Finally our first league game of the season after the inclement weather, although it was still very grey. Colin lost the toss and we were put in for the second week in a row. Eager to see what new challenges Division 4 bowling could bring, Ben and NiBbler resumed their opening partnership for the first time this year. Nick chased a good ball from Bacon early on and edged behind, so it was to Colin and Ben that the job of seeing off some very tight and accurate bowling fell. This they did with only minor alarm, in conditions that were generously bowler friendly. The pitch was drier and truer than the previous week but that didn’t stop the odd ball popping or keeping low, so the two of them did a good job. Colin fell LBW towards the end of Bacon’s first spell, which was probably a relief for Bacon as he took a bit of a pounding – failing to cling on to sharp caught & bowled chance, ripping a chunk out of his finger by hitting the stumps on the way through, and pulling a muscle in his upper leg, giving him the joyous task of running around the outfield looking like a war veteran with shrapnel in his body.

After Colin was out, “nine out of ten dentists recommend” Limmy Tane was next in, and he and Ben put on an excellent partnership. There were a couple of early alarms as Tim leading edged one over cover and skewed one just over point’s head, but when the bowlers changed they were able to take advantage of some short stuff and Chuckles in particular played some strong leg side blows. Ben eventually fell playing one leg side swing too often for 37 but he left us in a strong position for some of our lower order hitters to get wielding willow.

Unfortunately the plan didn’t go as well as sometimes, and once Timmy was out for an excellent 55 wickets fell with regularity. Ian was plumb LBW with no chance of complaint this week, Barry was excellently stumped by the Fringford keeper after scoring 17, and Taylor and Mongo were both bowled in attempts to push the scoring along. On the sidelines the Wantage players were at least amusing themselves by listening to some of Nick “Uncle Ben” Burton’s ‘views’ but on the pitch we were struggling to 170. Ryan played some lusty straight drives in his decent 21 before also being bowled. 170 was, we felt, a pretty decent total on what wasn’t the perfect batting pitch, but with a weakened bowling attack we’d have to be tight in the field.

As it was, our fielding performance was perhaps not one of our most polished, although fortunately any mistakes that did occur were not too costly. Ian missed a tough low chance at first slip off Duncan, and a ball popped up 30 foot in the air only to fall out of reach of any fielders, but despite the run rate of 6-an-over to start with, the feeling was that a wicket was pretty imminent, not least because Duncan upped his pace to match his anger at not getting deserved wickets. He forced another edge soon after and Ian made up for his earlier miss by catching it/wearing it on the chest and gave us a chance to see the number three. At the other end Ryan had been pushing it through with great pace, and it was a shame when he twinged his hamstring and had to spend the rest of the match on one leg at gully.

“War Horse Megatron Harvatron Harvester Death Melvin Car Jacker Big Willie Wayne” Will Harvey took over from Ryan after a three-ball cameo from Colin and he found some good areas instantly, snaring the opener quickly with a pitched-up ball that struck the stumps. We then began to build some good pressure, with Duncan finishing an 8 over spell at one end and Barry taking over and keeping things just as tight. Will picked up two wickets in one over, including one LBW shout which was perhaps the quietest ever witnessed by a Wantage team, and bowling the Fringford number 5 to put us well in the driving seat. In the meantime Ian and Timmy wore a few in the covers as some strong blows were hit through the off-side, but tight bowling meant the required run rate was always increasing. Barry at least broke an important partnership with an excellent caught and bowled, diving forwards and taking it low down in front of him.

With Ryan crocked and Duncan stiffening up like a teenager’s you-know-what, Colin was struggling to find a bowler to fill in some overs. With the potential for a comeback still possible, he took the ball himself and kept things very tight, even getting a wicket himself, forcing the batsman to hit the ball to Limmy Tane at cover, who hilariously misjudged it and made a grunting noise before taking it over his head. At the other end Mongo took the ball and kept things tight too. Then, in true Wantage fashion, village moments took over for the rest of the day. First there was a run out chance when Ben parried the ball behind him but collected the ball quickly. In the meantime the non-striker had called for a run, which left both batsmen at the same end. Colin received the ball about 8 yards from the stumps, and had about 13 years to line up his shy. However his throw went wider than a bingo-player’s waistband and amusingly also went for overthrows as Duncan chased the ball to the boundary with his fibreglass limbs pumping away to limited effect as they’d stiffened up since his 8 over spell. The damage amounted to three leg byes which amused some of the team but not all.

NiB showed us how it should really be done next over, as he received the ball at backward point, and was the personification of calmness as he threw it gently into Ben who removed the bails and ran out the Fringford number ten, leaving us one more wicket to get. An opportunity presented itself next over when Barry got the batsman to middle it straight up in the air to wide mid-on. Duncan called out, steadied himself, bent down… and the ball went between his hands without him even getting a touch. What an effort.

Luckily next over NiBbler again showed how to secure a run out, as he threw the ball into Ben after the last wicket partnership attempted an ill-judged second run. It was not as ill judged as Ben though, who instead of whipping the bails off to run out the batsmen by three feet and win the game threw the ball back to bowler Barry, who did in fact whip the bails off to run the other batsman by about three feet to win the game. All in all, not a perfect performance but some encouraging signs, particularly considering our weakened bowling attack.

Champagne Moment went to Barry for his sharp caught and bowled chance which tipped the balance of the game in our favour. Tim’s six over square leg deserved a nomination.
Pig’s Ear went to Duncan for his “catch” although Colin’s run out attempt was also a worthy nominee.
Man of the Match was Tim for his excellent 55 which was probably the big difference between the two sides. War Horse Will Harvey also bowled well, taking 3-33, and Ben’s 37 was a good innings.