There were some pleasant aspects of the opening day of the 2022 season for the home team arriving early on Sunday afternoon. The sun shone brightly, the wind whispered, the ground was resplendent, there was a John Floyd tea to enjoy and there was the anticipation of a few runs to be gathered or wickets to be taken. West Indian superstar, Carlos Braithwait must have been thinking much the same when he debuted for Knowle and Dorridge CC. He took no wickets, was the most expensive bowler, was out first ball and had his car stolen. Middleton’s day was, by a small margin, a little better.
After the toss was won there were a few murmurs of “good choice Skipper” as Middleton strapped on pads to face a Bicester side which looked a good blend of youth and experience. Pitch marker for the day Howard Lancaster opened with Eliot Barton and for five overs nothing unusual happened. Eliot was to be undone by an unexpected straight ball from lively opening bowler Watt, which sent bails both East and West allowing debutant Matt Carpenter to join Howard. Slowly some runs accumulated, the opening bowlers were replaced and some of Bicester’s younger bowlers came onto bowl. That the first ball to Howard, described here in his own words, “ was outside the leg stump in line then swung to outside the off” showed that the younger bowlers would find the right pace and line to make scoring difficult on a sluggish pitch. At 30 - 1 Middleton were still in the game.
Often when patience has been the watchword it is the bad ball which gets the wicket, Matt was well beaten to be bowled, but Howard turned a leg side long hop into the hands of a grateful square leg. A newly slimline, Stevyn “svelt” Jackson and Tim Riley added just another 15 runs between them, Jamie Lumb contributed a promising 14 more while Max Langdale scampered a precious 6. Two of the wickets to fall were somewhat careless run-outs. Youngest player in the team, Gus Floyd was hoping to face his fathers bowling, but the chance was snatched away as Middletons final four wickets fell with the minimum of resistance. It had taken only 32 overs so Bicester were given 20 mins to bat before tea. This giving the added bonus of allowing John Floyd time to boil the kettle, set out the plates and iron the tea towels.
It would need an early breakthrough if Middleton were to have any chance. Bicester sent out two of their stronger batters to open and were soon making the chase look easy. Neither Rob Barton nor Asif Kamal caused significant problems, despite Rob’s finger tip deflection onto the bowler’s stumps which was the closest to wicket that Middleton would come. Gus Floyd bowled two respectable overs either side of tea. Eliot Barton let fly for one over, including one very good yorker, but was played comfortably. The Captain bowled a steady over of spin and with 23 runs still required threw the ball to Seril Shah, a renowned stand- breaking bowler. It was to be the last over of the 10 that Bicester had needed.
Richard Lumb umpired amicably all afternoon and Chris Greer tallied the scores, for which the team is eternally grateful. Middleton stalwart, Sathya Vadivale skippered the visitors to victory and for the second successive season was on the victorious team in the first match.
With spectators piling into the ground and young players keen to play on, a 10 over match of 12 a side was arranged to fill in the void before the bar and barbeque would be in full swing. The home captain devised a format that would give the home team a chance of revenge. The teams were to bat in order of age, youngest first, and all players were to bowl on over, if they were capable.
This time Bicester batted first. Two of the earlier bowling tormentors came in to bat. Being well coached they commenced playing themselves in. Seril took first over and conceded a single, indeed after 24 of the 60 balls on offer Bicester had yet to reach 10.Gus Floyd again bowling a steady line and length. Stevyn Jackson was denied a first wicket for the club, when Sam Norley spilled a catch at square leg, ( the sun at 5.00 in April being particularly bright as it dips over the pavilion. For balance's sake, Sam was denied a first wicket when Stevyn failed to hold onto a chance at slip. With Asif also spilling a chance at gully it looked as if Middleton would play two matches and fail to take any wickets. Eventually two did fall, the run rate picked up and Middleton were set 50 to win.
Gus being the youngest, faced first ball, not from his father, but from his younger brother. You can play many years before getting a king pair on the same day. Gus is made of stern stuff, the king pair was avoided, he picked up a couple and gave the more aggressive Eliot Barton the strike for the second over. Eliot fell to a catch at mid-off, Gus was bowled making room, and Max stumped in a flurry of action in the next three overs. Matt Carpenter ignored the carnage and became the only player to reach the retirement score of 20 setting up the prospect of an easy win. The unexpected wicket of Jamie Lumb roused the older players from their deck chairs trying to work out who was the next youngest. They needn’t have bothered as Sam struck the winning blow with nine balls to spare.
With some honour salvaged the teams retired to bar and barbecue, thanks to Seril, Howard, Peter and Jamie for their efforts. Net practice is on Wednesday evening, I hope to see a few more players there.