Stats/Medawar at Mansfield Rd, 20 overs.
And so to the old lady of Oxford amateur cricket, the Jack Cox Interdepartmental Tournament. For those unfamiliar, departments from across the University enter a team and play each other in four groups before the class swots and class clowns are separated for the Plate and Cup knock-out section of proceedings. All played at the staff club and a great social opportunity for all involved, not to mention a chance to get some practice in on the artificial wicket. So, all that being the case, it was after a scorching day with clear skies and a light breeze that Bodley arrived at the club and looked up at the skies. The same sky that was now grey, cold, and drizzling. Skipper Neely won the toss, and elected to bat before it got too wet.
Neely and Shackleton – restored to opener and looking focused – walked out to kick things off. Today’s opposition was the cryptically named Stats/Medawar, and they kept a tight line but immediately found that the increasingly wet pitch offered even more bounce than normal. Neely was unlucky to be out for seven after a reflex catch from the bowler, bringing Webb to the crease. A brisk partnership soon developed, though the bounce (this is important) was catching both batters out. Shackleton eventually departed for twenty nine, having top edged one that bounced a bit (there it is again), bringing Philipson out to play. Our Tim didn’t waste any time getting his eye in and was quickly giving the fielders a good workout. Sadly he was undone in the eleventh over by a ball that, quite unexpectedly given the mixed bag from the bowler, bounced a bit on him and caught the top edge on its journey to the grateful keeper. A well made thirteen was much enjoyed by his team-mates though. This brought Jones out, and having taken advice from the well-set Webb the over was sensibly played out with a great swing to the first ball faced, which, due to prodigious bounce, top edged about twenty yards into the grey sky before being inexplicably dropped by the fielder. Webb succumbed shortly after for a stylish, and valuable, eighteen, which brought about the belated introduction of Bodley’s very own Flintoff, Mr. McKeirnan of Marston. Leigh set about the bowling with scant regard for the bounce (did we mention the bounce? It was quite the most awful pitch to bat on). Whilst the fielding was tight and frustratingly well placed the score ticked along, the rain still falling, and Jones still swinging like Basie at the other end. The trampoline-like bounce (ahem, honest) did for Jones in the end, a top edge again flying through to the keeper, and another caught was chalked up for Stats. Burnett, sporting a Proteas hat that demanded an all-round contribution, was next in, and with a flick and a push joined Leigh in building the score to over a hundred. When Leigh finally fell for twenty one – caught and bowled – Triggs came out and played a most splendid cameo that included what was unanimously agreed to be the shot of the day. A good length ball, just outside off stump but likely to bounce prodigiously if left unattended was driven off the back foot down the ground for four. Well played! These two rattled off few more boundaries and ran for all they were worth, with the score ending up on a not too shabby 128-6. Given the rain and tricky conditions, we thought that was an ok score. But what did we know!
After a good deal more rain came down and a discussion about the chances of taking advantage of curry night at the club were ended without agreement, we strode out to defend our score. Unfortunately, no-one had told the Stats batsmen that the pitch was providing the bowlers with uneven and at times unexplained bounce, and that the conditions demanded watchful, old fashioned play. By the eleventh over three batsmen had retired with scores of thirty plus, numerous Bodley bowlers had been reduced to grumpy old men, and all had whites that would make your mother very angry indeed. It was a disappointing turn of events. With the score on 96-0 the first wicket fell, to the excellent Shackleton. Next up in the twelfth Neely got one to keep low and clean bowled another. The scoring rate was by now barely a run an over, and Bodley sensed an upset – only seven more overs and no boundaries, and victory would be assured. Well, with Triggs pulling things out of his closet of mystery balls, another wicket was taken in the fifteenth, with a sharp catch at mid-on from Shackleton. The momentum was with Bodley now. Next over, the sixteenth, and Neely charges in, hurls the thing down, and gets another bowled. 120-odd for 4 now, and only three and a bit more to go. A four brought things level, but the game was tight. Neely bowled the sixteenth over and a dot ball signalled intent to take things to the end. But then a single was pinched and reality hit home as Stats wrapped things up. It was by now very wet indeed and hands were quickly shaken, stumps gathered and then a sprint to the bar commenced.
A good game, with Bodley just not getting enough on the board and then succumbing to some powerful batting in conditions we never got to grips with. Did I mention the bounce though? It was all because of the bounce, honest. On a serious note, we have plenty more Jack Cox yet to play and encourage anyone who fancies a fun, social twenty-twenty match to get in touch, as we do seem to be struggling again this year for players. Next up are the charming Blenheim Park on Sunday at Blenheim Palace. All welcome - it’s not a bad spot to watch the cricket.