Hopefully you spotted that title as Fake News, but Captain Leonard’s motivational idiom before the match against Leighton Buzzard Town lent on the catchment population available to opponent Leighton Buzzard compared to Marsh Gibbon. The players sat in mute bewilderment to skipper’s barked question, “What’s the population of Leighton Buzzard?!” immediately chased by, “What’s the population of Marsh Gibbon?” The fact that Leighton has 40 times the Gibbon catchment was the answer, but not the point; How the actual 11 players on the pitch perform will dictate the games outcome. Eventually the players caught up with skipper’s line of thought….which was good because their performance was what separated the teams in the 6 hours of cricket that followed.
An unprecedented May with three consecutive abandonments due to rain, rain and rain had finally come to an end and The Recreation Ground was respendent, green, yet flat and ready.
Thankfully Leighton Scorer, Jules, is highly skilled in Cherwell laptop scoring ways and spent the better part of her afternoon training the Marsh players in the fine art of online scoring – to such a level that even Crouch and Guns declared it a “piece of ****” . (We are most grateful to Jules!)
With the online scoring excitement raging on Skipper duly lost the toss and Marsh were inserted as the mercury rose to unchartered heights for 2021. It is true to say that Marsh were significantly under strength in the bowling department due to : childcare duties, University exams (aka University drinking) and a famous Shipperley wedding tolling out for Zoe and Luke. (Congratulations to them from all at MGCC!) So, batting first actually was the plan and a relief.
Vice Joe Leonard and Chambers Senior (no longer under his Sandford nom de plume) started well, seeing off the opening attack of McNeil and Cowley to reach 42 off the first 10 overs. However with the 50 partnership achieved and all under control vice was caught for 18 and Briefcase marched out for the Gibbon a mere 999 days since his last appearance, when he retired himself on 49 in order to get home under Amy’s instructions. This time she came to the ground and he went one better.
After a typical 30 minute swash-buckling demonstration from the In-Betweeners Deputy Head, comprised of 7 fours and 2 sixes, Alex had crashed a 50 taking the lead in the critical 74 run partnership with Julian, to give Marsh impetus at exactly the right time. At the half way point (25 overs) Marsh sat on 131-2 with Skipper now in the middle with Julian.
Leighton now fought back and the next 25 overs went the way of the bowling side. With an approach ‘Bomber Harris’ would have been proud off; high loping deliveries dropped from the skies and undermined one Marsh batter after the next…with the exception of Chambers who pushed soundly forward despite partners coming and going. The pavilion bound batters were very aware of the importance of the innings as Chambers reached his 25th half century for the club, which included a spell batting with Chambers Junior whom he abandoned when eventually skilfully stumped by keeper Claridge on 67.
Whilst the Marsh batters generally hung around a while, none got going and wickets fell with regularity and the halfway promise spluttered to add only 72 runs in the last 25 overs when Connell was last man out with a Fantasy Cricket -20 point Duck!
Top bowling for Leighton came from Bertie Barrett with 4-27. At Tea, skipper again reminded the team of his fascinatiing Census research and the batting performances from Briefo and Julian needed to be supplemented in the field if the Mighty, yet seemingly outnumbered, Gibbon were to prevail!
Chairman Kyle responded to skippers wishes from the Edgcott End castling Raine with the very first ball of the innings to set the Marsh populace marching. Tyas was the next victim trapped plumb in-front and Kyle had his tail up. Left-handed Barrett adopted a ‘leave strategy’ to the away swinging left-arm bowler and in response Captain Leonard changed the field repeatedly to increase the temptation for Barrett to drive. He resisted stoutly, but the ever increasing lure of a wide open offside he drove….only the outside edge connected and the ball fizzed to Chambers at Slip who saved his handsome features with the sharpest of head high snaffoos!
Claridge’s off bail was her Achilles as Needham claimed his fourth victim of the innings and 600th for Marsh in OCA, and now Cherwell league matches. Bowling through he finished with a population defying 4-21 from 10 overs. A great start for Gibbon with Leighton 39-4. Guns Leonard and Tennis Star Al Bevan making his debut took over from Crouch and Needham. ‘Bev’ was very keen and hid his disappointment at not getting a ‘new ball’ at the 7th over decided that he wanted his first over to last…double faults followed until after 11 deliveries he got it consistently inside the tram lines and allowed Tommy to have a go.
Tommy’s injured ankle was still plaguing him and whilst Bev was struggling with right and left direction, Tommy was struggling with up and down – so much so that he peppered the batters’ midriff twice and decided that removing himself from the fray before the umpire did was the best thing…..though not before he managed to get one on target to bowl Smith. Thus at 20 overs, the Leighton metropolis were 73-5
Skipper needed to get the vertical and horizontal control back in the bowling and turned to Vice Joe Leonard who tweaked them back onto the straight and narrow. He winkled the key wicket of Cowley with Connell storming in from Long off to take a fine running catch which anyone with half his stride length (that’s about 8 feet!) would have failed to reach. Leighton skipper Purdy was pivotal and Marsh’s quality fielding slowly increased the pressure leading to a mix-up with Gurney, stranding them both prone at the same end for an easy run out : 125-7 from 31 overs and the game was tipping Marsh’s way. Only 4 runs per over required for Leighton victory and only 3 wickets for Marsh.
Skipper had scoured his entire populace and the man he looked to in his moment of need was Marsh Gibbons number One…MoM Chambers once more….now surely on his final grams of energy. In fact the hour of need was cut short as Chambers needed only 5 overs to wrap up those last 3 wickets and Leighton were dismissed for 161.
A tremendous Cherwell League debut culminated with victory and considerable socially distanced celebrations led by the 3 oldest stooges from the Marsh Cricketing Population as they celebrated Team success and their own personal milestones: Skipper Leonard on his 400th game for the Gibbon. Chairman Needham for his 600th wicket and The Original Original Farmer Chambers with another Match winning performance with both bat and ball.