It was eight years since Marsh last visited Watlington CC back in OCA Division 2 when last over heroics from Timms resulted in victory for the Gibbon and gave Marsh a lifeline to escape relegation. Things were not that dissimilar this time around as Marsh sat one place above the relegation zone and Watlington rock bottom of the Division, as it was in 2013.
The Marsh Captain was the same man then as now and realising the importance of this occasion Stuart demanded the same outcome from his comrades. The win was crucial and skipper got things rolling by winning the toss and electing to bowl on a good looking deck.
The plan was to start fast and take the game to Watlington, whose confidence must have been fragile with no wins to their name in the Cherwell and missing their main strike bowler.
Nathan Callow responded to the skippers call and demolished the Watlington top order! A wicket in each of his first five overs for only 5 runs and another from Needham left Watlington reeling on 35-6 in 10 overs. Callow could not stop smashing the stumps apart on his way to career best figures.
Skipper had got the start he had demanded and Marsh were seeking to push the boot down hard. Meanwhile Maughan and Crockett had a different agenda and sought to stem the flow of wickets and to try and set a defendable target – and they made respectable progress. The eccentric Crockett was dragging out the time with his ball by ball rituals and blocking, whilst Maughan jumped on anything lose on his way to a creditable half century.
Fox and Chambers replaced Needham and Callow and bowled consistently conceding only 10 runs in their first 8 overs together. Watlington had the semblance of a recovery taking shape by the 25th over with no more wickets falling and the score on 85. The overall run rate was above 3 and they could take the extra 6 overs more than Marsh if they could stay out in the middle for their 53 over maximum.
Foxy had been troubling the umpire by straying a little too straight and plonking his size 11’s down the middle of the track and the umpire was on the brink of retiring the bowler when Fox found the perfect off stump line and Crockett was not quick enough on the draw and lost his off stump to the quick sly foul footed Fox!
With the partnership broken, skipper looked to spin and firstly turned to Vice Leonard replacing Fox (7-1-25) ahead of the umpire doing so! And then Crabby Cross for Julian (6 overs for just 16).
Maughan was running short on partners and sought to take the offensive to the spinners with consecutive boundaries in an expensive 2nd over from Vice Leonard. But the onslaught was short lived as Joe bowled House in his third over, followed by Maughan in his next, as the ball gripped and spun on from the batters pocket! Leonard closed out the Watlington innings on 136 as he caught last man Aajan off his own delivery.
A small post script to Marsh’s display in the field needs to be added here, as it was not to the usual crisp handling standard with the odd challenging catch going to ground, interspersed by mis-fields, a juggling Mitchell and even one fielder (called Timms) trying so hard to disguise his dropped catch that he claimed dislocation of shoulder until the good doctor Fox over-ruled the injury as more mental than physical! Indeed, the fielding mishaps led to an interesting debate at Tea on the merits or de-merits of the players on display. To the amazement of many, Sam Richardson didn’t find himself bottom of the pile, which could do nothing but to invalidate any decisions made by the self-elected panel sitting in judgement.
For the first time under Cherwell Win-Lose-Draw rules Marsh had bowled out the opposition well within their maximum 53 and would now benefit from acquiring the significant number of unused overs giving them 63 overs in which to reach the required 137. Certainly, run rate would not be the challenge.
But Marsh would need to see a tricky period of 14 overs before Tea could be taken and the Skipper again recited his battle cry for a determined and positive response.
Sunderland and Maughan opened for Watlington and Maughan fresh from his success with the bat had it going his way with ball too as a sharp edge from Chambers flew to Hargreaves at slip and Marsh were 6 for 1 down.
Skipper joined Vice and the two watchfully accumulated as the overs ticked by, such that by the Tea interval at 14 overs the deficit was already under three figures as the pair had calmly stroked their way to a chanceless total of 43-1.
After the Tea Interval the pair resumed where they had left off and all seemed under control until skipper skied a thick edge to Cover and was caught for 18 with the score on 53.
Foxy Bingo loped confidently to join Vice in the middle and characteristically got off the mark with a boundary! Unfortunately, his stay at the crease only lasted 16 balls, but that was ample time for him to crash 18 runs and with Joe timing some exquisite drives from the other end, though the partnership was short in time, the total leapt to 88 by the time of Foxy’s exit in the 25th over.
Brother Tom, now joined Joe and appeared to be in a bigger rush than the Foxman, perhaps the added incentive of every run he scored would reduce the total his brother could get!? A rapid red-ink 15 with 2 beltingly-timed consecutive flicks to fine leg off Maughan (souring his excellent day), brought the victory total ever closer.
Joe Leonard had got the measure of the tiring Sunderland and Maughan, and the friendly mystery of Devassy and Raj held no secrets for him as he sent the ball to the fence regularly on his way to an unbeaten 70. Leonard provided the quick drying cement Marsh needed to construct a victory which began with the explosive destruction of Watlington by Callow but just 5 hours earlier.
No need for Richardson, Mitchell, Timms, Cross, Callow, or Needham to don the pads. That is, no need for Cross Senior to don the pads, but Cross Junior had already played his part with his pads on – taking the sting from the Watlington attack as he faced them all down in the Nets for 2 hours whilst Marsh were in the field!
Unlike the last meeting between the teams, this one did not go the maximum distance, but just as with the last result Marsh left with maximum points. The only question that remains is whether this will be the platform to remaining safe in Cherwell Division 5, or will it all be in vain as it was in 2013?