Breaking the recent trend of Wednesday evening cloud, the sun continued to bask over Middleton Park revealing its true beauty and the amazing cricket ground that is home to MSCC.
As the teams began to assemble, there were still changes in selection. The Prof had rocked up in full winter whites (long sleeves/baselayer)and who was O’Neill actually playing for?
Anyway, Skipper Lee lost the toss to SOA's stand in Captain Ed Philips. Sadly Greg "One End" Pearson had been whisked away to Seattle to solve a problem involving some Windows so was unavailable for selection and to lead the oppo.
SOA chose to bat with Taylor & Bryant scoring at a steady pace, 42 runs after 4 overs. Taylor playing elegant shots to all parts of the ground as Bryant kept the strike rotating with dabbed singles, picking out the same MSCC player he was prepared to take on. The Skipper opened up with Cranston, who was unlucky not to pick up a wicket (luckily for Pettit he didn’t) and Riley twirling away at the other end. O'Neill had stressed to SOA a par score was 150 and with the way things were going, that looked more than doable.
Riley struck first, deceiving Bryant(9) with one that kept low and MSCC's Cricketing Lawyer, Jackson, whisked off the bails. *Side Bar* - if you ever get the chance, grab a Prosecco and ask Stevyn to tell you about his experiences of taking the HGV test...
Taylor continued to score freely joined by Tomkins & then Shalif. However, the Skipper did what he does best and began rotating the changes with Clark & Wordsworth first up. SOA's scoring slowed and 150 now looked tight let alone anything larger.
Clark struck next trapping Tomkins(11) LBW followed by the Professor with his steady swing claiming the big scalp of Taylor(60). SOA now 3 down and overs running out.
This brought O'Neill to the crease with 4 overs left, plenty of time to run himself out! I’m not entirely sure Howard wasn’t running a sweep stake or just had money on the side with certain other Members on not IF but WHEN I would run myself out.
The Skipper adjusted the field for the new batsman - as you all know it’s hard to work out where I score runs. Safe to say that was totally wasted as the first 2 came from the fattest/loudest and luckiest of edge nicks down to third man.
What many of you won’t know is Professor Wordsworth was the first MSCC bowler I ever faced, winter nets 2009. He claims not to remember but I do and so did my off stump, twice! So with Skipper making another change bringing on Joe Morman, slowing things down even further, it was time to attack.
Well documented by the Skipper and new for 2019 has been the introduction of the cover drive, I know, a shot off the front foot and along the ground. Admittedly a shot far more familiar to the spectator coming off the bat of Mark Four-Langstaff. Anyway Prof bowled some seam and bang bang back to back fours through the covers - it only took a decade but revenge was sweet.
Joe kept runs tight and could have had my wicket, if he’d only appealed off the back of what Tuffers on TMS would have described as “an absolute snorter”. A smart delivery, fast, climbing late, fizzing past my chin and safely taken by Jackson. YES there was a noise - which was actually my knee clicking as I ducked. What’s comforting is Taylor (SOA) would have happily raised a finger if anyone had appealed and can’t believe no one did - not even a half hearted, lack lustre grunt from the bowler...
House closed out well, taking the wicket of Shalif(24) bowled, leaving Tanner(11) not out. During the final over I spent 5 balls thinking this last innings could actually be my first ever MSCC not out. I’ll let the words of the Skipper close out...
“There could indeed have been a run out in the last over when Tim H bowled a no-ball, it was hit towards me at short mid-wicket, I dived/fell over/stopped it/fumbled it, Jon called for a run, charged up the wicket and was so fast he would have made his ground whatever I had done, I did think it would be a brilliant ending to his Middleton Park career if I could have run him out but the other batsman would certainly have been run out if I had hit the stumps at the bowler's end. I threw it over the stumps but very high to Tim who, it turned out, was having a discussion with the umpire about the no ball call and showed no interest in completing the run out. Still, it all paled into insignificance when the infamous House ploy (usually involving three third men but on this occasion just asking Tim C to cover all three positions) worked a treat off the last ball, O’Neill(16) out. SOA 149-5 off 20 overs.
