On a steaming hot day down at The Gibbon, the pressure was on Skipper to win – the toss – against Chipping Norton. The match was of secondary concern. Most important was to avoid chasing the ball around in the heat for 40 overs. Fortune favours the brave and thankfully the visiting Captain called wrong and Marsh would bat first.
But who exactly would bat first? New signing Vikram Pandit was down to open with Spud, but was nowhere to be seen as 1pm approached. Skipper tried everyone to see if someone other than he would stride out first. One thing was for sure, it would not be Sam Costello. Skipper had gone rogue in the week and not used the ‘Whatsapp’ group set up specifically for Availability and the Team arrangements were, to be blunt, all to cock. Some players hadn’t been asked if they could play at all, but not to worry 12 players had replied in the affirmative and ALL had been selected to play. The problem is we have two Sam’s : Richardson and Costello and Skipper sent out the team with just the Christian name: Sam…..Costello did the honourable Elvis thing…and left the building.
Consequently, Vice made it clear to Skipper, “You scored a Ton last week, so get your pads on, arse in gear and score another one!”
At that moment, Pandit did actually arrive and explained how his ‘Tour De Claydons’ bike ride took longer than expected (clearly not Yellow Jersey material) and mum wouldn’t let him out to play again until his sweating brow had cooled. We love mums at Marsh (They make great Tea Ladies!)
So, 12 had become 10, and finally a fully deployed 11 as the Openers strode out. (Vik’s indiscretion had bounced him from 1 to 9, but he’d get his redemption opportunity later….)
The pre-match turmoil appeared to have no impact on actual performance as both batters confidently settled in, with Skipper picking up exactly where he had left off the week before, scoring 50 in only 28 deliveries, made up almost entirely of boundaries. Spuddy, too was striking it hard until his Cinderella’s Godmother waft unhinged his leg peg. 43-1 in 8 overs.
Tom joined his brother in the middle and upon learning that Tom Leonard had joined Joe Leonard in the middle, the Chipping Norton Scorer remarked on how nice it is to see father and son batting together!
Unfortunately, the family reunion did not last as long as hoped when Guns was also castled with the score on 81, and still in the 13th over. (We’d see more of Guns later too….)
Well, if Joe is Father Leonard, what were we to call Stuart Leonard as he strode out to Join his Skipper? Clearly, no one wanted to stitch him up….as that was not needed….
With the ball coming on sweetly Chippy searched to find a bowler to stem the runs flowing. The batters merely kept the scoreboard rattling along irrespective. That is until Stuart was bamboozled by Chippy’s 6th bowling change and Molyneux’s first delivery – As he bowled off the wrong foot. It’s a tricky thing to perfect, delivering the ball from your left hand whilst landing on your left foot instead of right, and Stuart was waiting for the bowler to take another stride. Surprise! Bowled. A useful knock of 24 and the third wicket fell in the 25th over with a healthy 136 on the board.
Pip Webb was Joe’s next partner and settled in quickly, eager not to disappoint his travelling fan base. A quick fire half century littered with boundaries came in just 34 balls and it was great to see the talent and the power of his hitting. Indeed, it looked like he was actually hitting it through the fielders on the way to the fence.
Skipper was still ticking along and even taking singles without waiting until the 6th ball of the over either! On his 77th ball faced he brought up his 2nd Century in as many weeks to loud congratulations from the sun-worshipping crowd.
Another solid partnership had moved the dial over 200 when Pip was bowled for 50 and Luke Fox became Joe’s next partner. Lukey was never going to hang around ineffectual and the two batters scored 44 in the last 36 balls. Lukey remained unbeaten on 25 and Skipper closed on a merciless and chanceless 136, beating his previous own and Club high score of 135 in the final over. Must have been Father’s Day after all!
Rodnight, Callow, Needham, Boardman and Sam (either one) were not needed to pick up the willow as Marsh closed on 259-4. For the record, that made it the 5th highest ever score from a Marsh team – and in 5 overs less than normal.
