Authors were keen, all present, correct and changed well before start time whilst Middleton's XI was for some time only a VI. The tardy V arrived in dribs and drabs, the skipper continued his dreadful run of tossing luck and Authors opted to take advantage of the excellent track prepared by Dr Nick Thompson and to have a bat.
Matt Dipple opened up the bowling aided by a significant quantity of Lemsip as he endeavoured to ward off flu-like symptoms. Despite his ailments he was fast and straight and accurate. Martin Randall aided by 2 weeks holiday over indulgence in Croatia was neither fast nor straight nor accurate and Authors openers, McGowan and Broom scored freely taking the score past 50 in the 14th over. Jack Morris replaced Martin and his first 2 overs were full of guile, flight and accuracy creating some batsman frustration that was capitalised on by Matt who promptly took 2 wickets in 2 balls, a clean bowled and an LBW, before Jack got just rewards when the Authors number 4, Hotten, failed to spot his straight one and succumbed bowled middle stump for 0. (64-3).
Authors number 5, Smith arrived to join McGowan and there followed some ferocious hitting aided and abetted by some below par fielding as the scoreboard accelerated and passed 150 without a further troubling of the wickets column. Enter the skipper. Criminally under-utilised in a bowling capacity this season a quick breakthrough was made to dismiss Smith, LBW, for an entertaining 61 (5 fours and 5 sixes) and for a debut wicket of the season. Some way to go to challenge the higher echelons of the Bowling Cup charts but we all have to get going somewhere and one before the end of July is a solid start. Tim Riley joined in from the other end shortly thereafter dismissing opener McGowan LBW for a well constructed 46 to leave Authors at 155-5.
Some further spirited hitting from Hogg and captain, Campbell quickly took the score to 190 before the moment arrived that leads the writer to be penning this match report.
Confined to fine leg / long-off for much of the innings with duties largely restricted to fetching the ball from beyond the boundary rope the second ball of Tim Riley's 5th over disappeared over the writers head for a huge 6. Dot..dot..dot followed before Hogg sought to double the overs' maximum tally off the final delivery. The ball departed the bat at some speed and went some distance both lengthwards and upwards. Cue a sickening realisation that it was heading vaguely in this fielders general direction, followed by some muttered expletives and a hasty prayer to the gods of boundary fielding that perhaps they might allow the ball to find hand rather than grass just this once. The commencement of movement towards the ball prompted a realisation that motion probably should have started sooner but nevertheless ground was made, angles judged, the watching spectators banished from the corner of the eye and somehow the hand that is usually only used as the starting point for the 6 stones at the beginning of an over whilst umpiring was sliding under the ball centimetres off the turf and hanging on for dear life. The forward roll(s) may have been a bit excessive (flashy the skipper said or was it showy?) but before reaching the vertical with ball held aloft an enquiry as to whether match report duties were available had already been tabled. Thank you for the kind words subsequently from teammates, opponents and spectators alike. The catch was judged 9/10 with shades of Nadia Comaneci by Messrs Simpson and Moorman Snr Snr) watching from just behind the ropes (I'm sure she scored a 10 and I'm not sure where the mark was lost?!). I'm told there was no video / photographic evidence which is a shame but there is always the mental image and a bottle of Freixenet as a reminder. Anyway that's enough about that and back to the match. Authors continued their innings but now faced the tight bowling of Tim House and following the loss of a couple of late wickets, both bowled by Matt Dipple (4-46) putting him on top of the season's bowling chart, declared just before tea on a very competitive 218-8.
Tea was quite superb and many thanks to Patricia Lee, Georgina Lamb and Rona Hickman for such a wonderful spread. The pickled onions were a particular personal highlight.
And so to Middleton's reply. Howard Lancaster had damaged both leg and hand in the field and was unable to open the batting, opting for a number 11 if absolutely necessary role and promoting the skipper and the writer into practically the middle order in doing so. Middleton had also gone into the match having lost the services of Nick Moorman following his selection for Oxfordshire over 50's in their last 16 County Cup tie away in Kent. Stevyn Jackson had stepped into the breach. Could we replace the Moorman/Lancaster runs at the top of the order?
Campion opened the bowling for Authors and from an umpires eye view he was quick, accurate, frugal and nagging of length. The fielding was largely first class and from the other end Beckmann was equally thrifty as the two Tim's, Riley and House struggled to get the scoreboard ticking. Bowling replacements Campbell and Hogg were equally parsimonious and the former eventually made the breakthrough having Tim R caught in close for 18. The latter then dismissed Tim H via a breathtaking behind the body catch at first slip by Broom. You could very well have been hearing more about this contender for catch of the day but I am compiling the match report and Mr Broom is not! It was however stunning if just for the nonchalance of the take.
Jim Watson entered the fray in his last match for Middleton as he and his lovely family head off to pastures South, being the second club departee of the month after Jon O' Neill's recent move away. Unfortunately Jim was unable to add any runs to his club tally before being stumped via deflection/quick keeper reactions to leave Middleton struggling at 46-3.
Enter Stevyn to join Mark Ford-Langstaff. From the spectator benches calling/ communication appeared lacking in this relationship, one particular incident seeing Mark like a swimmer desperately reaching for the finishing wall pose as he endeavoured to make his ground after a particularly elongated game of shall we shan't we, yes, no, no in the middle of the wicket. This was perhaps at least rivalled if not surpassed in the amusement value stakes by the sight of Tom Holland chasing after one of his own deliveries and stopping it before it had reached the batsman. Priceless.
Matt Dipple and Richard Morris sat, stood, shuffled and fidgeted on the sideline awaiting the inevitable run out and a call to action but a change of tactics came about that would mean their services would not be required. Deciding to largely abandon the running malarkey unless absolutely necessary and with not a small amount of (post match self-confessed luck) both batsmen then went on the attack and moved the score along very nicely. Whilst it had always felt unlikely that the run chase would end up in a successful chase down, as we entered the final 20 overs both looked to play their shots and the scoreboard marched onwards. Fortunately both completed their half centuries before unfortunately the overs ran out and the red ink settled. Mark finished on 66 not out and Stevyn undefeated on 53 in a total of 174-3. Well batted both. Match Drawn.
A huge thank you to the opposition for their companionship throughout the afternoon. A well contested game was played in great spirit and in the end a draw felt a fair result. We look forward to welcoming them back to Middleton Park in the very near future.
Post match, kind words were said by the opposition both on-line and face to face about the location and venue which was particularly lovely given the locations of some of the other fixtures that they play. Howard manfully manned the bar, yours truly the barbecue with more than a little help from Rona and the skipper proceeded to make make a shameless plug to get his hitherto unpublished cricket based murder mystery novel, set in Middleton Stoney thinly disguised as Middle Auder, into print during his speech. (Ed. - it's called The Bowler's End.)
Much chat aided by some cold beverages continued into the early evening until it was time to bid farewell to all including sadly Jim and family who will be sorely missed. It was pleasing to note that Jim's impeccable manners have rubbed off on his youngest daughter who thought it nice that you were presented with a bottle of Freixenet for doing the barbecue. Perhaps a thought for the future? We wish them all in the best in their new adventure and trust that that they will pop back to see us when they are able.