Stats/Medawar at Balliol College ground (Jack Cox group stage), twenty overs
Following our last couple of T20 performances: an absolute, Victorian-school-child of a Jack Cox thrashing against Rhodes House (Cup finalists last year), and a tricky and ultimately unsuccessful chase against the Mads, we felt better about our chances against Stats/Medawar.
We felt things were good for us, when batting first we piled on the runs. Shaw’s run of form continued as if he was playing one, supremely vast innings that was merely being played on different days and in different circumstances. With supporting turns from everyone (no ducks for us, this time) but particularly Robinson and Phillipson, we put on 149 runs (or 151 or 152, the scorer may have suffered a serious head-injury or just been enjoying the experience of sitting in the glorious summer-evening sunshine).
Even accounting for the flat, bouncy, artificial wicket and the fast, dry outfield we were quietly confident of victory at the mid-point.
Our confidence rose higher when the opening batsman spent several minutes having the sightscreen moved and promptly hit the first ball straight up in the air. Mistry then ran in from backward square leg and took one the finest running catches ever seen in the Bodleian. The opening bowling pair of Burnett and McKiernan kept up the pressure, bowling tightly and with ferocity, and as their relief, Shaw and McGranaghan continued in their vein. We took 5 wickets, largely playing on their need to keep up the run rate and thus keep hitting out. After Mistry’s brilliant catch at the start, the choice wicket came when the batsmen tried to slog the ball back over the bowler’s head, out of Balliol College ground, and possibly out of Oxford itself. It sailed up in the air, hanging briefly in-front of the Sun, before plunging back to earth. Beneath it, Paton, whose career in the Bodleian had to this date totally prepared him for shelling this chance, was directly beneath the falling ball. He recalled the hours spent reading blog-posts on the matter and held in hands in the prescribed manner, relaxed, breathed out, and prepared to make an almighty cock-up of everything. Instead the ball stayed in his hands, surprising pretty much everyone in the grounds, not least the hapless fielder who bellowed his triumph to the heavens and the spectators (there were actual spectators, and not just a couple of Shaw’s disinterested children).
In spite of everything, however, Stats’ middle order just about got them over then line at the death. It was a thrilling match to play, even if it did ensure the Bodley’s failure to progress to the Cup semi-finals this year.
Far From The MCC at Brasenose College ground. Twenty overs.
There are few nicer ways to end the working week (or indeed any kind of week) than to saunter over to one of Oxford's plethora of cricket grounds and enjoy a twenty over game with good friends under blue skies. So it was a joy to be able to leave the woes of the workaday life behind and play such a game under a warm sun with a decent team and a determination to end a mini losing streak.
Bodley fielded first and skipper Stu unleashed the family Shaw, with father being outshone by son as young Dan found a swing and carry. It was James that got the first wicket though, clean bowling the first opener. The Mads did as the Mads often do though, and dug in, rebuilt, and hit out. The innings saw some good fielding, some dodgy fielding, some very dodgy lbw's, and a wonderfully comic attempt at taking the glory by the skipper. Having bowled a reasonable ball, which was hit reasonably well and climbed to a reasonably distant height, the skipper saw the chance for a caught and bowled, yelling 'Mine! Stuart's ball! MINE!' at the top of his voice, despite the giant that is James Shaw standing almost directly underneath the path of the now earthbound ball. Stu shuffled in to take the catch, still yelling, and missed it by a mile. A quite unreasonable call, one might say. But very amusing nonetheless. The other highlight was a marvellous over of chaos from Leigh, taking two wickets in a single over with a combination of wides, full tosses, an angry effort ball and a stuishly keen appeal from keeper and bowler. Whilst it was satisfying to get all ten wickets - a stumping by Gareth off the final ball of the match - the Mads still complied a decent total of 119.
