On the back of a good string of results, the omens were good for another excellent day of cricket as Wantage arrived to face Thame; the overnight rain had cleared leaving a fine day, the pitch was in tremendous shape, and the Wantage team were through the first set of Les-approved warm-ups before the toss had even taken place. Skip then managed to win the aforementioned toss for once – electing to bat and asking the top order to get a score on the board.
A slight re-jig meant that Rob and Colin strode out to start the innings, Rob managing to just about arrive before the start of the game despite leaving at his usual time and taking on (and losing to) a tree stump with his car outside the ground. Vehicular difficulties aside, Rob started the slightly more fluent of the two however both batsmen took advantage of the occasional loose deliveries from the Thame openers – Rob with some trademarked straight drives, and Colin working well off his pads, as well as some strong running between the sticks.
The cut shot did seem to be causing Col some difficulties on the other hand, as he either managed to keep hitting the fielders or miss the ball entirely with his countless attempts to play the shot – so it’s clear what he’ll be working on with Les this week! Despite this limitation, the score was moving quickly along and the Wantage 50 arrived in the 10th over with minimal risks taken and an excellent base being set. They continued in this vein and after 13 overs the score was on the 69…
Thame decided that a change of bowling was needed and so the 14th over saw a new bowler introduced into the attack. Cries of ‘keep it going lads’ and ‘have a look’ from the sidelines were promptly ignored by Rob, who slapped the first ball from the new bowler down the throat of deep mid-on and he had to depart for a well-made 39 (from 42 balls).
This brought Binners, promoted up the order, in at 3 to keep the momentum going, which he did in slightly frenetic style – not taking too long to get his eye in, but hitting a few very nice boundaries including the obligatory left-handers’ clip off the hip. Col was progressing well at the other end or was trying to, despite Binners doing his level best to take a single off the last ball of each over. Binners’ stay at the crease was ended in the 21st over when another of those aerial clips off the hip found the sole man out in the deep, and he departed for a rapid 24 (off 19 balls).
The score at this stage was 102-2 and Thame would have hoped that this would be the start of the resurgence for them – Spenny joined Colin in the middle, and the scoring rate was pegged back a little as both manoeuvred the field and took the singles on offer. Other than a couple of powerful pulled boundaries from Spenny (Les’ training clearly paying dividends), the overs passed with the pair taking 3 or 4 an over without risks, and the rate started to creep higher and higher thanks to some excellent running (the Wantage 150 coming up in the 34th over).
The Thame first change bowlers were plugging away without any joy and both Colin and Dave brought up their 50s in rapid succession – Colin first off 97 balls, followed by Spenny off 57 balls. It was at this point that the scoring rate began to climb rapidly, with Spenny in particular taking a liking to the bowling and the boundary count starting to increase.
Colin was an excellent foil to the lusty blows at the other end, rotating the strike and ensuring there were very few dot balls at this stage of the innings. He was unfortunate to be denied runs on a couple of occasions due to no fault of his own. One clip to the square boundary looked to be going the distance and Spenny incorrectly called that it was going, leaving the pair red faced when the fielder promptly retrieved and threw the ball back leaving Colin short of a run. On another occasion, a similar firm square clip looked destined for the boundary only to be stopped by the sturdy ankle of the umpiring Mabbett Snr – the batsmen ran one instead, costing Colin three runs (although Spenny did hit the next three balls for 14, so it could be argued that it was very useful contribution although Colin claimed that he would have done exactly the same…).
The 200 was reached in the 39th over and maximum batting points were achieved in the 42nd over – at this stage it was a matter of seeing how many runs could be scored in the remaining overs and whether Thame could limit the damage in the final overs. Despite bringing back one of their opening bowlers the runs continued to flow, with the 42nd and 43rd overs going for a combined 23 runs and boundaries a constant feature.
After passing his 50, Spenny had scored 46 runs off his next 18 balls, including two sizable maximums – one straight into the new development, and another over the trees square of the wicket. This left him on 97 on the penultimate ball of the 44th over, and the bowler sent down a full toss that he attempted to whack over the barn. Despite a solid connection it appeared that the ball would not go the distance however, unfortunately for Thame, the boundary fielder managed to not only drop the ball but also push it over the rope for another maximum, leaving Spenny to celebrate his first league century for Wantage (off 76 balls) and just one final over for the Thame bowlers to suffer through.
The final over started well with only three singles off the first three balls, however 13 were taken off the final three balls, including a straight six from Spenny off the last ball of the innings, leaving Wantage on a very healthy score of 272-2 from the 45 overs.
