Blenheim Park CC at Blenheim Palace. 40 overs.
Is there a finer setting for a cricket field in all England than that on the South Lawn of Blenheim Palace? Perhaps, or perhaps not. At any rate, it’s an impressive scene, particularly when a solid 48 hours of unbroken rain has watered the greensward to a lush, deep verdure. And then out comes the sun to brilliantly light up the sea of green with the magnificent bulk of the Palace as a backdrop. It’s a spectacle that enthrals visitors from around the globe. Be that as it may, for some of our number that is simply not enough of a draw: the lure of the Wood Festival in far Chiltern Hills once again calls Stu and James, Gareth has his new wheel-barrow that simply must be pushed up and down the back garden, and Leigh has decided he has much better things to do on this particular Sunday.
So, with some regulars unavailable, Bodley calls on Ollie Pascoe, a cricketing friend of David Shackleton, to step into the breach. Word has it that Ollie is a useful hard-hitting batsman who can bowl a bit. Also, up from Sevenoaks for the game is Tim Saunders. A mere 200-mile round trip to play cricket for Bodleian CC. Top effort Tim. While Bodley occasional Chris Marsh makes his seasonal debut. The XI is completed by: Tim Philipson, David Busby, Gav Robinson, Phil Burnett, Nigel Walker, David Busby, Matthew Neely and Andrew Milner. Alec Paton is on hand as 12th man. The pitch is the greenest of green-tops which had not been cut before the game as the lawn mower refused to start. At least the wicket is pretty dry thanks to the covers. Captain Milner calls the toss correctly and invites Blenheim to bat. A chance for our bowlers to make hay out of the long grass. Besides we are always better when we are chasing a total aren’t we?
Nigel takes the first over and, ever-reliable on his home ground, it’s a very tidy maiden. Nothing for the batsmen here. Phil bowls at the other end and is in the groove: again no runs off the bat. Then, unalloyed joy, Nigel strikes in the third over to clean bowl opener Martin Cox with a beautiful delivery moving off the seam to peg back off stump. One wicket down with 3 on the board. The Blenheim batsmen now dig in, surviving and scoring ones and twos here and there. After ten overs Blenheim are 25 for 1. Bodley are fielding well and seemingly are in control.
Ollie takes over from Phil and bowls tidily to a good length, while David Shackleton replaces Nigel at the other end. After 25 overs the Blenheim total reaches 85 with the loss of a single wicket. The captain, perhaps ill-advisedly, calls up the slow spinner. A quiet enough couple of overs and then the Blenheim pair decide to put the hammer down. The ball flies to all corners of the park: fours and sixes. Now it’s 142 for one in the 31st over. Yikes! Time to bring back a seamer. Gav, the swerve-master of the South Lawn, takes over from Ollie while Phil relieves the shell-shocked spinner. Gav strikes in his second over to take out the Blenheim number three with a beauty: bowled for 83. Then Phil gets in on the action to take two wickets in two balls. The first a wonderful catch by David Shackleton at deep long on. Text book technique under the high ball. Next ball the stumps are disturbed and the Blenheim number 6 is on his way. Gav, not to be outdone, takes two more wickets in his next over: David Busby clasping a tricky catch to his chest at mid-on to dismiss the opener for 57. Then Chris Marsh takes a smart catch at gully. Wonderful stuff. Blenheim 154 for 6 in the 34th over. Shortly after, Chris dives for the ball and lands heavily on his shoulder. It looks nasty and he leaves the field in some pain to make straight for the Palace. Only later do we realise than an ambulance has been called and poor Chris is taken to A&E with a suspected fractured collar bone. Terrible bad luck. Alec, as 12th man is on hand to step into the fray. Thanks Alec.
