Renault F1 at Barton Abbey, 20 overs.
Bodley played the last of three games in quick succession last night, against regular opposition Renault, playing on a pitch in the middle of Middle Barton Estate whose beauty of location is matched equally opposite by the dangerously unpredictable bounce of the wicket. Such is the fear of this bounce that one regular player, on the receiving end of a snorter last year that he just managed to get a bat on, knackered a finger in the last game, thus ruling himself out. The sporting equivalent of a self-inflicted wound in the trenches. This time we were lucky. Not in the sense that the pitch played well, it didn’t, but in that the opening oppo batsman decided, selflessly, to take on all the knocks and unpredictable balls himself. First a lifting ball into the arm, than a gloved catch to wickie from one that lifted dangerously off a length, then more to the chest. Not content with the pummelling he took when batting he then got hit a few more times in the field, truly an example of heroic sacrifice. Test-match bowlers of the quality of Broad and Anderson train for hours in the nets over winter to get the ball to do things that more humble bowlers at the very lowest levels of the game can do regularly, if not intentionally, on pitches such as this.
Bodley win the toss and bowl first, working on the assumption we chase better than we set. Players from both teams slowly arrive, a journey made worse than usual by Townyfile at Blenheim. Phil and David Shackleton open the bowling, both putting down a good line and length and keeping the runs down. Phil gets a wicket off a rising ball which is gloved behind to Matthew – who had an excellent game behind the stumps – but the skipper called the batsman back, a typical sporting gesture from a fine leader of men which met with almost/hardily universal approval from the rest of the team. Gav and the reporter take over, runs dry up and a wicket falls. 8 overs of medium pace from one end and slow and varied deliveries from the other in the middle of the innings pegs back the opposition score rate. Gavin, who has been bowling like a dream all season, deserved a wicket at least last night, the fact that he didn’t get one goes to show how cruel and unrewarding the sport can be sometimes. Leigh and James finish off the innings, both getting a wicket and keeping the oppo down to 97 off 20, not bad at all.
David and Matthew open, a cautious start against accurate bowling before both start to score. Matthew is caught going for a shot, Leigh comes in and hits out from the start and David starts to find his range. Then Leigh is out and James joins David. These two are as well matched a pair as the Bod have had for a long time, both able to hit boundaries and run well between the wickets but equally well suited to defence if the ball demands it. James gets a few useful runs before getting out and David reaches the set 25 and retire mark. Phil, Tim and David all contribute and the run-rate is well under control before Alec, having one of his best games for the team, is joined by Ackland at the death. With the team still needing about 20 runs to win and with enough overs left and the prospect of David coming back in all momentum is with the Bodleian. Ackland scores a few but then is caught reaching for a wide one…that desperate felling of being out to a shot we know we shouldn’t have played at a time when we’re starting to score runs and can see the team home, we all know it, don’t we…brings David back in. 14 needed off the last over after Alec had heroically defended 4 balls in the penultimate. But cruel fate, David whacks the ball onto his ankle and is left hobbling, limiting both stroke play and running between the wicket. Despite this he manages a few boundaries but in the end the team fall short, 92 off twenty. An excellent game, played in the right spirit against like-minded opposition in truly glorious surroundings and, a rare thing for a limited over match, a tea as well.
Bodley can take, despite the result, a lot of confidence from this game but we need to start asking ourselves why, more often than not, in tight games like this we often come out on the losing side. The season now dribbles towards the end, three games left with Sunday afternoon fixtures against friends old and new; OUP, the Authors and the Mads, all teams that we’ve lost to recently, a victory or two to finish off the season would be most welcome.
And finally a rare insight into the running of a cricket team, from an unnamed player earlier this week...
'...Have lost a wickie glove on Tues. am going to Manny Road this lunch to see if it is there, if anyone fancies coming down for a pint. Can you all have a good look in the back of your car please. Worse of all, I didn’t take a copy of oppo scorebook, so we have no record for our bowling which is a shame as it was another good performance. On a personal note, managed to leave half my kit and work shoes there and will have to go back at weekend.