Colin carried his bat for an excellent 74* (off 120 balls), Dave finished on 116* (from 80 balls), their partnership was 170, and the pair had added 66 runs in the final 5 overs to set Thame a really steep target – one that would take an excellent chase to achieve. After a quick spot of tea and another round of Les-approved warm-ups, Wantage took the field in the pursuit of the ten wickets needed for victory.
The Wantage bowling effort could not have had a better start, with both Harvester and Mabbs Jnr picking up a wicket in their first over apiece – Will bowling the Thame opener for a 3-ball duck, and Mabbs having the number 3 caught by Spenny in the slips, leaving Thame 3-2 off two overs and Wantage well on top.
Will and Mabbs bowled an exceptional line and length and were unlucky on numerous occasions, Mabbs in particular passing the outside edge multiple times per over without luck until the Thame number 4 finally edged one behind to Binners to depart with the score 14-3 off 10 overs.
Wantage hopes of repeating the performance of the previous week were to be frustrated for a long time by the 4th wicket partnership however, with both the remaining opener (Fuller) and the number five (Higson) showing considerable restraint for the most part and it was clear that chasing down the Wantage total was not part of their game plan. The bad balls were well put away by both, however no risks were being taken and despite Chief and the hero of Marcham, Anand, being brought into the attack, a breakthrough could not be achieved.
At the end of the 23rd over the score had crept up to 62-3 with Higson scoring the lion’s share of the runs, and skip decided it was time to unleash Will-bury into the attack for his first Saturday bowl. He was immediately into the line and length we have come to see on a Wednesday and was unlucky to pass the bat a couple of times without reward.
Bowling well without reward was a constant theme of this innings for many of the bowlers, and Wantage were still unable to make the breakthrough with Higson starting to be slightly more expansive. He was fortunate to have a relatively tough chance put down, and subsequently pushed for 4, by Summs, but that was the only chance he gave – moving to his 50 with a well-run 2 off Chief’s final over. Will B finally had his reward for some good bowling as he managed to remove Fuller in his 3rd over with an edge being well taken by a diving Binners behind the stumps and the score was 93-4.
With quality bowling being largely unrewarded, it was clear that a different approach was required and so Summs turned to Spenny to deliver some filth, and utter filth he delivered. When it’s your day, it’s your day – his first ball was a ropey wide long-hop that Higson somehow managed to smash straight back to him, giving him a sharp catch above his head and leaving Thame 93-5 and the Wantage fielders in hysterics.
After another couple of overs of Will B bowling well and Spenny delivering some ‘supermarket own brand’ deliveries, skip decided it was time to go back to the openers in the hope of running through the Thame lower order. Megatron immediately getting the 6th breakthrough with an edge again being taken by Binners behind the sticks standing up – the ball being wedged in his kit and gratefully scooped out for his third dismissal of the day.
Mabbs and Will were bowling brilliantly in tandem and the only question now was could Wantage break down the Thame defences before the overs ran out – the 7th wicket came in the 36th over with the batsman top-edging a pull off Mabbs giving Binners his 4th dismissal of the day behind the stumps. Will picked up his 3rd wicket in the 39th over with Bhu taking a good catch at mid-on, and the next over Mabbs removed the Thame number 9 LBW to leave the final pair at the crease, 5 overs remaining, and 1 wicket separating Wantage from another win.
Pressure was piled on with fielders crowding the bat, Rob under the lid in short, and the rare sight of 4 men in the cordon for Mabbs steaming in. Ball beat the bat on numerous occasions, but no opportunities were forthcoming, and the defence of the batsmen was resolute.
Will had the final over and there was still hope for one more chance for Wantage to claim the final wicket, however none were forthcoming, the Thame final pair resolutely blocking out the final deliveries to end their innings 144-9 and deny Wantage the full points for a win.
Despite falling ever so slightly short of the win, it was another excellent all-round team performance – really consistent and searching bowling, a generally solid fielding performance, and a number of batsmen performing well and turning a solid start into another score well in excess of 200. Wantage walk away from this game with 21 points (20 through playing, and 1pt for Mabbett Snr as umpire) leaving us second in the table and with a trip to top-of-the-table Dorchester for a hotly anticipated game next week.
Pig’s Ear was Summs for his drop plus push the ball for 4 error, also nominated was Rob for his vehicular argument with a tree.
Champagne Moment was deservedly won by Will Bury for his first league wicket for Wantage, also nominated was Spenny for the first of his 6s (straight into the new development)
MotM was Spenny for his spell of 1-9 (plus his 116* and two catches), also nominated were Colin for his excellent 74*, Mabbs for his bowling (13-5-24-4), and Will Harvey also for his bowling (14-2-31-3).
Result: A winning draw for Wantage, securing 20 points (7 for the winning draw, 7 batting points, and 6 bowling points), plus the additional 1pt for Mabbett Snr as umpire.