Shackleton, back on to finish the innings, takes a wicket as Ollie safely holds on to a catch at short mid-wicket. Then smart work between Milner and keeper Neely runs out the Blenheim Oxfordshire under-13 player. Stuart would not have approved but he was away in a wood somewhere so it’s ok. Gav gets his fourth wicket with the help of Phil’s assured catch. I think it’s fair to say Gav reallylikes bowling at Blenheim – who could forget his 5-fer last year? After 40 overs the Blenheim innings closes on 176 for 9. A decent total but, as the pitch seemed to be getting more benign as the afternoon wore on, it’s gettable we feel. Tea is taken under the trees. A decent spread with a large, selection box of chocolates in the mix.
Matthew and David stride out to begin the Bodley assault. Unfortunately it’s not long before Matthew is back in the hutch. Clean bowled by the wily Spearman in the second over. Mathew swears he will never, ever, ever open again. We’ll see. 2 for 1 in the second over. Time for a Bodleian dig-in. Shackleton is joined by Ollie at the crease. A couple of biffed fours shows Ollie is not the “dig-in” kind, boundaries are more to his liking. Things are looking up. Then, oh dear, Ollie is bowled off his pads to one aimed at leg stump. 17 for 2 in the seventh over. Up steps Tim Saunders and a most encouraging partnership builds. Clearly this is not an easy pitch on which to build an innings: patience, technique are the watchwords here. The partnership ends when Tim lofts one to midwicket and the Blenheim fielder makes no mistake with the catch. Sir Gav now makes his entrance and is looking full of confidence, as well he might, after his heroics with the ball. Unfortunately a 21 run partnership is brought frustratingly and prematurely to a close when Gav is run out by a sharp throw from mid-wicket. Four wickets down, 63 on the board, and 22 overs bowled. Still, David is still there looking set for great things. Tim Philipson is next man in, and his swing is as finely grooved as ever as we all know. A couple of swishes and the ball is imperiously dismissed to the boundary each time. A joy to behold for his teammates gazing on in awe. At the other end David is playing with great panache. Has there ever been a more correct stylist to grace these fields? I don’t think so. While these two are out in the middle there is hope. But all good things must come to an end and this good thing ends when Tim is adjudged lbw for 12. A very useful 35 run partnership and we are 98 for 5.
Eleven overs left, 79 runs to get and 3 wickets remaining. It’s beginning to look a long-shot. Our final 4 wickets fall in short order. Phil and Andrew do not tarry long. Then, agony, Shackleton is out, caught Cox, bowled Angol for 54. Another great innings from David. Nigel’s is the final wicket to fall leaving David Busby on 1 not out. 109 all out in the 35th over and Blenheim Park the winners by 67 runs.
Once again Bodley came to Blenheim with high hopes only to leave second best. As so often our bowling (mostly!) and fielding were excellent but we just need to bat with more depth. We can’t rely on David to do all the heavy lifting in the batting department. I’m glad to report the game was played in an excellent spirit, cemented by both teams repairing to the Woodstock Arms after the game. Sunday cricket at its finest, and we look forward to the fixture next year.
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.
Peasemore CC at Peasemore. 35 overs.
And so to Peasemore, much earlier than our usual August visit, though always with a broad smile as this is one of our favourite fixtures. Having been fairly even for a number of years we've had the edge in the last few encounters, though the thought of early season wobbles kept our confidence in check as we wound down the A34 (with thanks to the GavNav) to the picturesque Peasemore cricket ground. Or rather to the picturesque Fox & Hounds pub, as most of the Bodley XI seemed to have gravitated towards before the match. Nevertheless, once all had arrived the toss was had and upon winning (beggars belief, frankly), skipper Stu put Peasemore in to bat. The pitch was a little soft, clear of grass, whilst the outfield might best be described as burgeoning.
