Whippersnappers, Cumnor Cricket Club. Twenty overs.
The FA Cup Final, Superbowl, Ashes, Monaco Grand Prix, Wimbledon Finals, Grand National, Boat Race, World Bog Snorkelling Championship, and Whippersnappers. All of these great sporting pinnacles occur but once a year, and all are cherished, partaken in by a lucky few and recorded in perpetuity in the annals of sporting legend. That being the case it was with a casual buzz that this year’s Whippersnappers got underway at Cumnor Cricket Club on a balmy Friday evening. With some on holiday, some without a day pass, and some just awol, the fourteen men of Bodley assembled for battle with teams decided by the decidedly Stuish method of lining up in height order and going odds/evens. Looked ok, everyone thought, so off we went. The slightly shorter team led by Alec won the toss as the marginally taller team led by Gareth called wrong. To Gareth’s delight he was asked to bat, and out walked a newly minted opening pair of Leigh and Miten.
Neely and Stu opening the bowling and Leigh, in his first game back since a dizzying catalogue of injuries, nudged and nurdled whilst Miten ran like a March hare from the other end. Neely soon had Leigh on his way, with Stu sending Miten back shortly after. With Mads moonlighter Dips now at the crease the runs started to came quickly, Dips played some lovely strokes whilst Gareth bludgeoned Neely back over his head before holing out to give Andrew Milner an easy wicket. With Dave Busby joining Dips attention turned to the boundary and the figure of David Shackleton, whose recently sprained ankle had quite inexplicably affected his ability to count. With a retirement set at twenty for this match Dips serenely moved on to a potentially match-winning 34 before being called off by David when he realised this was a greater number than twenty. Gav was next in, and after a few lusty blows was followed by the hobbling Shackleton, though there was little sympathy from the fielding team. Shacks did as Shacks does though, and moved on to forty odd runs whilst the other Dave produced a vintage Bodley Lara impression to notch the team’s total up to an eye-watering 160-4.
Needing 161 to win Alec led his team out with in a manner that did not immediately convey the seriousness of the task at hand. Whilst Alec wisely took the non-facing end, serial opening batsman impersonator Stu shuffled to the crease bedecked in pink fairy wings that he had presumably stolen from a small child. Wondering what on earth was going on Jones tossed the ball to Gav and set a conventional field knowing the oppo might take a few risks. In runs Gav, good length ball, Stu swings as hard as he can and leathers the ball back past Gav. But then to everyone's great surprise Gareth, standing firm at mid-off, pouched the head-high ball to leave the flightless duckling on a diamond duck. Quack quack! Later that over the skipper was dismissed as Gav beat Alec’s windmill defence. Andrew Milner and Robin picked up the pace after that early calamity, but with dew forming and the light disappearing rapidly it was definitely a good time to bowl. After Robin was out to another Busby bomb Matthew marched out determined to attract the attention of the England selectors as the Ashes loomed. A slow bowling partnership of previously unseen slowness was unleashed as Gareth and Busby made good use of the dark to toss the ball way up and make scoring tricky, with Andy Colquhoun and Matthew both perishing trying to chase those runs. Bodley’s answer to Jermaine Blackwood smited a terrific six to raise hopes of a comeback, but eventually, and with the light almost completely gone, the final wicket fell and the marginally taller team won by 78 runs to cap another thoroughly enjoyable Whippersnappers played with a broad smile across the face of all.
Over some well earned beers and a thorough analysis of the match a few words were said that are worth repeating here. Shackleton, for so long now our rock-solid opening batter, a brother from another mother to Matthew, and a thoroughly decent, generous and humble member of our merry band, bade us farewell as he sets off to Exeter for a new job. Good luck Shackers! Good news is he is likley back mid-season, so emotions were kept in check, thankfully. Then to wrap things up, and of more interest to the wonks at Wisden, we had the celebration of the season's Champagne Moment. This year has seen many a notable moment, with Mike's legsidetastic 107no being an undoubted high point. But the top prize went to a man long eulogised on these pages, who this year, under the glare of the cameras playing away from home in a foreign county, produced an over of farcical brilliance. Bodley CC proudly present to you ...Mr David Busby (Reader Services) - winner of this year's Champagne Moment. After a ball by ball tale told my Matthew to an engrossed crowd, a commemorative t-shirt was presented to Dave, forever capturing an achievement the whole team enjoyed immensely. Well done Dave, and well played all.