Yet another opening partnership for Bodley (come back Shackers, all is forgiven and we still love you) saw Matthew and Gareth stride out to face the music. After three overs and with fourteen on the board, things were looking pretty good, until Gareth was clean bowled and the Mads upped the intensity a little (it doesn't take much). But this only brought the in-form James to the crease, and with Matthew finding his range these two top-order stalwarts put on 54 for the second wicket before Matthew was out for a sparkling 28, with James retiring shortly after for another 30 not out. After that heartening partnership the Mads managed to get on top, and we just couldn't get any partnerships going, A stunning run-out to see off Leigh - hitting a single stump from a fairly deep square leg - was especially special. David Busby coming in to face the final ball - a wide, as it happened - caused some excitement, but the hoped-for six to end the innings on a high did't materialise as Dave instead pirouetted on the spot. Bodley ended up 100-6 from twenty, not a bad effort at all given the bowling stocks the Mads possess, but a shame we couldn't build on the big partnership.
Despite the loss it was a cracking game, and both teams retired to a nearby pub for beers and a thorough dissection of the game.
Peasemore CC at Peasemore, twenty overs
Our second trip to Berkshire in as many weeks saw us head to Peasemore for a long-standing fixture that we’ve generally had the better of, and one that we enjoy immensely. This year’s fixture saw a change of format that perhaps left us a little lost, switching from the usual 35 overs to 20, for a short afternoon hit-out. Stu skippered the team, losing the toss on what was to prove a tricky wicket thanks to overnight rain and inclement conditions. Worryingly, we were asked to bat, suggesting a pudding of the non-coffee cake variety was awaiting everyone.
Fielding an experimental side, Matthew and Stu opened the batting, in bracing conditions with a stiff breeze and gloomy outlook. For almost five overs Stu swung like a millionaire, almost giving himself a hernia, but somehow missed every single one of them as the uneven bounce made him look like a shotput thrower in pre-chuck twirl. In that fifth over Stu’s boycottian occupation was finally ended for a hard fought 3 to leave the score on 14-1 from five, and bring an anxious Gareth to the crease at number three. On a hat-trick of ducks, but having heroically resisted the temptation of a pre-match pint, the dreaded hat-trick was avoided with a scrambled single amidst disbelief at the uneven bounce. Over the next half a dozen or so overs the formbook was reversed as wickets fell regularly whilst boundaries were hard to come by. By the half-way point only Gareth had broken into double figures, with the bounce and some stunning catching undoing Bodley’s careful lack of preparation. With the score at 39-7 from thirteen it was looking grim, very grim, with young Webb and the ever smiling Miten at the crease, and a mountain to climb. But Malcolm immediately found his range, hitting the ball cleaner than anyone with good support from Miten to keep the runs ticking over. With Miten ending the innings by way of a clubbed four, Malcolm finished as top scorer with 26 not out, and Bodley at a just about respectable 79-7, largely thanks to Bodley’s second best player – Extras – contributing 20 of the finest.
All that was quickly forgotten as tea was lapped up amidst the relative warmth of the charming clubhouse. Quite where Summer had gone was anyone’s guess, for it was as cold as it had been for weeks with spots of rain damping our already damp spirits. Having been surprised by the quality of Peasemore’s bowlers and the athleticism of their fielding, the skipper quickly came up with a plan to ensure all was not lost. We would, Stu announced, bowl our best bowlers. Taken aback by such a radical tactic, the team filed out in eerie silence, jumpers on, and bellies full. This meant Gareth took the gloves – to his great delight, as this meant warm hands. Asad and Stu opened the bowling and immediately found assistance from the still half-risen pudding that served as the pitch. In the third over, with the score on just 2, Assad found the edge of a swinging blade to send the ball flying over Gav’s head …and into Gav’s outstretched buckets. Great catch. Next over Stu is in on the action with a clean bowled, aided by the pitch a little bit. Assad was keeping it ever so tight at the other end and in Stu’s next over another one fell to leave our hosts precariously perched on 9-3 from six overs. We can do this, people muttered. Pah! For the next ten overs very little happened that we would have liked, but for the masochistic amongst us the highlights were two huge sixes, one of which went over the nearby pub into the beer garden, Miten doing the splits, Gareth being repeatedly hit in the chest by the ball, and Stu finally getting Peasemore’s top scorer – a batsman who looked a class apart on the day – in what proved the final over of the game, with a single run needed to win. Despite a heroic over from Gav, we were ultimately unable to defend such a position, and the game was won for Peasemore in the seventeenth over, by six wickets. honourable mentions go to Malcolm Webb for a face-saving 26 not out, and to Assad for stunning figures of 4-2-2-2. Well played.
