remarkably positive, and Rob Masefield was heard to utter “Baldies never say die, unless of course they are just about dead..” or words to that effect.
Tim Riley kindly blocked out for a maiden, and the umpire (me) ungraciously called a no-ball. Mark needed to hit a six now for his hundred, as just the four were needed to win. But for the second week in a row, a home-side batsman perished in the 90’s (someone actually said “bottled”). Mark had driven the team to victory, but perished on the line attempting a six.
Harry Baldwin Occasional will always be welcome guests, and we thank them for their spirit, humour and social awareness both on the pitch and in the bar.