A warm sunny evening greeted the players arriving at Middleton Park for the game against Far From The MCC. The pre-match preparations had left the ground looking immaculate and the teams were clearly enthused as play started just before 6pm.
A late change to the line-up saw Tim Riley come into the team as skipper, although in a break from tradition he sent Mark Ford-Langstaff into the middle as a specialist coin-tosser. The decision paid off as Mark won the toss, electing to bat first on what looked a good wicket.
Openers Jackson and Lancaster strode out to middle purposefully, and a short time later they strode back again after picking up a single each. Both were greeted with much sympathy from Simpson on the boundary.
Ford-Langstaff and Harris were next in and spent some time getting used to the speed of the pitch after the early wickets. The growing home crowd was getting restless as Stoney reached 30 for 2 after 8. But the batsmen knew what they were doing, seeing off the opening bowlers and then scoring more freely against the aging ball. The score had reached 65 for 3 when Harris fell to a good catch in the 12th over.
Lumb then joined Ford-Langstaff and the scoring continued at pace. Ford-Langstaff retired upon reaching his fifty with what would be the only 6 of the match and after Breaker fell for 7, it was down to Vadivale and Lumb to guide the innings home.
However, there was controversy from the penultimate delivery. The home spectators cheered what appeared to be 4 byes, only to see Vadivale marching towards the pavilion with a face like thunder. LBW had been the decision from Umpire Lumb. The opposition agreed with Vadivale that there had been no contact and sportingly called him back, while Dipple had a mini-strop at losing his opportunity to swing the bat… but his time would come.
A quickly run 2 off the last ball brought an entertaining innings to a close, with MSCC setting FFTMCC a challenging 135 to win.
The Far From The MCC batsmen started positively against the opening bowling pair of Barton and Dipple, taking 17 off the first 3 overs with minimal fuss.
When the first wicket did come, it was in peculiar circumstances. The opener who had looked in good nick opted to play an exaggerated ‘leave’ off a Dipple straight ball on middle stump. His partner soon followed back to the pavilion, caught by Lancaster off the same bowler – and Dipple finished with impressive figures of 3 overs, 3 for 13 when the number 4 batsman edged behind to Lumb.
Riley opted to take some pace off the ball for the middle overs as Simpson, complete with new ‘go-faster’ haircut, and the skipper himself limited scoring options while picking up a wicket each. Riley appeared unlucky not to pick up a second wicket as the visiting umpire raised his index finger in response to a loud LBW appeal, only to go on to explain that this was his signal to indicate the ball was going over the top of the stumps.
Vadivale then offered up some spin and took two wickets in his first over – both clean bowled. The fielding remained solid throughout the innings, with memorable contributions from Harris - restricting the batsmen to singles from countless shots into the deep - and Ford-Langstaff who used most parts of his body to stop the ball at some point in the 20 overs.
With the required run rate growing, the skipper turned to his death bowlers – as the trio of Breaker, Lancaster and Harris closed out the innings with FFTMC finishing on 97/7, Middleton Stoney winning by 37 runs.
The opposition stayed for a well-earned post-match drink, where the discussion in the Middleton camp was about the 100% T20 record this season. Perhaps a little too soon for talk of ‘The 2021 Invincibles’…