‘Leno and Stitch’ Animate Marsh Defeat

Marsh travelled to Middleton Cheney for the 2nd game of the league phase in this year’s Airey Cup, on 1st August.  Covid restrictions were in place and properly organised by the home team. 

Grant Cross had resolved his back problems and Alfie was in attendance to tell all of Mrs Cross and her recent Jacuzzi antics, which had left her on crutches!     Jimbob Mitchell was also making his first appearance for over a year and it was hoped his height might add a different dimension to the bowling attack.

On a pleasant day, the MGCC players changed al fresco again in order to maintain social distancing, before taking to the pitch to prepare to bowl.  The track was not looking at its’ best, covered in red thread disease, with a mixture of bare areas and brown strands.  Confusion reined as Kyle marked his run up and prepared to bowl the first ball, when the umpires called a halt to consider the irregularity of the opposing creases and their stumps….The whole pitch was at a slant, as if the stumps at one end had slipped a couple of feet to the left. The popping creases were square to each other, but the whole thing was asymmetrical, or skew-whiff!  The solution: move the stumps over at one end so that they were aligned. Only problem was this meant the stumps were now only 2 feet from the left Return Crease and 5 feet from the right one!    Perhaps the pitch had been specially prepared for ‘Crossy The Crab’ to bowl, allowing him to saunter in sideways on?  

Eventually the game commenced with Crouch and Kyle opening up. It was clear quite early that the track would be unpredictable as a number of early deliveries ran through on the ground and Stu decided to step up to the stumps to take the ball before it rolled to him.  No sooner had he done so, than a full delivery from Crouch reared straight up into his zygomatic bone.  No chance to avoid the irregular bounce and Student Doctor Fox was called into action to stem the claret flowing, but the slice above the cheek bone was deep and Honour Senior became Ambulance driver.  Clearly, just a few years out of The Ring and Stu has gone soft already!

Vikram took the gloves and gave himself a few extra yards in order to judge the balls’ trajectory!  

As chance would have it, former Marsh player, Martin Deeley, local of the Parish, had come to watch and volunteered to retrieve his Whites from the attic and field as 12th Man in Stu’s absence.  I’ve blown the dust off the archive records and found Martin’s last Originals performance was at Letcombe on 2nd September…. 1989…So just shy of 31 years between games.  Good to see he’s kept himself in shape waiting for the call up!    That meant there were 3 of ‘The Originals’ players from the inaugural 1987 OCA season, on the pitch together: Julian Chambers (Cap Number 1), Martin Deeley (Number 3) and Grant Cross (Number 12).

Thankfully the game dropped into a calm rhythm with Crouch and Kyle keeping it tight until the 8th over and with the score on 32, Twnyham pulled Crouch for 6, then two balls later skied the ball to Foxy’s red hands for the first wicket.  Crouchy was visibly overjoyed. 

The Chairman rolled through his 8 overs wicketless for just 22, whilst getting on with the umpire like a couple of long lost chums….And at 53-1 from 16 overs the competition was all-square.

And then Foxy came into the fray, and I am afraid it got quite frayed. He flailed a frenzied foray of far from Full deliveries the batsman frequently hit, or found he couldn’t fetch with a five foot flippin’ pole! 

Skipper took the pace off from the other end though the occasional short ball found the short off-side boundary to keep the accelerator down for Cheney, until a drive to Mid-off was returned sharply by Kyle to run out Merry with the score at 97 from 23 overs Marsh got the 2nd Cheney wicket.   

Pearson, making his debut for Cheney, had a dream innings despite the track. The frequent short wide deliveries from the Marsh bowlers alleviated the risk from the pitch and he completed an unbeaten Century, despite only scoring 6 from his first 23 balls from the Marsh opening bowlers, he went on to crash 96 from the next 70 balls.   

Markham also found boundaries easy to come by before being bowled by Mitchell, getting the ball to do that amazing thing and go directly in the direction of the wooden things at the opposite end (though not exactly opposite!)

Jules started his spell in precision fashion only conceding 18 runs from 5 overs whilst bowling at Pearson and Markham, but 5 overs was enough to allow them to size up the deliveries and then crash 41 from the last 18 balls.  Always good to make changes before the event, rather than afterwards….

Cheney closed on 245-4 from 40 overs, Callow taking 2 for 40 and Mitchell 1-41.  Home made Teas were consumed and Neil returned leaving Stuart in a 4 hour long queue at A&E.   

In the week, Joe had announced that each player would be required to bake a ‘Team Cake’ this year (how joyous!) and he proudly presented his Tray Bake of Chocolate Brownies – cooked by Francesca.  

With just one run required from each delivery, openers Honour and Pandit strode confidently out.  Despite a boundary each, they were both victims of the bounce and back behind the Covid Hazard Tape by the 7th over, with only 16 on the score board.      

Stuart returned to the ground, via his Honourific Ambulance, and was now sporting fresh facial embroidery of five stitches holding his cheek flesh together. 

Skipper Leno went out to bat and looked to attack anything loose in order to keep in touch with the stiff target. He was briefly accompanied by Foxy, who did get the worst end of the pitch as a shooter trapped him in-front.  Even Razza couldn’t avoid raising his finger (the index one), which was last seen in Martin Deeley’s previous game.      

Julian was determined to amend for his bowling figures and did so as the perfect foil to Skipper’s aggression and hitting. The 2 put on 82 in just 12 overs and at 103-4 after 22 overs, defeat was still most likely, but a shadow of hope had returned when Jules went bowled and Crossy entered the fray. 

With his crablike side-on running style there was no one better suited to run between the rhomboid slanting wickets!  Bit of a slow start with just 2 runs from 30 deliveries – but he did run up to Skipper a few times to enquire “How are you skip?  Would you be interested in vacating your comfy crease and perhaps strolling to the other end?  No?  OK, I’ll go back then.”       

Skipper Leno was not interested in singular runs and looking for boundaries, especially to the shorter Social Club side – as the other one was but a blot on the horizon.  Boundaries were coming, but the board couldn’t keep up with the rate (probably as they had not used Duracell batteries and an electronic board is not much cop without electricity!)  Indeed the runs, like the scoreboard, had become intermittent.  However, the highlight of Joe’s innings came with a blow to Long Off which could only be pushed back by the Cheney fielder whilst standing behind the rope and Joe deservedly brought up his 4th Originals Ton with a Maximum.    (Only one behind his cousin now….) 

Skipper eventually fell on 116 and Crossy (40* – his highest score since 2016) and Mitchell continued to hit some fulsome blows to and over the fence to take the total to 203 by the close – a respectable score on any other day.

Despite the dangerous track, Cheney were perfect hosts; well organised Covid safety measures and First Aid support, plus excellent Scorers! 

Let’s hope ALL the scars from this day heal quickly.

Get Well Soon Stitch – We need you!

Next game:  Home to Chipping Norton on Saturday 8th August, 1pm start.