On winning the toss and deciding to bat first, despite the bad weather, I was expecting a big score. After Melbourne Cricket Club XXIX’s opening bowler, J Koop, bowled faster than anyone seen on our ground, starting with three maidens, Plan B was to survive until tea. We achieved this thanks to rain forcing players off the pitch and through the simple device of bringing tea forward to 4 o’clock. At 5 for 0 after 5 overs, our openers Nick Moorman and Tim House were coping well. Even when Tim was caught for 11, we progressed to 48 for 1 off 18 overs until Tim Riley was bowled for 22. After drinks, Nick Moorman tried to hit the first ball over mid-off and was caught for 12. Sathya Vadivale was caught for 5, Simon Pettit was bowled for 7 and George Williams was stumped by professional wicket-keeper Sam Harper for 0. Losing 30 minutes to rain, it was difficult to see how we were going to set them any challenging total. But Mark Ford-Langstaff was still there, winning the magnum of a champagne moment award from the chairman for his innings of 60. Well supported by Jason Williams, who was 14 not out, Mark accelerated with two big sixes before being caught. In came Jacob Ford-Langstaff, who was LBW for 0 attempting to emulate his father before Tim Cranston supported Jason with 4 not out. At the early tea, I had asked Mark to aim for 150 by 5 o’clock and indicated to the Melbourne captain that we would declare at that point. In the event, it took us until 5 past 5 to reach 147 but that seemed the right moment to declare. So they had 45 minutes plus the last 20 overs in which to beat our score.
Tim Cranston and George Williams opened the bowling. George took a wicket with his second ball, well caught at second slip by Sathya Vadivale, and then bowled their other opener in his second over. Tim Cranston bowled their numbers 3 and 5 as Melbourne slipped to 7 for 3 and then 13 for 4. In his fifth over, George Williams took his third wicket, LBW, and Melbourne were 22 for 5. Simon Pettit and Jacob Ford-Langstaff came on, each taking a wicket in their first over, Simon with a LBW, Jacob with a fine catch by Tim House at short extra cover, making considerable ground and diving, as he did in his ground fielding all through their innings. Jacob’s second wicket was a late swinging yorker that clean bowled the batsman. Melbourne were 33 for 7 when their captain, Sam Harper, came in to bat. He plays for Victoria in first class state cricket and for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash (see more of Sam here.). Sam Harper hit the ball straight and hard, much like he did in this match - ‘Harper sizzles with unbeaten knock’, for their top score of 34. He was well supported by numbers 8, 10 and 11, which meant that Melbourne by now only needed five runs an over. But when I brought back our opening bowlers, he was brilliantly caught by Tim House in much the same position as for his previous catch but this time holding on at head height to the hardest of drives. Then in his next over, Tim Cranston bowled their number 11 and the game was won. Tim bowled 7.1 overs, 4 for 19. George Williams bowled 7 overs, 3 for 24. Simon Pettit bowled 6 overs, taking 1 for 41 and Jacob Ford-Langstaff bowled 6 overs, 2 for 17.
Tea was well orchestrated and conducted by Kath Moss and was a symphony of all the talents of the bakers and sandwich-makers of the club. Howard Lancaster and friends ran the bar, Howard having nobly pulled out of playing due to an injury. Simon Pettit had organised the fish and chip van which had gone missing but he tracked down a replacement van and all was well. The slight delay gave their injured fielder, Mark Butler, time to make it back from hospital with his dislocated shoulder. Melbourne stayed late and were a delight to host. Both sets of supporters, of all ages from a few weeks to four score years and more, coped well with the weather and the cricket all afternoon and evening. They were intrigued by how our four bowlers had made the ball swing and seam in these classic wet English conditions, so were pleased to be given a new ball (but not one of our bowlers) to try out in their next match. They had won all three of their games this week in the SOA’s Oxford Festival. They are playing the other MCC at Lord’s after the next Ashes Test. This was the stiffest test of our season and we were thrilled to win. It was our best bowling and fielding performance since the match against Goodwood, from Adelaide, last year. We lost that game because our batsmen could not score freely against a fine attack. We won today partly because one of our batsmen, Mark, timed the ball well and timed his innings exquisitely, accelerating at just the right moment. It wasn’t just that our bowling and fielding were then exemplary, it was that the spirit of the club at its best permeated our whole performance in not just defending 147 but in attacking every batsman. The celebrations after each wicket had players running in from all parts of the ground to congratulate the bowlers and fielders. We play cricket for days like this. Thank you, Melbourne Cricket Club XXIX, and well played, Middleton Stoney!