University Offices - Jack Cox Plate Quarter-final, Balliol College Ground, twenty overs
And so to the Jack Cox Plate, a sure sign that Summer is well and truly upon us. Having won two of our group games we find ourselves playing both this and the Cup, with this match coming after an already busy few weeks of cricket. Calendar congestion had left us with a short team and we were very grateful to those that could play and potentially carry us to the semi-finals. A debut went to Weston Library Graduate Trainee Miten Mistry, and we welcomed Iain Wilson back into the fold sporting his attractive new Bodley cap. Skipper Neely lost the toss, having narrowly called it wrong. Bodley were asked to field, and so the ten men of the library sauntered out onto the misshapen Balliol outfield, looking over with concern at the building site that was the much-loved club pitch. Fingers crossed it's only temporary. But to the cricket...
University Offices are a team we’ve beaten in the past but the line-up looked pretty strong this time, the skipper opening up with our two quickest seamers, Shaw and Wilson. In the third over a bit of swinging at the ball brought about our first wicket, a sharp caught and bowled to Shaw. 14-1 from 3, not bad. Unfortunately for us the newly laid artificial wicket was true, the outfield (very) short on one side, and the Offices batters keen to hit out. By the midway point the score was 63-1 and by the time the next wicket fell – a wonderful clean bowled from Mistry’s handy left arm seamers – it was 115-2 from fifteen. The next five were a blur of boundaries as the bowling was attacked with gusto and catches were spilled (including a whopping fine for Jones, tsk). By the close of the innings Offices had racked up 172-2, a daunting total. No tea in a Jack Cox match so after a quick glare from skip and some gallows humour all round we set about batting.
One of the upsides – possibly the only upside – of chasing a big total that you’re not terribly convinced is gettable, is the freedom it gives you, a freedom that often leads to a calm focus and refreshing clarity of process out in the middle. This proved very much to be the case tonight, as openers Neely and Shaw set up shop very nicely against some very sharp bowling. Whilst the first over only went for 1 run, the second went for 17 – bang on the run-rate. Third over again went for 1, then the fourth for 15. Terrific, we all thought, this is on, so long as this pattern continues. Sadly it did not continue. Shaw retired for a superb 30, bringing Wilson to the crease for a far too brief stay, then Philipson arrived and proceeded to give the fielders a catching practice session they clearly did not want. Eventually one stuck and Jones joined Neely, who was now approaching retirement as enthusiastically as a Bodleian curator. Webb replaced Neely, and with Jones built a good partnership, taking the score beyond 100 but finally falling behind the rate having been 80-2 in the tenth. Jones fell to a terrible ball, then Busby was bowled by a better ball, followed by Mistry, Phillips, Webb and Griffin, leaving the two openers back out there to smash a few more and leave us on 113-8 from our twenty overs. So not a bad score given the opposition strength, but nowhere near the 173 needed – we live to fight another day and look forward to a Cup run later in the month!