Mid July and MSCC started off the T20 season on a grey evening, but with a spring in our steps. The enthusiasm was evidential by the arrival of all 22 players, and a few extras, way before 5.30pm and the MSCC team set about ensuring that everything was in place to maintain the bio security of players and visitors alike.
It was to be a game with several sub-plots. Russell Turner, a MSCC playing member, who knows us well was our opposition skipper. MSCC had several family duos – father/son combinations, always a sign of a happy and healthy club, were plentiful; Barton, Williams, and Lumb (Richard kindly umpired all evening). Siblings Anish and Kiran Patel made their (impressive) debuts for the club, and it turned out they knew the Wordsworth family from old. Mike Simpson also added to the family feel to the game, also umpiring. And the scores, at first glance, would suggest not too much to write home about; yet, I’m still writing…
Russell looked at the overcast skies and decided to allow MSCC to bat second in what was sure to be the lux equivalent of 11th December 2000, Karachi. But as someone (possibly) once wrote, “a pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds, and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; a cricketer at Middleton Stoney doesn’t see the clouds at all, he’s walking on them”.
Jamie Lumb had been seen practising his bowling in the nets beforehand, and graciously accepted the wicketkeeping duties suddenly on offer. Two of the senior pros, Jason Williams and Paul Wordsworth took the new, pink, ball.
And very steady they were, both settling into a rhythm that a T20 match rarely sees. Only three off the first two overs and then…Jason W had come out of lockdown like a greyhound out of the slips. No waiting for him. He bowled the opener with one that stayed straight. His batting partner decided it was time to open up, but Paul W was having none of that and frustrated the opposition. Elliot Barton then took one for the team, simultaneously (and this is quite a feat) saving a six, snapping a finger, dropping a catch and narrowly avoiding saving the resulting four. He responded by initially showing us the (injured) finger, but then heroically, next ball, re-enacted the process, but this time clinging onto a blinder on the boundary. 14-2. The skipper changed the bowling with Paul W wicketless, but parsimonious after his initial three overs.
The Barton boys took over just as Russell and his batting partner decided to take the game to MSCC. But Rob’s outswing swung it his way and the opposition skipper perished for a well struck 12. Elliot mixed it up and was unlucky not to add to his season’s tally. Rob added another and FFTMCC were 33-4.
The introduction of the brothers Patel, Anish and Kiran brought yet another dimension to the attack. Both at that niggly pace that suits Middleton Stoney (even on another great track such as this) saw the noose tighten. Anish picked up a well-deserved first wicket through persistence and accuracy, and Kiran was very unlucky to see his first delivery for MSCC sail up into the air, through the hands of the waiting, perfectly positioned fielder and run away for a sneaky two. The guilty party made up for this in spades later on. 59-5.
George Williams, having been held back, was storming in when asked to bowl. A long hop was slapped with aggression towards the covers. But Rob Barton seemed to appear from nowhere, or short extra cover to be precise, dive, parry and push the ball over his head. Whilst falling and twisting over, he grabbed the ball inches from the ground and we had, what may well prove, catch of the season. If you were not there, you have missed out, let me tell you.
Jason came back to finish off his overs and promptly collected his third. 68-7 with two overs left, enough thought the captain to let Paul W have his quota and get one in himself. However, Paul had different ideas and his over went like this: 2, W, 4, W, 0, W. All out for 72, with Paul taking 3 for 8, Jason Williams 3 for 11, and Rob Barton 2 for 4 (off two). This was a team performance in the field well worth a match fee, annual subs or or a chilly bench seat on the boundary.
A sanitised turn-round saw Richard Lumb kindly continuing to officiate, while Michael quite sensibly concentrated on his warming glass of red on the side-lines; a position where he was freer to pass comment and wit on the unfolding drama. Ask Howard. Elliot had ice treatment and Howard Lancaster and George Williams went out to reply to the set target.
Howard took strike, but his name was on a certain delivery and MSCC sat up with a jolt. George had plans to win it in boundaries, but was undone by a good-un, and the home team wobbled on 28 for 2, although Kiran Patel had already started to show us what he can do with the bat and had aggressively and quickly added to the score.
Andrew Hickman had hinted that he was (ac)counting on an eight wicket victory at the turn-round, so the pressure was on when Jamie Lumb entered the fray. Although snatching the occasional single, the two batsmen looked to generally score in boundaries, which both did with excellent timing, power and the occasional touch of showmanship. Very soon, they were on the verge of victory and even Ben Breaker, who could have expected an innings at number 5 thought about un-padding. He was indeed right, as Jamie hit the shot of the day to the score-box for six (once again well caught by Rob Barton, who was on fire), and Kiran hit the last ball of the day for four. The unbroken partnership was 46, and saw MSCC past the line in 13 overs.
So despite a low scoring game, it proved to be a highly enjoyable and entertaining evening out. Far from The MCC would certainly have livened up our bar had we been able to open the doors, as they all enjoyed a pint or two on the side lines afterwards. They are always a pleasure to welcome to MSCC and many thanks should go to them for making the journey and putting cricket itself at the top of any agenda on a grey Wednesday evening at our own home of cricket, Middleton Stoney.