MSCC v Iffley Village CC
My heart soared when I noted that the next opposition in this possibly fateful, probably seminal, but perfectly possible season had the noun, village, within its name. Village cricket; that is what is needed in times like these, at least for those of us who will not, or actually cannot, aspire to the sensibly bio-secure, sanitised environments that our national team have to (or should, Joffra) adhere to.
And Iffley Village Cricket Club live and play by this creed: “With the ethos behind the club being to play friendly 40-over and 20-over cricket matches against like-minded clubs around the country, our focus is as much on playing competitive cricket as it is enjoying a beer with the opposition after the game, and with the journey being far more important than the result.”
The analytical, inquisitive, or perhaps even troublesome, might have spotted the misalignment of that with this year’s Sunday games at MSCC (40 overs, beers with opposition after the game) but then again if you had been there, you’d know that like-minded, competitive, and the journey being more important than the result, was without doubt apparent throughout their visit to the club.
And back to “village cricket” – you’d expect to hear fictional names, and stories, such as Tom Spedigue of “Spedigue’s droppers” infamy, Flashman’s hat-trick (more to come on that later), Psmith, John Bickersdyke and the unfortunate Mike Jackson turning up for Iffley Village CC, but instead they gloriously matched that with “Daylight” Rob Berry, J.R.Hartley and plenty of players who classified themselves as “specialist fielders”. Just the kind of club we should be aligning ourselves with.
So on another glorious day, (now meaning one that cricket can be played), MSCC won the toss and decided to bat. “Just the outcome we did not want” announced Bill Smith, the visiting captain, and summoned all of his team off to the nets for their first practice of the season.
Nick Moorman and Tim House opened for MSCC and moved smoothly through the gears, past drinks and onto 140, after twenty or so overs when Tim eventually was bowled by an absolute jaffa, unplayable to anyone, really, for a belligerent 82. Just when he was getting warmed up. Nick Moorman soon followed, for 62, possibly unable to keep up with the pace set earlier, and MSCC had their first wobble. Or not.
Andrew Thomas and Tim Riley, the wily old-pros that they are, read the situation to a tee, timed both the ball and the scoring rate to perfection, and pushed for an early declaration, adding 25 minutes to the MSCC attempt to bowl out the visitors. 44 and 27, respectively, in style, brought the score up to 230-2, in a respectably sharp 37 overs, at the bring-your-own tea interval.
MSCC set off with great hopes, as they felt they had runs on the board, time on their side, plenty of eager bowlers, one of whom had taken three wickets in his last over last Wednesday.
Iffley sent in a large, imposing and chatty batsman (well, we’re used to them at MSCC, aren’t we) with their somewhat hamstrung (ditto) other specialist opener. Both teams had time, and the obviously the ability, to make a game of this.
But for an hour, twenty four overs, not forgetting that at least twenty minutes of that was “added time” that MSCC had hoped to swing the odds in, it could have been a facsimile of T. L. Goddard of South Africa bowling to England’s R.W. , or Bob, Taylor. (It seems these two hold the records for lowest and slowest strike rates respectively in tests). Nothing happened.
Jamie Garrard bowled beautifully. George Williams did as well. The three wicket wizard, Paul Wordsworth, maintained the high standards and Anish Patel, following up from his recent, impressive debut, now probably realised the reality of giving your soul to Middleton Stoney Cricket Club, by having consecutive catches of his bowling dropped.
24 overs gone and no in-roads. But then again, not too many ticked off against the 230 odd runs need, in fact only 63.
Only one thing for it – bring on the “I don’t bowl much, but can if you need me” types. Andrew Thomas immediately bowls the hamstrung hero. Very soon afterwards, he had his second, and maybe MSCC were on their way. Olly Ross, one of these erstwhile MSCC members who comes back to haunt us on occasion, came in to bat for Iffley, all guns blazing.
But the man with the new van, Tim Riley, was then introduced to the attack, and the man with the van had a plan. Lob them out, possibly close to a cricketing legal version of Tom Spedigue. And it worked. Ross junior could not control himself any longer and was bowled.
And then Tim Riley went to town, with the help of Jamie Lumb, who on this day became one of the few MSCC members to claim three stumpings in a game, albeit one slightly to his, as the appealer, and to his Dad’s, as the umpire’s, embarrassment. The chatty batsman (there’s a book title in there somewhere), the skipper and the young kid who wasn’t given a second chance, had perished, out of the crease. A whisker away from his hat-trick, an LBW rewarded Tim with a “fifer” and he will soon, when we get the engravers in, appear on the honours board, alongside his batting achievement on the other side of the wall. Congratulations. Who knows if he will appear on the middle one at some stage…?
Iffley pushed their way up to the 190’s, but were running out of time. MSCC just could not deliver the final, killer blows. We had tried nine bowlers. And so an honourable and enjoyable draw was the result.
Some may say that 44 overs should have either yielded ten wickets or 230 runs, at 5.23 runs an over, but then again, some were not playing village, or Sunday cricket on 19th July 2020 at Middleton Stoney, where everyone who did, probably believed that reality is as often more enjoyable, and less believable than fiction.