After another good cup win our next opponents were the positively titled Brill. A side who had an identical league record to us, with 3 wins, and 1 loss to Cairns Fudge. After a difficult selection week for Colin, with 17 people available, we eventually lined up with a strong XI, hoping that the weather would hold out for a full game. Colin lost the toss (time to retire the “lucky” coin) and we were put in. Our usual opening partnership took to the field against some accurate bowling from Kavanagh and Green, although Ben “Grant” Putt played some strong shots off the front and back foot before trying to pull a ball that wasn’t really there and being bowled for 20 (out of a partnership of 21!). Bieber was next in, and he played a couple of excellent shots on the way to 18, before being ruled controversially caught & bowled after a consultation between the umpires. It was a tough call, but at least they did everything correctly – so we could have few complaints on that score.

Although Barry then went for a duck to an excellent caught and bowled by the Brill skipper, NiB was steadily accumulating runs in his usual fashion, obstinately defending the good balls and dispatching the rubbish like a true batsman. When Colin joined him, they saw us through to just over 100 off 25 overs. Having seen off the more dangerous bowlers they decided to open up and hurry the scoring rate along. And hurry they did as both played positively, playing some excellent aerial shots over the in-field and punishing the gaps in the field. NiB eventually fell to another sharp catch at mid-on for a superb 72 and was warmly applauded. Ian then went in with strict instructions to entertain. This he did by dispatching the first ball he received for 6 over long on, smashing a watching elderly woman in the throat in the process. His tenure at the crease only lasted three more balls however, as he departed after skying an attempted pull off Haynes, another well taken chance, this time by the wicket-keeper.

Ryan then entered the fray, but the story had become all about the skipper as he took advantage of some slack Brill ground-fielding to blast his way past 50, 60, 70, then 80 as he took the bowling attack apart. Entering the last over it transpired he needed 11 for the elusive Saturday century by a Wantage batsman, which allowed for an entertaining last 6 balls in which he ultimately found himself on 95* with 1 ball remaining. “5 off 1!” the excited fans shouted with glee, reminiscing about our usual training day shenanigans. The champagne moment was cruelly denied however, as despite giving the ball the long handle, Colin could only manage a one bounce four over the bowler’s head, leaving him on an astonishing 99* off 78 balls. We finished our innings on a frankly sublime 243-5, giving us more than a sniff of victory, despite the growing clouds. Tea was, as usual, an enjoyable affair – thanks Kerry & Nick!

We began our fielding performance with Ryan and Duncan opening the bowling. Ryan in particular looked extremely dangerous, beating one of the openers for pace on a number of occasions, while Duncan took the role of pantomime bowler seriously, opening with a slower ball (the speed gun probably clocked it at about 17mph) and somehow managing to bowl opener Fitsell without dislodging the bails. After Ryan got a first wicket, Brill’s number 3 Gascoine came in and looked a strong player with some excellent shots, before he unluckily pulled his hamstring, leading to some excitement with a runner, and some big shots over the top as he presumably looked to hit out or get out to preserve his remaining muscle. Barry eventually caught him off his own bowling, after we had gone for a double bowling change – with Mabbs coming on for Ryan at the other end after two good opening spells.

The weather was now getting very overcast, with rain due any moment. Drinks came and went, and we went in search of either quick wickets, or at the very least a quick over rate to ensure we finished the match before the rains came. We did not help ourselves by dropping the Brill number 4 twice in two overs off Barry, both sitters, one by Ian at point and one by Ben at long on. Barry made amends by bowling the opener who had clung on like a limpet til that point despite being bowled by Duncan’s non-bail-dislodging missile earlier. This brought a left/right handed combination to the crease, and they certainly knew how to give the ball some welly, as Haynes in particular hit a 6 so long off Mabbs that would probably have made it to the upper tier at the Oval. Mabbs soon saw for him though with an excellent pitched up delivery, and then the rains began to fall slowly.

Lots of things were said, but somehow the cricket continued, which was a credit to all parties who preferred to see the match continue rather than literally end in a damp squib. At one point in particular after NiB had taken a superb catch over his shoulder in the driving rain, going off seemed inevitable, but the match just about continued with Barry continuing to plug away at the far end, steadily taking wickets even as he took his economy rate into the stratosphere. With 1 wicket required, Mongo had a chance to finish it with a tough catch on the run at backward square leg, but succeeded only in over-running it and also booting the ball in the same movement for four. If nothing else it gave the Brill players something to smile about before Mansfield was well caught at mid-on by Timmy Lane after a good knock of 37 to end the Brill innings on 166 all out.

Another good performance, especially with the bat, and a win by 77 runs means we now go top of the league with a game in hand! The four bowlers also gave an excellent account of themselves, the only bum note being 3 astonishingly abysmal drops in the field by Ian, Ben and “Doughnuts” and a slightly tougher one by Mongo. Despite the rain, celebrations went on into the evening, and into the Swan, where “two pints” Martin entertained us all with some white hot dancing and we all learned to introduce ourselves to prospective partners with the phrase “Hi, I’m Tim”.

Man of the match was of course Colin for his barnstorming 99*, although another 5 wicket haul for Barry and a 72 from NiB also deserved nomination.
Champagne Moment was Timmy’s catch to win the match, although Ian’s granny-destroying first ball 6 was a close contender.
Pig’s Ear was another strop from Ben Putt, after his drop at long-on. Barry would DEFINITELY have won if we’d voted the following day, after his drinking performance.