After having the previous week’s fixture abandoned after the home of cricket had seen a considerable amount of rain, we arrived to play Clifton Hampden on what was a glorious day and with a fine pitch, which appeared to have a little bit of something for everyone. We’ve had plenty of games against Clifton in recent years, some good performances and some very bad, but often entertaining. This was to be no exception. 

Bat or bowl first, it was a big call. Thankfully skip was spared making the (inevitable) wrong choice by losing toss, and Clifton elected to have a bat. DJ Instep took the new ball and he, and Colin, bowled a couple of very tidy opening overs with Jamie getting the first wicket with the plumbest LBW seen in the Cherwell this weekend. This brought Richardson to the crease and he took a distinct liking to the Wantage openers, taking 16 from Jamie’s 3rd over and then 10 from his 4th. Colin was also struggling with his radar a little at the other end, preventing the batsmen from scoring by chucking the ball so wide they couldn’t hit it. After 8 overs Clifton were 49-1 and racing along, with a breakthrough desperately needed. 

Thankfully for Wantage, Bimalka only took one ball of his first over to remove the dangerous Richardson who was bemused by a well flighted off-break to be bowled through the gate and departed for a rapid 27. He repeated the trick (i.e. bowling a straight one) in his following over and picked up another wicket to really get Wantage back in the game. Mabbs, steaming in from the other end, also picked up his first wicket in his second over. Beard, the remaining opener, edging to Colin in the gully who took the catch against his throat with all the poise and grace of a dying swan, leaving Clifton 64-4 and Wantage very much in the ascendency. 4 overs later and Clifton were 65-6 with Bimalka again delivering his party trick of bowling a straight one to remove Hans, and Mabbs had Morley well caught in the covers by Jamie.  

It’s usually at this point, as things start to look up, that we have a tendency to let the opposition make a decent total and the game harder for ourselves. For a short while the Clifton no. 8, Smith, did threaten to make this a reality hitting a couple of boundaries off Mabbs and also Chief, who had been brought on to replace Bimalka (who with figures of 6-3-6-3, must have said something to upset the skipper to not get his full allocation). The score progressed to 93-6 and with 20 overs remaining, a solid partnership could have swung the game back in Clifton’s favour. 

Fortunately for Wantage, this was not to be the case. Firstly, Stanway edged Mabbs to Spenny who took a sharp catch above his head in the slips, and then the following over Chief, who had clearly been watching Bimalka carefully, then removed the Clifton number 9 with a now commonplace, and yet seemingly unplayable, slow straight one. 

With Clifton 8 down skip felt it was safe to bring on IC, who proceeded to rip his first two balls past the groping no. 10’s outside edge and leave all present wondering where the real Ian was and what this imposter had done with him. Usual service was resumed on the third ball however with a ‘well flighted’ thigh high full toss being sent down, which the batsman had the luxury of hitting wherever he pleased. Somehow, to the bemusement of everyone, he managed to spoon it to Bimalka at midwicket and that that outstanding piece of cricket brought the number 11 to the crease. The innings was rapidly brought to a close the following over with Summs taking a good catch off Chief, leaving Clifton all out for 101 inside 30 overs. 

Having been 49-1 off 8 overs Clifton had been well set, but the Wantage-esque collapse meant that we were in the rare position of having to return to the field to bat before the scheduled tea break, so Summersbee and Rob set off to get our chase underway. 

A slow but steady start ensued with both batsmen not taking any risks and playing themselves in, Rob being the slightly more aggressive with some lovely straight hitting and some excellent running between the sticks. Clifton did try to change things up by bringing a new bowler on, who sadly had to leave the field after his first ball was struck firmly back at him by Rob, badly injuring his hand and removing him from the attack. Clifton therefore turned to their 4th bowler to finish the over, and Rob closed the over by hitting back-to-back boundaries.  

The pair brought up their fifty partnership in the 12th over with Rob hitting a six over long on, however both were removed in the space of 5 balls shortly after in the 14th over. Summs (20) was bowled trying to play a little too expansively to a straight one, and then Rob (34) was caught at long on trying to repeat his maximum of a few overs prior.  

Colin and Spenny set about trying to make short work of the remaining 40 or so runs needed, with Spenny hitting a couple of nice boundaries including one off a free-hit (after abjectly failing to score from the first one faced), and Colin dispatching a short ball for a pulled square six into the houses. Unfortunately, he tried to repeat the shot the following over to a much fuller ball and lost his off stump to depart for 9. Did it keep low, he enquired – no, was the definitive answer from all who saw it.  

This brought Bhu to the crease with the score 88-3, and although not many were required there was still ample opportunities for Wantage to make a proper mess of things or to gift bowling points to the opposition. This was not to be the case on this occasion however with Spenny (19*) and Bhu (7*) calmly knocking off the remaining runs and Bhu hitting a boundary to win the game in the 22nd over, leaving Wantage the victors before 4.30pm and with tea not even taken.  

After the tradition post-game fining session (although given the strong performance the club coffers were not bolstered as much as they have been in some weeks), this left several members of the team with a distinct conundrum – utilise the time gained to have some beers in the sun, or head home to loved ones and get credit in the bank? Of course, being the responsible adults we all are everyone made the correct decision…those who remained enjoyed copious beer and pizza, dreadful chat about ironic Belgians and obscure dance music, and Chelsea beating Man City in the Champions League final. 

Pig’s Ear was Spenny for making a truly terrible attempt at slot sweeping a double-bouncing ball, missing it by a good way and looking horrifically ungainly in the process. Also nominated was Tweeky for despite a fine performance umpiring, momentarily forgetting his neutrality and joining in with an LBW appeal from square leg, and Binners for dropping a catch that he had done all the hard work on but shelled at the last second. 

Champagne Moment was won by Bimalka for his first ball, which was a pivotal moment. Also nominated were a lovely straight drive from Rob (one that didn’t get him out), Chief’s bowled wicket, and Colin’s six into the houses.  

MotM was Bimalka for his match altering innings of 6-3-6-3, making it two MotM awards from two games played for Wantage. Also nominated were Mabbs (9-1-21-3), and Rob for his 34. 

Result: Won by 7 wickets, Wantage receiving the full 25 points (plus an extra point for Tweeky as umpire) 

– Spenny