New Gibbon skipper Joe Leonard welcomed his two winter signings: Rodders and Pip (Middleton was the early nickname shout…) to the Club. He presented shirts and caps before losing the toss and being inserted for the season’s opener, on a cold showery day at Jesus College.
Skipper and vastly experienced Chambers opened as Vice-Vadivale had declared himself unfit earlier in the week after tweaking something whilst completing 4 overs, a portion of pilau rice, side of sag aloo and a dozen samosas, the previous weekend! A steady start with 19 after 6 overs before Skipper feathered behind and was followed back by Jules almost immediately after over-reaching and popping the ball into short leg: 21-2 off 9. More misery followed with another double wicket blow when the new Fines Master, promoted from last years skipper, Stuart, was also caught for 1 close in and debutant Pip Webb lost a bail after a composed 15. The score stood on 36-4 from the first 15 overs, with Mir and Wright sharing the wickets. Wright bowling particularly well and straight on a decent track with some seam movement coming through.
Rodders and T-Leno (of ‘The Guns’ fame) responded by wrestling the initiative back and Rodders started to dent the fence with a brace of 4’s and maximums in just 5 balls. However, he was cruelly undone by a shooter when on 21 from 14 deliveries. Nevertheless he had given impetus and Tommy kept the board ticking, joined first by J-Abbot (8) and then Kyle (12).
It was difficult to assess a par score as the boundaries were short square but the outfield lush and with Marsh on 113-7 off 32 the skipper was targeting 150+ as a defendable total, and looking for little brother to steer the tail there.
Crouch, who had got the late call up to replace the Vice and was hoping his broken hand had repaired sufficiently to hold his willow (matron!) batted with thoughtful restraint and supported Guns to the required 150, before being caught on 18. Mitchell (5) and Timms (2) gave tail end support to Guns who fell in the last over on a commendable 54 from 88.
Marsh closed on 170 for 9 from 45 overs.
There has been much comment on the OCA Forum over the winter about ‘Tea cost and value’ – I think Oxenford misread this for ‘Tesco Value!’ There was more plastic containers on display than David Attenborough could shake a camera crew at.
Suitably refreshed (of a fashion) Marsh looked to defend 170 and knew the Oxenford batters would come at it hard as they always do with some quality hitters in the line-up.
Chairman Kyle and Crouch took control. An accurate and probing opening salvo cleared out the top order with a pair of wickets each the bowlers reduced Oxenford to 39 for 4 off 19 overs. Pip got in the act as he retreated backwards to clutch a steepling top edge off Pamu.
Rain came during this time and though brief the time taken to on and off the Covers led to a reduction by 3 overs and 7 runs, leaving Oxenford requiring 163 from 42 overs.
Kyle bowled out (11-4-18-2) and was replaced by Mitchell, whilst Crouch held 2 overs back and was replaced by Abbott. Both bowlers hit their stride and took wickets to keep the pressure on and Marsh in the ascendency. Oxenford were looking out for the count on 75 for 7 and needing almost a hundred runs at close to a run a ball when Khaled and skipper Wright started to take advantage of the bowling which started to lose the potent length and direction that had got Marsh to this advantage.
Chambers (5-0-23-1) brought some control back to the bowling and with 25 required from the last 20 deliveries and with two set batters at the crease this was too close to call now.
Crouch’s (10.2-2-35-2) return could not stem the flow of runs and well timed shots from Wright pierced boundary riders too easily as Oxenford moved to within 5 runs with 7 balls remaining…..Chambers bowls….Howzat?….Out!
5 required from the last over, but the new batter at the non-striking end and Skipper Wright facing……FOUR!…..and then a single to win the game with 4 balls to spare.
The pendulum swung several times during this entertaining opener to 2019 and the side that stayed the distance ultimately prevailed. Lesson Learnt – let’s hope!
Next Week….The Double Winners visit The Recreation Ground at Marsh.