St Clement's Strollers at Magadalen College Ground. 20 overs.
Sometimes - not too often, thankfully - but sometimes, you play a game that leaves you wondering what on earth just happened. This was one of those, a bit of a mismatch with a bunch of youngens bolstering a normally decent team and a no contest being the result. A tour-weary Bodley team arrived hoping for a gentle mid-week game under a pleasant sky on a lovely pitch, but couldn't match the accuracy, intent and sheer skill of the bolters in the Strollers ranks. There were excellent performances from Phil Burnett and James Shaw with the ball - the former being on a hat-trick at one point as normal service resumed after the openers had retired. In the field necks were craned as sixes rained down into the trees, but a Strollers total of 170-odd was not half bad given the state of play half-way through the innings. An early wicket and things would have been much more interesting, but them's the breaks.
With bat in hand Bodley fared a little better, first ball going for four as Phil tonked them from the off. Wickets fell at regular intervals as Bodley tried to hit out against a selection box of bowling but nothing to make the eyes light up. With a close field and plentiful resources to call upon the total looked a tad beyond us this time, though a heartening rearguard from Ben Parish and Dave Shorten proved most entertaining as the three slips were made to look entirely unnecessary and boundaries built the score. With six needed off the last ball to get us to a century, we almost got there only to be caught near the ropes - probably a fitting end to a funny old game. Roll on our next fixture, and a return to winning ways! Credit to all who played and threw themselves around in the filed, bowled when pressed into service, and batted with keenness, calmness, and a smile.
Thursday 4th July. Osler/Green/Templeton, Jack Cox Group stage. Twenty overs.
Our second Jack Cox game, with one rain-off and one victory so far seeing us standing mid-table and looking good for the Plate (the Cup is all very well, but plates are more useful). Skippper Matthew Neely had very impressively won the toss the previous day by way of an expected mini-exodus of Osler players in the second half, and taken the offer of batting first. The pitch looked green and plasticy, whilst the outfield was grassy, and green. As this match was some days ago and I do not have the score book to hand, I will attempt to recount events as best I can...
The kick-off was fumbled by the winger but the opposition defence effected a ruck and made hard yards over the gainline. Hang on, that didn't happen. Daves Freeman and Shackleton strode out to open the batting for what must be Bodley's most correct and attractive partnership. As expected, these two settled in very nicely and the runs began to flow, whilst the Osler fielders worked hard on this years Edinburgh Fringe routine, with one-liners the order of the day. In between the hilarity Bodley ticked along to the halfway mark for somewhere in the region of 80 runs. Roughly. Shortly after that Shackleton was out, and Freeman retired shortly after a brief partnership with new player Joe. The skipper joined Joe and then, after some more Ken Dodd impressions from the fielders, Joe gave way to new Bodley buck Jagdish, who gave way to serial swinger Tim Philipson, then Gareth Jones came in only to be told he had a hole in his bat, more misses than Henry VIII, and - there's more - more blocks than a Lego set. Well, as you can imagine, batting whilst being entertained so royally was very hard indeed, and Bodley rather faded away from what could have been a big score, to posting about 130. Not bad, but outside the comedy circuit Osler are known for being a bit good with the bat, most of the time. So, with tea consisting of a mars bar and a trip to the loo, we quickly headed back out for the second innings and hopefully more belly laughs.
Bodley are not exactly disciples of Steve 'oh do shut up' Waugh or disgraced Australian cricketing comedian Steve 'sandpaper' Smith, but nevertheless we took to the task with relish and tried to entertain our opponents as best we could, the cricket having now become almost secondary to the task of mentally disintegrating our enemy. That second innings exodus of players failed to materialise as those concerned opened the batting and swung like millionaires. After some cutting asides and a canny fumble to lull the batter into ever-more daft shots, the first wicket fell and Bodley looked well on the way to victory. Sadly, as sometimes happens when players swing for all they're worth, the swinging comes off and the runs fairly race along. Thirties were blasted, the short boundary was peppered, catches fell agonisingly short, and by the time the much more accomplished middle-order came out to bat, the match was all but over as a contest. Well, sometimes you just get beaten by the better side, and Osler certainly were that on the day. It's fair to say a lot of work is needed before either routine is ready for the Fringe though, so not all good and something to take away from the game for Bodley. Keep calm, and carry on.
