A return to home turf saw the return of some decent weather as we contested the second round of the Steve Dixon cup. Our visitors were Chesterton, flying high in the League but short of several first team regulars for this match.
The opposition captain called wrongly at the toss, so Colin elected to bat on a typically good-looking Wantage track in the middle of the square. NiB and Benjy opened the batting against the bustling seam bowling of Price and the mixture of very straight deliveries interspersed with off cutters from the tall (6 ft 5 in) Davies. The first few overs against the new ball didn’t make for good listening as both Wantage openers were using cracked bats, and the wicket proved to be very slow, prompting many mistimed shots.
After an early life for Benjy, he and NiB kept the scoreboard ticking, albeit not at a rapid rate. Benjy finally put his bat out of its misery and after much swishing rejected Barry’s bat in favour of Mongo’s as his replacement. The Chesterton openers came off after 6 overs each and the change bowlers were accurate and bowling a length which was tough to get away on the slow track. Despite this, NiB and Benjy recorded their first 50 opening partnership before Benjy was well caught at cover for twenty-something attempting to increase the run rate. Timmy Lane’s stay at the crease this week was brief, but this brought Barry to the crease, much to the delight of the assembled Mexicans. Barry provided some much-needed impetus to the scoring, lofting the off spinner onto the barn against the wind for six – an impressive hit – and driving the returning opening bowler Price for four on the up through cover, a strong contender for shot of the day.
NiB got a bit carried away as Barry started hitting fours, and after a couple of cuffs through midwicket, one of which brought up his fifty, showed once again that he can’t hit the ball far enough as he holed out to long off for 55. In a reversal of the usual Wantage innings, after a good platform from the top order, the middle and lower order departed rapidly, probably in shock at how high the score was when they came in. After Barry was trapped LBW for 31 we subsided to 166 all out, which some felt was about par and others felt was about 20 short.
Fuelled by rocket ice lollies from tea (thanks Nick and Kerry), we took to the field with Grant and a hungover (sorry, tired) Ryan opening the bowling. The Chesterton opening batsmen had slightly unorthodox techniques but they were very effective in dispatching anything with width on the off side, and deflecting leg side deliveries to the short boundary at the pavilion end. After 10 overs their score was into the 40s, which definitely wasn’t part of the script, and Grant was angry, which was amusing but also not part of the plan. There then followed a flurry of wickets which I can’t remember in detail, but at the end of it the opposition were 84 for 7. Notable events were a fantastic salmon-like leap from Grant to take a caught and bowled, which he tried to repeat off the following ball and ended up clutching fresh air, and Will Harvester bowling very tidily.
This was of course a welcome development, but the opposition were well up with the run rate and Wilkins was proving difficult to be difficult to remove. After a low scoring few overs the batsmen tried to take on Benjy with a quick single and ended up gifting us a run out, and Harvester bowled a slow full toss to remove the number 10. Only one more wicket to get – but with a few lusty blows from the left-handed number 11 and also a couple from Wilkins, the score crept to 120 and then 130 and brows were becoming furrowed in the Wantage ranks. It was to great sighs of relief that Wilkins chipped a catch to Barry at cover off Timmy Lane’s bowling to take us through to the next round. Top wicket taker was Grant with 4-50, a great comeback after going for a few runs early on.
Man of the match – Ryan for 2 for twenty-something, an economical spell in the face of hungover adversity
Champagne moment – Grant’s acrobatic catch off his own bowling
Pig’s ear – Grant for failing to remove the bails from a distance of 0.01 mm during an early run out chance