Last year, we finished our season on a wet day with a heavy defeat by Gloucestershire Gipsies. It wasn’t all bad, our last wicket partnership raised our score from 57-9 to 83 all out with Stuart Batts at number 10 top-scoring on 13 and myself left on 11 not out (just saying). Our total was, however, only half of the Gipsies’ score.
So they were quite confident this year. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever played against such a confident cricket team. The weather was good.
In my mind, I was going to win the toss in my last game leading the club against external opposition, our top 7 were going to get 50 each and then we were going to bowl them out for under 83, to avenge last year’s thrashing. Oh yes, and I was going to take 5 wickets, with at least one caught and bowled.
It did not quite work out like that. Gipsies won the toss and batted first. They looked at times as if they would score 300.
Their opener was confident he was not out in the first over when he was Leg Before Wicket to Matt Dipple. The ball kept low. The umpire, Michael Simpson, thought about it before giving his verdict. The batsman seemed to think that because he was batting outside the crease and was on the front foot, he somehow had herd immunity to the virus of being given out. He was also, incidentally but commendably, attempting to play straight to a straight delivery. What he wasn’t doing, however, was hitting the ball, which is the only way to avoid LBW to a delivery which could not possibly have risen above the stumps or missed them on either side.
Gipsies, however, thought that a change of umpire might change their fortunes. At the first sanitiser break, they relieved Mike of his umpiring duties.
By then, Matt Dipple had bowled a similar delivery which had duly clattered the stumps of their number 3. If he had got his pads in the way, it would have been plumb LBW. Gloucestershire Gipsies were not yet in double figures but were two wickets down. Admittedly, their next pair looked quite useful. Their number 3 scored 48 before he was well caught by Squiff Wordsworth at cover point off my bowling. Their number 4 hit several sixes from different bowlers before he was bowled by Tim House for 91. Their number 5 retired hurt, with hamstring trouble. Gipsies’ number 6, who scored 35, and number 7 were each bowled by Rob Barton in the same over of his fine second spell. Our 40 overs were shared by those mentioned above, plus Jack Morris, Tim Riley and Nick Moorman, who each bowled well. Gipsies declared on 226 for 7, still looking and sounding confident. Their opener was still confident at tea-time, and indeed after the match, that he should not have been given out.
We did well to restrict them to that score. Every run saved made a difference, as did every maiden over. We gave away few extras. We held our catch. Well, Squiff held his catch. I dropped another caught and bowled chance. Matt Dipple dropped their star player in the deep but the bowler, Tim House, showed no frustration whatsoever. I know what you are thinking: it would not have happened the other way round, if Matt had been the bowler, not least because Tim would have caught it. The only way to react if you are given out LBW or have a catch dropped off your bowling, whether by yourself or by somebody else, is to get on with the game. So that was the over when Tim House decided to bowl out their number 4 as he approached his maiden century. By the way, this was the same batsman who could have been caught in my first over if I had stationed a good fielder somewhere near the church. Matt Dipple had the best figures with 10 overs, 3 maidens, 2 for 35, Rob Barton bowled 7 overs, 1 maiden, 2 for 40, Tim House bowled 3 overs, taking 1 for 24, and I bowled 6 overs, 1 maiden, 1 for 23.
Tea was superb. Thank you to Patricia Lee for my tea and to all the players and their families who provided tea for themselves throughout this unusual season.
Jack Morris was heroic in volunteering to field for their injured batsman and Gipsies appreciated his fielding. Indeed, they would quite like him to have bowled for them as well. By the end of the game, when one of their bowlers had retreated with a twinge in his back, we were supplying two of their fielders. As they tried everything, Gipsies in looking for a LBW even welcomed back Mike Simpson as one of the umpires. Rob Barton, Nick Moorman and Tim House also took a turn umpiring. Richard Lumb, who has umpired for much of the season, was in the cluster on the benches on the far side of the ground, still seemingly playing with his app. Chris Greer was in the scorebox throughout the match. Gipsies’ scorer, Keith Fuller, was socially distanced next to the scorebox with his own chair, table and computer. I trust that someone had a stopwatch recording the time it took their injured batsman and their injured bowler to limp off, compared (perhaps in this case with a calendar) to the time it took their opener, the one who was out LBW, to leave the field.
Tim Riley and Tim House, who have cheerfully batted down the order various times this season, were restored as our opening pair. They set off at such a rate that the Gipsies’ opening bowlers lost their rhythm. Richard Morris and I were umpiring. Richard was kept busy signalling wides while I had to call no-ball twice in an over for dangerously high full tosses. Rather than requiring Gipsies to take off a young bowler, I attributed his slips of the hand to the assiduously applied sanitiser and exercised the discretion I didn’t have to let him complete his spell. Tim and Tim hit the ball hard and raced into a commanding position. Tim House eventually miscued one on 45 and was caught. Andrew Thomas maintained the momentum with some well-timed cover drives which sped to the boundary all along the ground. When he was neatly stumped, Jay Mumtaz came in and thumped his first delivery for a 4 that was all in the air until inches before the boundary. Tim Riley was 101 not out and Jay Mumtaz was 25 not out. To their credit, Gipsies bowled 36 overs. We won with 3 overs to go. Squiff Wordsworth at 5, Nick Moorman at 6 and Richard Morris at 7 did not get to bat. Tim Riley’s century was chanceless.
The real champagne moment of the day was when Liz McFarlan appeared at the ground to sit on the bench which has a plaque dedicated to her late husband, Bill, a former Chairman of Middleton Stoney Cricket Club, and one of their daughters, Caro, a Vice-President, who died earlier this year. Accompanied by her other daughters, Nicky and Amanda with their husbands John and Richard, and by Caro’s partner, Mike, Liz was delighted to see, at a social distance, friends from the club and the village, as word spread that she was visiting. It would have been too emotional to have said any of that at the end of the match, however, so I gave fizz instead to those responsible for two outstanding knocks, their number 4 and Tim Riley. Gloucestershire Gipsies lingered at the boundary’s edge. Social distancing was observed but hospitality was extended as best we could. The chairman, Peter Van de Kerkhof, joined us, having earlier in the week cleared up the debris from the major bough breaking off the oak tree which juts across the boundary. The club vice-captain, Tim House, cleared up everything else, as he has all season. As he was busy doing that, and Tim Riley was recovering from his two hours of batting, this might have been the first time one or both of the Tims had not collected the boundary flags this season. Instead, Jack Morris and I had the pleasure of wandering around the ground reflecting on the achievements and the moments recorded in the citations on our flags. This was a champagne ending to an extraordinary set of fixtures against other clubs in a bizarre season. Many thanks to the ground management team, this week in the person of Assistant Ground Manager Simon Pettit, who switched plans to prepare a second strip on the far side of the square, to avoid the disruption caused by the tree, and the assistant to the assistant, Nick Moorman, who sportingly mowed the outfield to give those actually batting the best chance of overhauling his own total of runs for the season. All that remains (before the golf tournament, the AGM and the winter) is our President’s Day intra-club T20, if lockdown restrictions and the weather permit us another Sunday’s grace.