A very animated Stu set about setting the field, which after much string pulling resembled the usual in-out umbrella we always settle on. McKiernan and Burnett opened the bowling, and with a mix of pace and dulled pace and low bounce from the pudding pitch, it was in the sixth over that the first wicket fell - a lovely clean bowled to Burnett as the pitch got the better of the batter. 6-1 from six then, and a good start for Bodley. The pitch wasn't getting any easier and boundaries were proving tricky as the grass slowed the ball (and perhaps the fielders, ahem) down. Another wicket, this time for Shaw, fell shortly after, caught and bowled with a lightening reflex catch round his distant ankles. Over the next twenty or so overs Bodley fielded well, battled the legendary nettles on the far outfield, dropped very little (an improvement on last week!) and saw a most unexpected succession of caught and bowled dismissals. First was the aforementioned toe-grabber from the statuesque Shaw, which was followed by a skied shot and hearts in mouth pouch from the recently colander-like McKeirnan. Next up was the ever-reliable Robinson, smothering the poor ball in his rock of ages hands, only to be outdone a few overs later by a ravenous Shackleton snaffling a looped dolly - the pitch again undoing the batsman's good work. Finally it was Bubba Philipson's turn to complete the set and take another pitch-induced looper without having to barely break from his languid follow-through. A most uncommon feat, and one Bodley should probably be only quietly pleased with, as the pitch made timing a shot very tricky indeed for the batters. But in light of last weeks fielding display having resembled a band of blind jugglers, it was mighty improvement. As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, those fielding on the wilder side of the boundary were rapidly falling under the thrall of resident team ornithologist Shaw. The usual treat of circling kites and buzzards - a common sight nowadays thanks to the hugely successful red kite reintroduction program started over twenty years ago using breeding pairs from Spain and Scandinavia - was today supplemented with two lesser-spotted red-legged partridges, ambling up the practice nets before talking loudly behind the bushes. These were later displaced by a number of very loud grey squirrels. All of this had Packham-Shaw and his nearby team-mates in raptures of appreciation and doubtless contributed to the run of boundaries scored on that side of the wicket. In between all that twitching and catching was a dodgy lbw for the skipper, a catch for Shaw, a satisfying clean bowled for Bubba, and most amazingly a stumped for Jones, who having spent five balls convincing the batsman he couldn't bowl, proceeded to bowl a perfect zooter to entice him out of the crease and leave only the easy stuff for Neely to do behind the stumps. With that final undeserved wicket Peasemore were all out for a well made 98 - some lower order tonking taking the score into 'tricky given the pitch' territory. But no matter, tea was to be served.
Doubtless you are by now familiar with how much Bodley enjoy - nay, how much Bodley love and cherish - a cricket tea. Being a team that almost always plays away, we are blessed with more than our fair share of filling fillings. In the pantheon of cricket teas Peasemore is at the top table, pride of place on the gingham altar. A coffee cake of some repute and inevitable seconds is the highlight, supplemented by all manner of dainty rolls, nibbles and a proper cup of tea, in a proper cup and saucer. Oh, and this year, sticky glazed mini sausages - a favourite of the animal-chasing Shackleton. At this point, as we were discussing the joy of cake and drawing straws for the batting order, the skies opened and a thunderous downpour poured down thunderously. Well, what can you do? More cake was hoovered up and Shackleton went off on the hunt for more meat, directly resulting in his being unavailable to open the batting and demoted down the order. So with Neely and Robinson duly appointed openers, we got underway.
The pitch was a complete pudding. Sadly we'd all had our fill of puddings by now though and survival, gentle running whilst digestion continued, and encouragement/abuse from the boundary was the order of the day. The ball sat up, sat down, wriggled around a bit, but never got comfortable, and in the sixth over both openers succumbed, a regrettable run-out (is there any other sort?) and a clean bowled giving Peasemore early succour. Shaw and McKiernan were brought to the crease, and as is his wont, Mckiernan immediately hit a punching four down the ground. After his terrific efforts in the field and with the ball, Shaw rather rode his luck with the bat, not helped by that steaming pudding of a pitch. McKiernan too had his share of luck, being half way back to the pavilion having skied a catch, only to scamper back to the crease upon seeing it dropped. He was eventually out for a pitch-defying fifteen, leaving Shaw and the carnivorous Shackleton to negotiate the middle overs and build a score before The Finisher could Finish the game. The bowling was canny, full, and uneven, with both batsmen - probably our most fluid pair - struggling to time the ball and beat the outfield. Singles were likewise hard to come by as the ball never went far from the square. But the runs did steadily build, and at the half-way point Bodley were nearing forty with batting to come and a manageable rate. By the twenty sixth over the score had crept up to seventy-odd and the game was looking safer, especially as the opening round of Peasemore bowlers - very good all - had bowled out. Shaw fell to an lbw to one of the many Nashes playing for Peasemore and Burnett joined Shackleton. Incredibly, Bodley's Best Batsman was then clean bowled by another Nash, and the game was again in the balance. but this brought out Philipson - The Finisher - and with a swift carve of his mighty blade a single, then a two, and then, suitably, a four, were dispatched to bring Bodley home in thirty overs. A marvellous bit of finishing on a very challenging pitch - well done all, though we were all rather disappointing not to see Busby's Lara impression or Alec's feigning to not leave the ball in the closing overs. Next time! Peasemore again proved wonderful hosts, and we very much look forward to next years fixture under clear skies and with a pub open beyond 7.30pm (Yorkshire-accented grumbles all round). A terrific day, enjoyed by all. That's two wins from three, let's keep it up and prevent Stu from his customary lap of 'thoughtful contemplation' (picture below) in future.