Stats/Medawar (Jack Cox) at Balliol College Ground. 20 overs.
After a rain-affected cancellation in our opening Jack Cox match, this appetising fixture against the memorably monikered Stats/Medawar was our first completed game of the tournament. Like the cricket World Cup being run parallel, the tournament had yet to quite take off, with low scores and a long group stage meaning attrition was the order of the day. Bodley Captain Matthew Neely won the toss and under grey skies, blustery wind, and a complete absence of the promised 'sun', Bodley were batting first on a wicket carrying a lot of green, what looked like fairly even bounce, and no rough or cracks. Which being artificial, was not surprising.
A new opening partnership - long-awaited by many Bodley regulars - of Dave Freeman and James Shaw got things going nicely, singles being energetically taken and the score building nicely with each passing over. It's fair to say that Bodley are not renowned for their running between the wickets, and even less for their backing up at the non-strikers end, but these two gave a textbook display of awareness and intent, bringing the score to 59 from nine overs before the first wicket fell, Freeman bowled for a tasty 22. Shaw marched on, boundaries coming more easily as the change bowlers came and went before retiring not out on 30. Unfortunately a succession of Bodley batters couldn't quite trouble the scores in the same manner, and it was only the swishing bat of Tim Philipson, and the heavy bat of Gavin Robinson that took the score over 100, ending up on 107-5. Of particular note for Bodley as thoughts turned to fielding, was the bounce and unexpected difficulty of playing the slower, flighted, loopy-doopy bowling employed by Stats in the latter half of the innings. Canny, would be the word.
After a quick break that sadly included no tea whatsoever (a serious flaw in the Jack Cox order of play, and one that will hopefully be rectified for next season, along with floodlights, music, and garish coloured kit), the second half got underway. As it was the teams bustled out in faded whites under a fading sky as a breeze from beyond the wall cut across the field of play. Bodley's stylish South African wunderkind opened up the bowling with the equally excellently coiffured Steve McGranaghan at the other end. After a maiden to start things remained tight as the match took on the feel of a North of England test match in early May. Tight fielding and sharp returns ensured the run rate was kept below six an over, and as Shaws James and Dan toiled in tandem first change, a few well-hit boundaries kept Stats in the hunt. At the half-way point, with the score 50-0, things looked good for Stats - if they could change gear - and not so good for Bodley, as that short square boundary and low total looked under threat. A couple of overs later the ever so canny bowling of Dave Freeman lured the batsman out of his crease to give Neely a well-deserved stumping. With one opener retired for 30, and the other holding vigil, this brought the Stats number four to the crease with 50-odd still required from less than seven overs. By now Robinson was on from the building site end, and with the first ball of his second over saw a huge swipe off a wide one safely pouched by an eager Neely running out to point with outstretched gloves. Game on. The next few overs saw some big hitting and a good deal of effort to keep their number five off strike. Who knows what the score could've been had the middle order got to the crease sooner - thankfully for Bodley, that wasn't the case, and consistently sharp fielding from Gareth Jones, Dom Hewett and a run-ragged David Busby kept things tight enough to ensure that by the final over twenty were needed. Freeman was duly hit for three singles, and then, with three sixes needed to win from the final three deliveries ...a six! Two more of those from the big number five to win. In comes Freeman ...dot. Phew. Another dot ball sealed the match and a Bodley victory by 11 runs. Very well played all, a just about defendable score and great bowling effort to take the two points and set up a run to the knock-out stages.
Peasemore CC at Peasemore, 35 overs.
To pretty Peasemore, for only our second Sunday fixture of the season, and with yet more clouds overhead. A good team had been assembled to avenge last years loss, and as we took a look round the pitch it became obvious that the Peasemore wicket had been given something of a makeover since our last visit - a bit of green, smoother than a hallway carpet, yet still with a bit of rough and the odd dull patch. Should be a good game, we thought. Skipper Gareth Jones strolled out for the toss and without so much as a moments hesitation opted to bat, having called correctly.