The fantastic thing about SOA and cricket for that matter is how it brings groups of people together. Ed Philips (Banbury CC) (played with some guy called Tim Paine, whoever he is) set the field and started with the seam of Sophie Mitchell-Moore (Banbury CC) and pace (well sort of from Tom Goffe (Sanford St Martin CC).
Moorman & Lancaster opened for MSCC. Nick opening the scoring with his trade mark flick off the pads through mid wicket. Sophie bowled fantastically well and should have had two wickets in her first over - if only fielders paid attention! Goffe struck first removing Lancaster(5) caught. Price struggled to settle and Sophie was finally rewarded for her hard work knocking over his middle stump for 5. MSCC 22-2 after 5 overs.
With a brace of Moorman now at the crease the match took a turn where anything was possible. Time for SOA to make a change and bring on the unheard of Richard Simpson. Now I’ve not seen Richard for a while but even regular cricketers were convinced Jethro had taken Richard’s identity and turned up to play.
Moorman’s batting, a Simpson bowling and House coming in... There simply isn’t enough time to even highlight the possibilities this conundrum could deliver.
Wicket - Moorman J(7) bowled Simpson. Joe getting bored of Richard slinging them down the leg side decided that it was time to display his inner Joss Butler and go for the reverse flick/sweep/pat/scoop shot, whoops. MSCC 33-3.
Danny Clark next took a more modest/mature approach, 6 dot balls followed by WHAMMY. In the same week NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and reaching the moon - I’m not entirely sure the new pink T20 ball didn’t reignite the space race.
Clark’s approach not only gave NATO’s early warning radar at RAF Croughton a fright, it kickstarted the banter! Not so much between batsman and bowler but more fielders towards their own bowler and the fine collection of oven baked goods being shown. Nick followed Danny’s approach only to fall victim to Simpson, Moorman N(15) out caught.
In walks House - for those that are not aware Simon Pettit holds the record for the most runs scored off an over of MSCC bowling (Si you didn’t think I wouldn’t find a way to get that in!). However, it could be argued Richard holds this record - an intra-club game where the new batsman House delivered to more places around Middleton Park than Amazon could only dream off. #GAME ON.
Runs flowed as House played his usual game and Clark supported. Murmurings could be heard from the fielders as the run rate increase and 149 was looking reachable.
Philips ran the changes bringing on the the spin of Eaton (Tri-Sports/Horley CC) and the part time trash of Tanner (Sanford St Martin CC). Question, why is it always a pie that gets the break through?? Philip’s fast hand work had been denied twice behind the stumps on Clark. So when Tanner let rip with something horrific, Clark swung wildly and missed, Philips destroyed the stumps on the 3rd occasion - MSCC 66-4.
House finally holed out to Simpson for his 3rd wicket. Leaving Jackson and Riley to steady the ship. Both played well, taking quick singles and the occasional bad ball 4 to keep the scoreboard ticking over. By the time Riley(15) followed by Jackson(21) were both out bowled Eaton a casual spectator would have thought it was all over.
So not the case - MSCC 113-8, 36 required to win off 6 balls.
Could this be a defining hero’s moment? The pace of Cranston and the Leg-Spin of Skipper Lee were of no use now but their batting could win the match...
Sadly it was not to be. Cranston pushed for a few singles and Skipper Lee* expertly blocked out the last few balls of Goffe’s fierce final over.
*Skipper it was great to see you batting. I’m sure we all agree as generous as you and Tim H are at giving everyone a game/go - SIMON we all want to see you bowl more and bat so stop leaving yourself out!
MSCC ended on 118 for 8, SOA winning the game by 31 runs. The good nature of the match continued to flow late into the evening with bbq, beer and more good banter.
Thanks to Rona & Andrew for the BBQ, Tim C and Howard for keeping the drinks flowing and Dr Nick as always for preparing the ground.
As the covers roll bringing a decade of cricket to a close. It just remains for me to say thank you to everyone who has made my time at Middleton Park nothing but thoroughly enjoyable.
Jon Ringback Cornish Rocket O’Neill