Despite the challenge of playing 8 a side and the comic misunderstanding of the retirement rule (sorry Dave, my fault!), it was a great match, and we look forward to another season and maybe even a season-opening Whippersnappers to get us all in the groove after Winter’s inevitable weight gain. In the meantime the team have two more games – Aldworth and the Authors, both at Warborough. Good luck chaps.
Hendricks XI at Warborough. 35 overs.
Our heroes this week headed south of Oxford to sunny Warborough, to what is fast becoming the team’s favourite ground. A nice pub within hitting distance might have something to do with that, mind. Lining up against us – though very much with us in their approach to the game – were old friends the Hendricks XI, led by Bodley occasional Tim Saunders, now with added ‘tache. Skippering the good (creaky?) ship Bodley was Stu Ackland, and in a thoroughly Stuish gesture the toss was offered to the visitors. Bodley field first.
A quick peak at the opposition batting order by the skipper (could this be the start of a Milneresque ruthless streak?) reveals that the two batters known to the Bod as somewhat destructive – Saunders and Ross Quest – are batting six and eight respectively today. Stu decides to hold back himself (‘I am the most economical bowler’...) and Shaw Snr for the inevitable artillery surge late on in the battle. Shaw Jnr and the year’s actual most economical bowler get things started, and it takes only about ten minutes for all to realise that this pitch has a few gremlins in it. One end is low, the other not so low, but not reliable either. Uuurgh. As scoring proves difficult without taking risks these two, followed by Philipson and Triggs, keep the run rate right down, whilst Bodley’s fielding backs up the bowler's efforts on a decent sized outfield. Mention must go to Robinson’s figures after his five-over spell – 2 wickets for nine runs – quite superb. A wicket for young Shaw leaves Hendricks on 23-3 after eight overs. With Adnan and Assad bowling in an effective partnership through the middle overs, things are kept tight and there is really very little to report. Jones catapulted himself in the air mistiming a dive in the field, Triggs stopped a few balls in the conventional manner, and the skipper decided to play musical fielding positions with Shaw Snr (half-way James!). Adnan was bowling with ever quickening pace and it wasn’t long before he had three wickets to his name from some terrific bowling. Assad picked up another and by the twenty-fifth over Hendricks were 113-7 with Bodley well in control. Do you remember the plan from the beginning of the match though? Well, that was brought into play, as despite Saunders being one of Adnan’s scalps, the dangerous (and, we hoped, hungover) Quest was now in, and with good support from the other end he was slowly turning things around for the gin lovers. It’s fair to say that Stu, responsible for providing today’s tea, served up an early buffet as the two batters tucked in and gorged themselves on some tasty pies. The innings ended with Bodley somewhat ragged in the field but not wanting for commitment, on 210-8 from the thirty five overs. A tad over par, possibly. One final point of note has to be Shaw Snr’s fantastic slower ball to claim that eighth wicket, a perfect demonstration of how it’s done.
But enough of the cricket and the inter-team grumbling, it was tea time. Stu served up another terrific buffet, sprinkled with red-hot samosas and a really very good ginger cake. Tactics are discussed, discarded and disowned, until the skipper quite rightfully decided to simply put the batters up the top and the rest of us down the bottom.
It is important to remember that whilst the Hendricks lower order made batting look quite easy, the top order did not. And so it was for Bodley, as Neely left and blocked whilst Webb sought to claim the ‘most balls faced without scoring’ mantle from Jones – falling only a couple short on 19. By the halfway mark Bodley’s Spartans had racked up a Boycottian 51 from eighteen overs. Eventually, after the sun had set, the milk man had called, and another sun had almost set, a wicket finally fell, Webb making a nuggety 27 having perished trying to up the rate. Neely soon followed, for a stealthy 47. Assad batted nicely, followed by some runs for Shaw Snr – a powerful 38 against canny bowling – and then Adnan chipping in with a promising knock in the closing overs. Bodley ended on 172-7, which if you take out the staggering 38 extras given away in the first innings, leaves the scores level and the match tied. But really folks, I’m afraid we were well beaten by opposition and pitch today, though it must be said the match was nonetheless a very enjoyable affair against a fine team that we look forward to playing each year. The lower order hitting from Hendricks proved the difference, and leaves Bodley still searching for an elusive tenth win of the season.
