Match Date & Time

Date Time Season
August 7, 2022 2:00 pm 2022

Match Report

105 years ago on the equivalent weekend, August in Oxfordshire had been cool and wet with a maximum daily temperature of 19𐩑C. The third battle of Ypres was two weeks old. The ground was already a morass of bomb-blasted mud, made worse by weeks of continuous rain. Therefore it is with trepidation that I describe Sunday’s pitch as a “bombsite”. With no facility to water the square, much of the ground had lost all its moisture and to hurl a ball at the wicket was to create a rough rimmed crater of destruction.

The Pelican’s ground slopes down from the railway line to the West towards the meadow and then the Nags Head. The boundary is short on the road side, with little resistance from dessicated grass to slow the ball.  Any batter being able to hit the ball was guaranteed value for his shot, but the advantage was always with the bowler. That nearly 500 runs were scored was a tribute to the bloody-mindedness of batters on both sides who refused to acknowledge the foolhardiness of trying to bat on such a surface.

The Pelicans had assembled a good side who were used to winning. The two leading players, Assad Rehman and Raheel Khan had scored over 1500 runs between them and taken 30 wickets at an average in single figures. Middleton had struggled to find an eleventh player and had to take to the field with just 10 following the news that Rob Barton had tweaked his back and was unable to play. In the blazing sunshine Pelicans were more than happy to bat first and in the mood for runs. George Williams took the first over, charging down the hill. Only 12 runs came from it as George over pitched as he adjusted to the slope. Running up the hill Michael Robinson took an over or two to find his length and line and the Pelicans were flying.

Settling into the descending gradient George found his length and some help from the wicket. Rehman drove uppishly into George’s midriff, George clutched, spilt, fell down, parried then clutched again and Rehman was gone. Michael found his elusive length and line and bowled the day’s only maiden and was unlucky not to have a wicket as the Captain fielding at short mid off called for a catch, turned looked up at the sun and then failed to lay a hand on a catch that George at cover would have taken with ease. Having missed such a chance the Captain brought himself on to replace George. Bowling slow full tosses in his first over was very generous to the home team, but the first ball of his second over was in the perfect spot, Khan feathered through to Jamie Lumb behind the stumps, and both of Pelican’s prolific pairing had perished. When the captain struck again two overs later, with an LBW awarded to a ball that would have taken the bails off a second set of stumps placed on top three quick wickets had fallen and MSCC were in the game.

George returned for a second spell picking up two further wickets, another catch for Jamie and an off cutter which sent the off stump cartwheeling. Pelican’s captain, Simon Tickler was holding the innings together, he picked up the short ball early and was soon nearing his half century, but he was struggling to find support. As the skipper returned he survived a stumping chance that the keeper was convinced was out between blows that sent the ball from hedge to fence to road. One shot to the road was driven over by a car, leaving a huge black scar on the ball. Finally Tickler found support from no 9, Greenwood. Seril Shah like Michael earlier found his rangefinder poorly calibrated, George charged in for a third spell, and for a while bowled in tandem with his father. Jason had run valiantly in the field, but had always been a step short of the ball. He was unlucky not to break the partnership with his cunning use of flight… a pre – cursor of what was to come in the second innings. With time running out and the score past 200 Seril returned for a second spell, Tickler was cruising toward a century. He had reckoned without Seril’s shorter, slower, wider delivery that hit the seam, deviated enough to find the inside edge and tricked Trickler into tickling the ball into his stumps. Two balls later Seril had Greenwood stumped giving Jamie a fourth victim. The last two balls of the innings were missed by the batter, … a pre- cursor of what was come, which closed at tea on 239 for 9.

Tea was good. Tea was very good. Vast quantities of treats of all kind, including vegan treats of hummus, pepper and spinach sandwiches, several kinds on non vegan sausages, curry, cakes. Tea was extended by 10 minutes to allow for proper consumption. Howard Lancaster, to open the batting, was abstemious, despite having neither breakfast nor lunch – he could always start again when he was out.

Stevyn Jackson opened the batting with Howard. Josh Bailey took the new ball up the hill and bowled with pace and accuracy. After a single from the first ball, which had shown all the traits of an imminent run out Steven unleashed his shot of the season from the second ball of the over. Short and wide, Steven’s bat crashed unerringly onto the ball, sending it micro seconds later into the cover boundary. The fielding team looked at each other knowingly. “Game – on” was the unspoken message.

From the railway end came a yorkshireman from Bolton Abbey CC, from the first ball he showed pace and aggression that would prove very difficult to overcome on this challenging wicket. His second ball was too quick for Stevyn. Matt Carpenter joined Howard, both with the aim of seeing off the opening pair. Both were struck painful blows but when opportunity arose took advantage of the fast scoring outfield. Matt in particular played some attractive shots through the covers when either bowler was too full. Howard showed the elusive skills of a lightweight boxer. Twice he ducked under short balls that although short, would not have bounced over the stumps. Never mind plenty of deliveries bounced up and over from a good length. The score was past fifty when Bailey finally got a good one past Matt, who was bowled for a hard fought 30. Jamie came and went for a different type of duck. Replacing him George showed his intent by dispatching his first ball for a four. With three wickets down the openers had been seen off. But the two leading wicket takers were still to bowl. George attacked fearlessly smashing one glorious six over mid on dangerously close to the Captain’s van. Howard supported, nurdling singles, taking his time. As the final hour approached the equation read 140 runs required, five wickets in hand.

With George batting at his current tempo only half those overs would be needed. George fell on the first ball of the final 20 overs, top edging Rehman to deep square leg. Tim Riley joined Howard. Both assessed the situation, both agreed a positive approach was needed. Howard became more assertive, twice putting the dangerous Rehman to the boundary before taking one risk to many to be stumped for a vital 43.

The score had advanced enough for the runs required to drop below 75. Rehman had finished his spell and the bowling became, for a while less challenging. Sam Norley offered support to Tim for enough overs to keep the chase alive. Jason Williams nobly sacrificed his wicket to get Tim back on strike and the runs needed came down to less than 60 from the final seven overs.

Pelican’s own slow bowler, taller and rounder than Jason but at much the same speed offered quick runs, but at the risk of mistiming to a very spread field. The lowering but still brilliant sun illuminated the bowler and the sight screen behind him. As the ball passed from his hand into the shadows there was  a contrast so great that the ball became very difficult to see. The fielders on the off side were also blinded by the setting sun.

The rapid Yorkshiremen was marking out his run up for a final fling. Six runs were accumulated, and Tim managed to steal the strike. Victory was in reach, so was defeat, so was a tie and a draw, the perfect scenario for a MSCC match. A single, then Michael picked up a two and four from the slower bowler. On the fifth ball, disaster, playing too early the ball looped up and over the bat to bounce precisely on top of the off bail. Last man Seril confidently defended the final ball.

22 runs were needed from the final 12 deliveries, but one wicket would end the game.

Tim picked up eight runs from the first five balls, and then Seril alert to the situation scampered a very tight leg bye. Six balls left, 13 runs to win, and the first ball of the final over dispatched for four. The next ball, a reverse sweep, but straight to the boundary fielder, and only a single. Seril looked to pick up his own single and to put the captain back on strike. The slow left armer looped the ball from brightness to shade, Seril swung, contact was not made. Three more times he tried. The game finished in an honourable draw, a second week running when all results were possible going into the final over.

Many thanks to the players who filled in at short notice and ensured the game went ahead. Special thanks to Chris who scored for both teams and kept the scoreboard up to date.

Tim Riley