The Authors won the toss. Their openers soon fell to George Williams and Rob Barton. Keeper Jamie Lumb took a good catch off George’s bowling. Rob hit the stumps. George’s second wicket was LBW. The batsman, their number 3 did not agree with the umpire’s LBW judgement but had played well and scored 30. Talking of judging, the umpire is a judge.
On came the spinners. First, Sathya Vadivale was hit confidently over mid-on by the new batsman who was surprised to see George Williams leap like Ben Stokes to take a spectacular overhead and one-handed catch. Mike Simpson bowled well at the other end. Then I came on and was hit with some force to mid-wicket, where Mark Ford-Langstaff caught their number 4, who had scored 38.
The Authors’ 6 & 7 took the game away from us with a formidable partnership. Their 6 batted through to their declaration, when he was 58 not out. Their 7, Authors’ skipper Jon Hotten, was eventually bowled by Andrew Thomas for 38. Their keeper came in and was caught by Sathya Vadivale when Rob Barton returned to bowl the last over before tea. We bowled 42 overs (and since you ask, I bowled 5 of them, 1 for 11, #justsaying). The Authors declared at 185-7.
Tim Riley and Tim House took Middleton Stoney comfortably and stylishly to 41 in 10 overs before I came out to umpire. After the first ball at the bowler’s end, I heard their leg-side fielders having a conversation. Square leg suggested to his captain that Tim House was never going to hit it to him, and volunteered to move. The skipper told him to stay put. They were the only two fielders on the leg side, so it seemed reasonable to me. Square leg saw things differently. He didn’t exactly utter those familiar, sulky, words of someone convinced they know better than their captain, ‘Up to you, skip’, but that was the gist. The next delivery was short and Tim House pulled it straight to square leg who at least had the good grace to catch it.
A change of bowling led to Tim Riley’s dismissal, bowled for our top score of 26. An umpiring change brought Rob Barton back to the middle. Mark Ford-Langstaff and Andrew Thomas were both out LBW to the same bowler for 11 and 12, respectively. Jay Mumtaz was well caught and bowled for 7. Jamie Lumb was bowled for 2. Mike Simpson hit the ball high and was caught for 7. Sathya Vadivale was LBW for 13. George Williams drove his first two balls exquisitely for 4 and then played on for a three-ball cameo of 8. Rob Barton showed great discipline during his 0 not out in not being tempted to hit loose deliveries and in playing straight ones with ease.
The most likely result (if the crowd’s nervousness was our guide) was a victory for The Authors since I now had to face the last over. It was dark in Middleton Park and had begun to rain. I appealed, pleaded really, for bad light but the umpires and The Authors thought I was joking. The Authors brought back one of their star all-rounders, who had already taken wickets and had batted well at 4 (and who was out to me, thanks to Mark Ford-Langstaff’s catch). Nemesis (not his real name) ran in from somewhere near the sight-screen, bringing the pace of Jofra Archer to the final drama. I managed to see out the over, the match was drawn, Rob was left on 0 not out and I was 2 (#justsaying) not out as we survived on 114 for 9.
The crowd helped to make the day. Some of the characters we have been missing came to watch, including Tony and Caroline, Sue and Richard, and two of my grandchildren, Madeleine and Theo, as well as this season’s regulars and The Authors’ supporters. Judge Richard Lumb umpired for most of the game, Simon Pettit for passages of play which amused him greatly.
Simon’s innovation, replacing our ‘champagne moment’ award with his ‘pure cricketing genius’ award of Skywave gin, saw him present George Williams with a bottle of gin for his extraordinary catch. That’s a whole bottle of genuine gin from our award-winning local distillery, upping our game from a mini-bottle of prosecco. It was a whole bottle of gin kind of a catch. Indeed, it was a whole bottle of gin kind of a day. Many thanks to The Authors and to Tom Holland who redeemed his opening of both their batting and their bowling by tweeting
that Middleton Stoney is ‘England’s most beautiful ground’.