Materials, Jack Cox Cup quarter-final. Balliol College ground, 20 overs.
The history of the Bodleian Cricket Club is a storied and colourful one, with great highs and comic lows, and tonight the team wrote another chapter by playing in a most unexpected Jack Cox Cup quarter-final, against Materials. Normally straight into the Plate we have this year already been soundly beaten in that part of the contest, and thanks to a quirk of the group stages (...odd numbers, basically) we also had a shot at the Cup. Only once in Bodley’s history have we been in this position, and that was back when there was not Cup or Plate, but simply a final round of matches after the groups. So, unknown territory for us really. Skipper Neely had the troops fired up, being more pumped than Alan Partridge at an all you can eat with his own plate. We welcomed back Stu Ackland for this game after many years of JC abstinence, and the team was completed by Shackleton, Shaw, Burnett, Philipson, Robsinson, Jones, Triggs, Mistry, and Philips. The skipper won the toss and opted to bat, and off we went. We wondered what to expect, not having been here before, and with team Oracle Stu foreseeing doom and fire as we crept into Cup territory. Bah, we all thought!
Neely and Shackleton opened the batting, being Bodley's answer to Morecombe and Wise, and quickly got into a good groove from some fairly loose bowling, with 28 being taken from the first two. After a buccaneering succession of boundaries Neely soon retired, bringing Shaw to the crease to face some alarmingly loud bowling. After a mixture of lines and lengths Shaw was undone by a peach of a ball, sneaking through the defences to bowl off stump. With Shackleton retiring after a superb knock, Burnett was soon joined by Philipson, with the score at 89-1 from 10 overs and Bodley flying. This being cricket the game soon swung and the run rate couldn’t be maintained as wickets fell and runs dried up. With the openers to come back in this was all part of the masterplan though, and so long as Geoffrey Boycott didn’t make an appearance the skipper seemed happy enough. Highlights of the middle order swinging, and the only boundaries scored outside the opening partnership, were a massive six from Philipson that ended up in the trees next door, a near six from Shaw back over the bowler’s head, and a straight driven four from Jones. Materials achieved a bit of a stranglehold on Bodley in the final five overs, with only twelve coming as a worryingly below-par score of 133 all out was posted. With no tea the team resorted to chest bumps and discussions about the weather to pass the interval. Soon enough we were back out, with the skipper now so charged up that back at the Bodleian manuscripts were flying off the shelves like in Ghostbusters as Matthew focused hard on the game in hand.
Given how well the bulk of our batting innings had gone we held some hope that we might have a defendable score, but we’ve been in this position before and been ground to dust, and so nervously we set our field and took a breath. Burnett and Shaw opened the bowling and first ball up the edge was found, flying through to Gav at slip, who did well to stop the ball as it skidded in front of him. The rest of the over was terrific, chances galore, and we felt well on top as Shaw applied the pressure at the other end, with a run out coming in the second over. Third over and Phil gets an LBW, leaving Materials at 2-10 from 2. Thereafter a partnership built, but Bodley fielded with real intent and with confidence high fours were well cut off and bodies flung around to keep the rate down. In the seventh over Jack Cox convert Ackland shuffled in and before he knew it was on a hat-trick ball, with a decidedly iffy LBW (we’ll take it!) and a caught in the bag. The hat-trick ball flew through, found the top edge and just didn’t quite stick in the hands of an unnamed fielder. Excellent bowling, 50-4 in the eighth. Next over and Gav is in on the action, his cutters, off breaks and seamers bringing a deserved shot at the second hat-trick of the innings after a bowled and a caught. Again it was not to be, but with Materials finding scoring tricky, by the half way point they still needed 77 runs with only three wickets left. Nerves were being tested though as one of the batters was finding his range and hitting the boundary boards – with the overs left the time was there for a comeback, and Bodley knew it. With renewed focus the next few overs were kept tight as Bodley chased hard in the field and cut off fours, until in the fifteenth over after a well-deserved bowled for Neely a single wicket was needed for victory, with only 83 on the board. The sixteenth over thus began with Bodley more nervous than we should have been, not being used to winning positions in Jack Cox cricket. Shackleton was by now on, with Jones taking the gloves and the skipper in close in covers. In a fitting finale to the match Shackleton found his length, the ball sat up and spooned up in to the off-side, to be safely pouched by the skipper to clinch the win. 87 all out and Bodley win by 46 runs to take our place in the Jack Cox semi-final on the 2nd August.
Absolutely brilliant performance by all eleven on the pitch, and a huge achievement given our travails in the JC these past few years. If we play with this level of confidence and focus there’s no reason we can’t go all the way. We look forward to seeing some friendly faces on the 2nd when we take on Engineering for a place in the final. Come on Bodley!!!