The Fin- “Nish” – er
Mere statistics are not enough to describe a remarkable game at the Middleton Oval. In a low scoring game the remarkable became common place. A few noteworthy events that took place: MSCC conceded not a single extra in the 37 and a half overs bowled. There were only two bowling changes in the completed first innings and only four bowling changes in the whole match. The respective run rates for both innings were slower than in the test match. The batsman who hit the winning runs was completing his first competitive innings. A visiting bowler, Mr Chesser bowled 21.3 0vers for just 28 runs
It all seemed perfectly normal when the captains strolled out to toss up. The wicket had been kept dry by the timely application of the tarpaulin on Friday, thanks Nick and Simon. The outfield looked remarkably dry considering the Saturday deluge. Tim Riley, Captain for the day, asked the visitors to bat first. And at 2 O’clock Rob Barton bowled the first ball. A half chance, just brushing the fingernails of Joe Moorman at short cover was the only incident of the over. Nish Patel took the new ball from the Church End, finding an easy rhythm and a little movement off the seam. Rob struck first blood when Andrew Thomas, specialist mid off, took a smart catch from a lofted drive. Nish and Rob continued bowling in good rhythm, Rob teasing outside the off stump and Nish up the second wicket pair with nagging accuracy. Both bowlers missed caught and bowled chances, and when a further chance was spilled at short extra cover the batsmen must have thought their luck was in. Alex Ooms swooped at mid wicket and was a whisker from a direct hit run out as the score passed 30.
In his seventh over Rob persuaded the second opener to test the mid off specialist. It was an extreme test, above and beyond his right shoulder: Paul Wordsworth considered it one of the finest catches seen on the ground.
Nish was not to out done, he bowled the opposing skipper with a deceptive full toss, then had the safe hands of Nick Morman to thank to account for the fourth wicket. Three of the first four wickets to fall were catches from mistime drives. Surely a pre cursor of what was to come.
At 48 – 4 and after 18 overs both bowlers took their sweaters, to be replaced by the wiles of Wordsworth and Ooms.
Alex took wickets in each of his first two overs to leave Steeple Aston in dire trouble at 60 - 6. Wiley Willy Wordsworth, loosening his shoulder by his fifth over, worked hard to find the correct pace and length on a helpful wicket. 60 – 6 become 88 – 8 and then 100 – 9 as the senior bowler picked up victims in his seventh, eighth and ninth overs, the third of which was the third catch for the ever safe hands of Andrew Thomas, this fielding the Simon Lee slot at short mid wicket.
For Steeple Aston, left hander Chesser top scored with 34 not and he will have regretted exposing the last man to Alex Ooms quicker ball on the third ball of the over. At 4.15 tea was taken and it is fair to say that Ladbrokes would have given poor odds for anything other that a comfortable home victory.
Most of the home team were still at the putting away stage of packed teas when dramatic shifts of fortune began to unfold. Steeple Aston opened with off spin from Longman and medium pace from Dogget. Second ball of the innings Kiran Patel may have nicked the ball, or nicked the ground: what ever he nicked, the keeper caught the ball and Kiran departed- perhaps the blow to the head in a collision when fielding had fogged his vision. When Joe Moorman played all around the fifth ball of the over to be bowled the visitors sniffed a chance and their efforts redoubled.
Tim Riley at 0 – 2 insouciantly swatted his first ball for four and then aided by Andrew Thomas had taken the score to 16 – 2 in just two overs. Surely this would be a canter to the finish line and the game would be over in time for Evensong.
Three overs of medium pace were all that were to be allowed. Chesser, slow left arm and Longman, off spin with a good change of pace, settled in to bowl. Tidy. Very, very tidy. Once settled little scoring opportunity was offered. The eiderdown outfield sapped the energy from the shots. With no pace to work with nudges and deflections were of little value. Riley and Thomas were controlled, and little troubled. From no where Thomas found perfect timing and his push for a single turned into in drive to mid on who pouched the chance. 40 – 3…. No problem, plenty of batting still to come and eons of time left in the game.
Jamie Lumb was watchful, as was Howard Lacaster, but both were LBW to the persistant Longmans as Middleton become becalmed in the fifties. The scoreboard read 51 as the clock ticked from 5 to 5.30. Runs were at a premium, but Riley and Nick Moorman were not be rushed. Eventually the scoreboard began to move again. Moorman picking gaps in the off side and then a brief flurry of boundaries before Chesser had Riley LBW for 47 just after the final 20 overs had started.
45 runs to score. Four wickets in hand 18 overs left. Patience would be the key. Chesser and Longman offered very little, Moorman and Alex Ooms worked hard. Variable bounce made scoring harder. At 82 Alex was undone by a terrific quicker ball and Steeple Aston gained the upper hand.
A draw had been a very unlikely outcome, a tie even more unlikely. Runs became harder and harder to score, Chris’s pencil was drying up for lack of use. Nick’s competitive nature came to the fore. Singles were scampered. Nish Patel has not batted for Middleton Stoney before today. Nish Patel has not batted for anyone before today – Steeple Aston sensed his inexperience. The fielders closed in. Nish was resilient. He valued his wicket. He competed. Nick nurdled, nudged, and nabbed singles. The boundary watchers began to pace. Michael Simpson turned the numbers on the scoreboard, each single clapped, each two cheered and then when it seemed that bowling changes were a thing of history one came.
Pace from the North end. 13 runs required from three overs. Nish struck out, not quite the middle of the bat but four very welcome runs came to third man and the tide had turned once more.
With two runs needed from the last seven balls, Nick, just to add interest to the game missed a straight one and Rob Barton ran out to join Nish.
Six balls, Two to win, two wickets in hand. A novice batsman facing, and a very experienced and very nervous No. 11 waiting on the boundary desperately hoping not to have to bat.
Nish was on a mission. The ball was to hit and to be hit hard – if he could hit it…. And on the third ball he did, to square leg. The second run was completed with a full length dive just as the bails were removed. It had taken 48 and a half overs to score but it was as hard fought as any victory on any cricket ground.
It takes two teams to make a great match, many thanks to our guests for playing the game to win, playing the game and not quite making it over the line.