21st May 2022

The home of (Wantage) cricket welcomed Dorchester for the third league game of the year, a team we’ve played frequently and with varying levels of success. Wantage showed their keen-ness with some pre-game fielding warm ups only slightly delayed by Spenny losing his keys, having a mild panic, and then finding them in his bag earning a pig’s nomination very early in the day. As usual when we do fielding warm-ups, skip lost the toss and Dorch (perhaps with their 36 all out from the end of year still fresh in the mind) opted to field first, so Colin and Bhu lead us out to get the Wantage innings underway.

And it was a very positive start – Bhu taking his time to get himself in, and Colin playing some trademark flicks off the hip to get the scoreboard moving. The fifth over went for 12 with Colin first taking a three, followed by Bhu hitting back-to-back boundaries leading to the bowler being withdrawn after he’d only completed his first three. The ninth over also went for 12, and the 50 run partnership was brought up in 11th over.

The promising partnership was quickly brought to a halt though – a maiden in the 12th was followed by Bhu departing in the thirteenth, caught off the bowling of Neal to depart for a composed 16 off 33 balls. This brought Summs to the crease and the skip was immediately off the mark with a couple of quick singles. A couple of overs later Col moved to his second 50 of the year, brought up off 57 balls and he was looking well set. Sadly those trademark flicks off the hip were to be his downfall. No sooner had he reached his landmark than he timed a beautiful flick off his hip, straight into the hands of deep square leg (about 15 metres in from the boundary) who didn’t have to move, to depart for 50 off 61 balls.

Summs was joined by Spenny however the skip was soon back in the shed as well, having a Summers-swipe at a ball a little too close to him, chopping on for 5 off 11 balls. This brought Jonny ‘The Cat’ Chitty to the crease and he immediately set about the bowling in his fluid style, hitting three early boundaries including one straight maximum. At the other end Spenny was struggling a little with his timing, ticking along in singles and happy to play second fiddle with the runs flowing, and the 100 was brought up in the 23rd over.

It was at this stage there was some consternation among the scorers as they felt Neal, Dorch’s first change bowler, had bowled his full allocation however the umpires were adamant that he had only bowled 8, and so he duly had one more. Further analysis after the over did indeed reveal that had been his 10th, leading to much hand-wringing and delays until, sensibly, everyone agreed to just get on with the game (although Tweeky did earn a pig’s nom for this administrative oversight).

The Dorchester bowlers had done well to bring the scoring rate back under control and overs 24-30 only conceded 11 runs, and the pressure was starting to tell. ‘The Cat’ had one life when he half-heartedly pulled a ball just short of mid-on, who made a fantastic effort to grab the chance but in vein. Jonny rehearsed the shot and declared that he’d hit the next one harder. This was, of course, not to be the case and he was duly caught at mid-on a couple of overs later playing the identical shot to depart for 27 off 44 balls, bringing IC to the crease with the Wantage score now 114-4 in the 30th, and the innings in danger of stuttering somewhat.

IC had other ideas with a couple of early boundaries driven straight in trademark fashion, and the scoreboard began to tick along nicely. Spenny at the other end was also starting to find his range, and some of the change bowlers were punished for dropping short a little too frequently.

Overs were regularly going for 8-10 runs and the pressure was being firmly put back on the Dorch bowlers, with the opening bowlers and first change seen off it was left to the others to try and contain a partnership now in full flow. IC took 12 from the first three balls of the new bowler’s spell and moved to his 50 shortly after with a lovely straight six into the houses (although, due to a scoring ‘mishap’, it wasn’t noted that he had actually reached his half-century).

He had to depart shortly after; Walker, who had received some punishment in his early overs, came back well with a lovely yorker to remove IC for a well-made 55 off 34 balls and bringing a partnership of 101 to a close. He wasn’t done in the over either, removing Anand (who had been sat in his pads for quite a while) second ball caught behind for a duck.

This led to a brief procession of Wantage wickets with both Mabbs (2 off 2 balls) and Will (4 off 2 balls) being removed in the following over and the score had gone from 215-4 to 227-8 a couple of overs later. Luckily Willbury stuck around with Spenny and the pair added 34 for the 9th wicket. Spenny moving to his 50 and then powering on, taking 15 off the 43rd including a towering 6 into the barn development, much to the onlookers’ delight.