A tried and trusted opening partnership of Neely and Burnett strode out to the crease, and the Peasemore bowlers - a few young lads, canny veterans, and a helpful wicket - charged in. A maiden first up, then Burnett releases the pressure with a four. In the fifth over Burnett fell to a deflection off his legs onto the stumps for 7, bringing Keegan-Bole to the crease. Next over saw another wicket fall as the new batsman went for a duck. Shaw joined the battling Neely, only for a tight lbw shout to go against the Bodley opener. The fit-again and potentially destructive McKiernan joined Shaw for what all hoped would be a much-needed big-hitting partnership. To our horror the next over saw Shaw nick off through to the keeper, and in an act of supreme sportsmanship, walk off despite no appeal. The home side's opening bowlers had reduced Bodley to 19-4 in the ninth over, and things were looking a bit grim. Jones hurriedly walked out to join McKernan, and if we're being honest, a very low score looked on the cards. But there's almost always a twist in these stories, and today was no exception. McKiernan's first three scoring shots were all fours, whilst Jones adopted a Boycottian approach and occupied the crease, running well in a most unlikely partnership. As drinks came and went these two held firm, scoring when the bowling strayed, and seeing off the good balls. Both batsman benefited from missed catches, and were somehow able to block out the chatty (but very friendly) wicket-keeper's best efforts to induce a swing. Team-mates on the boundary could barely believe what they were seeing, as the recovery continued apace and the score built. Who needs the World Cup? Finally, a wicket fell, McKiernan clean bowled by the returning opening bowler for a very well made 45. Hewett came and went trying to clear the ropes, whilst Jones's vigil ended in the twenty sixth over, top edging a heave to a quicker ball for a useful 28. And thus Bodley had dragged themselves to 107-6 with ten overs still to play. With a license to thrill, Robinson strode out and set about taking the score even further along with inimitable Hudson and Busby for company. A simply marvellous 34, with two sixes, took us to 166-9 from our thirty overs, a scarcely believable recovery after that early collapse. With all smiling and a rain shower blowing in, the team set about the always excellent tea.
A delicious selection of baps/cobs/rolls/barms/insert regional variance here was scoffed down, along with exquisite millionaire's shortbread, fruit cake, and lemon drizzle. As the rain blew through and the pitch quickly dried, the teams reluctantly tore themselves away from the buffet, and headed out for the second innings.
Chasing 167 to win, Peasemore set about building a platform running quick singles as Burnett and Robinson got things going for Bodley. A miserly opening ten overs finally brought about a wicket in the twelfth as Robinson found the edge and McKiernan pouched a great catch round his ankles at slip. 26-1 from twelve, a great start. A change of bowling saw Shaw running in, with McKiernan coming on to replace the excellent Robinson, and both kept the runs down with an attacking field - two slips at times and sharp fielding all round. In the eighteenth McKiernan struck, followed in the twenty second over by another to prise the opener out. 58-3 from twenty two, and Bodley on top. The Peasemore middle order were eyeing up the square boundaries by now, but before long McKiernan had his third and Keegan-Bole had picked up a first wicket, the first a lovely catch from Dom off a skier as the batters hit out against the vagaries of the pitch. 83-5 from twenty six. With a few big sixes being tonked into the trees on the far boundary, the skipper returned Shaw to service and in his first over Bodley's all-rounder took a crucial wicket to break the burgeoning partnership. Keegan-Bole then took two more quick wickets as the hitting continued, both caught by Jones, With Bodley well on top but wary of a few big hits making things tight, Burnett came back on to pick up a well-deserved wicket and wrap the innings up as Peasemore finished a man down. A terrific game, played in the best of spirits by two well-matched teams in a lovely setting. Thank you to Peasemore for hosting, and we look forward to crossing swords again next season. Great, oh so miserly bowling figures from all, a wonderful recovery with the bat from McKiernan and the skipper, and finally some proper biffing from Robinson. Well played all!
