Saturday saw the final game in Bodley’s season, bringing a measure of sadness, relief and joy at having journeyed through another glorious summer of playing the greatest game with friends. It’s been a long, enjoyable and competitive spring/summer, and the weather has been kind throughout. This final fixture saw Bodley take on the Authors XI, a re-match of sorts after we emerged victorious off the last ball of the match last season. The setting was the beautiful village of Warborough in South Oxfordshire, on the village green with a cracking pub to one side, picturesque houses on three edges and a rolling view of sunlit countryside to the East. Both sides looked to have strong elevens, and the pitch – long boundaries, low bounce, bit green – was in good order for our 40 over affair. So, after skipper Milner lost the toss (again) we found ourselves in the field.
The Authors openers Anthony McGowen and Andy Zaltzman started watchfully on what immediately proved to be a pretty flat pitch, offering little carry save the odd one rearing up (which is in fact the norm in our experience). Swing was evident from the off though, and Bodley’s opening bowlers Nigel Walker and Matthew Neely kept things tight. Keeping a tight line and length, Walker struck in the sixth over, bowling Zaltzman for 7 to bring Sebastian Faulks to the crease. By this point Nigel was in a groove and in the eleventh Faulks too was castled and the Authors were 31-2. This brought Richard Beard to the crease to join the well set McGowen. These two promptly set about building a good partnership as Bodley’s first change coming on, James Shaw and Leigh McKiernen. The boundaries, particularly those square of the wicket, were distant, and with a slowish outfield did not make for easy scoring. Despite this topographical assistance the runs ticked along nicely enough for the Authors, without ever really getting away from Bodley. Around this time as the rate was kept down and Bodley kept their discipline, a familiar (though unusually straw hat-less) figure appeared at the pavilion. It was Tim Saunders, our hitherto missing player, up from London for the match via an unreliable train and then a cycle ride from Oxford to Warborough in double quick time! After we’d all had a chuckle about this unconventional pre-match work out, our attention promptly returned to the cricket, and the burgeoning McGowen/Beard partnership which was approaching 50. Could the score be getting the better of us, as usual, well, fear not Bodley disciples! Mckiernen’s knee was, incredibly, still functioning, and was therefore able to power its owner on to a much needed wicket, having the dangerous Beard brilliantly caught at square leg, Shaw taking the catch well above his head at the second attempt. The score now 75-3 in the twenty third over, this brought the in form Peter Frankopan to the crease. The runs soon flowed and the score built, so it was with some relief that Frankopan was bowled by Stuart Ackland’s skiddy shuffle seamers for a very useful 18 from 16 balls. A few overs later McGowen was caught and bowled by Milner for an excellent 42, having batted for 105 minutes – well played! The score was 115-5 from 30 overs and Bodley could feel a measure of optimism over the likely score. Hopefully, for once. Perhaps… Authors skipper Charlie Campbell was at the crease by now with Nicholas Hogg, and the two of them did what any good middle order does, and started hitting fours. But Bodley continued to field well, running down singles and throwing themselves around with varying degrees of success. Continuing the excellent work in the field Bodley were rewarded as Campbell was bowled by Stu, but Hogg had taken a liking to Bharat’s spin. So it was with relief, but some surprise, that an absolute skier – the kind normally dropped by an unwilling recipient cowering under the swirling ball – was pouched with consummate ease by Stu positioned sort of near but not quite on the boundary (is there a name for that?). With the score having rattled along to a higher than we’d hoped 162-7 attention turned to Tom Holland, at the crease and keen to rack up the runs that would boost his splendid BatAid fundraising effort. Stu, being a charitable man, bowled what can only be described as his even slower ball, in amongst some well directed seamers and his eternal battle with that shuffle. Notably, £900 pounds of runs were posted, before Stu repeated last year’s effort and had Holland bowled. Most uncharitable! The Authors ended on 175 all out from the very last ball of the innings, which given our position midway through was a tad high, we thought, but we’d probably have taken that at the start. And so, to tea.
An excellent tea, with mincemeat wrap things, sandwiches and cakes aplenty, all within sight of the pub, which was by now exerting a strong pull on all present. It is worth noting at this point that the team spotted the Authors kit bags, all matching and with the club crest and player initials on them – rather nice, and something we should consider! Funding though? Anyway, back to the action.
Bodley began their innings with some confidence and in good spirits following the efforts in the field. Neely and Bharat walked confidently out to get things underway and build that all important ‘platform’ (must work on our cricket speak next season - Ed.). So, could we chase it down? Well, things didn't start too well as Neely was run out in the fourth over to end a brief but promising opening stand, bringing Saunders to the crease. Tim attacked from the outset, hitting a lovely four off his second ball and running superbly, with Bharat provided good support at the other end and hitting a few of his own. The partnership was only ended, just as we all thought we were going unusually well, in the sixteenth over as Bharat was run out for 27 with the score on 62-2. Shaw joined Tim at the crease and the pair ran hard, finding plenty of singles in the deep outfield. The score soon reached 100 and those in the pavilion felt confident enough to talk about the prospect of the Six Bells pub and a good win. But after last year’s high scoring, Bodley’s batting has this season been the weaker discipline, just as our fielding and bowling has reached new heights. And so it proved to be here, though it must be said there were some good balls in amongst it all. Shaw departed in the twenty sixth over after a lively partnership with Saunders, who was then caught behind a few overs later off a thin edge from the pacey and accurate Hogg for a great 47 from 70 balls. 28 overs in by now and Bodley were 112-4, so the game was at a crossroads – we needed solid partnerships to get the runs, but had plenty of overs left to do so. Neglecting the action for a moment, it is worth reminding oneself that Warborough village green was the setting the Jeeves and Wooster cricket match (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2kLYYF4xTM) and with that in mind Bodley did their best to recreate the tone. Having attacked the ball with some gusto but no effect, Leigh appeared to have been stumped, being out of his ground. However, the square leg umpire (answers on a postcard) intervened to give the batsman not out against a backdrop of some justifiably enthusiastic appealing as his foot was, most definitely, ‘on the line’. Well, Law 29 of the MCC Laws of Cricket is the one to look at if you’re not sure as to why this would have made excellent comedy. After some confusion and speculation from the bemused pavilion as the laws of cricket were explained to our umpire, Leigh had to leave the field and our official was left to look back on a pre-match gift to Tom Holland of ‘The Original Laws of Cricket’ with some amusement, and no little irony. But back to the match, by now threatening to effect an about face and give the Authors victory. With Mike Webb following Leigh to the pavilion and then Gareth Jones chopping on, Milner found himself the sole specialist batter left, and set about rediscovering his normally boundary-threatening form. With first Tim Philipson and then Walker the skipper built handy partnerships and carried the team to 149 before being bowled by Jonathon Wilson, who had managed to utterly befuddle Bodley as he worked his way to four wickets and had the team nine down in the thirty seventh over. This left Walker and Ackland at the crease, and 27 needed to win from 26 balls. Walk in the park, someone said. Poetically, and straight out of Wodehouse, Stu played a textbook pique turn and landed on his arse. An undignified end to a heroic performance. This gave Wilson his five-for and the Authors the win, by 26 runs.
So an entertaining and light-hearted end to a thoroughly enjoyable but hard-fought match, and a lovely afternoon to end the season on. Disappointing not to get the win, but much to take into next season and probably a few winter nets to organise too. Well done to all who played not just today but all season, it looks like the Bodleian Cricket Club is in good health and has a fine pool of regular players to draw from as we build our third decade of playing.