“Heavenly weather really. If life was always like that. Cricket weather. Sit around under sunshades. Over after over".
MSCC welcomed Iffley CC back for what was, as in 2021, the hottest day of the year.
Although it was past midday, and not all were mad dogs nor Englishmen, quite what lures 21 people who should have known better out onto the field of play in that heat is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the answer lies in the poet Edmund Blunden’s words, “Cricket to us was more than play, it was a worship in the summer sun.”
We had 21 players out there as Iffley were one short, (kindly refusing to ask for a sun-loving replacement fielder). MSCC only managed to make up their own numbers thanks to Wayne Dibsdall’s efforts in recruiting Andy Cork and Rich Holmes from Deddington, so many thanks to them all.
Seril Shah and Sam Norley had kindly arrived early to make the final preparations, whilst earlier still Chairman Peter, and Paul Wordsworth had prepared the ground and set up the tea placements. The park was a picture of parched perfection. The scene was set.
Captain for the day Tim House had remembered that last year’s full-time captain had won this toss and decided to field first. (A game MSCC won). He also remembered that had that decision led to a popularity vote on captaincy re-election, it might not have been such a shoe-in. On winning the toss, Tim (House, that is) decided to bat. The Iffley captain, Ollie Ross, an ex MSCC player and now somewhat of a run-scoring thorn in the club’s side, sounded disappointed.
Two of the old(er) guard, Tim H and Jon Springer opened for MSCC. Five balls later, with four on the board, the captain had to leave the field feeling feint and dizzy. Many thanks to the umpiring David Cole, for quickly stopping the incoming bowler. Matt Carpenter, obviously not expecting to be called upon so quickly, took his place.
The two managed to blunt the Iffley attack, then accelerate and despite half-hourly water breaks, the bowlers unsurprisingly started to wilt under the steady onslaught. The two “openers” passed the century partnership within 20 overs, and just when Jon sensed further glory, he perished to a skidder for 66.
Matt Carpenter continued unflustered as Andy and then David Cole, now batting not umpiring, arrived and left after Ollie Ross had taken the ball, with the score only ticking on. Maybe the lull was needed by all. A refuelled and recovered captain returned to the crease to push the scoring rate on, before departing in the usual manner, while Matt classily accumulated a stylish 50.
Seril and Max Langdale finished off the innings, the latter with a sweetly timed straight drive for four; 190 for 7, as cold showers and tea beckoned. Iffley had remained cool and cheerful despite the conditions.
Jon, Elaine and the Springer ladies had stepped in to help with teas and clearing up once again, so a big thank you. The heat did not seem to stop anyone from diving in to a feast, including several spectators, which must be a healthy sign of the club’s welcoming spirit and offering. Any MSCC players reading this, PLEASE volunteer to do just ONE tea a year, or share it with another. Once you’ve done one, it is not as daunting as you might think.
Out of practice in the role, the afternoon's skipper asked around to check the bowling options; the response was balanced, perhaps due to conditions and honesty. MSCC had four willing volunteers and a part-timer if needed.
Still, the MSCC team felt that if we could close down the easy singles, bowl well and wait, wickets would fall; five or so an over would be tricky, despite a superb track and the savannah-like outfield (albeit a beautifully manicured savannah). As the late, great Shane Warne said, “Cricket is a simple game. Keep it simple and just go out and play. “ That was the plan.
And play they did. Asif started well, as always, but unusually did not take a wicket in his first over. But Sam Norley did, and it was the start of a very fine spell. Three wickets in his first four overs (for 15) had everyone sensing an honours board moment ahead. Instead, Seril was brought on. 25-3.
Mirroring the MSCC innings, another Tim, (Morton), had also had to leave the field, this time with a nasty thumb injury from one that jagged back off an Asif in-swinger. He was not to return.
Three wickets down, a retiree and no sign of the nemesis Ross at the crease. Robin Cummings soon changed that with a jaffa of a delivery that uprooted the middle stump of the well-set Brabham. As expected, Ross took to the MSCC attack like a thirsty duck to globally-warmed water, and the game was on; he and Ali Meier, also well set, went on the search for boundaries. They found quite a few in fact, twelve of their twenty four scoring shots reaching or clearing the ropes.
Seril was unlucky not to have picked up Meier (twice) as he experimented with his new-look run (no longer a step) up. There was some break in the scoring rate as Max and others were fielding like savannah roaming gazelles just back from a Jonty Rhodes training camp. But the reintroduction of Asif then made the breakthrough, as the aforementioned batsman clipped one too many in the air, straight into the safe hands and chest of Jon Springer.
The captain chucked down a few overs of off-side theory in an attempt to frustrate the run-chase. Asif did the rest as he trapped the dangerous Ross LBW before he threatened the run-chase total.
With eight wickets down, MSCC in theory needed just the one wicket to win (although in the recent spirit of prolonging games, we were about to offer them another batsman should the wicket fall). At number 9, and to his credit, Nick Brown accepted his team’s encouragement to “go for it”: “it” being 58 from three overs. Lusty blows followed, but none landed near any fielder. He and the resolute Dickie Tyler stood firm. So the game ran out of time, the players hot yet happy, all resulting in the fairest of results, a dehydrated draw.
Peter VdK was there again, manning the barbecue, and Seril oversaw the bar in his customary hospitable style. Iffley stayed for drinks, burgers and just a little more cake. And as the figures melted away, it struck me that the answer to “what lures 21 people who should have known better out onto the field of play in that heat” might actually lie in the sentiments of the Fab Four when they mused “tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun”.