Chadlington is not far from Middleton Stoney, though the road there is long and winding. The drive into the Cotswolds was nonetheless a pleasant experience, with a sunny summer’s day showing the scenery at its best. It was therefore a great disappointment when our intrepid travellers arrived at the ground to see a large grey cloud on the horizon, making steady progress towards the ground. Elliott Barton was convinced the rain would miss us; what evidence he was basing this optimism on was unclear.
Our regular official Richard Lumb was joined by club captain Tim Riley, and they strode to the middle to call “play” at 6pm sharp. Thank you, gentlemen, for giving your time. Another club stalwart had taken charge of the team for the evening, it being Simon Pettit’s final game in Middleton colours (or so he claims). Simon had won the toss and decided that, as he could do whatever he liked, he was going to have a bat before the rain came. A wise decision.
Simon had Howard Lancaster for company as Emma Parker opened the bowling for the Barbarians, choosing to come up the hill, with a steep slope running from offside to leg. Howard initially seemed to be on a mission to become Oxfordshire’s most unpopular cricketer by calling Simon through for some rather short singles. Perhaps as a result, Simon’s batting was rather more urgent than Howard’s and after a few lusty blows and a fine six over long on, heaved and missed – bowled for 20. The run rate dropped as Jay Mumtaz and Howard struggled to maintain Simon’s hitting. The wicket was slow and low, finding the gaps was difficult. After 10 overs the score looked a little under par and acceleration was required, though the gloom was now considerable and conditions were worsening. In an attempt to clear the ropes Jay was held at long on for 13 by the aforementioned Parker, and soon after Howard finally completed a run out – calling Ben Breaker through for a suicidal single. It’s fair to say that Tim did not have to think too hard about the decision. Howard’s call was so poor that the usual drink to make amends will probably not suffice, and that a three course meal may be more appropriate.
The two quick wickets precipitated the arrival some rather substantial precipitation. Jamie Lumb returned to find shelter with the score on 73/3 in the 14th over. Thankfully the rain eased, and though it did not stop play resumed. Umpire Riley officiated from beneath his umbrella for the remainder of the innings, from where he was treated to some typical hitting from Lumb and further nurdling from Lancaster. Howard reached his half-century in the final over, then promptly missed a straight one. A fine innings, anchoring our effort of 127 for 4. There was just enough time for a stylish 0* from 2 balls from Matt Dipple. Jamie scored a fine 28*.
The Barbarians had employed ten different bowlers in the first innings, and Simon was keen for us to follow suit. Arms were twisted, and eventually everyone agreed to bowl two overs. The challenge for the skipper was, of course, to juggle the regular bowlers to apply the right amount of pressure on the opposition. At least it made it easy to know when to make a change, even if knowing the identity of the next bowler was a bit trickier.
Michael Robinson and Max Nalborczyk were given the honour of opening the bowling. Max’s optimism of taking the field sporting a wide-brimmed sun hat was rewarded when the clouds parted, the sun shining through reminiscent of a certain scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Alas, there was to be no divine intervention as the openers took a liking to Mike’s bowling, 14 coming from the first over. Fielders and bowlers tightened things up from there, with Max hitting the stumps with a fine delivery, “Ah mate, it did allsorts!” and as the first bowling changes were made the Barbarians were 23 for 1 from 4. Rob Barton and Paul Wordsworth were parsimonious, with Paul picking up the other opener, brilliantly held at point by Max. The opener was distraught, he had done well to hit the ball down – unfortunately the slope meant that Max was considerably downhill from the point of contact and was therefore able to get his fingers under the ball just before it hit the turf.
Jay and Ben had been two of our more reluctant bowlers but acquitted themselves well, the required run rate remaining roughly a run a ball through the middle section of the innings. Their four overs passed without much drama, and Matt and Elliott replaced them. Perhaps the more regular bowlers would turn the screw? Alas, Matt bowled a juicy half-volley that was pummelled to the boundary. The batter promptly and unexpectedly retired not out, and as the new batsman faced up to Elliott there were some worried looks shared between the fielding side. The ground and ball were greasy, and there had been problems getting the ball to bounce before reaching the batsman. Or Jamie behind the stumps. Or the far sightscreen.
Thankfully Elliott found a straight yorker in his armoury, dismissing Arthur, the number 5. Matt followed up with a wicket maiden up the hill, clipping the top of the off stump to dismiss the set batter. As the final four overs arrived West Oxon still needed roughly a run a ball with only Howard and Simon to bowl. Howard was given the bottom end, and the fielders scattered as he marked his run, left arm round the wicket. The second ball of the over was given more flight than the first and the batsman was bamboozled. Jamie managed to remove the bails before the batter made his ground, and Howard had a wicket for the first time in his MSCC career! Simon bowled a maiden and suddenly the game seemed to be won. The 19th and 20th overs came and went, Simon picked up yet another wicket, and the game finished with WOBCC on 110-6. A fine defence of a potentially low target, although things may have turned out differently if it had not been for the retirement.
Our generous hosts had managed to light a barbecue, providing much welcome hot food and beer from their sponsors at Chadlington brewery. Conversation lingered long into the evening, until slowly the travellers returned home. A fine game of cricket, and a great example that ultra-competitiveness is not a pre-requisite to enjoy sport. I am sure that there will be plenty of volunteers to play in this fixture next year.