Gone are the days when the Oxford United Hospitals side would be populated by eminent psychiatrists and clinical pharmacologists but they still provide a stern challenge on the cricket field despite the fact that their own home ground at The Warneford Hospital has been built on. Those of you who have had the pleasure of playing on one of the many cricket grounds around the country that are sited within the boundaries of psychiatric hospitals will no doubt be familiar with their immaculate upkeep – no doubt in part reflecting the obsessive/compulsive nature of some of the personnel involved. No less immaculate was the appearance of Middleton’s ground on the day before this match thanks to the highly professional team put together by the skipper and his enforcer. Thanks once again chaps! However, although the sun was shining benevolently on Saturday, things changed rapidly overnight with a major downpour followed by drizzle on the morning of the game. Things were not looking good but confidence (overconfidence?) in a promise of improvement from the met office led to a decision to have a delayed start at 3.15. Fiddling with the parameters of the game (side batting first to have a maximum of 35 overs and the side batting second a minimum of 30 overs) still ensured that all results, including a draw, would be possible. Not everyone was happy (JS?) but in the light of what followed it was an inspired decision and a very enjoyable game.
OUH took first knock and were soon up against it as two quick wickets fell to the pace of Williams (that’s George not Jason). Ably supported by the miserly Robinson at the other end (8-1-22-0) runs were fairly hard to come by. Third wicket down at 28 and the option of batting out their potential 35 overs was looking unlikely for OUH. However, their opener Talbot clearly had other ideas and spent much of his fine innings bruising the hands of the Middleton fielders. He seemed to take a particular liking to SImmo’s bowling, taking 15 off his first over, including a monster 6 over the scorebox. As our grumpy keeper pointed out “you can always tell when Simmo’s rattled, he goes very quiet”. For a short while Middleton Park actually seemed very quiet indeed but all good things come to an end and Yorkshire’s finest eventually had his revenge by clean bowling the OUH opener for a very well made 59. He found a stubborn partner in the OUH number 4 with whom he took the score to 74. A well-timed bowling change brought the swinging Asif (5-1-9-2) into the attack and saw a flurry of wickets and a collapse from74 for 3 to 86 for 8. Time to give the golden oldies a go – Williams (Jason) and Wordsworth (Paul) had their fun and the final two wickets added enough to see the century up but also one of the finest non-catches seen in the Park. Never mind Springer behind the sticks otherwise had a good afternoon – pouched a couple of rapidly rising nicks and only a couple of byes. The fielding was generally much too sharp for a genuine Middleton side with the younger Wordsworth, Harris and Williams patrolling the covers with much panache.
Now a target of 100 may not seem much, even in a reduced overs game, but with a wet outfield and the boundary ropes right out it can be defended. In recent memory, MSCC had struggled against Islip with a similar score and OUH had the redoubtable “Ten-For” to open their attack. Further, we hadn’t beaten these opponents for a while. Over to the Middleton openers who were clearly determined to bring things to a quick conclusion. George Williams batted like a dream – beautiful lofted drives and elegant defence with a lovely high elbow. His intent was clear from the first over, despatching “Ten-for” for a huge six over long on. His undefeated 67 (3 sixes and 8 fours) was one of the most exciting innings seen at the ground in many years. Batting with the equally brutal Ford-Langstaff (14) an opening stand of 45 was achieved before F-L fell to that man Talbot for 14 but the race to the finish line continued apace as Riley (22 not out) and man-of-the -match Williams (adding to his bowling figures of 6-1-17-3) completed the job in only 15.2 overs.