Bodley concluded the rump of their season with the third game in a week this evening as we took on friends the Hendricks XI at Mansfield Road under darkening skies. A twenty over affair was the order of the day, with Bodley player Tim Saunders' other team arriving for the first match of their annual tour. Bodley were coming off a streak of monumental losses and star batter Shackleton was on a pair. So without further ado...
Bodley skipper Milner won the toss (a sure sign the Gods were finally warming to us) and opted to bat. In the absence of regular number 1 Neely, Stu stepped into the breach and donned the plethora of padding Matthew wears into battle, and proudly marched out with Shacks to get us going. Some might say that Stu's technique is not suited to opening the batting, but this is utter rubbish, as Stu proved by dismissively seeing off the pacey opening bowlers with a series of daring leaves and half shots. Once settled on 0 from several overs Stu moved aside to bring returning knee patient Leigh to the crease. They say that the best partnerships are ones of contrast, and you could say that Leigh and Shacks are certainly that. And as the cliché goes, so the facts follow, and a beautiful thing blossomed between these two - the lover and fighter, caressing and careering the ball to all parts over the next nine overs. By the time Shackleton retired on a brilliant fifty (so off that pair in fine style) Bodley were well on their way, despite some very tidy fielding from the gin boys. Milner and then Shaw joined Leigh and although Leigh was soon out for a destructive 40, the score was now past the hundred mark with overs left to play with. Shaw and much-missed returning regular Josh then set about building another fine partnership to take us to the final overs, only for James to be bowled trying to push things along. Boundaries then proved trickier, but the curse of the Manny Rd artificial saw the wides threaten to put our backs out and the score inch up. Thanks to the big hitting of several Bodley batters the final score was a surely defendable 155-5.
With concerns about the light after the 6pm start the teams were keen to get cracking with the second innings, and things were soon underway. Saunders and Quest opened up for Hendricks, and Bodley knew all too well that Tim was more than capable of matching our earlier hitting if allowed to get going. Shaw and Leigh opening up the bowling and after five overs the score was 34-0 and the batters were rocking along, picking up the length well and running smartly. Bodley held their nerve, and were rewarded with a caught behind for Leigh in the sixth over to dismiss Saunders for 22. Then in the eighth over Leigh struck again, clean bowling the Hendricks number 3 to leave them 48-2. Shortly after this, and after some more dastardly boundaries, Milner had another one caught with his wicked darting spin. Around this point there were murmerings that they were scoring too fast and the ball was difficult to see in the fading light, and everyone agreed that we'd give the white ball a go. We'd played with a white ball on Tuesday against Wolvercote and it had done absolutely nothing in the air or off the pitch, and was basically just a slightly undersized bright white boundary waiting to be hit. But things were rather different this evening. Shackleton took the first over with the tip-ex ball, and it not only swung away an alarming amount, it then continued to go after pitching, to the extent that your reporter (whilst having reasonable cause to make excuses after taking balls to the ribs, face and arms amidst the gloom, ahem), almost put his back out clambering after the bugger as it flew past. It must be noted that at this point in the game it was getting quite dark. But back to the action. The Hendricks keeper, May, was by now absolutely rollocking along, with able support from the other end, and by the eighteenth over - did I say it was very dark by now? - the score was 124-4 and the match was in the balance, given the big hitting we were seeing, and the ball we were not seeing. Quite how the batters could pick up the line of the boomerang spearing in at them was beyond anyone, and the comical darkness the match was now being played in was best exemplified by the reaction to a surefire four being swept up on the boundary, leading to the bemused batter remarking that he had sworn the area was vacant when he hit it, only for Darren to appear spectre-like out of the blackness. Anyway, enough whining about the light, the final over was soon upon us and with Hendricks needing 18 to win and having lost their fifth wicket things seemed to have turned back in our favour - or had they? Could it be another reverse was on the cards? Again?! No, it couldn't, for once. A few scampered singles were all that could be mustered against very tidy bowling from the skipper and Hendricks finished on 138-5. Credit must go to the Hendricks keeper though, stranded on 49 not out having played some punishing shots in very challenging conditions - very well played.
So, there you have it, a slightly chaotic end as we all got our spectacles out, but a long overdue Bodley win that levels things up with Hendricks to put at one all - looking forward to the decider next year. All that was left was for the traditional, and very generous presentation of a bottle of Hendricks Gin to the man of the match, nominated by Hendricks, which was this year given to Leigh for his knee-crippling 40 and two wickets. It was a great game, played in the right spirit against a really good bunch of guys, and a good way to end the main part of the season before Whippersnappers and the Authors game. Well played all! Good luck to Tim and the team on their tour, and we hope you enjoyed the Cowley Road. GJ.