Bitter & Twisted CC at Warborourgh. Two sets of innings each comprising sixteen overs.
Bitter & Twisted were probably the best thing about our tour t’ Yorkshire last year, restoring out wavering faith in social cricket after a chastening experience of Yorkshire league to get the tour going. So it was with great enthusiasm that we welcomed them to Oxfordshire for a return fixture in the timeless setting of Warborough. Both teams were a few short and with Bodley being ten to B&T’s eight, skipper Gareth Jones nervously sacrificed new player Adnan to the oppo in the hope he would do well, but not too well. Bodley also welcomed friends from the Mads to our ranks for this game, with Dips and Chris Michael lining up for the librarians. Given the baking sun and scorched earth beneath, the captains agreed on a novel format – two sets of sixteen over innings, with the team having the higher score after first innings choosing whether to bat or bowl first in the second. Additionally, all outfielders were to bowl two overs each, with the batters retiring on twenty five – an excellent set of conditions that guaranteed a good game with all involved. A few were heard to say this was probably as close to a test match as many of us would get! Bodley promptly lost the toss and were asked to bat, to our great delight.
Bodley lost both openers in the first few overs, bringing James Shaw and son Dan together at three and four. Father and son put on a splendid partnership, with Shaw the younger outscoring his old man with some lovely boundaries and sharp running. James was out for a well made fifteen leaving Dips to pick up the baton and smash a quick 28 to go along with Dan’s equally well made 26, leaving both to retire unbeaten. Two of the wickets to fall went to Adnan, who bowled with skill and fitted in wonderfully to our sedate approach to the game. The skipper and Tim Philipson were at the crease for the closing overs, with both being rather befuddled by the two over spells and need for instant runs. Philipson played the usual Jones role of playing and falling over, whilst Jones played the usual Philipson role of hitting the slow bowlers for runs. By the end of the sixteenth Bodley had chalked up a decent 106-3. Frankly, with three innings to go, we had no idea if this was a good score though.
Bitter & Twisted’s innings got under way with Jones putting his cards on the table and bowling the regular seamers first up, the Shaws again forming a good partnership. AS Bodley toiled through the overs it became apparent that B&T had learnt a great deal from our innings, with the untrustworthy pitch being given due respect and strike rotated well. After a number of retirements a wicket finally fell in the twelfth. A few tight overs at the end, with everyone fielding well and running hard to make up the gaps that only having eight outfielders leaves, ensured Bodley ended with a lead of three – 106 plays 103. Which is all very well, but now it was time for tea.
Warborourgh village green is many ways the archetypal English village pitch, with views of rolling countryside, beautiful houses, a fine pub, and traditional pavilion surrounding the wide green, all surveyed by circling kites. Tea was enjoyed and tactics discussed, as the second innings brought a new focus to the bowling changes and batting order second time round. Having turned down the offer of a potentially red hot Quesadilla, but with at least three brownies down the hatch, the skipper took the option to bat and decided the best thing to do would be to simply flip the order from the first innings. So, test match fans, to the second innings...
David Busby and Chris Michael strode out with firm instructions to have a go, and though Chris was unlucky to be bowled by a zooter that kept low, Busby and number three Philipson soon formed an entertaining partnership, both hitting fours ticking the score along. Jones came and went, being well caught in the covers, whilst Dave was sharply caught by the same fielder, now bowling. Dips was by now again building a total, with Shaws jnr then snr keeping him company. James and Dips played fantastically, with both retiring towards the end – Dips carrying his bat through both innings, very well played that man. Of particular note - for pure comedy value, you understand - was the inexplicable calling of 'over' by the umpire (answers on a postcard) when the ball, hit firmly down the ground by James, had yet to reach the boundary despite said umpire signalling that it had done just that. A hasty explanation that the batters having chosen to admire the shot rather than run, and the chasing fielder having apparently given up on it (apologies to that man!) had fooled our hapless adjudicator was met with quite some chuckling from both teams. Let's hope it wouldn't cost us! Our openers from the first innings were thus left to close proceedings and provide a pleasing symmetry to it all. Canny bowling and a spread field kept the score from getting away but a terrific four from the final ball had Bodley finishing on 125-5, giving a combined total to chase of 231.
After a quick necking of drinks to stave off collapse in the searing heat both teams were back out for the fourth innings. Jones had by now – belatedly, perhaps – worked out that it was not about wickets, with so few overs being bowled, but rather more about dot balls and spread fields. Bitter & Twisted needed 129 to win, and Bodley were quietly confident. With Dips replacing Jones behind the stumps and B&T shuffling their batting, Philipson opened the bowling for the Bod, keeping things quite tight whilst Shaw jnr ran in from the other end. Keeping things simple and bowling everyone through (two overs, so hardly a spell!), the score was kept below the required rate, though those gaps in the field were proving tricky to plug when the batters did hit out. Eventually, and inevitably, the skipper had to bowl, and despite trying to convince the batsman and standing umpire that the ball was turning viciously, wides were given a few boundaries taken. Still, the proper bowlers had done a sterling job, with regular wickets being taken and some fine stops in the field, meaning that with four to go Bodley were just in front. Trump card and occasional Shane Warne impersonator Busby joined James to bowl the final spells and take us home, and with some good runs coming off the thirteenth and fourteenth, a tight penultimate was needed. Busby didn’t disappoint, bowling wonderfully well with a full length akin to an air balloon suddenly descending more rapidly than planned. With (exact figure to be inserted as soon as your author gets the score book in his hands) about twelve needed from the final over, James ran in with intent and ensured a mean final over to bring Bodley and even up the honours from last year’s match.
A great game, with some marvellous individual performances but an even better team effort and spirit on a beautiful Summers day. The teams repaired to the nearby Six Bells for post-match analysis and talk soon turned to a repeat fixture next season – we certainly hope to see you again, and thank you for coming down to see us.