He was finally removed in the 45th over, holing out to long-on for 87 off 70 balls, and this brought Chief to the crease in his quest to further develop his reputation as a batsman. He and Willbury stuck around to the end, and what should have been the last ball was actually a no-ball so everyone had to be recalled, with Willbury then run out off the last ball for 2 and Chief, once again, left stranded on 3*. The Wantage innings closed on 265 all out, which was an excellent effort given the strong Dorch bowling in the middle and left our opposition lots to do if they were to claim a win.

The Wantage bowling efforts couldn’t have started much better – Harvester utilising the classic one-two trick of bowling some absolute rippers, followed up by a wide half-tracker that the batsman could only cut into the hands of Willbury at cover to leave Dorch 2-1 after the first over.

Will and Mabbs were not allowing the Dorchester batsman any freebies early on, and this paid dividends when Mabbs pinned McComb LBW in his 3rd over for his first wicket with the score 11-2. This quickly became 20-4 as Megatron first removed the big wicket of Redhead, caught by Spenny at slip, and then Mabbs bowled Graney with another ripper to leave the Dorch innings in disarray.

Anand and Willbury were brought into the attack as first change bowlers and had different results early on. Anand bowled very tidily and only conceded 7 from his first three overs, whereas Will struggled to find his rhythm somewhat, although he did manage to remove Smith LBW with an excellent delivery to leave Dorch 41-5.

With Wantage well on top this was an opportunity for us to close the game out quickly however Pugh and Neal set about rebuilding for Dorch, scoring quickly off both bowlers leading to another double change from Skip, with Chief and IC introduced into the attack in the hope that spin would slow the run rate and bring some control.

Chief bowled excellently, starting with a maiden and bowling with great control throughout. IC, as with Wilbury, struggled with his lengths although with the runs on the board the field was able to be set back and so the damage was limited. As he noted wryly after the game, he’d bowled a lot better before and gone for more runs.

The pressure Chief was apply finally lead to a breakthrough – Neal dropping the ball into the offside and calling his partner through for a quick single, only for Jonny to swoop in from point and throw the stumps down directly leaving Pugh well short of his ground and having to depart for an excellent 42.

Neal was joined by Walker and together they continued the rebuilding effort, taking the runs on offer but not taking any major risks, and after 5 overs IC was replaced by Jonny at the Pavilion end for a league bowling debut. He bowled tidily for his three overs, and Chief struck twice in his final two overs (both caught, firstly by Willbury and then by Summs) to remove Walker and then Dugdale, leaving Dorch 133-8 in the 34th over.

With the game rapidly heading out of reach, Neal attacked and struck some firm boundaries to move to his well-made 50 and he moved the score along to 174 before he was finally removed by Mabbs for his 3rd wicket, bowling him to leave Dorch 174-9, one run away from another batting point and Mabbs edging closer to Harvester in the season’s wicket tally.

Sadly for Dorch, and for Mabbs, the innings was brought to close by Will H with the first ball of his next over with Sharman edging behind to also give him his 3rd wicket and leave Dorch 174 all out, just short of the next batting point.

Overall it had been an excellent performance from Wantage; strong opening partnership setting a base, some consolidation, and then an explosive finish before an equally strong early bowling performance. Thanks to Dorch for sticking around for some drinks after the game, and to their skip for buying a jug – much appreciated, and we look forward to the return fixture later in the season.

Onto the awards:

Pig’s Ear: Went to Mr Harvey for somehow manages to throw the ball backwards when fielding in the covers, an attempt that also included a Serena-esque grunt. Noms also for Tweekys administrative error whilst umpiring; Spenny’s pre game keys incident; and Willbury running himself out off the final ball of our innings.

Champagne Moment: was awarded to Jonny for his runout to break a key partnership. Hotly contested was Spennys 6 into the new £1m house, as well as Mabbs bowling Graney and Challands 6 to bring up his 50.

MotM: Was a tight contest but went to Spenny for his runs and a catch, pipping Mabbs to the post who bowled very well. IC and Harvester also received noms.

Result: Wantage & Grove CC (265ao, 26 points) defeat Dorchester CC (174ao, 12 points) by 91 runs

– Spenny