A disappointing result, and given another go on the same pitch we’d very much fancy doing a damn sight better, but cricket can be a cruel game and we take it on the chin. Cheers to Peasemore for hosting, another enjoyable afternoon was had. Both teams decamped to the pub afterwards, where all was put right and future victories assured once we'd worked out where it went wrong this time. Or maybe we just had a few pints.
Inkpen CC at Inkpen, thirty overs
It was a beautiful day, driving South along the A34 to the bucolic tranquillity of Inkpen in Berkshire, to play Inkpen CC, new friends from last year and a team that plays the game like we do – laid back, with a smile, and with everyone getting a go. Bodley won last year’s inaugural fixture but arrived this year without several regulars and numbering only ten, though happily giving season debuts to Andy Mackinnon and young Dan Shaw. Bodley's burgeoning Brearley Stu Ackland skippered, with the team being completed by Matthew Neely, Gareth Jones, Leigh McKiernan, Tim Philipson, James Shaw, David Busby, and Andy Hudson. Thirty overs per innings, six overs per bowler, and no retirement – a perfect opportunity for a century, thought a few deluded souls.
On a picturesque park ground with flag fluttering and swallows skirting the grass, Stu won the toss and with both eyes on tea opted to field first, giving the team full rein to indulge thereafter. It was unanimously agreed that the pitch looked a little on the green side, a view confirmed when the opposition reported the absence of a working mower to trim the wicket. Truth be told, the outfield and the wicket were one single, unified whole, baked by the sun but as green as a Welsh valley. Not knowing what to expect, Stu opened the Bodley attack with Leigh, and in what was seen as a gamble, himself. After a couple of overs and a sharp catch by James from Stu’s skiddy seamers, it was blindingly obvious that the pitch was by a long way the most dangerous element in the Bodley attack. Over the next 25.1 overs a top score of seventeen and a ‘we have absolutely no idea what a good score is on this’ total of 74 was chalked up by the bruised Inkpen batters. In that time some quite silly bowling figures were returned, the silliest of which are included here only on the understanding that they in no way reflect the ability or skill of the bowler… Ackland 4-1-2-3, Shaw Jnr 3-1-4-1, Shaw Snr 6-1-14-3. Quite the most ridiculous figures, you'll agree. If all that isn’t enough luck disguised as excellence, the final Inkpen wicket to fall was a stunner from the one and only Mr David Busby. A loosener from Busby was struck into the on-side, collected by Jones and promptly returned to Busby who sent all three stumps flying from point blank range as he gleefully grabbed a run-out first ball off his own bowling. On a more serious note, the pitch had proven a terror, with keeper Neely not knowing what the ball was likely to do from one ball to the next, and pretty much all the batters reporting frequent chaos as the same length ball would skid through, bounce erratically, or deviate off the line in the space of an over. One batter was felled having been struck on the cheekbone sweeping, whilst others wore the ball in various softer parts of the anatomy. Thankfully all were ok and tea could commence unhindered.
