And so, the season began for real; or surreal.
April; a parched yet beautifully prepared ground. Blue skies; two jerseys required. The usual season-opening opposition; a new captain. Riveting cricket; no spectators to witness. A glorious century; no bar to celebrate in.
MSCC, on time and fully accounted for, welcomed back The Min CC for the usual and traditional season-opener. Usual and traditional until last year of course.
Quite a few regular faces appeared after their usual long journeys from London or thereabouts. Historically this fixture’s result has ebbed and flowed, the last two being tightly fought draws.
And who are The Min? Many believe it is a good ploy to do some research on your opposition before a game. Very often, it proves a source of useful cricketing intel. Unfortunately, in this case, it was pretty useless.
Their own Facebook page obviously tries to sell us a dummy here, stating that “Min is a God of fertility (who) coalesced with Amon and Horus and was always a god of fertility and sexuality.” Well, that’s really not going to help anyone win a cricket match, is it.
Similarly, “The MIN is a number that uniquely identifies a mobile phone working”. Pretty useless.
And finally, “A person who has the ability to stand out from the rest of the crowd, unorthodox; to be min, you must be able to do anything you want, without the fear of being judged”. And certainly Mr. Imah, batting at number 8, with his reverse slog slap for four off our strike bowler, possibly proved its veracity.
Whatever, history and the assembled teams hinted that on paper, it was anyone’s game. But should you look at that paper, (caringly compiled by Chris) you will see that every batsman from The Min, on the day, scored more than three of the MSCC “top order”, so…
The new club captain, Tim Riley led the MSCC side out to field, as a unit, having previously lost the toss, and gathered the players for a brief briefing on bowling and a short salutation to Seril Shah, our latest recruit and debutant.
Matt Dipple and Rob Barton opened the bowling under bright blue skies that failed to disguise the icy breeze that cut through the array of club sweaters on show. (Note to sartorial secretary). Michael Simpson however had no worries about the cold air troubling him. He had of course managed to procure an additional one, size “medium”. [ The publisher would like to explain that because all spectators are currently and miserably banned from attending games, the article is attempting to paint a true picture of the afternoon’s stand-out images].
The two bowled well. Matt had his father, Brian, kindly umpiring at his end. Matt would usually claim NOT kindly, yet “that paper” will show that two of his four wickets were indeed given out LBW. The Min lost their first wicket after resisting, and no more, for seven overs, with the score on 20. The wickets fell regularly, three for Matt by his seventh over, and then the skipper decided to turn to spin. Michael took a while to slip out of that sweater, but was quickly into his stride, on a day that saw him add three more wickets to his impressive career tally, two bowled and one well taken by Richard Morris behind the stumps.
Seril Shah was thrown the ball, having told us he “bowled a bit”. His second ball for the club was clubbed at a terrifying pace by the dangerous looking number three, straight at Seril’s face. As though re-enacting Houdini catching a bullet in his mouth, (borrowing a phrase) the debutant looked to be poleaxed as ball met man. But man held on, and we may have witnessed the Champagne moment of the year in Game 1. Caught & Bowled; nice one Seril.
Jack Morris soon entered the attack; holding his nerve against the batsman that had been trading in boundaries. Jack bamboozled him, and Richard Lumb, again umpiring at MSCC, affirmed the LBW shout. At tea, MSCC had bowled 41 overs and The Min had steadily amassed 172.
Without the pleasure of the renown Middleton Stoney cricket teas that we all miss, the players idled away the minutes, possibly dreaming of hot tea and cake. There would have been one with 149 candles on it for the illustrious C.B.Fry of course. Back to the present.
The captain, Tim “Wily” Riley, as some are calling him, offered the afternoon’s four non-bowlers the privilege of chasing down the runs at the top of the order. All four had netted or played a bit this year, when allowed, so confidence was high.
Nick Moorman and Mark Ford-Langstaff went out first. Mark came back first, rather soon. Bowled by a jaffa. Tim House went in third. Tim came back second, rather soon. Bowled by a jaffa. Jamie Lumb, who had swapped his keeping gloves for batting ones, went in next and came back third. Also rather soon. Beaten by a jaffa. 11-3.
At this stage you will have realised two important truths. This was written by a batsman, more specifically a recently dismissed batsman, and secondly it was suddenly a devilish pitch, which backs up the first truth.
Rob Barton, usually known as a strike bowler, came in at number five, and showed the aforementioned so-called batsmen how to do it, confidently knocking it all over the park, and for quite a while. But when he perished, The Min looked confident, chatty and certainly the bookies’ favourite.
Nick Moorman had looked solid throughout, and was now joined by our captain. Afterwards, Tim R said something that his vice-captain has never said or thought. “The total never felt threatening enough to play any stupid shots”. Extraordinary.
If a club had to choose two sensible and skilful cricketers to chase down 172 from 50-4, then these would probably be them. Sure enough, without the slightest chance or worry, the score had almost reached parity when the penultimate over began. Tim (Riley of course) had reached his fifty. Nick was facing, and with the last blow of the game, we found out that Mr. Moorman had once again struck a century. It’s impressive to do it whenever, but when chasing a total, with wickets falling around you early on, overs running out and against a skilful side such as The Min, it’s remarkable.
It is a shame no one could watch the game from the side lines, especially David, Nick’s dad, who has witnessed so many of his family’s innings over the years. It was a shame we were not able to celebrate the game, the victory itself or Nick’s century in the bar afterwards, and it was a shame Nick was not allowed to buy us all a drink; that would have been worth reporting.