Wolvercote CC at St Edwards School, 20 overs
We've been playing Wolvercote CC for five years now, with a victory nowhere in sight. With a strong team and decent weather forecast, a mixture of old stagers and two debutants - we welcome Dave Freeman and Ben Parish to the Bodley ranks - we assembled at the ample sports facilities of St Edward's School (when does a school need a golf course?) to set about getting that first win. Skipper Gareth Jones won the toss and elected to bat, and off we went. The pitch was greener than parts of the outfield, and had perhaps been confused with one of those nearby putting greens by the groundsman. Being only ten we were pleased to be batting first.
Dave F and David Shackleton formed a new look opening partnership and quickly looked comfortable, handling the low bounce and some pacey seamers well. With clouds rolling in and the skies darkening a close field maintained the pressure as Bodley ticked along in ones and twos, the odd boundary helping build a score. By the halfway point we were 52-0, a decent score with plenty of batting to come. Next over, Dave F was out, bowled to a good one for a terrific 18. This brought James Shaw to the crease, and he picked up where he left off last season, walloping fours and racing along as Shackleton carried on playing that classical game that has us all cooing so often. With Shackleton keeping a dominant James company and Wolvercote rotating the bowlers with a generally close field, the score soon accelerated. Both retired with 30s, leaving Matthew Neely to shepherd the remains of the innings with some sharp running. By now those dark clouds had opened up and the rain was falling steadily, but we played on regardless, with the low bounce making life pretty difficult for Matthew and Ben, who after a useful boundary was smashed, gave way to Tim Philipson and then the skipper. Bodley finished on 130-3, a good score given the conditions and the opposition.
A quick turnaround and with the rain having apparently settled into a groove of steady heavy drizzle (and my was it cold!), Bodley set a ring field, bolstered by the just arrived and very welcome Steve McGranaghan, began the second half. Steve was immediately pressed into service to open the bowling with James. With the first over producing runs for the attacking Wolvercote batters the final ball was likewise smashed at chest height through the off side ...to be brilliantly caught by Gareth running forward at cover. 6-1 from 1, a good start. For the next nine overs a tight line and full length was promptly found, having seen anything shorter given the treatment in the first half. Gavin Robinson and Shackleton took over the bowling after Steve completed a frugal spell. In the tenth Shackleton induced a skier, which was confidently pouched by James in very tricky, wet conditions. 54-2 from 10. The next over brought another as Gav took a quite stunning caught and bowled, later admitting that the prospect of the ball hitting him in the face gave him ample focus to pouch the missile. Well caught, Bodley putting in a great performance in really difficult conditions, with Andy Hudson and David Busby doing sterling work on the boundary to cut those fours off. 57-3 from 11, and Bodley slightly ahead. Unfortunately, for us, the Wolvercote number five not only sported a terrific old-school sun hat (is there a finer hat to bat in?), but also made the pitch look like an indoor net, and the score fairly ticked along. Thankfully, in the eighteenth over James bagged a third with a sharp run-out, having already seen that number five batter retire for a potentially match-winning 31. With two overs to go debutant Dave F was brought on, and with the kind of slow, dipping bowling that when as accurate as it was here, drives batters to distraction, delivered a crucial over of just two runs. So, one over to go, Wolvercote needing a challenging 20 runs to win, with one fairly well set batter looking to hit out. First ball went for a stolen two, then a four was smacked past the fielders - 14 needed from four balls. Bodley are focused, on the balls of their feet, and the field close, with a couple of men back for the big hits. Sharp fielding keeps the next ball to a single, and the newer batsman faces, only to be well caught by Ben, leaving things at 117-5. Bodley can relax a little now, and with the next ball a dot and the final ball a single, Bodley win by 12 wins.
A fantastic result, brought about through careful, but attacking batting and energetic fielding from all involved. After five years of trying we finally record a first win against Wolvercote, may it not be the last! A lovely match, played in sodden rain that thankfully cleared up towards the end - and a huge thank you to the opposition for playing on, can't say I've ever played through such a prolonged spell of rain before! That's also our first win of the season - may we have many more!
Blenheim Park CC at Blenheim Palace, 40 overs.