Tea was consumed and Skipper reminded the Marsh team that Chippy had a strong batting line up as the crowd was building, expectant. Satty and Lena in arms, and even The Timms’ family were on parade: Good Luck with the pregnancy Emma!
Kyle and Callow opened up and looked to keep it tight. All would have been fine if, when Kyle bowled Hussain and then Stuart stumped Qureshi off him, the deliveries were not directly after a No Ball and consequently a free hit whereby the batter could not be out!
Chippy were progressing well and at 10th over were almost neck and neck with Marsh on 59. Callow had stood aside for Sam (that’s, Richardson) and Pandit replaced Needham, to peddle in from the Edgcott End. Yet still Qureshi and Hussain clubbed it about, reaching their 100 partnership in just 18 overs. Exactly the same point as Marsh hit the ton mark.
Richardson had started very well and gone for only 18 from 4 overs, but his attempted slow leg side theory, without telling his team mates about the plan and being able to move every fielder onto the boundary backward of Square leg, meant a hefty 20 from his seventh (and last over).
However, Pandit got the essential breakthrough in the 21st over when he got one to grip and turn to bowl Qureshi. And he completed his 8-over spell with the critical wicket of Hussain, returning 2-32 from 8 overs, critically only conceding 2 boundaries in total. He’d made up for his 2 wheeled excursion.
Both sides had taken advantage of the removal of the fielding restrictions as one of the changes under Coronavirus adaptations for play. Strangely, it has been deemed that 6 players cannot socially distance in a circle with a 60 yard diameter. This means that every fielder can be placed on the boundary and at times in this game, both sides deployed this tactic as the only way to hold back the run Tsunami.
Enter Rodders. Tricky little seam up Swinger – (that’s what he bowls, not a character reference) And they were working well, until he appeared to have trapped superglue between ball and hand and could not let go! The ball, when eventually released, bouncing several times and as many yards wide led to debate as to whether the deliveries were Wides, or No Balls, as they qualified on both counts!? The diversion worked though as Widdows reverse swept one of the legitimate deliveries smack into Spud’s midrift!
With Chippy now on 169-3 off 30 overs they needed 91 from 10 overs, that’s 9 runs per over. Needham returned to bowl his last couple of overs to try and increase the rate and build pressure on the batters approaching the death period. The old-timer did just this and drew a mistimed swipe from Molyneux resulting in Skipper pouching the catch at Extra Cover, followed 3 balls later by sharp work from the Veteran to run out Ward: 190-5 off 33. 70 needed from 7 – The rate required was now 10.
Marsh’s final throw of the dice: Bring back Callow and partner with Tom ‘sonny-boy’ Leonard. Karawita was still there and scoring freely, taking to Crouchies first over back as he crashed 16 to keep Chippy on the rate. The trick was to stop the boundaries and the rate would rise quickly. Taking wickets is even better – Tom struck in his first over, bowling Gujjar with a full ball and then inducing the catch off McGeown for Foxy to grasp. 231-7 from 36. Just 24 balls remaining, but only 29 runs required for a Chippy victory.
Callow picked himself up and went for only 2 in his next over, followed by Tom conceding only 4 and the pendulum swung toward Marsh. 23 from 12 balls and then Vice’s lightning stumping of Karawita for 47 was the last rite.
Crouch went for only 5 runs in his last 3 overs and Tom finished with 3 wickets for just 16 runs from 4 overs at the death. His dad was never prouder! (…Except he was in Devon!)
It is worthy of note that at the 37th Over in both innings the runs total was identical for both teams at 233. If you want the spoils then hold your nerve ’til the end.
A truly entertaining afternoon’s cricket keenly fought out by both sides: Credit to both, as it goes to the scorers too. Thanks to Mullis and Chippy scorer, not least, for keeping count of the number of balls in each over!
And so, to TOUR……. Brighton, here we come….