In gorgeous weather and with great hospitality from our hosts, Bodley tucked into tea confident we could chase the score, and that the long haul of fielding was done. A superb spread of attractive triangular sandwiches, sausage rolls, chicken bites and pork pie was accompanied by a selection of crunchy vegetables and crisps, all of which was followed by a dizzying variety of Mr Kipling, mini-doughnuts, homemade rice crispy cakes, luscious cream scones, and an oh so moreish Victoria sponge, all washed down with gallons of tea. A real treat and enjoyed by all.
With tea over attention reluctantly turned to the Bodley batting innings. Being somewhat short of regular hitters the Skipper resorted to the tried and tested practice of chucking a few swingers up the order. Duly, it was the Skipper and Gareth that walked out to face the demon pitch. Stu, wearing a helmet for the first and probably last time in his life, faced the first ball and after some wild heaves looked set to play out a maiden when Jones called him through for a single off the last ball. Shortly after, and despite his best efforts to farm the non-strikers end in the hope of carrying his bat for as few runs as possible, Jones was ignominiously out. Matthew joined Stu and after a bit of playing and missing as the pitch continued to misbehave soon found his range to get the score moving. Stu was out, inevitably, in a Bon Jovi-esque blaze of glory, bringing Leigh out to crank up the tempo. By the tenth over 20-2 was a decent score, though the slow outfield was a cause for concern as the target began to look a decent one. To his great dismay Matthew was bowled in the eleventh, with Leigh and then Tim following after a couple more pinched boundaries to leave matters at 51-5 from fifteen. Normally this would be a disastrous scoreline, but the low total gave everyone hope, even if the pitch gave everyone nightmares. By now Shaws Snr and Jnr were at the crease, father and son batting well to push the team towards the winning line. But as victory drew nearer so did the Inkpen fielders, forming a close circle and intent on keeping James off strike. With Dan and then Busby out after a promising and entertaining innings, respectively, it was Bodley’s very own Rahul Dravid that looked to keep James company as a nervous Mackinnon watched from the ropes. With a boundary sufficient to win it for Bodley, James struck a mighty blow past point. As the ball suddenly slowed before the boundary a heroic fielder dived over it, grabbed it one handed, and tossed it over the rope. The yell that followed – ‘I don’t want to play this bloody game anymore!’ – providing a fitting and suitably good-humoured end to what was a very close game despite the low totals and gremlins in the pitch. So after two losses on the bounce and despite failing to pass 100 for three matches in a row, it's a return to winning ways. A massive thank you to Inkpen for that tea, and for a really enjoyable match.
Rhodes House at Balliol College ground, 20 overs. Jack Cox group match.
Well, things started well enough. We arrived at the ground to discover that nobody really had any idea how to sort out the key. It seemed for a short while that our only option was to call off the game (the more obvious idea to walk around the ground to the back gate being clearly too ludicrous to contemplate). The key was brought out however, and the match was able to start only a few minutes behind schedule. Our opponents were the mighty Rhodes House. Annoyingly, they were practising hard in the nets when we arrived and were all toned, young and athletic. Words that could generally not be used to describe anyone, save perhaps new-man Hewitt (who mistakenly brought his own bat and was thus deemed a number 7 and asked to pull the innings out of its tail-spin).
Against the form book, Neeley won the toss and decided to bat. He faced the first ball without obvious difficulty before edging the 2nd behind (or missed it completely depending on whose version of events one chooses to believe). Then the innings fell apart. Save some excellent batting from Shaw who retired on 30 not out, nobody passed 5. There was the full collection of Bodleian cock-ups- comedy run-outs, top edges and a piece of electric fielding for one of the best catches one must assume anyone in the ground had ever seen. The innings petered out with 8 men down as McClenaghan and Paton saw out the final over with celebrations at both ends as Steve crunched a mighty four to his evident glee, whilst Alec notched up two of the finest to the delight of his team mates.
