With 28 players declaring availability for Bank Holiday Sunday it was decided to find a second fixture so that more players could have the chance to play. The venue was Bampton, the opposition unknown. But what could be more pleasant than an afternoon of cricket in the Oxfordshire countryside?
Alas, dear reader, 28 became 24 as some of those who had said they would play found they could no longer do so. But no matter 24 was more than enough for 2 teams. And still a week to go. A first outing for two XI's. Two concurrent matches on the same Sunday, and still 2 willing players missing out.
Cut to Saturday evening: the 24 had become 21, gone back to 22 and then once more to 21. The phone lines glowed as messages passed between exasperated selectors far and wide, late into the evening. Several Saturday nights were disrupted, many a partner cursed an interrupted evening.
Cue a Captain’s plea to all players. You need to declare your availability on the app by the 15th of each month for the matches taking place the following month. Please take time to check when you have said that you are available, when you have been picked and that you are still able to play. We will continue to be understanding of injury, emergency and unexpected events. We just ask that when you know your availability has changed that you update the app and inform the Team Secretary or one of the selection committee at the earliest time. You must do both, messaging is not enough due to the volume of messages that can be received.
To the match itself. 10 became eleven with the inclusion of one of Middleton’s younger recruits, John Floyd’s son Gus could not contain his excitement at being asked to help out. His enthusiasm was refreshing, and his concentration outstanding considering the longest match he had previously played was one of 15 overs.
The game was 40 overs per team and played on the artificial wicket. Bampton chose to bat first.
Messrs. Petit and Barton the Younger took the new ball. Batsman Payne was cautious, while partner Debenham looked to attack anything short pitched. The game ticked along as pleasantly as the afternoon weather. To the South West a Cuckoo was heard calling. In response Petit bowled one of his devilish inswinging yorkers. The stumps were splayed and Simon rejoiced, Payne gone for a painstaking 3. The following over Elliot too found the perfect yorker dismissing the Number 3 for a duck. A change of ends for Petit and the introduction of Barton the Elder saw Debenham out for 34 and then 2 wickets in 2 balls for Barton. At 60 - 5 and 17 overs gone MSCC were in a winning position. New to the crease was Easterbrooke, a younger player, clearly a little nervous and Tinson, bearded and confident. The perfect chance for Gus Floyd to bowl his first adult overs. Although Tinson showed him scant respect, the contest between Floyd and Easterbrook was even, twice he edged past slip and once he could have been caught at mid on. A very promising start from a player who will remember his first game.
Dad John took over, bowling his arc-ing left arm medium pace allowing Matt Dipple freedom to let rip down hill from the pavilion end. Dipple will have days of greater statistical success, but it would be fair to say that he had Tinson in some discomfort. One ball, just after Tinson carved a boundary from a thick outside edge, was fractionally short pitching on leg stump. It cannoned into what used to be called the lower midriff on the BBC. Tinson crumpled to the floor, his face turned pale and a sigh of genuine discomfort was felt by all around. It is never fun to be hit in the box. When your box is still in your kit bag, and you are hit in the lower midriff it is even less fun. It is moderately amusing to the fielding team when they find out.
Meanwhile Easterbrooke’s watchful innings was showing flashes of intent. He took a liking to the bowling of Wordsworth, clearing the ropes twice with flashes of exuberance. Tinson was extracting revenge on the bowlers. The score was mounting, a hundred stand was passed and Bampton were back in the game.
On reflection the 36 extras conceded would prove to be a crucial difference between the teams.
Full of confidence and striking the ball cleanly Nick Moorman opened with the more circumspect John Floyd. All was serene, but the gathering clouds and falling temperature were a poor omen. Perhaps it was the chill air, perhaps the lack of warm tea but a spell of May madness was to rip apart the Middelton inning. With 9 overs gone, John called for a quick, but manageable single. Nick set off. Half way down John swerved into the path of Nick. A rugby referee would have awarded a penalty for crossing. Nick was merely left stranded. It did not need the direct hit throw. There was time aplenty for the run out.
It is quite usual in these circumstances for the guilty party to seek out the wronged. It was not necessary in this case. Young Gus apologised on behalf of his father, much to Nick’s amusement.
Bampton’s bowling and in particular their fielding was exceptionally keen. Where normally 2 runs could be expected only 1 was scored, boundary bound shots were pulled up and the throwing was low flat and accurate. Countless runs were saved. Some were saved by the lack of a precise boundary between the flags. The Middleton inning continued at a respectable pace. A promoted Matt Dipple sought to make the most of his time at the crease and Floyd became more and more fluent as time progressed. The second wicket and the second run came at 69. Floyd the departing batsman for 24 - undone by a direct hit.
John Springer played one glorious back foot shot through the off side before miscuing a simple chance to square leg. Next man, making his season’s debut, Stevyn Jackson. All too briefly Stevyn showed a willingness to attack the bowling. Perhaps it was the running he put in fielding - the ball did follow him throughout the first innings - that led to the third run out of innings, Dimples’ call for a single found him waiting transfixed at the bowler’s end - was it the cuckoo again, was it dreams of glory? The margin of the run out was not close.
The scores after 25 overs of each innings were similar. Captain Riley joined Dipple and with 2 early boundaries looked to have matters under control. Dipple’s innings (24) ended with mistimed pull caught at square leg, Elliot Barton the new bat. Easterbrooke was bowling from the pavilion end, a lovely spell of bowling, good in length and line and offering little scoring opportunity. The ball swung for him, as it had all match, and pressure began to mount as the run required rate rose.
Once in every cricket career a batter will get out in a way that will only happen once. Eliot played missed and meditated, Whilst meditating the keeper threw down the stumps - and Elliot had to go. Next time he needs to meditate he will be sure to place a foot behind the crease. This was a disappointment as he had looked most assured with bat in hand,
Paul Wordsworth and Tim Riley have several decades of cricketing experience. Both made efforts to raise the run rate, but experience was no match for youth in the field and neither was able to create the necessary momentum or pierce the offside field. Striving for a second run Wordsworth became the fourth run out victim - this time it was closer, but still clearly out.
With Simon Petit striding to the crease four overs remained and still fifty runs were needed for victory.
Perhaps it was watching some of the deeds in the IPL, or perhaps it was sheer adrenaline but Simon was able to turn the game upside down. Given license to thrill he set about the bowling that had caused others so much difficulty. Going into the last over a possible, if unlikely, 21 were needed. Bampton had scored 19 from their equivalent over.
Trying to engineer the perfect Middleton finish, Petit struck the fifth ball for 6. A second 6 would win the game, 4 would tie. Contact was made but not cleanly, Simon picked up a further 2 runs to finish on 39 and Middleton fell to defeat by just three runs short of the target.
Thanks to Bampton for putting on the game and to the players who made the journey, Particular thanks for those who went the extra mile in seeking the eleventh player.