FFTMCC, Cutteslowe Park. 20 overs.
In stark contrast to Tuesday’s scorcher Bodley this evening played a highly competitive T20 under cloudy skies and a welcome breeze, against old friends and all round cricket troubadours the Mads. We don’t often beat the Mads, with a season closing win least year being against a weakened side and the years other matches going in their favour. This season we had an oh so close match with only a boundary catch off the last ball preventing Gav taking us to victory. So it was all set up to be a humdinger and both teams set about the game in great spirits.
Bodley lost the toss and were very kindly put in the bat, still waiting for a few players. As our usual opener Neely wound his way back from glorious Wales skipper Stu valiantly, if rather too enthusiastically, stepped in as opener with Shackleton. This unlikely partnership – kind of a cricketing version of Strictly Come Dancing – set about the innings with unexpected flair, and it wasn’t long before Stu clobbered a four over deep cover to stake his claim as permanent number 1. Shackleton struggled to match Stu’s derring do, and with teammates in rapture the skipper progressed to a terrific seventeen with three boundaries before being caught skying one in the fifth over. But then as normal service resumed and Shaw Snr joined the bemused Shackleton it became apparent that the pitch was a little low and with the slow bowlers on, scoring became a little tricky. Shaw and Shackleton formed a nice partnership, finding the boundary often enough and keeping things ticking over before Shackleton retired on 34 in the ninth over. Next batter, Robinson, was soon undone by that low pitch, bringing the thoroughly discombobulated Neely to the crease in the tenth over at number five. The two batters set about trying to up the rate a little but unfortunately Shaw succumbed soon after for a useful eleven. This bought Jones to the crease with orders not to revert to Boycottean type. By now Neely had been possessed by an evil spirit intent on taking as many singles as possible, and he and Jones charged from end to end and back again to keep the score ticking over. Fortunately for a by now exhausted Jones, Neely lost the plot in the seventeenth over and smashed seventeen runs including a six and two fours. A relieved Jones kept swinging and running before Neely was unlucky to be bowled for a very well made thirty. With that and the skipper's opening blast a new batting order was apparently established, much to the skipper’s delight. This bought Bodley's senior statesman Milner to the crease, muttering about wool sweaters but intent on taking the score as far beyond 100 as he could. Only four were added in the nineteenth, but in the final over a well struck four back over the bowler helped scramble nine off the over. Bodley ended on 122-4, not a bad score, and one we hoped to defend.
After a quick turnaround the skipper announced he had a cunning plan, a daring upending of the usual bowling changes. Burnett and Robinson opened and despite a four off the first ball things progressed rather well, with Gav getting a deserved wicket in his first over, clean bowled to set off the thoroughly enjoyable flashing bails. After another form Phil, Gav was back at it with another clean bowler, bails alight in the dusk once again. 2-19 in the fourth and Bodley were pretty happy. As is so often the way after a few wickets, a partnership gradually developed, as the Mads batters dug in and then hit out as Bodley missed a few chances in the field and talked openly about vegetarianism (too much of an in-joke – Ed.). The skipper came on to bowl, all shuffle and adoring female fans, whilst Milner spun his magic at the other end, Bodley’s Odd Couple enjoying a rolling back of the years. Whilst neither got a wicket both kept the score from getting away, and credit must go to the outfielders for some sterling work chasing, and to Neely for some sharp takes behind the stumps. Another wicket finally fell in the twelfth over with the score on 56, a sharp run-out effected by Shaw Jnr from the covers. Young Shaw was back amongst the action shortly after, having found the edge, and with Neely taking the catch the Mads were 59-4 in the thirteenth. Well, once again – as is bloody typical – the momentum then turned and the Mads started finding the ropes, the big hitting Shorten giving the outfielders sore necks as a series of sixes rained over cow corner. By the sixteenth the score had climbed to 102-4 with Shorten retired but Bodley fielding well. Bodley favourite and player’s player Dave Busby bowled a few tight overs of death from above, whilst Shaw and Shackleton were introduced late – the skippers aforementioned Cunning Plan – to choke off the final overs. Sadly the Mads had other ideas and a few sixes interspersed with some sharp running kept the score worryingly close. But what-oh! Shaw and Shackleton both bag a wicket, in the eighteenth and nineteenth overs respectively, and the game shifts back in Bodley’s favour. At the start of the final over the Mads are on 109-6 with two retired, so fourteen needed to win. The mads were going at the ball, with good hitters right through the order, and the fielders were spread to stop the boundaries and chase down any twos. So final over...
Shackleton is tossed the ball and the fielders bare down like grass-stained middle class vultures. A good length ball, straightish, and wallop! Up it goes, miles up ...towards the skipper at cow corner. Oh dear!, everyone thought, poor bloke. To our surprise - in fact to his own evident surprise - Stu pouched the catch with such assuredness that the whole team suddenly though this may just be our day. 109-7, with five balls left. In runs Shacks, floppy hair flopping about, and dot ball! And another one follows! Three to go. The field pants restlessly, nervously. Besting a full strength Mads team would mean a lot to Bodley, so often the nearly men, so often bested themselves regardless of effort. Fourth ball, the end in sight, and Shackleton loses his line, sends it down leg, wide, allowing the batters to scamper two whilst the ball – oh the cruelty! – hits the keeper’s helmet sitting innocently on the grass yards behind a fuming Neely (put the helmet on your head next time - Ed.). 117-7, six needed to win for the Mads. In runs Shacks ...dot ball! It’s come down to this, one ball to hit a six to win the game for the Mads, everyone on the boundary for Bodley. The skipper looks round, checks everyone is in place, then sends Shacks the signal to charge in. The nine outfielders lean in, all eyes on the batter as the back lift goes up and hovers menacingly. Good length ball, pitches, batter rocks back, swings and ...smash! The connection is good, the ball flies off the bat, but at no height! As it careers over the ropes for four the eleven men of Bodley realise they’ve won, by one run.
Mads end up on 121-7, bloody well played as they were looking like overhauling us until those late wickets, and Bodley - led by the jubilant skipper - shake hands and allow broad smiles to beam across their faces. A superb game, played by 22 committed cricketers in the best of spirits with everyone contributing. Well played all and as Stuart kept saying as we ambled off with sore bodies, we beat the Mads! One for the whole team this.