It was a mark of our collective ignominy that wides outscored every batsman bar one. Asked to defend 67, opening bowler Burnett set about his task with some of the fastest bowling seen from a Bodley player in a long time, taking the only wicket to fall in what was otherwise an easy procession for Rhodes. Their policy of using the middle of the bat, rather than the edges, and finding the gaps in the outfield meant it took barely 7 overs. Not the best start to our campaign, but things can only look up one hopes.
On a final note we bid farewell and good travels to Rob Triggs, eager servant of the club for a number of years now, who departs for The Other Place with family in tow and whites washed and ready, and a newly minted author to boot. Cheers Rob!
Wolvercote CC at Cutteslowe Park. Twenty overs.
As is tradition when Bodley play at Cutteslowe Park the skies had darkened and the temperature dropped. The pitch looked as good as can be expected for a council pitch that doubles as a park for cricket-averse locals, and the outfield was lush, to say the least. But as play approached and the teams assembled, the skies cleared and the sun – a stranger to this part of our cricketing rounds – appeared and warmed our spirits as well as our backs. Tonight’s game was a twenty over affair against Wolvercote CC, a team we’ve played a few times these past few years and who are, truth be told, a bit good for us, though they’re a lovely bunch so it’s an enjoyable fixture.
Due to a combination of yoga and better than average TV that left the team bereft of the usual suspects, Jones was skipper for the Bodley, though team-mates suspected this was an elaborate ruse to ensure a good spot in the batting order. How right they were. Nevertheless, the skipper won the toss and without even looking at the wicket opted to bat. A rejigged batting order was hastily assembled, with Neely and Shaw taking on the Wolvercote attack in what must seem an endless merry-go-round of dance partners for Neely. The question was, would it be the foxtrot or two left feet? Well, with a strong bowling attack and a low wicket Neely and Shaw got off to a good start, finding singles and even the odd boundary when they found the gaps between fielders, long grass, litter, and doggy treats. Ah, the romance of a summer’s evening cricket match. By the fifth over the pair had settled in – Neely later saying he felt ‘absolutely fantastic’ in what amounts to an admission of pre-match drinking – and the score was a solid 23-0 with blue skies overhead and a relaxed pitchside chitter-chatter. Annoyingly, the sixth over saw a wicket taken with the first ball and Neely depart the crease having been very unsportingly caught by a fielder that was quite probably looking for the catch. But this only allowed Webb to enter the arena – Bodley’s two centurions at the wicket together, at long last – and team-mates sat back to admire the show. In contrast to the unfolding epic that the team expected, after a single apiece Webb was inexplicably bowled fifth ball of the over to leave stumps shattered and team-mates bereft. 25-2 from six overs. No matter, Bodley thought, as Leigh McKiernan was next in, making a return to the team after a prolonged sabbatical causing mischief elsewhere. It was here that events finally took a turn for the worse and the promising opening stand was quickly forgotten in a haze of agony and hilarity. McKiernan was caught without scoring, though he did give it a jolly good whack so we can't be too critical. The skipper was next in, evidently delighted with the juicy number five spot, even if it did mean having to learn the fielding positions by name. Without scoring, or even looking likely to score, Jones was out second ball clean bowled to what may have been a decent yorker but it doesn’t really matter as the defensive shot wouldn’t have stopped a charging hedgehog. 26-4 from seven. Philipson was next in and after a trademark four promptly walloped one into the sky to give another eager fielder a chance to juggle the ball. 31-5 from eight. Robinson strode out to steady the ship and introduce an authoritative Yorkshire accent to proceedings. For an over this worked well but then an optimistic second run was cut short and another wicket was taken by way of a run-out. 41-6 from ten. Throughout all of this Shaw had been serenely ticking along, apparently immune to the low pitch, a distracting plane in the skies above, and the challenges of having to keep the ball from hitting any of the three stumps. Hudson was now in with Shaw, and set about a rescue job that defied the natural course of events that normally follow a score of 41-6. Andy’s perfect forward – right forward, nose sniffing the ball as it is taken aback at the premature meeting of willow on leather – immediately calmed watching team-mates and befuddled the by now rampant bowlers. The fact that Wolvercote had very commendably thrown the ball to a few part-timers did not detract one bit from the magnificence of the Hudson forward defensive. Shaw was so inspired by the belated resistance at the other end that a couple of fours later he was to retire on 31no, a rescue mission if ever there was one. Andy meanwhile took eight balls of Boycottian perfection to get off the mark – the same number of balls that the entire Bodley middle order faced. Tragically this wonderful vigil came to an end for a well made two, with Triggs and Busby falling immediately after that for a pair of ducks. Shaw returned to accompany Miten but was lbw before Miten could get a run. Bodley ended on 62 all out with five ducks (insert collective noun here), only two players in double figures and five overs left unwanted. Given the wobbles and falls, it was probably the best we could hope for really – Neely, Shaw and Hudson providing the impetus to get us over the half century and hopefully make a game of it.
