White Hunter CC at Warborough, 35 overs.
To Warborough, and a new fixture against the intriguingly named White Hunter Cricket Club. The club logo is a wellington boot appearing to kick the stumps, so the Bodley brains trust has concluded that the name refers to the popular middle-class puddle stompers. Either way, the WHCC are a terrific bunch, and once both teams had arrived and agreed terms, Captains Perkins and Jones for WHCC and Bodley respectively, went out to toss. WHCC called correctly and opted to bowl, to Jones's great delight as this meant not having to decide what to do under grey skies and on a notoriously tricky wicket.
Burnett and Webb opened the batting, with orders to see off the youthful-looking WHCC bowlers that had earlier been practising on the outfield. With Ackland on temporary loan to WHCC whilst one of theirs sped along the lanes of Oxfordshire to make the match, Bodley got underway. A watchful Burnett was lbw in the seventh over for 4 with the score on 25, bringing a determined Neely to the crease. The bowling was tight, with even the loose balls proving hard to get away as the pitch played tricks and the outfield slowed things down. Runs steadily, if not threateningly, accumulated, and with batters through the order Bodley were happy with progress made. In the eighteenth over calamity befell us and all-time high-scorer Webb was clean bowled by a slower one for a well made 41, including some smashing straight hits down the ground and over the fielders, no easy feat on this pitch. Newly promoted Hewett was next in and set about building the total with the well-set Neely. What looked like a terrific leg side flick for four ended up with Dom walking off having trodden on his stumps, terrible luck but there's more to come by the looks of it. McKiernan was next in, bat swinging and that putting-green technique all present and correct. Before you could say 'yes! no! yes!' Neely was out next over for 41, mirroring Webb's total and causing the scorebook to read scores of 41, 4, 41, 4 - one for the stats geeks. So, with the total on 119-4 from 25 overs, Bodley had ten overs to get up towards 200 and a hopefully defendable score. Philipson was by now in, giving Bodley a potentially punishing partnership at the crease as our two biggest hitters combined. Would there be a run-out? Nope. The two set about the bowling with gusto, though it still proved difficult to get away, the pitch being damned uneven and a devil to read. McKiernan was out in the 34th over for - you guessed it - 41, whilst Philipson, now joined by the skipper, hit a few more and Bodley ended up posting 196-5, with Philipson making 33 to end the freaky looking total column in the book.
All that cricket was all well and good, but with tea now served both teams ventured into the ageing clubhouse to tuck in to what was hopefully Stuart's only buffet of the day. To the confusion and concern of many, the extensive spread was a vegetarian affair, though having worked their way through the myriad sandwiches on offer there was, alas, nothing to worry about. The cakes were delicious, and after several mugs of tea on what was still a grey day, the teams returned to the field of battle for the second innings. WHCC needed to chase down 197 to claim the spoils...
With regular keeper Neely keen on having a bowl in readiness for Monday's Jack Cox Plate final, Captain Jones took the gloves and threw the ball to Burnett and McKiernan. With the pitch determined to remain a complete sod all day, and the batters having a hit, WHCC rattled along at four an over for the first ten overs before McKiernan finally prised a wicket by way of a sharp catch from Hudson at mid-off. 41-1 from ten, a timely wicket. Another partnership built as Jones changed the bowling to mix up the pace a little - Neely and Ackland coming on after the wicket. Despite committed fielding and bowling the runs steadily built though, with only the shuffling figure of Ackland keeping the rate down with some valuable maidens. In the sixteenth over a wicket eventually fell, clean bowled by Ackland with what may or may not have been a slower ball (how can we tell, Stu?!). Excellent bowling. Having had a torrid (forgettable, messy, take your pick) time behind the stumps Jones happily handed the mitts over the Webb, and took up position in the field. Having decided that slower bowling was the order of the day, Bodley's living, breathing Old Father Time was unwrapped and instructed to bowl that classic Milner-brand spin. Andrew was duly hit for eight, seven, and seven off his first three overs, But the runs were getting harder to get, and the field a little more spread to cut off the fours that were flying off the edge. In the 24th over and with a wicket needed, a wicket fell - a fantastic catch from Busby to a ball that went miles out to the far boundary only to be confidently taken Aussie-style by Dave, 117-3 from 24 overs. After this brief respite the runs continued to build, another WHCC batter getting in and hitting regular boundaries. By the time the next wicket fell one batsmen had retired for an excellent 51 not out, and the score was 167-4 from 32 overs. Thirty needed from three overs - ten an over then, if my often appalling maths is correct. Milner and Neely were to bowl the final three overs, and the field was back with only a couple of men in the circle in the covers. At the end of the penultimate over the score was 185 and WHCC needed twelve to win. Bodley were quietly confident, eyes focused on the batsman, and Milner twirls in for the last over of the match. It's always good when a long match comes down to the final over, and so it was today. The batters were inclined to swing and run hard, and despite a big swing the first ball was only a single - 11 to win. Next ball was a dot, followed by another dot as the batter tried to charge and befuddle the unflappable Milner. Then the crucial ball to take it to boundaries needed, and only a single managed - 10 now needed from 2 balls and Bodley were breathing a little more easily. A dot ball followed as sharp fielding and a full length kept the batter in check. A single off the final ball took WHCC to 188-4 and gave Bodley the win. A terrific match that was close throughout the second innings as the WHCC batters staged a brilliant chase on a difficult pitch. Well played everyone, a well-deserved win.
After handshakes and pleasantries, and the returning of the ground to exactly the same condition it was in before we started, the bulk of both teams repaired to the nearby Six Bells Public House for post-match analysis and talk of future matches between our well-matched sides. We would be delighted to visit our new friends down in West Sussex next year and look forward to an annual fixture for years to come, thanks ever so much for making the trip up to play us. We next play Monday evening at Balliol College Ground, in the final of the Jack Cox Plate - do come and support.