Engineering at Balliol College Ground (Jack Cox group stage), twenty overs
And so to the Big Match of the 2018 Jack Cox calendar, our rematch with last year's eventual Cup Champions and our semi-final conquerors, Engineering. There were few amongst us who thought this might be a contest, but like Ali-Frazier all those years ago there was a surprise or two in store. Skipper Nelly won the toss and elected to bat, a wise decision given Engineering's tendency to pile on the runs. With the oppo missing several familiar faces but still boasting much of last year's title winning eleven, we headed out to bat with instructions to hit it hard, and run like men possessed.
With David Shackleton down the order owing to his late arrival it fell to Phil Burnett and the skipper to open the batting, a task they took to like Andrew Milner at a vineyard. The first over was wayward and Phil had soon chalked up fourteen runs from it, making good use of the short square boundaries. The other opening bowler fared no better and before long Neely was in on the action too, and Bodley ticking along nicely. Phil fell to a sharp return catch for a valuable twenty, with the skipper too falling for twenty shortly after. Bodley's in-form all-rounder James Shaw was accompanied by Andy Hudson and then Shackleton in a middle-order powerhouse of technique and timing to carry the score along to eighty odd at the halfway mark. Great, we though, we can double that score, easily. Whoop whoop, as they say. With Shaw retiring on another thirty plus score, and Gareth Jones, Tim Philipson, Dom Hewitt, Josh Bumphrey and then David Busby (Alec Paton sadly not getting the chance to add to his unbeaten run) all suffering from some decent second half bowling and a better bout of fielding from the engineers, Bodley ended on a somewhat disappointing 120 from the twenty overs. A below par score, we thought, especially given the good start. With a decent bowling line-up we had nothing to lose though, so off we went, in baking heat and with last year's drubbing at the back of our minds.
The first overs of an innings are often a becalmed affair for a fielding side, as players limber up, batters settle in, and everyone generally sets about finding a nice spot to field in that they can easily get to as the overs switch from end to end. Not so this innings. With the skipper assertive and driven, and the field in on the one barring Jones and Shaw on the square boundary, Josh roared in to deliver the opening blast. A good length ball was launched high out to cow corner, curving squarer as it began its descent to earth, under the anxious gaze of Jones. Having initially decided it was nowhere near him, and then decided that collecting it on the bounce to stop the four was the best course of action, Jones belatedly decided to go for it. Running in with arms outstretched the catch was pouched waist high just yards from the boundary rope to exultant cries from teammates. 0-0 from 0.1, a good start. After the perfect start Engineering were fairly well contained by sharp bowling from Josh and Phil's opening six over spell, with Josh picking up a second and Phil bagging one thanks to another good catch from ???. 31-3 in the sixth, exciting stuff. James and Andy were the change bowlers, and with the field being well manoeuvred by the skipper to best contain the on strike batter, the pressure continued to build. In the eighth over Andy struck thanks to some questionable shot selection by the head engineer, an attempted scoop shot being brilliantly caught by keeper Neely. Next over saw some more action, with some good looking batters coming in only to fall to James's accuracy and more good catching, two wickets in the over to leave Engineering creaking. A clever tactic of bowling outside off stump to the quiet number three batter had kept one end quiet and put pressure on the other, giving Bodley fielders plenty of chances. Andy struck again in the tenth over, a great catch from Philipson at gully just as the ball was dying in front of him. The next few overs saw a mini-recovery from Engineering though, with big sixes being smite by their canny wicketkeeper. With the final quarter of the innings now underway he retired, and Bodley kept the rate down again, until a reaction catch by Gareth, now keeping wicket, from Neely's bowling, brought him back out for the last wicket partnership. Oops. A few more boundaries followed, and with two overs left it looked like we might again be on the wrong end of a turnaround. But a desperate second run from a pull shot to the square boundary, where Shackleton was stationed, proved too much. Just like on the telly David gathered the ball ever so cleanly and rifled it back to Gareth in front of the stumps, who promptly knocked the bails off to run the batter out and end the innings. A superb win for Bodley and one built on great fielding and tidy bowling.
The win brings about a quite brilliant turnaround in our fortunes in the Jack Cox competition.. Having eyed up last spot, we have now jumped Physics and Stats/Medawar into third spot, and with it qualification for the Plate competition. A semi-final against the winner of the Plate play-off between IT Services and Osler/Green/Templeton awaits on Tuesday 7th August. Roll on the final...