As is their tradition a bottle of Hendricks gin was awarded to the man of the match by team head honcho Tim, this year going to Adnan for his all round performance of three wickets (5-0-24-3) and a brisk sixteen runs. Well played! After putting what felt like the entire contents of a house back into the clubhouse the teams repaired to the nearby Six Bells for refreshment and intelligent analysis of the game. After much chuckling at the beers on offer (best not go there...), it was agreed we’d all reconvene next year and do it all again.
...the below image adequately shows the nature of this, most evil, of pitches. Note the anguished bowler as yet another zooter goes under the stumps; the batsman almost falling over as he reaches for the ball on it's swallow-like trajectory; but most tellingly, note the keeper, on his knees as if collecting an errant kitten. All of us on the losing side agreed this was truly a tricky pitch.
Well here we are folks, the lofty heights of a Jack Cox Cup semi-final, finally underway after last week’s weather-enforced cancellation, and with better skies suggesting we should at least get a game in. Bodley were of course without team mascot David Shackleton, but nevertheless put out a talented side intent on enjoying the match and having a bloody good crack at it. We’ve beaten a few decent sides to get this far (and amusingly bettered a few better sides by being here), and it’s been a hell of a journey, so as we lined up against a side representing the Engineering department it was all smiles and maybe just a few nerves. Of note was the fact that in an unprecedented turn-up the crowd for this evening's extravaganza had by kick-off ballooned to nearly double figures. Bonkers.
Skipper Neely lost the toss and we were asked to bowl. We can do that we replied, no problem at all. Secretly we wanted bat, mind. Things didn’t start too well, with the bizarre sight of an opening batter bringing a runner out – after some confusion but wanting to play in the right spirit this was allowed and it at least kept the runs down at one end. The other was ticking along nicely though and despite a deserved wicket for Jack Cox glory seeker Stu, the batters were racking up the runs and retiring at a fair rate. But then, as if writing a chapter for his as yet unpublished memoirs (soon to be available via Mills & Boon), Bodley’s answer to W G Grace - the evergreen Andrew Milner – spun his web of spin and the scoring rate slowed as the middle order struggled for runs. With Boldey fielding well this eventually brought about a run-out as Jones rifled one back in to the keeper. A satisfying clean bowled for Neely late on was the only other wicket to fall as four batters reached the thirty mark and the score ended on 170-3. A fairly good score all things considered, but you can only tell once you've had a go yourself, so off we went.
Neely and Shaw opened, quickly finding singles through gaps in a close field before the skipper fell to some tight bowling. Webb played nicely, but a second ton of the season wasn’t to be as both he and fellow Roman soldier Shaw fell to some excellent catching. Burnett was joined by Philipson – sadly undone by another great catch before he really got into his stride – bringing Milner to the crease. Our Mr. Milner has a much storied history with the Bodleian Cricket Club, for many years holding the highest score, and for many of us is still just a few good hits away from another devastating innings. With Burnett playing most unlike his fellow countrymen at Old Trafford these two started to built a substantial partnership, flaying confused fielders and testing the arms of the boundary riders to scramble singles. Burnett’s innings was his first big score for the Bod - a delightful procession of deft touches and punchy drives. Both retired for well-made thirties, leaving a succession of somewhat lower scores – albeit arrested by some terrific catching – for Jones, Stu, Robin, Miten and David Philips. But it was all part of the master plan to get our lusciously coiffured retirees back to the crease. Phil and Andrew thereafter set about racking up more runs, with Andrew taking a liking to the death bowlers so much they may as well have just parked a man over the straight boundary. After that enjoyable final thrash Burnett ended on 34 and Milner 46, very well played both, highlight of the match. 116-9 wasn’t a bad score to be honest, batting second, but against such a strong batting unit intent on getting to the final it was sadly not enough.
