“The Lion and the Middleton were fighting for the crown:
The Lion thrashed the Middleton all around the town.” After Lewis Carroll.
Three of the class of 1995 remained from the original fixture against Blue Lion of North Yorkshire. Those three were Michael Simpson and Paul Wordsworth playing, and Richard Lumb umpiring. Some have played several times and a select few were meeting our guests, on their twenty fifth and supposedly final visit, for the first time. On most of those visits the Blue Lion have been the stronger team, this game was to be no exception.
The Blue Lion were invited to bat first. Fresh from his success at Blenheim, (not the Battle of 1704) but the match on Wednesday last, George Williams roared in from the Church End. The Blue Lion opener looked at ease. Seven runs were added, and the opener was now to face Asif Kamal. Asif’s first delivery was full, enticing the drive. It swung late, bamboozled the opener and crashed into the middle and leg stump. In his next over Asif again had the visiting team rocking. A good length outswinging delivery found the edge and sped toward the slips. Standing at slip, restful, content and relaxed after an extended luncheon of beef and red wine in the company of the Thompson family, was Michael Simpson. His relaxed body turned to the left, with both hands extended, picked the ball as if harvesting the grapes for the next pressing, before tumbling to the floor in a forward roll and then back to his feet. The grin on his face expressed his pleasure. The team rushed to congratulate bowler and fielder.
Williams tried to match the wiles of Kamal. When the fifth ball of his third over was lifted elegantly, back over his head for six, and with knowledge of the strength of the batting to come it was clear this was going to require a special effort to contain the scoring. At 46 - 2 came the first bowling change. Simpson started economically, only conceding 3 runs from his first three overs. Blue Lion skipper Dale Marshall, played one well timed reverse sweep, but failed to beat the outfield. This was perhaps not the fittest, youngest or slimmest of Middleton fielding teams. For the first hour and a half or so each one put his body on the line. None more so than the most venerable of the team who hurled his body in dives and hurtled around the boundary edge. Perhaps it was the MSCC club tie holding up his trousers that inspired him.
Simpson struck next with a lifting ball striking the glove of an attempted sweep, allowing Jamie Lumb to take a good catch behind. Then Vadivale, stiff and weary from his previous days 17 overs - a fact he neglected to tell the captain until after the game- replaced Asif. After a first over that showed some evidence of weary stiffness he induced a mistake from the new batsman who lobbed the ball back to the bowler's left. Where the earlier slip catch had been relaxed, smooth and effortless, this attempt was less elegant but just as effective. Enthused Vadivale picked up a second wicket with the aid of a juggling Lancaster at backward point. His final figures of 5 overs 2 - 16 would turn out to be the best return of the home side.
84 - 5 was the highpoint for the home team. The Marshall brothers, Dale and Craig, together with their father and now Craig’s three year old son are cricketers of repute. They have been stalwarts of the Blue Lion and well known by the Middleton cognoscenti as proper players. When the ball was hit it was hit clean, good balls were treated with respect, but anything off length or line was dispatched to all parts. Dale took to the bowling of Riley, Shah and Williams, while Craig helped himself as the fielding became more ragged. A declaration as the score passed 200 might have been expected, but Blue carried on until tea with 245 on the board.
As guest for the day, Dr Nick Thomson, groundsman emeritus will have been pleased to see a wicket and outfield conducive to score making. Many thanks to the team who worked to put the ground in shape. The Pizza van provided teas of the highest quality and was a highlight for those who have made do with a packed lunch for the season so far.
Lancaster and Vadivale strolled to the crease hoping for a bit of buffet bowling but finding the larder was bare. Hatchard, Hatchard and Shotton, the first three Blue Lion bowlers were unrelenting in length and line, and found both swing and seam in abundance. Survival was difficult, scoring runs somewhat harder. Attempting to accelerate Lancaster was bowled, at which point Vadivale retreated into test match mode. Johnny Hough can hit the bowl hard, he was the first to score a boundary, he should have had two but his second straight drive hit the Hon Sec full on the right buttock. His best bit of run saving all day. Hough fell to a very smart leg side stumping and Lumb joined Vadivale hoping to push the score along. After the first 20 overs MSCC had amassed just 28 runs, leaving a rather unlikely target of 210 form the last 20. In form George Williams was sent in when Lumb chipped to square leg. A flurry of scoring shots woke up the visiting fielders who had fallen into gentle slumber as forward prod had followed forward prod. William’s 37 cheered the growing crowd of supporters as did the advent of Riley who took 12 from his first three balls and encouraged Vadivale to be more adventurous. Three shots of the opening bat stand out. From nowhere came a “Dil - scoop” for four, followed by a reverse sweep and a hook shot both for boundaries. With the game looking to be headed for an inevitable draw, Riley was LBW for 25. Stevyn Jackson pulled a ball from wide outside his off stump to be caught by a diving mid wicket and after a first ball flourish, Simpson walked LBW for 7. With three balls remaining Blue Lion needed three more wickets… at last the field crowded the bat. Seril Shar serenely blocked out the last three balls to secure the draw. Vadivale carried his bat for a patient 45 not out.
Chairman Pete had ensured that the visitors were extended the best of hospitality and for the first time in two seasons it felt as if the post match camaraderie had properly returned. An original drawing of the ground was presented on behalf of the club the Dr. Nick and prints to Man of the Match, Dale Marshall, to the publican of the Blue Lion and in absentia to the team organizer of the Blue Lion.
Mr Marshall senior, proud father and grandfather, left the ground with tears welling as he revealed that his son had presented his man of the match print to his dad. Earlier he had spoken eloquently of the need to preserve grounds such as ours and the importance of the volunteers who keep it going. With that in mind it is a good time to mention that their will be vacancies in some of the key roles in the club next season. If you feel that you would be able to offer some time, expertise or just enthusiasm please speak to Peter in the coming weeks.