And so to D-Day, Do or Die. Do Dorchester or Die a Death. Basically, we needed to win to guarantee promotion, or, as the mathematically gifted among us had worked out, score 5 bonus points and then get the match cancelled for rain. That didn’t look like it was going to be a problem though, as the weather was fine for the whole of Saturday, so we knew what we had to do. We’d beaten Dorchester earlier this season, bowling them out for under 100, but struggling to their total for 5 wickets, so we knew we shouldn’t underestimate them.

Anyway, Colin lost the toss, and for the first time in a while we were put in to bat first. Perhaps predictably, we reverted to our early season form as the intense pressure seemed to be getting to us. NiB did a stretch Armstrong impression to spoon the ball to cover (just!) and Ian played some airy shots off anywhere but the middle of the bat as we chipped our way to 40 for 2. On the plus side, Colin seemed to have found some decent form at last, but unfortunately pulled straight to mid wicket soon after the first change of bowler and we were teetering at about 50 for 3. Ryan and Barry looked assured enough, without scoring very quickly, although barry played a fine whipped shot off his legs for 4 through mid-wicket. Unfortunately he was out soon after, being given a bit of a send off from the bowler as he passed him on his way out.

Ryan and Mabs both departed, but for a while it looked as though Chaz and Nicky Burton could get us into a good position as they began to dominate the bowling, Chaz despatching some fine shots over the bowlers head and through mid-wicket, and Nick hitting a six into the garden off Belcher. Nick was unluckily given LBW after he thought he might have got a hint of an edge, although typically he walked off without arguing about it, which was nice of him. Chaz and Duncan both looked not to be in too much trouble but alas both of them were soon back in the hutch too, as Chaz pulled a full toss to mid-wicket and Duncan was LBW off his lengthy 5 foot-high thigh. Again though, despite a few raised eyebrows about the decision he turned and walked off. It was up to Grant and Steve Yates to try and lift us to 110 and an extra batting point, but they unfortunately couldn’t make it and we closed a poor innings on 104 all out. Belcher and McComb both bowled very well for their 4 wickets each. It seemed a very inadequate total but after establishing that we would bowl ten overs before tea, Colin pumped the team up (not like that) in the dressing room and we were out bright and early ready for a go at the Dorchester openers.

Steve Yates genuinely was raring to go as he wound up his arm and let rip with some short snorters which the opening batsmen didn’t seem to be enjoying. At the other end, Duncan teased the openers with his tight off-stump line as though he hadn’t moved from last weeks spell, and we were putting them under some early pressure. In about the 7th over, Steve bowled just down the leg-side to Dorchester’s left hander, whom NiB had earmarked as the key-man after some internet research and he got a faint touch on it as Nicky pouched the catch and celebrations ensued after the umpire gave it. There was a feeling that all of a sudden the match could become very tense…

We went off for teas with a hopeful spring in our step and a good chance with Dorchester 17 for 1 off ten. The teas were again excellent, with some particularly fancy cakes which were enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, the cake proved not to be the spark we’d hoped it might be, as we were a bit sluggish getting going, and despite slow progress, Dorchester found their way to 40-odd for 1 and things didn’t look good. However, Barry “secret weapon” Martin came on, and things began to look up as Steve Yates took a dolly at short mid-wicket to break a good partnership. It was nearly two in two next ball, but unfortunately Steve couldn’t hold on to the second one – a difficult low chance. At the other end, Duncan continued his tight spell and bowled the other Dorchester opener, finally getting a deserved wicket and reducing Dorchester to 50 for 3. With a couple of new batsmen in, and facing the gruesome twosome (or so we should probably rename them, mostly for their bowling but also for their habit of riling up the opposition) we knew we were in with a real shout again.

This became particularly evident as the runs stayed down and the overs were slowly getting used up. Grant made a tremendous effort to take a diving catch at cow corner (or wide mid-on if we’re being generous) but couldn’t quite cling on. Dorchester’s waiting team ungraciously described the incident as “picking your fielder” so I’m told, which was a bit harsh. It didn’t matter too much though because Barry soon took 2 wickets in an over and took out the batsman who was dropped twice and the number 6 who seemed to have taken a dislike to Barry, probably for applauding one of his shots. Chaz, on at the other end after a brilliant spell from Duncan, also joined the act, smacking off stump in his second over and suddenly things were getting jumpy.

The pressure was really starting to show as Barry pouched his 4th wicket, capturing the Dorchester opening bowler who was looking quite impressive – described by one person who shall rename nameless (OK, me) as possessing the “straightest bat in Dorchester” so it was an important one to get. At about 85 for 8, things were still in the balance, and Barry had now finished his spell, so tensions rose another level as Mabs and Ryan stepped up to the plate to see us through to the end.

Suddenly, the number of overs that had been used up seemed to have become an issue, as it became apparent that if Dorchester continued at their current run rate they would come up short. Consequently they had to start finding runs somewhere. The answer to their run scoring problems did not come when they hit a shot to Colin at mid off and took him on. Colin’s direct throw which hit the stumps at the bowlers end was all the more impressive when you considered that half the team were shouting at him to throw to the keeper, so it wasn’t surprising that the team went a bit haywire. Luckily, Duncan was on hand to remind everyone that we still needed one more wicket, and that the 15 or so runs required weren’t a massive mountain – two shots and the game could change.

Tension reigned as the balls kept firing through to the keeper and runs were at a premium, until the event which well and truly set the cat among the pigeons. The Dorchester number 11 stepped back after Chaz had apparently moved his eyebrow whilst standing at short cover which had put him off – consequently Barry asked him in a slightly less than diplomatic manner if he was alright, which led to a bit of argy bargy, with bad tempers on both sides. All very exciting – finally the umpires stepped in and told Colin to control us. It was sage advice, probably well heeded. Evidently the event had wound Ryan up an extra notch, as the next ball flew wildly for 5 wides and all of a sudden Dorchester needed less than 10. Despite a close call wide that wasn’t given off the final delivery of Ryan’s over, Mabbs ran in again, having bowled 4 very tight overs so far.

Second ball in though, and pandemonium, as an away-swinger clipped the off stump, Mabs did his best Freddie Flintoff celebration and everyone ran in, in celebration, including Mongo and Dave Summersbee from the sidelines. A win, and promotion!

Anyway, onwards and upwards through the divisions we go, and after a fantastic set of celebrations including Mongo defiling Nessa in a vile, vile way, many manly hugs from Chaz (I’ve still got bruised ribs) and a naked run from some members of the team, we hit the town. Nicky Burton and Grant showed us what it truly meant to be in your early twenties in Wantage as they downed some luminous green drinks in the Swan, and NiB experienced a wait at the Wantage taxi rank for the first time. What a day, what a night!

Man of the match went to Barry for his amazing 4 wicket haul; he got to keep Nessa, although I think Nessa may be nearing the end of her life, sadly. Mongo’s danger-pee appears to have melted her insides and she was looking less than plump for most of the evening. A sad tale. Anyone got a puncture repair kit?!
Champagne Moment was particularly tough; Mabs I think swung the vote for taking the wicket that took us up, but honourable mentions also went to Gemma for her commentary from the sidelines, Nicky B for his six into the garden and various others for their witty contributions throughout the day. Presumably if we’d done Champagne Moment after the naked run, some team members doing it clad in nothing but helmets (BATTING helmets) would also have been nommed.
Pig’s Ear; Mongo, for abusing Nessa to the degree that she no longer exists as we once knew her. Quite why he was having a shower with us having not even played probably also warrants a mention! All that sweating through the decisive match must have made him feel he needed one!