Our summer ended in a mirror image of how it should have begun, with the President's game. Familiar faces in an unfamiliar season, socially distanced but pulling together as a club to celebrate achievements and friendship but also to bid a fond farewell to two stalwarts of the club.
Before the cricket could begin, we had the challenging task of taking the team photo. The benches were as far apart as two Mike Simpson maidens and the stage was set. You can see the results in a photographic collection of the day's events here (with thanks to Tim House).
Simon Lee captaining in his final game for Middleton, final game for anyone in fact, kept his knack of losing the toss going as rival President's XI skipper, Tim House won the toss and decided to bowl.
The man with the unenviable task of picking today's teams, Mark Ford-Langstaff opened the innings for the Captain's XI along with Nick Moorman. They faced spin twins Mike Simpson and Jason Williams in a tactical play by skipper, Tim. Mark and Nick looked to be dealing with the threat well until that is Mark miscued one of Jason's twirlers that was said by many (just Mark then) to have dipped viciously and Tim took a fine running, tumbling catch to draw first blood.
Nick was joined by first Andrew Thomas, then Jamie Lumb and Simon Pettit. All three hit some lusty blows but fell attempting to increase the run rate. The wickets falling to Jason, Tim Riley and David Cole. Elliot Barton and Jon Springer also had a bowl but only one more wicket was to fall. Josh Holt, making his debut was caught and bowled by Simmo. Nick Moorman proved to be the cement in the innings finishing on 45 when run out by Tim House. The pick of the bowlers was Matt Dipple who bowled splendidly and despite not taking a wicket only conceded nine runs. Wayne Dibsdell also on debut and Paul Wordsworth were the not out batsmen finishing the innings in an avalanche of singles. Simon's Captain's XI finished on 106 for 6 and the feeling was this was competitive if a little below par.
A word at this point about our second member to be moving away and whilst he won't be entirely absent, groundsman Dr. Nick Thompson will be sorely missed. Dr. Nick, a life member of the club has tended the ground for over 30 years and been at the club far longer. He has improved the square hugely with average scores increasing over the years without ever becoming a batsman's paradise. The workings of the various pieces of equipment Nick lovingly keeps going will need to be understood by other willing volunteers stepping up to continue Nick's legacy. He will be much missed as groundsman, committee member and former player amongst many other roles at the club. With him of course goes Di. Also a life member and a contributor in many roles to club life over countless years, she will be missed. If you haven't read Di's chapter on cricket teas at Middleton Park in Memories and Extras, I urge you to do so.
The President's XI opened the batting with Jon Springer and Richard Morris. Both looked in fine form as first Rob Barton and next the younger Morris, Jack tried their best to get an early breakthrough. Rob kept things very tight and beat the bat on a number of occasions, but Jack had to bowl at his Dad who had eyed up deep mid-wicket early and was hitting the ball very hard. With the batsmen on top, a change was needed. Josh Holt and Paul Wordsworth were brought into the attack but Jon and Richard were looking comfortable by now. Simon Lee turned to inswing in the very welcome return to action of Simon Pettit making his season's debut. Some rust was apparent early on (a fine 6 from Jon) but the familiar action soon fell into place. At the other end, Mark Ford-Langstaff joined the attack. It was Mark who got the breakthrough. Treating Simon Lee to his favourite type of delivery as a farewell present, Mark's slower ball, descended from the heavens, deceived Richard and had him LBW for a fine 33. In his second over, Mark had Jay Mumtaz stumped by Jamie Lumb and the game was on. At least it was until first Nick misjudged a steepler and then Mark did the same. Catches win matches but not today. Perhaps Andrew Thomas could winkle out Jon? He did more than that, sending the stumps backwards and claiming the wicket despite bowling having taken a nasty knock to the ankle. Maybe another LBW could make the difference? Matt Dipple out to Simon P and if we could just dismiss Tim House and batsman of the year, Tim Riley cheaply...
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Simon Lee stepped up to bowl the final overs in tandem with Nick Moorman. One last look for us all at the stuttering run up, the glint of competitiveness in his eye, the dip, the rip and finally the roar - Tim R out cheaply. Some say he was deceived in the air, others that emotion overcame him. Either way, Simon had his final victim, Riley stumped Lumb 3.
However, there was to be no fairy tale ending. Tim House played a captain's innings (18*) and David Cole hit the winning runs to take the President's XI to a 5 wicket victory.
The cricket was hugely enjoyable and was followed up with an equally enjoyable awards ceremony. A very popular win (finally) was Simon L for 'photo of the year'. More various cups and flags were handed out (more here) and then the club President Peter VanDe Kerkhof presented gifts to Simon and Nick to show our appreciation. Simon surprised us all with a gift of his own. Everyone received a copy of his debut novel, "The Bowler's End", a murder mystery including some very recognisable characters apparently! We look forward to seeing whodunnit and also to next season when we very much hope we will be back to a full season of cricket as normal in our beautiful surroundings.
PS: After publishing we were delighted to discover the club and Simon's retirement was included in an article on the ESPN Cricinfo website reflecting on the memories cricketers take into winter. You can read the article by Paul Edwards here.