Playing Post - Equinoctically
The last gulp of the bloody Mary woke up the early risers who made it to the brunch and presentation morning that marked the end of the season. Tim House’s generous pouring of Russia’s finest was sure to sharpen minds and bodies on this gloriously sunny late September morning. Athis had provided a delightful feast into which the hungry and now well lubricated throng dived. (Even if cups of tea were the choice of lubrication for some). The Chair had set out the cups, prizes and photos for all to admire and speculation flowed about the possible winner of the Michael Martin award.
Photographic creative director, Tim House, was restlessly counting players to ensure a quorum photograph as Chair and Captain began the presentation. New flags were presented to winning players later to be proudly displayed around the boundary, while the Captain modelled the newest version of the club cap. Presentations over, well done Seril, Paul and Squiff in absentia, the team photo was duly directed and more than quorate as the visiting Authors pulled into Middleton Park.
MSCC fielded first, with a limping Stevyn Jackson having to leave the field after five overs in considerable pain. He had made a long journey just to be there for the last game. Desperate not to let his team down he arranged a like for like substitute to take his place; George Williams did not let Stevyn down. I am sure in the history of the game “sporting gentlemen” would arrange for their man to play in their place, it was very sporting of the Authors to allow this late substitution.
Matt Dipple had clearly benefited from the victuals on offer. He generated a good head of steam and found pace in the wicket to cause both openers to reassess their gentle Sunday afternoon. One bouncer in particular did all but knock the peaked cap from the batter’s head. Asif Kamal, in his usual perky manner, took the new ball from the Church end to offer accurate support.
Dipple struck early with one of his three variation balls. A disguised slower ball was prodded to Harry Way at extra cover for a simple catch. Three overs later and he struck again, with an off cutter that was edged to Jamie Lumb behind the wicket. Playing post equinoctically and with an earlier start meant the position of the sun was unusually low and just above the sight screen. Mike Simpson bowled an experimental over with sunlight glistening in a halo behind him trying to dazzle the batter. The experiment did show that there would be turn in the wicket later on.
A tight start by Middleton Stoney kept the run rate low. Dipple was rested and replaced by Williams, while Simpson started his spell proper. Wickets were slow to come as the Authors carefully accumulated. Simpson was twice unlucky to see balls grip and turn over the top of the stumps when hitting the wickets seemed certain. Persisting he finally bowled a perfect delivery, a little loop, a full length, it span in and between bat and bad to lift the leg bail neatly from the wicket.
Replacing Williams, Tim Riley had a busy first over, five taken from the first two balls, a wicket clean bowled with the third, then smashed over long on for six from the fifth. Dipple returned to bowl niggardly from the Church End as Riley had one more wicket to collect, a final stumping for Lumb at Season’s end.
Closing on 166 - 5 one of the not out batsman was heard inquiring about batting on after tea, fortunately he was a lone voice. Ben Breaker provided a first class tea on his debut in the catering department. He had begun early in order to be in time for the earlier brunch, to help out rolling the wicket and to receive his award as the most improved player of the year. Tea was excellent, we look forward to next year’s.
Youth and experience opened the batting for Middleton. Harry Way and Jay Mumtaz were tasked with getting the first 66 before the last 20 overs. They were well on course with Way picking off short balls through mid wicket and backward point for boundaries and Mumtaz pinging the ball over mid on. A speculative appeal against Way for LBW was given out to Way’s considerable surprise, and Mumtaz followed soon after, caught at square leg.
Ben Breaker started positively, his running between the wickets a feature, but did not last long, a similar fate befalling Wayne Dibsdale. George Williams joined Tim Riley at the crease needing five and half runs an over from the last twenty. Riley tried to pick up singles to give the more aggressive Williams the strike. Williams chanced his arm, rode his luck and hit the innings only six. The pair added fifty when Williams chanced his arm once too often and was stumped.
Tim House, yet to score a run in his return from injury kept out his first two balls. The third ball a leg side low full toss was caressed to the boundary, Tim felt as if he had reached his century. The Authors did not have the fastest attack, or the most deceptive of spinners. They did have the advantage of a wicket showing signs of fatigue as the earlier bounce and pace departed. Forcing boundaries was difficult as the ball started to keep low but the finishing line was still in sight. House was unfortunate to have one of the lower bounces as he tried to play a pull shot and was bowled.
Simmo was surely the man for the situation. Push and run was the plan, get the scoreboard ticking over. One lavish square cut found the fielder and then the next ball struck the front of the pad. Umpire Lumb was merciless as the ball hit in front and was going on the hit the middle of middle.
Jamie Lumb struck his first ball for a boundary to reignite hope but he too fell quickly leaving the ninth wicket pair of Dipple and Riley to score 36 from the last three overs with only two wickets in hand. The eighteenth over was Middleton's with 15 runs coming from it, and but for an fantastic gather by the keeper diving full length would have been 19.
Alas Riley was the next LBW victim from the second ball of the penultimate over, Asif ambled out to bat…… the instruction; “ see out this over then have a go from the last”. Asif completed the first part of this instruction leaving Dipple to have a go for victory.
The first ball of the last over was struck clean but toward a fielder. The single was turned down, Dipple turned to defence and for the first time fielders crowded the bat. A very weary Author’s team left the field, they had come close to winning a game that had been in the balance for most of the afternoon.
The sun still shone as the Middleton regulars gathered one last time in front of the pavilion. Once again the Hickman’s managed the bar and Tim House the Barbeque as the season was put to bed. The younger members of the team pushed the sightscreens into their winter migration while the boundary was drawn in. With rain promised Nick Thompson was treating the square in the first stage of the autumn renovations. As the last rays of sunshine lit up the treetops in the East the season came to its conclusion. Roll on April.