The Intolerable Cruelty of Fate.
The stars of the film, “Intolerable Cruelty”, George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones, could not have done more to portray the agonies of unfilled expectation than was to befall our Vice Captain, Mr House, in his long awaited return.
Expectation begins long before the start of the match, to be exact at 11.40 when the gate to Middleton Park was opened and Captain and Vice Captain, with help from Messrs, Dipple and Nalborczyk got final pitch preparations underway. All done and time for a quick bat in the nets before greeting the arrival of the visiting team.
For all of us it was the first game for three weeks, for Mr House the first game in twelve. The toss lost, Middleton were asked to bat first. Mr Simpson giddy in excitement at being asked to bat at 3 put down his half smoked woodbine and hastened to pad up. Mr Mumtaz, purveyor of sweetmeats and spiced treats for the day was equally keen to be up the order and joined his Captain in opening the innings. A despondent Captain miscued to cover in only the second over, Mr Simpson bounded to the crease, excitement concealed by the patina of experience. The opening bowlers caused little further alarm, Mr Mumtaz defending resolutely, Mr Simspon biding his time before unfurling an exquisite cover drive for the day’s first boundary.
30 runs had been gathered when the first bowling change signalled a change in the course of the game. The leg spin of Royce Jnr allied with the outstanding glove work of Siddons had Middleton in trouble from the first ball. Mr Simpson edged to the right of slip who nearly held a blinder before Mr Mumtaz, playing back when he should have been forward, was marching toward the kitchen before umpire, Hon. Lumb could raise a digit.
Master Harry Way joined fellow Yorkie Mr Simpson. The second of four leg spinners to bowl, Henderson Jnr was more forgiving than Royce and mixed some poor deliveries with some stunners. Way lost his way and his wicket in a confusion of timings, thinking that the there a few minutes left to bat when the innings was not yet half done. The stumping was by a considerable margin.
After those 12 long weeks Mr House strode with purpose toward the middle. Slow spin is not his preferred option when choosing what to face, and Henderson’s spin was slow. The ball pitched outside the leg stump, turned considerably and left Mr House in a state of bemusement, matched only by Mike Gatting facing Shane Warne, as the ball did enough to pass behind his legs and kiss the leg stump. Expectation had been dashed to the ground in a thousand jagged pieces. Jamie Lumb came in to face the hat trick ball. A well judged “leave” saw the ball cannon into his pads right in front of the stumps, but fortunately about to pass well over the top of the bails.
Mr Simpson was now in a fine fettle. He felt he was on for a “big one”. He had waited for the bad ball and three times had put it away. Now came another, a slow looping leg break, short pitched and wide of the off stump. The big one was not to be, the timing was out, the ball hit the toe of the bat and the ball presented itself to cover for any easy catch. 63 for five and Middleton were reeling. The Law Society were a side packed with bowling options and there was no relief or easy runs for the batting team. Wordsworth Jnr and Lumb Jnr grafted with unusual patience. There were occasional bad balls that were dispatched, but mostly careful defence dominated.
The score had passed 100 and Lumb Jnr was showing more attacking intent. Nearing 50 his shot selection faltered and he top edged for the keeper to take an easy catch walking forward as he did so. The pair had doubled the score. If the remaining batsmen could stay with Wordsworth Jnr the a good total would be reached. The remaining four batsmen combined for one additional run leaving a bemused Wordsworth unbeaten on 21.
With games starting at 1.00 in September, Lunch is often forfeited in the rush to get to the ground. Mr Mumtaz’s tea was a fine substitute for lunch. Both teams indulged in Samosas, Pakoras and many other eastern delights. It was a fine selection, with both captain’s happy to extend the 20 min tea interval into a 40 min lunch in order to do such a spread justice.
The wicket had helped the spinners who pushed it through but had offered little help to the seamers. Some of the dampness had left the surface by the start of the second innings. Middleton’s opening pair of Mr Dipple and Mr Nalborczyk settled to the task. Dipple’s sixth ball took the first wicket, Leg before The ball beat the bat enough times to cheer the bowlers, the bat stroked the ball well enough for the batters to think they had the upper hand. The dangerous Siddon, a tear in his eye for he was playing his last match in England before returning Down Under after many years, slashed at a wide one from Mr Nalborczyk giving Lumb Jnr the most straight forward of catches. 20 - 2 after 8 overs and it was still anyone’s game.
If you refer back to match reports of games with the Law Society the name Adams features as chief run maker. Again today he accumulated runs without ever looking like being dismissed. He was to reach a half century before he scored a boundary but he never looked out of control. Supporting batsmen put bat to ball, but perished in time, Adams just accumulated. Middleton rang the changes, but the modest total was easily passed for the loss of just three more wickets.
Hospitality was extended into the early evening thanks to Messrs Hickman and House on bar and barbecue while the Middleton top order and tail washed away their sorrows.
Two matches (and a day of golf) remain while most other clubs have put their squares to bed for the winter. Next Sunday sees the return of Gloucester Gypsies, while on the 26th of September we play the Authors 12.30 start. This final game will be preceded by a buffet brunch and a presentation of awards starting at 10.30. The brunch( a Vadivale special) and presentation will go ahead whatever the weather. Please make an effort to attend in the morning even if you are not selected for the game.