A new season underway at the fifth attempt and a new opposition in the form of Marton – which was convenient for your correspondent as it’s only 10 mins down the road from my house! Major congratulations to our hosts for getting the game on at all but Chris O’s tactical toss loss meant we ended up bowling anyway on a low slow pitch and slighty shaggy outfield. In a fantasy fest of bowling options, our dear leader entrusted the new ball with Ben and Tim. Down the hill Ben was making it talk, skidding on and inducing several edges. Tim had the harder job up the hill and into the breeze but made the first breakthrough as keeper Chris took a fine catch.
This brought a strong pair to the crease and some excellent athletic goalkeeper-style fielding in the gully and covers from Neil Carter kept the runs down too. If he had clung on to either chance that went to him, then we could have closed the catch of the year competition there and then, but unfortunately consciously or unconciously remembered he was playing for Barford and sadly dropped 2 very hard chances.
A change of bowling came and Paul Stacey tried to extract something from the pitch. When this failed, his option of the full toss hitting around 1/3 up the stumps did seem to work, only to be judged a no-ball for height. While we didn’t have time to discuss the Newtonian mechanics of the projectile (something his pupils have no doubt had to calculate today) he was able to dismiss the other batsman with a sharp caught and bowled (lots of points there fantasy fans). It was Andy Hawkins turn to toil up the hill and he claimed the other opener with another catch from Chris. With the slow outfield, everything had to be chased down and the runs were kept to a minimum, although at the halfway stage a score of 130-140 looked likely and would have been very difficult to chase down.
Spin was tried in the form of Richard Jones and Mike Ryles, but with the pitch doing plenty for the seamers and just sitting up off the slower tweakers, it was time for James Beaven to have a go and he picked up a wicket of the very useful Marton no 3. Ben returned to try his luck up the hill and bowled the other dangerous Martian*. This left the tail exposed and your writer Henderson managed to clunk the base of the stumps and amid plenty of edges, combined with Paul Staceys bucket-like hands to claim another. An accidental beamer floored the remaining batsman making 2 no-ball ‘wickets’ in one game but the highlight in the field came from Pete Romyn’s Collingwood/Rhodes-esque run-out from mid-on. He pounced on the ball and left the hapless batsman stranded as the arrow-straight throw made it easy to whip of the bails – no-one takes a single to Pete.
Tim returned to finish off the innings and left with the best bowling figures of 3 for 9 off 7 overs. 121 looked emininently chaseable and we looked forward to tea about as much as Man Utd did about 89 minutes into the final round of premier league games going on.
The superb tea meant some reluctance to go out to bat and stay for another slice of cake or fitness melon, but Chris and debutant Neil strode out and gave a positive start with good running and solid defence. Unfortunately not quite solid enough for Chris as he was he first of what would turn out to be 9 (nine) ‘bowled’s in the innings. Neil also departed to bowler Dodd’s first ball and 23/2 off 12 overs was a good base to chase down the rest of the runs required. I found the middle of my new bat with one boundary, but Dodd struck again and 30/3 the wobble was on. James struck a couple of sweetly timed 4’s as the outfield got slightly faster, but was lulled into a false sense of security and was bowled after the second boundary. Cometh the hour, cometh the man Pete and he and Ben slowly started rebuilding the innings. Slow being the operative word, but the bowling was extremely tight and while these two stuck it out, there was always a chance and there were some well-scampered 2’s in the partnership of 14 off 10 overs. However as the rate required increased to almost IPL proportions of 5 an over Ben was undone and out lbw. Some lusty blows from Paul Stacey couldn’t get us back on track and from 67 for 5, the inevitable Barford collapse ensued with a flock of ducks appearing the scorebook, including a golden one for Tim leaving us all out for 75 in the 33rd over.
Nevertheless it was a good feeling to get the season underway at last and with such a friendly opposition and lovely ground, it’s good to be back. We retired to the pub/curry house in the village and after an aborted attempt to sit outside we were rewarded with a fine ‘curry-for-a-quid’ accompanied by chips and excellent naan bread. A loss in the book, but as they say, cricket was the winner.