It's finally, belatedly, here. After a cancelled Whippersnappers, no nets at all, and an absent opening fixture, our first game of the season finally took place against old friends Blenheim Park CC. We're most often on the wrong end of this fixture, undone by the notoriously difficult pitch, though last year saw a thumping Bodley victory by 9 wickets. With this in mind, and with a decent team, we assembled under grey skies and hopefully no rain, to see if last year's heroics could be repeated. Lined up like eleven vintage Morgan sports cars, skipper Gareth Jones promptly lost the toss (never call heads...) and we were bowling first.
Regular opening bowler and South African Silver Fox Phil Burnett opened the bowling, with Gavin Robinson taking the other end. Both started well, and immediately revealed the pitch to be even more uneven than usual. The same ball might trickle, bounce, wang, or skid through, with no apparent reason for the change. After a couple of big shots to take advantage of the short boundaries (on account of the long grass), Burnett took the first wicket with the first ball of his second over, in spectacular fashion. A good length ball was tickled down the leg side by the batsman, and appeared to be dying as it flew past keeper Matthew Neely. But Matthew's full stretch lightning dive - quite possibly the fasted he's ever moved - saw the ball pouched one-handed just above the grass to take an absolutely stunning catch and leave the batsmen utterly incredulous. 11-1 from 3 overs. A great start. Often, after a dramatic start such as this, things can drift, runs can come, and partnerships build. And that's what happened here, though Bodley bowled terrifically and the runs were hard to come by, with conditions making fours risky and runs having to be pushed hard. After the opening bowlers had earned a break, Steve McGranaghan and David Shackleton took over, and kept a tight line with only an occasional heave damaging their figures. At the halfway point the score was 100-1 from 20 overs, and Bodley needed a tight second half. Steve duly provided the breakthrough in the 24th over with a beautiful ball, swinging in late and moving off the pitch, to clean bowl the well-set batsman. The fielding remained excellent and further wickets were picked up by Matthew, Arthur Keegan-Bole, and two more for Phil to cap a superb display. Blenheim finished on 175-6 from 40 overs, and Bodley left the field pretty satisfied.
Now that half the game was out the way, and with skies darkening, it was time for the main event - tea. An absolute feast of sandwiches - including a fine bacon and avocado creation - was laid out, with flan, pies, crisps, veg, fruit, and a dizzying variety of cakes to fatten even the fittest cricketer. All tucked in heartily and as conversation should have been focused on tactics, it was sandwich fillings and cake preferences that dominated the debate. A fine way to spend the break. Once the threat of rain had passed, the teams again took to the field.
Bodley opened with the same top three that took us to a resounding victory last year - Phil and Shackleton, followed by Arthur. Sadly, the same dominant display did not follow, due in the most part to the pitch being as utterly unpredictable as it was when we were bowling, and perhaps a little rustiness. A tighter length from the Blenheim bowlers ensured a trickier time for our batters, and in the second over Phil was out to a good ball. Arthur and Shackleton built a careful partnership, seeing off the dangerous Blenheim opener - and Bodley occasional - Nigel Walker. Alas, in the 24th over two more wickets fell, and over the course of the next ten a combination of the pitch, the need to score, and some good bowling saw Tim Philipson, Matthew, the skipper, Dom Hewitt, Andy Hudson, and Steve all come and go for not very much. But then, with the score on a precarious 89-9 in the 33rd over, out strode David Busby. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. You might guess that the two David's didn't quite knock off the 87 runs needed for an unlikely victory, but they did royally entertain the thinning crowds as evening fell. With a close ring field and a lot of good-natured chatter - a good many loudly expressing a desire to get down the pub as soon as possible - these two Bodley stalwarts defended for all they were worth before hitting out in a final blaze of glory. Shackleton moved serenely to his half century with a slog-sweep for six to square, whilst Busby used his feet, got forward, and swung the bat to smash a couple of lovely fours past the fielders and bring the score over the 100 mark. When he finally fell with the score on 116, everyone agreed that we had all earned that trip to the pub after such a good-spirited game. So, Blenheim win this year, by 59 runs, very well played. Special mentions go to Shackleton for carrying his bat to finish on 67no, and to Matthew for the Catch of the Season - I'm calling it early! Roll on the rest of the season, and a first win.