It’s been a great season of Jack Cox cricket, despite the loss of our beloved (by most!) pitch at Manny Rd, with many terrific games, and credit must go to all who have contributed, and to the skipper for leading us all that way. A big thank you to those that came along and supported too - much appreciated and if you ignore the result you'll get an idea of what it's like when we win. Finally, if you'll indulge this author a little I'd like to end this part of the season by saying that Bodley CC is a flipping marvellous thing, playing in the right way and welcoming all to share in the enjoyment of doing that, so well done all for keeping your heads up through some tough games and contributing to a highly successful JC this season. Next year let’s just stick with the Plate though eh?
Not wanting to be shown up by a team partaking in such unsporting things as stretches, catching practice and team talks, Bodley based their preparation on the wise words of the great cricketer-philosopher Sir Geoffrey Boycott, who offers some sage advice. Of course it's also bloody funny.
Renault F1 CC at Barton Abbey. 20 overs.
One of the joys of playing social cricket in and around Oxford is the wealth of grounds at which to masquerade as cricketers, from village greens to college grounds, council fields and country estates, all offer something new and plenty of interest. One of the downsides of playing cricket in and around Oxford is that so many other buggers are trying to do the tourist thing in and around. This evening the team fought their way through the crowds of townies visiting Countryfile live at nearby Blenheim Palace, reaching the delightful peace of Barton Abbey ground within the boundaries of the one-time Manor house. The house carries particular interest for Bodleian players as it was once in the possession of Ralph Sheldon, being remodelled for him in 1678-9. Sheldon’s tapestries of the four midland counties of England are of course world famous, with one taking pride of place in the Bodleian’s Weston Library. Records of the abbey (MS. Top. Oxon. C.522 if you’re interested) can in fact be found at the aforementioned library. Sadly, no records of early cricket matches at the abbey seem to exist. Which brings us to the cricket match in hand.
Bodley this evening took on old friends Renault F1, with honours about even over the many years we’ve been playing each other, though Renault have had the bragging rights in recent years. We get older, they seem to get younger! This evening’s team was chomping at the bit for a game after last night’s unplayable puddle of a pitch, and with Andrew Milner returning from journalistic duties to skipper the side, many of those denied a game last night returned for another bash tonight. Having lost the toss Bodley were batting first, normally a welcome result, but on the damp uncovered pitch this was not an ideal start. Batting was difficult, with the ball nipping around, sitting in, sitting up, sitting back, being blowing off course, generally misbehaving, or very occasionally carrying through as normal – that one really caught the batters out. Neely and Shackleton put on a good opening stand, and later on Philipson, Robinson and Milner all played well and ticked the score along. A couple of unnamed ducks came and went, McKinnon was undone by a ball that suddenly defied Newton’s laws and simply rolled along the floor to the stumps, and special mention must go to Miten for his first four, and to Alec for a jubilantly celebrated single as things neared a close. Oh, and to David Busby for an entertainingly dramatic tumble parallel to the crease. Bodley ended up on 94-9 from our twenty overs, which given the pitch we thought might just be defendable. What did we know, though.
Renault began under darkening skies, and it became depressingly apparent within about two overs that the gremlins Bodley found in the pitch were mere kittens to Renault. The ball was subsequently clubbed, leathered, biffed and smashed to the boundaries, the entire Renault top three retiring one after another as the score neared our own meagre offering. But then the cricketing Gods decided to even things up a little, and before you could ask him if he thought Dunkirk was an accurate movie, Bodley’s very own Spirit of Cricket Andrew Milner brought himself on to bowl and found himself on a hat-trick ball. The ball in question was tossed up, tempting the batter to come down and swing on the full, but alas was pushed to the nearby fielder to deny Andrew his trophy. Robinson thrived in the conditions, taking another two, and credit must go to Neely for some sharp takes to gather up three stumpings in the innings. None of Trigg’s balls were hit this time, though he didn’t bowl. Despite our late surge Renault knocked off the runs comfortably in the end, though we gave it a good crack and the game was played with excellent humour. Thank you to Renault too for being such generous hosts and for the extra fielder, and many extra cakes.
An excellent tea and beers were lapped up by the team as night fell and the inviting thatched clubhouse beckoned us inside. On a sad note we are very sorry to report that second-top scorer of the season David Shackleton has decided to imitate Jones and gone knackered his ankle, having landed badly whilst bowling. Fear not though cricket fans as David will be spending the weekend in the club's very own cryo-chamber, also known as the Special Collections walk in freezer store. We will rebuild him.