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!