OUPCC at Stanton St. John, 35 overs.
We have been playing Oxford book-concerned rivals OUP for many years now, with last years match being a turnaround in Bodley fortunes after Mike Webb's magnificent 107no - a top score for Bodley, for Mike, and a first win against OUP for a few years. So it was with much anticipation that we approached this year's fixture, certain that OUP would come at us hard to avenge last year. A new venue for the fixture this year was the quite charming Stanton St. John, an odd little village on the Wheately Road. With day four of the England-India test match drifting from the clubhouse and a set of snazzy flashing bails atop the stumps, the teams convened for battle.
Skipper Gareth Jones won the toss and after some deliberation - it was sticky looking wicket and a baking hot day - chose to bat. OUP are a strong side, and truth be told are generally able to bowl themselves to victory with accurate pace or wicked spin, so a circumspect start was the order of the day, use the overs available and see where we end up. A rejigged batting order of Mike Webb and Phil Burnett opening, followed by James Shaw and finally Matthew Neely at four was agreed to undertake the strategy. With all eyes on our record-breaker, our Alistair Cook (though with greater longevity), he was off the mark first ball to a full toss, easily dispatched for four down the leg side. Classic Webb. Sadly, the third ball of the match pitched on a good length, moved off the pitch and took a stump out to set those flashing bails aflashing. 4-1 from 0.3. Bugger! This brought James in and play resumed. For the neutral the next over was equally exciting, with Phil crunching across the line of the ball to send the ball high - but not quite far enough - towards cow corner, to be spectacularly caught by an unfeasible energetic bit of fielding. 4-2 from 2. Buggering hell. With Matthew joining James at the crease and calls for Andy Hudson to replace Gareth as next man in, the spades were unfurled out in the middle and some serious digging was underway. The OUP bowlers were on a tight enough line, bowling full, and the pitch was an absolute nightmare to play, causing movement off the seam and enough uneven bounce to keep Geoffrey Boycott quiet. Whilst Bodley strategist Andrew Milner provided commentary and advice from the boundary, all whilst scoring (in pen, confident chap), OUP changed their bowlers and Bodley settled in tremendously. With scoring proving difficult even for the normally languid James, these two survived a couple of close calls, and dropped catches to see us out of a hole and into a position to post something to bowl at. James was out for a hard-fought 17 in the eighteenth over, with the score on 45-3, a terrific recovery in the circumstances. Gareth joined Matthew and more of the same was the aim, with a swing to be had at the end against the part-time bowlers hopefully. With our batters having settled into a partnership and running well, OUP brought a spinner on - the sort that darts the ball in quicker than a spinner has any right to, and on this pitch not something you really want to face. Sadly for Gareth an attempt to get forward and smother the ball resulted in the skipper hunched on the floor contemplating a new career as a falsetto. Hilarious, apparently. More in embarrassment that pain he took early retirement and beckoned Bodley's wrecking ball of a lower order batter, Tim Philipson, to the crease in his place. With Matthew providing sterling support and anchoring the innings, Tim did as Tim does and disregarded everything he had witnessed before. Good balls were flayed to the boundary and the score built. Matthew fell in the twenty fifth over for a terrific 29, and whilst Andrew M, Dom Hewett, and Future England Opener Andy H were undone, Tim bounded on, eventually being caught for a quickfire 29 having moved the score over 100. David Busby played an entertaining - and valuable - cameo with a couple of fours of his own to the long boundary, whilst Stuart Ackland and the returning skipper added no more to the score. Bodley ended up on 115 all out, well below par for any normal 35 over game, but on this pitch, who knew? We had played here only once before, in wet and muddy conditions, and OUP had even less experience of this patch of grass, so it really was anyone's game. But 115 was barely competitive in twenty overs, was it? Well, we'll see.
As the home team for this one, Stuart and Gareth had prepared a tea, with no less than five cakes - two sponges, brownies, fruit loaf, and Dorset apple round - and a myriad of dainty sandwiched ranging from cheese and ham, to ham and cheese, and everything in between. All this was gulped down with tea - it's never too hot for a cup of tea - whilst both teams caught up with England's progress against Kohli's India at Southampton. Our match was equally exciting, it was agreed.
Early wickets being the order of the day an attacking field was set with just the one man out on the shorter square boundary. Phil and James opened up after a couple of boundaries Phil claimed the first wicket, a lovely lbw. James kept things incredibly economical at the other end but it was Phil, in the fifth over, that made the next breakthrough, clean bowling the other opener. 20-2 from seven overs, and whilst we'd have preferred a slower run rate, it was all about wickets given our low score. Get wickets and we'd create pressure, even if they were scoring quickly. With Stuart replacing James, Phil carried on the good work and took a third in the ninth over, another clean bowled after a boundary had been taken previous ball, leaving OUP 29-3 from nine. With a seven over limit per bowler, Phil was taken off after his sixth to keep one in the bank. James was therefor back on, at the other end this time, to bowl in tandem with an increasingly tidy Stuart. Fifth ball of his second spell and James took the wicket, arresting a burgeoning OUP partnership that was threatening to take things away from us. This was another bowled, the pitch providing ample assistance, though it must be said the OUP batters were playing with a good deal of risk and a small amount of abandon on what was clearly a graveyard for big hitters (Tim Philipson excepted). But Bodley caught well and fielded like demons, attacking the ball and keeping the singles down with a tight ring. After a few boundaries were taken from Stu, James was back in on the action, finding himself on a hat-trick after nineteenth over after a terrific clean bowled and an lbw - test match bowling if ever we saw it. Having seen OUP build their score with some well struck boundaries the double strike had reduced them to 73-7 in the nineteenth, a wicket for Stuart prior to James's incisions helping remove the OUP middle order just as they were getting themselves in. James finished his seven overs with figures of 19-3, and Phil with 17-3 (from six overs), fantastic bowling from both. Andrew Milner had now joined Stuart to deliver the coup de grace, and it wasn't long before perennial tail-end wicket chaser Stuart got two in an over to leave OUP teetering. Matthew came on at the end and with the final ball of the twenty first over saw the OUP number eleven smash the ball to the boundary-guarding Dom. As the ball died in the air just before the boundary, Dom scurried round, got down low, and took a brilliant catch to seal the win for Bodley. Blimey. Blimey.
As the teams left the field news of England's victory over India was delivered, and all agreed that the village pub must now be visited in double celebration. A Bodley win by forty runs in the twenty-first over - a stunning victory made possible by obdurate batting from Matthew and James, clean hitting from Tim, tight bowling from Phil, James and Stu, and energetic, intent fielding from all eleven, Well played all, a really great win.