A quick turnaround and tactics talk, and in good spirits – Wolvercote are a nice bunch and what could have been a dispiriting innings was quickly put behind us – Bodley took to the field to defend that modest total. Jones tossed the ball to McKiernan and Neely, and set a ring field. May as well stop the singles and make them risk hitting out on that lowish pitch, eh? McKiernan, all shoulders and cheeky grin, walked in of his two step run-up, and reminded the team of his much-missed heavy ball and full length. Neely was keeping things tight at the other end and with Leigh having bowled two maidens first up the pressure was on the batters. The fourth over saw the breakthrough as Neely unwittingly unleashed a rank full toss that sailed past the evading batsman yet was inexplicably not called a no-ball. Back on the length please, Matthew, Bodley muttered. Next ball Neely galloped in, arms whirling like a broken clock, and served up a short, slow plodder of a pie that was gently tapped at by the discombobulated batsman, then rolled gently away and into the stumps, dislodging a bail to take a most undeserved wicket and bowl a maiden to boot. 2-9 from five overs and Bodley are smiling, a bit. McKiernen’s third over starts uneventfully and a quick single is taken, before another beamer is inadvertently unleashed to mirror Neely’s own effort the previous over. The skipper, with uncharacteristic foresight, yells out that this means a wicket must be coming next ball, to the bowler’s great amusement. In trots Leigh, the ball is released - not much pace and a straightish line as the batsman defends - only to then watch helplessly as the ball dribbles almost imperceptibly into the base of the off stump and dislodges a single bail. Never have two batsmen been so undeservedly dismissed in consecutive overs by such similar means – one for the swots at Wisden! As if all that excitement wasn’t enough, McKiernen clean bowls one more in his fourth over whilst Neely gets another – a classic off stump line taking the bails off – in his fourth to leave Wolvercote 24-4 from eight. Determined to pull off a most unlikely win, the skipper keeps up the attack and brings on Shaw and Robinson to bowl their four overs apiece. Shaw is unlucky not to get a wicket – not helped by the skipper baulking at the opportunity to take an easy catch – whilst Robinson keeps spirits up and takes one first ball of his spell, a stunning low catch from Neely, revelling in the freedom of the field as Triggs keeps wicket and provides commentary. In Robinson’s second over another wicket goes down as Wolvercote’s gritty opener finally falls to balance the game intriguingly at 35-6 in the twelfth. Could we do this? Have we really nipped out the top and middle order cheaply? Could our measly score actually be a winning one? Well, to cut an already long story short, no, no, and no. Full credit for making a game of it but the Wolvercote batters in the lower order took the team home, hitting the runs with relative ease after a still superb Bodley bowing display. The winning runs were knocked off for no further loss of wickets in the sixteenth over, Wolvercote winning by four wickets in the end to bring a very enjoyable game to conclusion. McKiernan deserves credit for figures of 4-2-2-4 on his long-awaited return, and Shaw kept us in the game with a spirited 31. Onwards and upwards for the rest of the season, as they say!