Isis CC at Queen's College Ground, Oxford. 40 overs.
What a glorious day it was, much improved on last Thursday’s chilly game under blustery skies. Today was more like the weather you might associate with Cricket and under blue skies with a hint of cloud Bodley looked to build on the season opener’s victory. After a brief but necessary delay skipper Stu comprehensively lost the toss and Isis – a team we’re not given much a game in recent years – put the visitors in to bat. Murmurs about the need for restraint at tea followed, and with the sun now scorching out trotted new opening pair Neely and Shaw. Isis are a very canny team, bowling with patience and batting sensibly, so the orders had gone out from the skipper to build steadily, forty overs being a rare marathon for Bodley. The openers duly did this, with the first run – a splendid boundary from Neely – coming in the third over. The careful approach continue until a few runs started flowing in the eighth over, before Shaw was bowled for a seven in the eleventh over. Shackleton strode out, a place lower than usual due to being a little tired having turned out for his second team the previous day. Nevertheless some gorgrous shots followed, with Neely holding firm at the other end. The pitch was a sod though – low, slow and with the very occasional one sitting up unexpectedly, which combined with the full length made for some very difficult batting. With the score languishing at 38 in the sixteenth Shackleton was inexplicably bowled playing down the wrong line, having just reached double figures. Next out was Burnett, and then almost immediately after that McKiernan walked out to join Neely. Now the runs flowed a little and the half century was up, but then all of a sudden, and having survived a bumped ball catch, Neely fell to the lethal slow bowling of Ponsford – a sign of things to come. Last week’s hero Philipson finished his cigarette – there is something of the Private Walker about our Tim – and marched to the crease. Unfortunately Ponsford struck again and Walker was back in the trenches before you could say loose lips. This brought Jones out to bat, and with the score at 62-5 from nineteen the forty overs were looking a tall ask. McKiernan was by now finding his range though, and with Jones hitting out when the ball drifted wide the score steadily climbed. McKiernan fell for a valuable eighteen with the score at 84, and even the club’s senior pro’s Milner and Ackland could resist the nagging bowling, both departing for the addition of only two more. Busby arrived and Isis changed the bowling, introducing a bowler for whom the pursuit of pace was evidently the prime – the only – objective. Busby ducked and weaved, Jones sought refuge at the other end, but the odd run came and the ton neared. At 101 Jones fell, havig survived a no ball catch the previous ball, and Phillips joined Busby. To the delight of his teammates Philips smashed his first runs for the team whilst Busby eased into Lara mode and took the score further. After one more lovely four Busby was out for a well struck eleven and Bodley ended their innings in the thirty fourth over for 110. The at times unplayable Ponsford deserve mention for a five-fer, whilst for Bodley Neely top scored with thirty four. Not too shabby given the pitch, but a tricky score t defend. But that mattered not, as tea was served.
