And so we began. The neatly trimmed outfield reflected the hours spent by the volunteer army in preening, pruning and pummeling the ground out of its winter sleep. Players experienced and players new to the game, Middleton stalwarts and Middleton debutants, the old(er) and the young were all delighted to back in the sun. Nuthatches, wrens and Mistle Thrush sang the joys of the new season. The new brilliant white boundary rope glittered its temptation to the opening pair of the President’s XI.
Presiding over affairs were Mr Richard Lumb and Mr Brian Dipple while Mr Chris Greer kept score. What a delight it is to have willing volunteers for these jobs, and what a delight to see so many observing the demonstration of the various mowers…. Had Tim House deliberately left the mower unemptied. We shall never know.
Tim House, captain of the Pretenders, won the toss and asked the President’s to bat first. Evergreens Moorman and Springer faced the first overs to be bowled by Messrs. Dipple and Barton.
All soon fell into the regular Sunday rhythm. Nick played some delightful shots through the V, John offered steady support. The scoreboard ticked to 30 without incident. All was upset by a Dipple slower ball, Springer, deceived, played too early and his stumps were rearranged by a clearly delighted bowler. Enter the fray debutant John Floyd, he carried an air of confidence, right elbow high, he soon joined Moorman in a free scoring partnership. Turning to spin, neither Jack Morris nor Jason Williams were allowed to settle into a rhythm and runs flowed in steady stream. Squiff Wordsworth was showing some fighting spirit in the field and his attacking of the ball and fierce hurling or the ball to keeper was a good example to all. Soon the score had passed 100 and both batsman retired unbeaten. The Harris family came on to bowl against Asif Kamal and Ben Breaker. Ben showed the benefit of some recent coaching but a lapse of concentration in calling resulted in Asif’s unfortunate run out. Jacob Harris showed some promising signs as a bowler of the future, father Dan was a little more accurate in line and length.
It was not to be expected that Tim House’s sixth bowling change would see a cataclysmic collapse in the President’s XI innings. The golden arm of Sathya Vadiavale cleaned up the late middle order, Breaker caught behind, Riley stunned by of a ball of such complex trajectory that NASA are still trying to recreate its flight path. George Williams bowled by a jaffa and Richard Morris smartly stumped by Jamie Lumb behind the stumps….Howzat Dad.
There was just time for Mike Simpson to be involved in the run out of Eliot Barton, and for Michael Robinson to come the closest all day to hitting a six. The captain declared after just 31 overs. As a wise senior player said on the sundrenched bench…. “You have to risk losing if you want a chance of winning.”
The tyros, George Williams and Eliot Barton took the new ball for the President. Older heads, Lancaster and Thomas opened the batting. The old heads won this contest, despite the odd scare. It took a very smart piece of fielding from Eliot Barton to upset this apple cart. His pick and throw found Thomas stranded trying to turn and President’s XI sniffed an opening. Michael Robinson took over bowling duties and showed an appreciation of line and length, trapping the dangerous Wordsworth LBW. Jamie Lumb now joined an increasingly confident Lancaster, boundaries flowed, Lancaster picking out the point boundary and Lumb targeting the legside. Victory would shortly follow if these two continued.
IT was time for flight, guile and seniority. Mike Simpson took the ball. Not a ball failed to find its intended target. Captain Riley supported from the other end. Lumb was trapped LBW, both Harrises fell cheaply and when Matt Dipple picked the wrong fielder in the deep the President’s XI were right back in the game. But the Pretender’s Captain was still to come, and the run rate was very manageable.
This time it was the Simpson magic that won. A moment’s aberration by House, a shot he will surely wish to forget and the tail would now need to wag. Four more wickets were needed. Six overs remained and 24 runs were required.
Simpson finished with 4 -16 from his 7 overs ( Vadivale earlier took 4 - 15) and Riley 3 - 16.
With three overs left Eliot Barton was bowling at his father and Jason Williams. Rob Barton was pleased to spank his son back past the bowler for four, but Eliot has the last laugh trapping Jason LBW for 5.
Appearing from the Eastern Benches came No 12, Vadivale. There was a swagger in his walk, like a sharpshooter heading for the showdown. He had taken four wickets…. 7 runs from the last over…. Just a trifle.
By the time of the last ball four runs were still needed. Or so it was thought at the time. Close textual analysis of the score books shows that it was just two runs. The boundary riders patrolled expectantly in front of the pavilion. The ball was delivered, any result was possible, a proper Middleton finish had materialised, Satyha struck, but alas without enough venom and the ball was fielded without incident.
Roll on the season proper and more days in the sun.