Westcott were an unknown quantity to us, having dropped out of Division Two the previous year, and therefore finished fully 15 places above us in the ‘ladder’ in 2012. The verdict from Cairns Fudge whom a couple of our players had seen over the week suggested the Westcott team had some hard hitting batsmen who could be very dangerous. This ultimately proved to be an accurate report as we were to discover.

First things first though, after negotiating the lengthy journey to Buckinghamshire (despite playing in an Oxfordshire league game – something NiB and IC still haven’t got over) we had a good warm up, including playing rugby with a local jack russell (dog, not former England wicket-keeper). Then Ian pulled his weight, winning the toss and inviting Westcott to bat, theorising that the wet Friday weather would mean the pitch would only improve throughout the day.

Things couldn’t have started much better for us, although the first wicket was achieved in a pretty unique way. Colin won’t have had too many opening batsmen stumped off the opening quickie (Mabbs) in the third over – but that’s what happened, and the batsman unhappily trudged off looking disgruntled with the decision. The pressure exerted by excellent tight bowling from Mabbs and Ryan was working wonders, and 7 for 1 soon became 8 for 2 and then 10-3, with Mabbs forcing a catch behind for Dinosaur, and Ryan getting one to cut back and bowl number three Ellis.

Westcott’s middle order took the promised aggressive approach to the situation. Though a couple fell unkindly for our ring of fielders, you had to admire one or two hammered shots by the number 5 off Ryan, which were put over his head and into a posh garden nearby. We felt, however, that it wouldn’t be too long until one nestled into the hands of a fielder, and eventually one did, Dave “Vendor” Spencer taking a catch running round at point, before Mikey bowled another with a fine delivery. Wickets were falling in clusters, with Westcott now reduced to 65-5.

The replacement number seven followed a similar approach, going hard at everything early on in an attempt to lift Westcott’s score to something respectable. Nothing quite went to hand, so his arm-chancing proved very successful. Barry in particular came in for some tap, his round the wicket approach to the lefty leading to his first two overs going for 30 runs! That said, one shot skied to mid off, which Stewie made an incredible effort for, running in from the boundary, getting under but not quite clinging on. Luckily in Barry’s third over things improved, as he took a return catch going at under 3mph and then bowled the incoming number 8 with one that cut in. Westcott 90-7, and we felt we’d have the innings over soon.

This did not prove the case, with a partnership of 49 between Rahman and Romain proving difficult to end. Ian brought himself on to replace Barry to see if a change of pace could force a wicket. Things didn’t start well, when a ropey short ball fell marginally short of NiB at deep square, who got confused as to whether to run in and catch it, or stay back and field it. In the event he did neither, but did manage to fall over helplessly when the ball span away from his clutches and disappeared for four. IC could hardly point fingers, though, dropping the next ball himself after another short ball was hit straight back at him.

Mabbs returned at the other end, and we got a fortuitous run-out, Rahman finishing on 63, before two dollied catches to the off-side field, for Barry (who had a juggle!) and NiB (who didn’t) left Westcott on 156 all out. We felt it was a very chaseable total on a pitch with some short boundaries, so we enjoyed teas and hoped that our top order, which has been firing well this year, could do the business.

Colin and NiB opened and looked comfortable against the left arm seamer (although Mikey had his own views on the logic of his round the wicket approach) and it was a disappointment when NiB got an inside edge to one that swung back a little. Luckily Colin was continuing his good form with a few excellent shots through the off-side, and he and Barry saw us through to 39 before Colin too played on to the left armer, to leave things slightly in the balance.

But Barry was having an on day with the bat, and he dominated with a number of well timed hits through the off-side. Curiously, he hit nothing but ones and fours in his innings until he was past a well deserved fifty. There were, however, a few hairy moments for Timmy, with a couple of attempted sweeps off the Westcott spinner looking worth an LBW shout, and an amusing incident where he threw his ubiquitous frame to the ground in an effort to dive into the crease after a slightly too quick single, but he remained there to punish the bad balls and together with Barry put on 91 runs.

This partnership proved crucial, and it was a surprise when Barry too played on, being bowled for a well made 65 off 71 balls, including eleven 4s and one 6 over backward square leg. His wicket allowed Dave “Princess” Spencer a go in the middle for an over or two. He contrived to dig a hole out of the pitch despite his 6 foot 5 frame, leading many to suggest whether a more suitable nickname might be “Wedge”, but despite one alarm where he was dropped at long-on for 4, he and Timmy saw us through to the required runs, Tim finishing on 46* and Dave on 14*. All that was left was for us to shower, and Barry apparently suffered some sort of incident whilst in there, or at least it looked that way from the dark coloured drips on the changing room floor which looked suspiciously bloody (though they may just have been his shower gel). In the interests of metrosexuality, it is also worth mentioning PicNic’s attempts at sunscreening himself – he ended up looking like Casper the friendly ghost, and was the only man who spent a day in the sunshine only to end up paler than he began.

News from Chesterton revealed that they had finally ended Cairns Fudge year-long unbeaten record, and we were top of the table! Definitely plenty of work to do before the end of the season, but immensely satisfying to be up there after two or three really polished performances – perhaps one or two catching practices before next week, though!

Champagne Moment went to Colin for his unusual stumping (and Timmy claimed the ‘assist’ after pointing out that the batsman was standing out his ground). Also nommed were Baz for his 6, Baz for an on-driven 4 and Ryan for a run-out.

Pig’s Ear went to Mikey for a hilarious swan dive. Supposedly he was attempting to catch the ball, but ended up about 6 foot away from the ball so we had our doubts. Nominated were Tim for his own hilarious dive, and NiB for his own hilarious dive. IC for his drop also got a nomination, as did Chappers for his horrific unavailability that had nothing to do with the draconian league rules.

TFC was contested between IC and NiB, but NiB took the award for a combination of his misfield and short batting performance.

Motm was Mabbs for his 4-19, though Barry could consider himself unlucky not to win. Tim also received a nomination.

Quote of the day? Mikey, on some attempted fielding by two opposition members who did some dancing by the boundary rope: “All you need is a tent down there, and you’ve got a circus.”