A glorious summer day dawned – the precursor to a heatwave amid talk of worldwide climate disaster but more locally, talk of an even more unprecedented event: skipper winning the toss. Buoyed by a winning performance by the England Rugby Union team against Australia (watched by the team before the match began), the ranks were pleased to be batting first on a day where temperatures seemed likely to hover around the 28 degree mark. So to business, as Colin and Robbo set about the needs of opening our innings. Wolvercote had a couple of bowling additions to their team since we had played them previously, and one of these – Yatish Singh, opened up, looking useful and causing some problems on a very dry Wantage pitch displaying a bit of variable bounce. It was Barkat Ahmed, however, who forced the issue in the fourth over, inducing an inside edge from Rob which cannoned into his stumps and we lost our first wicket. Rob took it well – although later pleaded guilty to GBH for treating his helmet like a piñata and also throwing caution to the wind by enjoying a beer in the sunshine, despite the inevitable fine for drinking before the end of the game.
Tim Lane was in at 3 and built a good partnership in the heat with Colin, enjoying drinks at regular intervals thanks to the unusual step of drinks breaks every 10 overs. Borlikar came on at the road end to mix up the pace and looked to be getting good grip from the wicket, but caused few problems for the pair as Timmy unleashed his sweep a couple of times and some wayward lines saw us build a healthy total in extras. At the other end, Brian George was on to vary things as he began a distinctly creditable 10 over spell in the heat.
Things were well-set until a bit of a collapse saw Colin and Timmy both depart to Borlikar after getting leading edges – Timmy caught and bowled for 29 before Colin hit into the air and was comfortably taken by keeper Morrison for 33. Spenny and Bhu couldn’t capitalise on their opportunities either as Dave was rather too ambitious in trying to pull a good length ball and got caught at mid-on for 5, and Bhu was yorked for 4.
That left us on 99-5 and pining after the sedate progress Lancashire were making in chasing 205 in the Blast semi-final, eagerly watched on the sidelines by the waiting batsmen. Luckily, we had some secret weapons in the middle-lower order: Bingo, making a rare Saturday appearance, and then some-time openers Dave Summs and Willbury – handy experience at a time when rebuilding was necessary. Bingo was less circumspect than Summs to begin – unfurling some leg side swings and hitting four nice boundaries, but was eventually adjudged LBW for 16, having put on an excellent 40 with Skipper, who was striking the ball nicely into vacant gaps and picking up lots of ones and twos to ensure the scoreboard kept ticking.
When Willbo joined Skip with the score on 139, there was a feeling that a total of around 200 would be competitive, if not match-defining – given the quick outfield and our experience in the early-season away match. Progress continued with Will looking confident in striking the ball to the boundary, adding 42 runs with Skip before Dave was LBW for a very important 30. War Horse Will Harvey then swung one towering 6 into the car park before top edging into a packed infield: spectators feared a collision but the keeper was calm under the high ball once again, so with Willb also having been bowled for 31 (29) it was down to our last pair to define the end of the innings and lift us from 198-9.
Debate raged: “2 runs would be a good effort” was heard; “important to use up the overs, we know they can score quickly” said another; “go for the extra batting point at 225” was a more ambitious cry. But not for nothing does Chief have no league average (though he’s never personally brought it up), and he successfully saw out 13 balls whilst allowing Tweeky to be the key aggressor in the partnership: a chop for 4 to fine leg bringing up the 200 before he unfurled a beaut through the covers. Partnered with some more extras (bringing the innings total to 43 – top scorer!) and perhaps crucially using up 47 overs, our innings closed on 219-9. Curiously this was within 2 runs of our total the last time we played Wolvercote. Would it be enough – one of the questions on everyone’s lips as Somerset gave chase in the second T20 Blast semi-final – and also one of the questions about the Wantage match.
After the changeover, the Wills opened up – and early signs were that the Wolvercote innings would follow a similar pattern to the away game: five boundaries in the first four overs making that clear. But the sixth over saw the breakthrough as Child was LBW to Will ‘Willburhimovic” Bury and a curious pattern was set – that of small but not insignificant partnerships, with 28 for the first wicket. Big-hitting Manzoor was in at 3, with memories of his speedy 70-odd at Wolvercote in our minds, but it was other opener Lynch who looked in better touch, taking a liking to Will H’s bowling in particular as first spells ended with Will H 0-40 off 7 and Will B 1-16 off 6. It was time for twirl: Tweeks at one end and Chief at the other, both in good form after some tight work in the previous match at Horspath (see previous review – if it exists yet!).
