Well – what a season opener, glorious weather in the run up to our opening fixture, a lot of enthusiasm (almost childlike from some!) both for playing and ground work, and the day was upon us, promising an unseasonably warm day, perfect for cricket! YAY!
Your Fixture Secretary faced quite a few challenges over the winter regarding the merit of opting to have the season opener on Easter Sunday; you will struggle to get an XI, you can’t expect people to play on Easter Sunday or the weather won’t be great….to cite but a few! The biggest of which seemed to be that neither Skipper, nor his Vice Skip could make themselves available in the face of family gatherings……….no matter, he who pays the piper calls the tune…….so Fixture Sec had to step in to deputise for them.
This too caused some challenges, not least being a fear that it was a cunningly orchestrated plan to get his (i.e. my!) name on the stunning newly affixed Honours Board…for the first 5-for of the season. Indeed, it was unreasonably suggested that I might opt to bowl unchanged from one end (those with good memories will recall a similar effort by former skipper Greg Pearson!) in an effort to start the seasons wicket tally!
The build up during the week had focussed on getting the pitch ready, quite a challenge for Dr Nick as the outfield has struggled in some parts to recover from the extreme heat of last summer! But, a lot of groundwork including scarifying, applying lawn sand & seed to the outfield has given us hope it will improve. In the interests of a high scoring game, one batter was so keen for runs that he urged a full outfield cut on the morning of the game, totally selfless commitment to the cause!
We were all set, the Pavilion, ground & strip looking stunning for the first game (thanks to all for their input & efforts), players arriving gradually albeit two of the opposition were delayed by M25 traffic (Yes, they were coming great distances for this feast of cricket!). Middleton won the toss and after a moment (!) careful consideration (& the words of the team ringing in my ears!) we opted to bat first. As Skipper, my only concern was whether Elliot’s Dad, Rob, would be able to return to the ground with Elliot’s white trousers as he had carelesslyfully managed to leave in the van when dropped off…….panic set in when Elliot ‘fessed to not knowing his home (or Dad’s mobile) numbers and we had to disturb Skipper Lee and his family dinner to raise the alarm! [Note to parents of teenage boys, make sure they know their home number, as it appears if they don’t have their mobile they are “lost”!]
Messrs Moorman (N) & Lancaster strode out to open with a sense of purpose & big smirks. After a few tentative prods and one snick which raced through the slips for 4 (“Unheard of in April at Middleton”) Nick & Howard settled into their roles, unusually it was Howard who took the lead with a succession of boundaries on the onside, at least one of which brought praise from Nick! They proceeded, at a good pace, to put on a more than respectable 92 for the first wicket off the first 20 overs, just falling short of a century partnership in the first game! Howard fell having reached 39, a good start for the season. In went Joe Moorman to join his father and hopes were high, Joe sadly fell lbw first ball ☹ - suddenly panic had hit, were Middleton going to collapse in England like fashion? Players scuttled to get padded up in readiness……in went Tim Riley…panic over! Tim & Nick proceeded to put on 100 in good time. As milestones were approaching; Tim’s 50, Nick’s 100 and tea, the stand-in Skipper had to contemplate whether to declare before tea (dd we have enough?) or should I let Nick try to get a 100? As it was, Tim raced to his 50 first an then, in a generous act, attempted to reverse sweep Min skipper Beswick (a perilous move) fell, to make way for Jay Mumtaz to provide a cameo. Nick progressed to record his first 100 of 2019, a great knock and certainly validated his desire (for it was he I referred to earlier!) to ensure that the outfield was cut thoroughly! This was his 4th hundred in 5 successive innings at Middleton (punctuated only by a 96 at the end of 2018 season!) and, we discovered, his 50th career century……..so at least one new line for the new Honours Board (& a 4th entry for Nick….this could prove an expensive year!!). Jay smote a huge 6 off Beswick and was then run out attempting a 2nd. We declared on 229 for 6 off 38 overs at tea.
Tea was a truly splendid array of sandwiches, cakes and sweet delights prepared & served by the Williams family – thank you guys. The Min were gracious enough to confirm it was already going to be their highlight tea of the season! At this point, it should be noted that one of the benefits of playing on Easter Sunday was a rare sighting……clearly not a Moorman century (they appear to be like London Buses at the moment!) but a fantastic Simnel Cake widely enjoyed and savoured 😊.
Middleton took the field with a spring in their step (despite filling up on cake!). Skipper opted to open at one end, with our Middleton debutant, Asif at the other. This plan seemed to work, as I was lucky enough to clip the opener’s leg stump with the first ball of 2019, a very satisfying start [Thanks to Tim House I am told that his 6 snap record of this is on Facebook – sadly I can’t see this!] this caused disarray, as it seems #3 wasn’t ready to bat, so in came #4, big hitting Ray Demaze. He fell lbw (given by Min’s umpire) and Min were 8 for 2. Asif was getting into his stride and bowling very well, conceding only 10 off his first 5 overs. For fear of recrimination and to encourage our young players, Skip opted to take a break after 3 overs and passed the baton to Elliot, giving him a chance to redeem his earlier forgetfulness. This he did in Spades……….another wicket with his opening delivery….his first at Middleton. Jack Morris, our other junior playing, came on at the other end to give Asif a breather and he too struck in his first over, not to be outdone, Jack grabbed 2 wickets and a further wicket in his 2nd over, leaving Min reeling at 30-odd for 6. With players like this, skippering seemed too easy! Could Middleton win? The Min had 2 left handers at the crease who were looking steady and determined to dig in. In an effort to dislodge them, we bought on Jason Williams with his cunning variations, after an opening 12 run over, Jason settled and claimed a scalp – the deadlock was broken…only briefly as the 8th wicket pairing proved even more obdurate and despite a few changes seemed well set. Joe Moorman was brought on to try to break this partnership and with uncanny timing, and a great delivery, he struck in his first over bringing the hope of a win closer! Sadly (for Middleton that is!) we were unable to prise out the last 2 wickets in the closing 4 overs and Min finished on 111 for 8 to draw the match. By this time, the weather had brought out quite a crowd to watch and to boost bar takings, thanks to all who came to support & cheer.
I’m afraid the stand-in Skipper didn’t bag a win, but we had a great afternoon, with some fine performances, a great tea and renewed our friendship with The Min who always play the game in the right spirit and are prepared to travel some distance to take part. All that was left was to honour the Skippers advice that there should be a ‘Prosecco’ moment…well, it was Easter Sunday, so this became a ‘Prosecco Easter Egg’ moment (thanks to M&S!) and despite Nick’s fine century and Jack’s 3-for, the award went to Elliot for his 1st ball (1st MSCC) wicket, a great way to redeem his earlier forgetfulness!
Let’s hope 2019 brings us more of the same!