A cracking tea in the charming clubhouse at Queen’s, all framed pictures from yesteryear and wood panels. Plans were hatched and a lengthy debate about introducing the Duke ball we had blown the kitty on, but eventually traditional approach was taken, and Bodley strode out to field under baking sun and terrible music blasting from the boathouses over the river.
Shaw and McKiernan opened up the bowling for Bodley and were immediately on song, Leigh in particular finding a perfect line and length. After six overs with three maidens the score was 9-1, then 9-2, and then after twelve very tidy overs, 18-3 with both openers in the wickets. A bit of a partnership built, the music worsened further, and Bodley held a fiercely contested competition to see who could achieve the worst dropped catch of the day – jury is still out on that one. But then, with no warning, Ackland bowls a terrible ball, which is swatted, ankle height, to square leg, where Philipson reaches down between his legs and clutches the ball mere fractions of an inch above the ground. 36-4 after sixteen and Bodley are still in it, thought there’s plenty moreover to come. Milner and Shackleton had joined the party by now and Milner in particular was making life tricky when he found that full length. Sadly the Isis batters knuckled down and dug themselves well and truly in, with the score climbing quicker than Bodley would have liked and wickets proving elusive. A trickle of bi-planes overhead was a pleasant diversion, whilst the students in the boathouses finally ran out of awful music to inflict on the world, but that was about as good as it got. Milner finally took the fifth wicket with the score approaching the hundred, and whilst the final few overs proved exciting as a bit of playing and missing teased an impending wicket, it was not to be, and Isis ran out winners in the thirty seventh over.
So in the end a close and enjoyable match, with neither team finding the pitch easy and both bowling well. Much to take forward into the next game – Peasemore CC on Sunday 14th. Congrats to all who played and despite the loss, what a balmy afternoon and beautiful spot to spend playing the greatest game ever invented.
St Clement's Strollers, Magdalen College Ground, Oxford. 20 overs.
Bloody hell it was cold. I’m not just talking a gentle breeze from up North but a genuine blast from beyond the Tundra, proper Polar Bear weather. Not what you want on the opening day of the season, against traditional oppo the St Clement’s Strollers, a team we’ve struggled to perform well against for longer than I care to remember. In fact we haven’t beaten the Strollers since 2006, having lost by 32 runs, 5 wickets, 28 runs, 72 runs, 3 wickets and then 7 wickets since then. All other games have been called off due to rain, which is about as good as a result as could be hoped for.
A strong Bodley team – though how many times have we said that in the past - take the field against the older but clever and canny Strollers. Winning the toss skipper Ackland puts the oppo in bat, who open with a skillful basher and a careful blocker. Inroads are soon made, Leigh picking up wickets and James takes the first catch of the season. Finally, after whacking a 6 straight back over the bowlers head, the opener retires and the Strollers, despite the best efforts of some good and accurate bowling at the tail by James and Phil, get to 108, a target the Bod have struggled to get anywhere near here in the past.
Doesn't get any warmer during the turn round. David and Bharat open, against some slow but accurate bowling, in fact throughout the innings the Strollers bowling is excellent, deceptively hard to get away, and it isn't until the last few overs that the bowling gets loose enough for Bodley to score freely from. Bharat scores some runs but is then out for a well-made 16, Matthew comes in, hits a few but is then LBW, and after a referral to the third umpire is sent on his way, James and Leigh both shine briefly but are both bowled, leaving Phil, then Andrew and Tim to see us home. For a few overs towards the end it looked like the slow start to the innings would cost us dear, but Tim followed on the fine form of last season by continuing the Bubba Watson homage, hitting boundaries to save the Andrew's rusty knees from running too much, including the first 6 of the season, to take us home with 3 balls to spare. So, a season-opening win, how long since that has happened? The Strollers bowling is always a challenge, the sort of delivery that comes in slow and makes the batsman's eyes light up until they realise the line and length are perfect and they're knackered. Next stop Isis CC on Sunday, a different challenge with an afternoon game, but a win gives confidence and the team again is a good one.
The Bodley welcome David Phillips to the team, and sends best wishes to late withdrawal Iain, who has again been beaten up playing hockey.