Tim’s first over began with a horror no-ball, but he made amends by finding the edge of Manzoor’s bat and Bingo juggled for the catch behind but took it in the end and Wolvercote were 61-2. Runs began to flow thereafter, with lengths not being accurately picked by either Tweeky or Chief, although the batsmen were making life hard. 30 runs flew off the bat in 4 overs before a helpful mix-up saw Colin at cover loop the ball into Bingo who lunged for the stumps to secure a run-out and Wolvercote were 93-3.
At 117-3, though, and some after big hiting from new batsmen Gardner-Morrison, skip decided he’d seen enough and called for a double change: Rob O’Kelly replacing Chief to bowl his ‘nibblers’ and the lesser spotted Timmy Lane coming on from the clubhouse end. The ploy proved rather more successful at one end than the other as Timmy bowled some true liquorice allsorts, with a wide to start, a full bunger no-ball to go with a double bouncer and a six over long-on the lowlights. In between all that there was still time for Harvester to spill a chance on the boundary which would have got opener Lynch – looking good on 50odd – but instead he unfortunately tipped it for 6.
All of which meant Skip felt he had seen enough and offered up a tribute to the UK government by chopping and changing his mind on the best course of action: this time opting for Colin, who replaced Timmy Lane. This was also good news for IC, who got to make further use of his extensive range of coloured pens in the Wantage scorebook. Back on the field, Rob and Colin bowled nicely in tandem and Rob caught the edge of Gardner-Morrison’s bat, a chance snaffled by Tweeks in the gully, before Colin quickly had the incoming Malhotra caught at mid-off by Skip. “Add 2 to the scoreboard” goes the adage, and 146-5 certainly had a different flavour to 143-3.
Nonethess, progress was sedate and assured as Robbo bowled nicely from one end, going at just over 3 an over. A four over spell from Colin ended in an achilles boo-boo but that at least called for the return of Willbury. Things didn’t go according to plan in his first over with 14 smashed off it, but the next over saw him bowl Lynch for a well-made 93 and Wolvercote were 183-6. When two overs later that became 195-7 when Will also bowled number 8 Yatish Singh, the general consensus was that it was squeaky bum time – a view backed up by several keen team members checking in on progress via the team app. But which bum would squeak first? The return of Will Harvey ensured Wantage proved to have the more reliable sphincter (for now at least) as he captured Borlikar LBW to leave Wolvercote 201-8.
A sizable over from a tired-looking Willbury followed, but backed up by some superb efforts in the field from Robbo and Colin, and some not so superb efforts from Timmy Lane, who gave away two with an ill-judged shy at the non-striker stumps, and Skip, who ruined an otherwise pretty perfect day in the field when going over the top of a ball and missing the ball entirely when under a bit of pressure. No matter though, as Will H faced up to Shafqat – the number 7 who had batted really well to chip away the target and was on a personal total of 26. The last ball of the 41st over, though, and Will was (perhaps controversially) adjudged to have captured him LBW – leaving 2 overs for Wolvercote to score 6 runs, or Wantage to take the final wicket – ‘all four results still possible’ read the ticker tape on the Wantage app, as the waiting masses began to demand ball-by-ball updates.
Willbury, straining against a leg injury, bowled his final over and was taken for 3 runs – 2 singles and a wide, and the match was even more finely poised going into Harvester’s last over – 3 runs to win, 1 wicket to get. The wily war horse ran in, though, and to the delight of the watching home fans, Ali adjudged a third LBW of the innings and a victory by 2 runs was secured – Will Harvey’s returning spell of 3-3 dealing some serious damage to the Wolvercote lower order.
It had been quite an effort by the team on a hot day, and was celebrated accordingly with jugs, joy and a T20 Blast final which perhaps even beat the Wantage game in terms of excitement – a 1 run victory featuring a last ball no-ball. Congrats Hampshire – commiseratiosn to Lancs and of course to Wolvercote on a good performance that wasn’t quite enough on the day.
Pig’s Ear went to Will Harvey for his drop for 6. “Is it 50p for the drop and misfield?” asked some wags on the team. Honorable mentions to Timmy’s overthrows, Summs’ misfield and a bizarre incident in which Bhu seemingly announced the ball had gone for four when it hadn’t.
Champagne Moment also went to Will Harvey for his wondrous winning wicket, despite splitting his vote by hitting the only six of our innings, and going up against Tweeky’s cover driven four. Will Bury rounded out the nominations with a flat 4 that fell inches short of a 6.
Player of the Match had 3 nominees: Summs for his vital innings rebuilding and a superb day in the field, Will Harvey for his match wining spell. But it was Willbury once again who secured the win with a bag of three wickets and 31 runs. He sensibly devolved responsibility for match report writing this time, which might have escaped one fine but presumably leaves him at higher risk if it goes up before the Horspath match.