Blenheim Park CC at Blenheim Palace South Lawn. 40 overs.
To our great delight Summer has finally arrived and with it our early season trip to the big house in Woodstock. Playing at Blenheim, despite an iffy wicket, is a great day out and Bodley brought along plenty of supporters to provide friendly faces amongst the throngs of tourists encircling the ground. Not being a match we often win, Bodley were cautiously optimistic that a strong batting line-up and varied bowling attack could put in a decent performance, and with Captain Andrew Milner winning the toss the visitors were immediately in the field for forty overs of a classic English Summer picture. The team was a good one, welcoming back David Shackleton from his Devonshire boot camp, A popular, not to mention talented member of the team, David's absence has been keenly by all his team mates, and his return was eagerly awaited. His opening partner of some years, Neely, having undergone a torrid time of it searching for 'the one', it was somewhat ironic that upon the return of the king, Neely could not in fact be here in person. Such was the magnitude of the Bodley opening partnership question, that a little history is probably called for. So, sit back and read on via this link (copy and paste into the address bar, or use the force)... https://brorlandi.github.io/StarWarsIntroCreator/#!/ALCZGF-NzlkhkX02U4D8
Got all that? Good, then we may continue our report. The team was further strengthened with Ollie Pascoe returning after a productive debut last season, and new player Arthur Keegan-Bole coming along for a first taste of Bodley Cricket. Joining them were Josh Bumphrey - choosing a fine location to make his competative debut - and then Gareth Jones, Tim Philipson, Andy Hudson, Steve McGranahan, David Busby, with Alec Paton as twelfth man and scorer. As if all those names weren’t enough to whet the appetites of all those watching, the rumour mill had it that Johnny Depp was pitchside somewhere filming in the big house. So, with the scene set, play commenced…
Burnett and Bumphrey opened the bowling with Jones taking the gloves behind the stumps and the skipper again standing vigil at slip. It was soon apparent that the pitch was somewhat uneven, giving about 1 in 6 balls decent bounce, and the rest a mixture of foot-high skidding and ankle-whacking uncertainty. Despite this the Blenheim openers – a mixture of brute force and careful placement – got off to a good start, hitting boundaries through the short outfield and taking the score to 51 in the ninth before the first wicket fell to Burnett, an unlucky (sorry Phil) deflection that mournfully dribbled onto the stumps, gently dislodging the bails. A couple of overs later Bumphrey got the other opener thanks to a very sharp catch from a disappointingly closely coiffured Shackleton in the covers to take things to 64-2 from twelve. With gremlins in the pitch and Bodley wising up to the necessary field placings, the runs were not coming easy for the home team. A partnership built but with the first change bowlers on – Pascoe and Shackleton providing a challenging change of pace and finding movement in the air and off the pitch – Bodley were getting on top. Finding just enough grip off the surface and bowling a good length, Pascoe was beating the batsmen ball after ball, before finally breaking through in the nineteenth over. Shackleton was swinging it at the other end, and before long Pascoe had three wickets, all bowled, to leave Blenheim somewhat flagging at 110-5 from twenty seven overs. With both bowling a full eight over spell the skipper changed things up again and brought himself on with McGranahan in support at the other end. The Captain was soon finding a bit of grip, whilst McGranahan was getting pronounced movement in the air, and a few to spit of the pitch. Settling into his spell and completing the job of ripping out the middle order, McGranahan soon had two wickets, both bowled, to take Bodley to a satisfying 147-7 from thirty eight overs. Milner chipped in at the end, getting a lovely bit of bounce to clean bowl an eight Blenheim wicket. By the fortieth the home team had been restricted to 157-8, a superb all round effort from Bodley. Special mention to McGranahan for excellent figures of 6-0-15-2, and Pascoe collecting 8-1-25-3.
It being a sweltering day, and us all being hungry, tea was served in the interval. A very fine selection of cakes (two sponge, choc rolls, a Battenberg and delicious flapjacks), a selection of sandwiches, chicken drumsticks, crisps, fruits, biccies, and tea were all wolfed down by both teams. You’d think none of us had eaten breakfast. Anyway, to the second innings.
Given the below-par Blenheim total Bodley walked out to bat with focused minds and a strong batting order to come. In another new partnership, Burnett and Shackleton opened the batting, and made a quite splendid pair, suave, unkempt and dashing all in one. These two quickly found their range, with Burnett picking up where he left off last week and Shackleton stroking boundaries at will with a borrowed bat. By the tenth over 45 runs were chalked up for no loss, and a welcome calm had taken hold of the visiting team as they watched form the boundary. Shackleton brought up his 50 and it was looking like Bodley might get to the half-way point of the innings for no loss, but a wicket finally fell as Burnett was bowled by a slower ball for a terrific 28 in an opening stand of 84. New boy Arthur Keegan-Bole, coming to us via Burnett, was next in, and after some sharp singles, found his shots and hit out over the fielder’s heads, a wonderful sight. Shackleton and Keegan-Bole accelerated as Blenheim tried a fifth, sixth, and then a seventh bowler, all being taken for runs in a manner not seen from Bodley here in many years. By the thirtieth over the score had climbed to 119-1 and even the skipper seemed content with progress, surveying the scene over spectacles perched atop his sun-kissed nose. Next man in Pascoe had by now had his pads on for quite some time and with boundaries coming thick and fast the rest of the team found a seat to watch the finale. Finally, and deservedly, Shackleton struck the winning runs with five overs to spare to give Bodley the win with 161-1, a stunning nine wicket win. Keegan-Bole struck a well played 40no, whilst man of the match Shackleton finished on 86no, and took that stunning catch to boot. He even arrived early, a first for David. A big thank you to Blenheim for hosting and serving up a great buffet, it was a lovely day.
