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.