We found our way to Stanton St John, ready for a high-intensity top of the table clash against in form Cairns Fudge. The feeling was that to win the league we’d really have to grind out a result so it was a good start when Colin won the toss, even if he later admitted he didn’t know what to do. The Wantage fielders were relieved as he chose to bat in the roasting afternoon sun – the British Summer finally beginning. In NiB’s absence Ryan took over opening duties, and played an uncharacteristic watchful innings, with Ben playing his customary tight role at the other end.

The two of them saw off the opening attack of Patel and Shaw, going at a paltry two an over, but importantly not losing any wickets and putting on a fine opening partnership of 50-odd. This included a set of late cuts by Putter, and an excellent six over the first change bowlers’ head by Ryan. He was eventually out trying to push the scoring rate along though, with a good catch at cover forcing him to depart for a decent 25. Timmy Lane was next in, and after taking a few balls to get going eventually started to see it well and hit some excellent fours, before playing on to his stumps for 27. Barry was next in, forced to play an unfamiliar role of having to push the scoring along from the off as we seeked a faster run rate. Unfortunately the ball apparently kept a little low and he was forced to depart for a golden duck. This now means the only member of the top 6 not to have got a golden duck this year is NiB – so beware next week Mr Burton!

Colin was next in, and was unlucky to have Ben depart almost immediately for a well played 56 off 90-odd balls. He had done a fine job seeing off the openers but was caught at cover trying to push the scoring along. Ian was next in and the watching Wantage fans were starting to get nervous as our total looked to be slightly below par. He immediately took the attack to the bowlers, scoring a rapid 24 off 13 balls and putting some momentum back into the batting. He was bowled playing a hoik off the Fudge spinner, but the tone had been set for the rest of the innings where the other batsmen took the same cue in trying to lift us to 200. Mongo leading edged a six over cover before getting bowled, Mabbs scored a decent 10 before missing an excellent ball, and Colin skied a hoik into the leg side and was caught for 25. It was left to our “worst” batsmen to lift the total over 200 and they got close, Duncan unfortunately calling Grant for a single that was too tight and then attempting one of his own, both being run out despite an awesome pulled four from Chaz.

Final total was 196 all out, which unluckily left us with only 4 bonus points and Fudge with 5. Teas were a distinctly middle class affair, over in the nearby pub. Ten out of ten for the chips, samosas, sausage rolls and slivers of cake.

Fudge began their innings positively, and were always going at the rate due to a number of “four-balls” – there seemed to be at least one every over as Ryan struggled to find his line or his length. Grant was bowling a variable line, being called for quite a few wides but trapping one of the openers LBW. Duncan replaced Ryan early and began in his customary tight fashion, although he did commit an indiscretion in the middle of his spell by complaining after having an LBW turned down and turning the batsman inside out with an excellent full ball. He followed this up with a half tracker which deservedly got dispatched into the trees where we were unable to find it again, forcing us to use an older, less shiny cherry.

To his credit, he brought it back, getting a deserved wicket caught at mid-off by Colin, and Barry came on at the other end and bowled one of his best spells. Unfortunately it was not to prove his day, as a number of tough catches went down off his bowling including one almost over Colin’s head at long-off, a sitter at point by Mongo and a tough one at wide mid-on by Ian. Between them, though, Duncan and Barry were keeping the run rates just below what Fudge required although we felt an extra wicket or two would be very beneficial, particularly with the opener looking strong on 50-odd. Barry took two wickets in an over soon afterwards and things were starting to get very tense as we entered the final few overs. Chaz took over from Duncan and bowled an excellent spell.

Unfortunately in every over there seemed to be one four-ball bowled and Fudge stayed up with the rate every single time. Chaz got the opener caught at mid-on for 69 and brought our nemesis from the last game Andy Small to the crease. Immediately he was able to get the score moving, and when Mongo dropped him at deep point there was a real sense that the game might have been lost, despite Fudge still requiring 5.5 an over. They kept finding these runs, including smashing a very important two fours in an over off Chaz, meaning they required two off the final over. This they completed with a skier over Mongo’s head, which he almost got back to for a catch but couldn’t quite cling on.

So we ended up losing by 5 wickets, although the game itself was a lot closer than that suggests. We shot ourselves in the foot by dropping too many catches at crucial times, and the bowling was a little loose at times, although you have to give the batsmen the credit as they were able to hit the rubbish for four on nearly every occasion. Let’s hope we can improve on those and hopefully have the chance next season to meet Fudge in division 4 if we can play well for the remainder of the year. If nothing else perhaps we can join them for another all you can eat Thai meal for a fiver! Good luck to them as well, it would be very surprising if they weren’t to win the league now.

Man of the Match was Ben for his 56. Barry also got nominated for his tight spell.

Champagne moment was Mabbs for running a four, although Ryan’s 6 and Mongo’s 6 also got mentions, as did an amazing Chaz stop with his boot.
Pig’s Ear went to Mongo for his succession of dropped catches, although Chaz breaking a plastic chair and falling off backwards at the same time also deserved a nom.
Net Result: Only 6 points, which is a disappointment that doesn’t really match our performance which was at times on a par with Fudge, who walked away with the full batch of 30.