Well played all, a sublime performance against a team we have not beaten since 2009, good to finally win away against a strong Blenheim side. Stirling support for the bowlers from the boundary riders Busby and Hudson, and a valiant effort from an injured Philipson and tidy keeping in the heat from Jones gave the visitors an early edge, whilst those top-order runs to tire the home side ensured the first innings work wouldn’t go unrewarded. We next play on Thursday 31st May at Cunmor, against old friends Far From the MCC, sure to be a corker. Players still needed so get in touch if you fancy a game.
St. Clement's Strollers at Magdalen College Ground. 20 overs.
Friends, Oxfordians, and ne'er-do-wells ....another season of the Greatest Game begins! Deservedly and triumphantly, this year brings up Bodley’s quarter century. We’ve seen off the bouncers, the beamers, and the sledging, can settle in for the half century and then, after doing it all again. get to our inevitable hundred. The smart money has it that the evergreen Andrew Milner will likely still be playing for us when that happens.
But to today’s action. After a very enjoyable pre-season Whippersnappers at the start of May, this is our first proper game – against opponents taking it more seriously than ourselves, that is. We’ve beaten the Strollers on occasion lately, but have generally been on the losing end of things over the years, so our superheroes assembled with cautious optimism. Bodley's walking (shuffling) embodiment and today's skipper Stu accidentally won the toss and opted to bowl first in the balmy evening sun that yearly signals the start of the cricket season. Taking to the field with Stu was debutant Steve McGranahan, Matthew Neely, Phil Burnett, James Shaw, Tim Philipson, His Grace Andrew Milner, Gareth Jones, Andy Hudson, with Miten Mistry and Alec Paton manning the tail guns.
So, first innings. Stu had a plan, and though the fielders were mainly concerned with getting a spot with the sun on their backs (except Jones who didn't really want to field at all, playing here for the first time since a carelessly broken nose on this ground eight years ago, gah!). The Francophone non-dom Mr. Milner was keenest and most pleased of all as regular slipper Gav Robinson's absence meant he could take up his favoured first slip position and rest those storied knees. But as if to remind him this was not to be a common occurrence, Robinson appeared mid-innings, Titan-like and unimpressed with the scoreline, to watch from the boundary. Shaw and McGranahan opened the bowling with gusto and after a streaky first couple of overs that revealed, to our dismay, the short, quick outfield, the bails were sent flying by a Shaw seamer. Next over saw McGranahan join the action – a first Bodley wicket for the young buck – finding the edge and keeper Neely taking a superb reaction catch with outstretched arm. Then the next over saw Shaw again find that deadly length and take off the bails. 29-3 and Bodley are ecstatic, dreaming of a sub-par total and a gentle chase. Shaw was bowling a terrific line and McGranahan was getting some serious movement on the ball. But alas, it was not to be - it's never to be, is it? The Strollers batted fairly deep and fairly well having powerful strikers and quick runners, and making full use of that fast outfield. One batter in particular struck some damaging blows and rode his luck to bring up a well-deserved half century and with good support from the other end helped guide the Strollers to 122 before the fourth wicket fell – a lovely bowled by Milner, finding low bounce and a good line. Sadly those four wickets were all the cricketing Gods would give us, despite Burnett, the skipper and Hudson trying in vain to remove any more. The Strollers ended on 152-4 having wobbled early on, built in the middle, and hit out at the end. Certainly a chaseable score, but one requiring a big score from someone, and good support elsewhere. Well, off we went.
With Shackleton still missing, presumed netting, a new opening partner for Neely had to be found. Like Alistair Cook after Andrew Strauss’s retirement, Neely has never quite settled on a new partner, and today saw the 107th pairing at the top of the order as Phil Burnett padded up and walked up the metaphorical aisle to get things going. Well, knock me over with a feather …things got off to a flyer! The Strollers were littered with cricketers from very good local teams, and as such we expected a tough time of it in the middle, but Burnett in particular quickly found his range and whacked boundary after boundary before finally holing out to a sharp catch at square leg for a well-made 26. Neely was getting into his rhythm with Shaw when the bowling changes toughened things up for Bodley, and both fell to leave Bodley 56-3 in the twelfth over. A promising start strangled by some sharp fielding and handy bowling. Bodley’s finisher Philipson came to crease at number four, to be joined by Milner, and the two set about building a partnership before Milner played and missed to a good ball on a still low pitch. Jones joined Philipson and the two ran plenty of singles to tick the score along – by now up to 80 odd and in danger of staying the wrong side of 100. McGanahan joined a scratchy Jones as Philipson fell, and those two took the innings to a close with Jones hitting a few boundaries to take the score up to 105-5 and finishing the innings with a satisfying four driven back past the bowler. After all that exertion the team unwound with a gentle debrief over a beer and a lovely selection of rolls - the BLT being particularly delicious when paired with a refreshing pint of Hobgoblin.
So a loss by 47 runs, and Bodley left to wonder what might have been had that one big Strollers score have been arrested. Some good performances, runs through the order, and a promising start to the season. We play Blenheim Park CC at Blenheim Palace (South Lawn) on Sunday 20th, all welcome – not a bad spot for a picnic, though make sure you’re smartly turned out or the Duke will tell you off.