The weather was a bit miserable as we met up at the club for the final league game of the season, although spirits were high as usual as we contemplated the remote possibility of snatching the title from under Cairns Fudge’s nose. This would require a 30 points win and for Fudge to underperform to the tune of less than 7 points. This seemed unlikely. However we got in our usual convoy and headed off to Swinbrook in chirpy mood despite the weather.

Moods were dampened slightly by the prospect of the pudding pitch on offer, but raised by the news that Swinbrook were only able to muster 7 players for their side, due to split priorities with their second XI who also needed to play to try and avoid relegation. The upshot of it was, we were to field first, and hopefully dash out the Swinbrook order nice and quickly as we only needed to capture 6 wickets. Things started well as Duncan and Grant kept things tight as usual, although no wickets fell until Duncan forced a catch behind for Ben to pouch. Grant was bowling well without forcing a breakthrough, and got an opportunity to hissy fit at James before showing off his newfound guns to a passing car full of ladies. Depending on who you ask, they were very attractive and Grant was “well in”. However he did ruin his good work by throwing his underarmour over the wall and on to the road instead of balancing it casually on the wall.

Meanwhile, Duncan was keeping tight lines, getting another wicket caught behind and almost forcing a tough chance to Ian at short cover. He dived forward on the astroturf pitch, got underneath it, only for it to roll over his forearms towards the floor… After considering claiming it he realised that it wasn’t in the spirit of the game and withdrew the appeal, leaving him with bruised pride, and three nasty astroturf grazes. In the grand scheme of things, however, it mattered not as Barry came on to replace Grant. Although being called for a no ball first up after not telling the umpire his action, his third ball brought a caught and bowled chance which he gleefully took before launching it straight back at the batsman for reasons unknown to him, us, or indeed the batsmen, who understandably took exception and told Barry what he thought of him. Off he went though, and we sought the last few wickets as we tried to wrap up the innings nice and cheaply.

Mabbs came on and bowled tightly, only giving away four runs in his four over spell and bowling three maidens. He captured one wicket, bowling number 6 Bullivant. At the other end, Barry was busy claiming the final two wickets and making sure he was our leading wicket taker for the season. First up Grant took a good catch at the second attempt at cow corner, before inexplicably launching it back at the pitch in celebration. In an echo of Barry’s efforts, he managed to add insult to injury by cracking the batsmen on the back with his celebratory throw. Despite this behaviour making us look like astonishingly large w***ers, the Swinbrook players were gracious enough to accept that we weren’t doing it deliberately. Barry then wrapped up the innings with another catch behind for Ben off one-legged Bellenger.

Chasing 59 with only seven fielders to contend with, Ben and Steve opened the batting, playing expansively and rushing the run rate along. Although Steve fell caught at cover, Ben had taken control and slapped a number of fours in pursuit of our modest total. It had been pointed out that he was the only batsmen in our top 8 who had failed to hit a six all season, so when we were within touching distance of the total, the game became less about winning, and more about whether he could rectify this fact. Smiles were broad as he consistently found the short boundary with one bounce and his frustration began to grow. In the 11th over, he hit three fours on the bounce, coming ever closer to the elusive maximum, before only managing a single off the 5th delivery. This left us with 4 required for the win, and it was with evil pleasure that from the side-lines we all called for NiB to finish it up with a six. As the ball fell short outside off stump with a very short cover boundary, schadenfreude was attained as it crept over the rope without bouncing and we won by 9 wickets. Nick got off the mark for the first time ever with a six, and Ben was left with 43 not out and no sixer.

So, our two hour match had finished and we took maximum points. This didn’t matter however, as Cairns Fudge also took maximum points in a similar match away to Great Horwood. So our customary second place finish was confirmed. On the plus side an early finish meant opportunities to attain pleasure in other ways. First up was as much tea as you could possibly manage, without worries of being too full for optimum cricketing performance. So the hot dogs, fried onions, pizza, high class sandwiches and homemade cakes were devoured by all and sundry. Second up was a “closest to pin” golfing competition, where Dave was able to confirm his status as leading Wantage CC golfer and earn himself a tenner into the bargain, by beating out Mabbs, Steve and the entire Swinbrook side.

Third up was two rounds of paper scissors and stone to decide some of our tightly fought awards. It was unanimously decided that Nick’s six to win the match and deny Ben his boundary was Champagne Moment, but the others were much more closely fought. First Barry and Grant tied for Pig’s Ear after their cack handed celebrations. In a rare display Grant showed the wherewithal and nous to oust Barry 2-0 with a scissors/scissors combo, meaning for the first time in a while he could celebrate not winning pig’s ear. And celebrate he did, running round the pitch with his shirt over his head. Man of the match was perhaps even more exciting as we were torn between Ben for his 43* and Swinbrook CC for kindly only playing with seven and giving us a 5 star tea. Unlike his pursuit of his six though, Ben was able to secure success on this occasion, leading to a pumped cheer and celebration after beating a Swinbrook representative in the important decider.

With that, we were back to the club by 5pm, which left a lot of time for drinking and socialising. Jugs were poured, lager was consumed and Columbus Darts was taught. This led to the subsequent match report which is going to make everyone roll their eyes apart from Ian, Colin and Grant. With a boozy spring in our step, we also partook of a curry at the House of Spice as we reflected on a good finish to a fine season. Cricketing talent has been fulfilled, friends have been made with other clubs (unexpected!) and we attended our first Wantage CC wedding. Here’s to next year!