So the big day was finally here – the inaugural match for Wantage & Grove 2nd XI. After being rained off last week, anticipation levels were high. So much so that our opening batsman Wonga arrived late and got demoted to 8, leaving Simon and Jayesh to open the batting against an athletic-looking Didcot 4th team who won the toss and smartly elected to field.

The forecast had been looking good all week, a welcome relief considering the amount of rain which had fallen in the past fortnight. However, the sun was not to make an appearance. Overcast conditions and a very soft pitch proved challenging against a Didcot side renowned for their bowling prowess. Jayesh was the first to fall (5), bowled by Stainthorp. Simon followed swiftly after, getting caught on the pads for 6.

That left Joey and Craig needing to steady the ship. Looking for boundaries on a very slow and long outfield proved challenging as instead they settled for singles and doubles. Joey’s penultimate ball brought about his first boundary but then he ultimately fell to a stinging ball from Keymer. In came Dee followed shortly after by Ollie, both managing to notch a single before taking the long walk back to the pavilion. Johnny was up next who unfortunately, after surviving a few very dangerous swinging balls from the excellent Wheeler, succumbed for a duck.

Wantage were looking in a pretty bad spot by this point at 58 – 6 and with a lot of work to do. A couple of 4s from Craig who was sticking it out (despite being dropped twice….) helped improve the scoreboard along with a solid partnership with Wonga who finally got to make an appearance. Craig soon however became another one to be skittled by the skills of Wheeler with his last ball of the day, swinging in from outside-off to take the top off his off-stump.

Wonga and Mike then combined for a short period of resistance before Mike fell for 3 runs. Kit was unfortunate in his first ever appearance in a cricket match to be bowled next, first ball. Wonga was then finally removed for 10 leaving Cordy to finish on 1 n.o.

92 all out off 38.5 overs was a very modest score but with the outfield extremely slow and if we were sharp in the field, we felt we had a chance. And a chance we had. Jayesh took a great catch from their skipper (4 runs) off a nice ball from Johnny, following some very solid bowling from Mike. This gave Wantage some hope which soon faded fast. A combination of dropped catches and poor bowling meant Didcot had a chance to really get their eye in. Their big number 2, Henderson, started to find the boundary with ease. Ollie had a couple of C&B chances in the same over and was unfortunate not to make one stick. Jayesh put a couple of catches down and another half chance which wasn’t snapped up. One wonders if the catches had stuck, we may have seen a much closer game. Still, the kitty will be pleased with the contributions.

It wasn’t all down to bad catching though. First game of the season syndrome was playing out in the bowling attack with a total of 29 wides and 7 no balls off 23 overs which made the run chase fairly easy for Didcot. Jayesh did however make up for it with a lovely clean bowled. Dee and Craig also managed to take a wicket each but it wasn’t enough as Didcot hit their required total inside 23 overs.

Special mentions and awards:

The Donkey of the Day award went to Dee who, right after taking a wicket, bowled a woeful ball which didn’t quite make it to the batsman’s feet ☺

The Alan Wong award for notable contribution in the field went to Mike who was extremely sharp and bowled excellently – solid line and length throughout and was unlucky not to take a wicket.

Jayesh won the champagne moment for his excellent clean bowled.

MOTM went to Craig for his modest but solid 15 and an erratic but occasionally effective use of the ball.

Special mention to Joey in his first match as skipper and for his excellent encouraging speech at the half. Wonga also for providing VC support throughout. And finally a special thanks to those in the 1st XI who kept the bar open for our return after the game. Hopefully we will secure the first W against Hendred this coming weekend!