After a successful previous week chasing a low total against Sunningwell, the 1s returned to the home of (Wantage) cricket to face Oxford Downs – the sun was out and the weather set fair, so the skipper was well minded to bat first. Luckily, despite losing his first toss of the year, the Downs’ skipper saw it differently and decided to insert Wantage.

Col and TPL strolled out to start our innings and it was a watchful start – Bello opened with a maiden, and A. List also didn’t concede a run off the bat in his first over (although 3 wide deliveries did get the scoreboard ticking). In the third over TPL scored the first runs off the bat taking 4 from the Bello over, and Col hit a couple of crisp strokes that were unlucky to find the fielders. After 6 overs the score was 16-0 and it had been a sedate start, but within two overs both openers were gone.

TPL was the first to go, getting a juicy full toss from Bello that he tried to swing to leg, only to completely miss and be trapped dead in front of all three to depart for 7 off 18 balls. This brought Winston to the crease who languidly stroked his second ball into the house at long-on for six – not a bad way to get off the mark on your debut (cue comments on the boundary about ‘whether this lad could bat’…). TPL’s only consolation at having been dismissed was that he won the strike rate battle with Col, who in the next over (having watched Winston hit one in the air) hit a sweet off drive, in the air, straight to mid-off to depart for 5 off 27. 

This brought Spenny to the crease with the score on 22-2 and the Downs’ bowlers keeping it tight – the occasional boundary was struck, but both Bello and List were frugal with their lines and after their initial spells the score was 53-2 off 14. Both were extremely unlucky not have an additional wicket each during this spell. First Winston skying a ball to short cover that on any other day would have been easily taken, only for the sun to shine down on him (quite literally), blinding the fielder and the ball bounced safely. The following over Spenny edged a very fine delivery from List behind, between the keeper and to the left of first slip, who could only palm it away for a single, so both batters received a life.

These were to be the last opportunities that Downs created for quite some time as the pair grew into the partnership – Winston the aggressor, taking a particular liking to Denton’s bowling to dispatch him for 34 from his opening 3 over spell, with Spenny content to play second-fiddle and rotate the strike whilst taking advantage of the occasional bad balls. Downs rotated their bowlers without success, with Winston first getting to his 50 off 40 balls, and Spenny then following with his 50 coming up off 58 balls. 

In the previous two weeks it had been JC who had broken something, be it a bat against Dorch or a stump against Sunningwell, but this week it was Winston who sadly had to say goodbye to his bat after one horrible sounding shot revealed a sizable crack running down the back of the bat, spelling the end of proceedings for that piece of willow. Unlike JC however, Winston didn’t have a total fit at having to change bats and proceeded to remain at the crease, not giving his wicket away, and another sizable maximum into the houses showed that his replacement bat was equally up to the task!

The partnership was finally broken after 162 runs had been added to the total, with Spenny backing away and looking to play Siriwardene through the offside but was bowled to depart for 64 off 78 balls. Bhu joined Winston, who continued to accelerate, smashing Denton for multiple sixes into the new development and causing Col and Summs to have to knock on the door and ask if we could have our ball back please. 

He brought up his debut ton off 73 balls with another huge straight six, an excellent knock and Wantage were well set for a very sizable total. The Downs bowlers stuck to their task however and wickets started to fall from this point onwards. First Winston was bowled by Denton, getting some measure of revenge for the 68 runs he’d been taken for at this stage, to depart for 108 off 80 balls to leave the score 220-4. Two balls later Bhu was back in the pavilion, run out after a mix up between him and Summs to depart for 12 off 17. 

Despite the strong base Wantage slightly limped to the finish line off the innings – Summs was caught and bowled by Siriwardene for 6 off 15 attempting to slap one down the ground, and Mabbs was removed by the bowler two overs later after an excellent low catch in the covers by Gould. Scotty was bowled the very next ball leaving Wantage on 236-8, leaving Will and Chief to shepherd the innings home and deprive Downs of any further bowling points.

Wantage finished on 242-8 which was an excellent score, however with the pitch not offering too many demons and the outfield fast (apart from the final two metres that Tweeky had apparently neglected to cut) anything was possible. After a spot of tea basking in the sunshine, we took to the field to try and get off to a fast start.

And a fast start it was – although his line was excellent to a right handed, the Downs opener was a lefty and so after a wide first ball he looked to work Mabb’s second delivery off his hip to fine leg to get off the mark. The slips were already pointing towards Harvester at fine leg to alert him to the ball before Colin leapt to his right, salmon-esque, to clutch the ball off the face of the bat and leave Downs 0-1 off the first legal delivery. Harvester followed this with a maiden and Wantage were off to an excellent start.

Thomas and Wildman settled in for Downs however and showed that the pitch was still excellent, with both very capable of punishing any lose deliveries and after 8 overs they had moved the score on to 37-1, going nicely, and the skipper was starting to get a little worried. Spenny gave Mabbs one more over, his 5th, and told him he’d be coming off unless he took a couple of wickets -which he duly delivered. He first pinned Thomas in front to dismiss him LBW for 17, and followed this up with a lovely ball two deliveries later that L. List could only nibble through to Colin for a much more regulation catch. 

Not to miss out on the fun, Mr Harvey removed Wildman the next over, as he cut a ball to Winston at point, with Mabbs then using his extra over to remove Denton with another LBW to leave Downs reeling at 37-5 after 11. James and Will had taken 4-0 in 14 balls and the game was largely done as a contest at this stage, with both finishing with excellent figures (Mabbs: 6-1-26-4, Harvey: 5-2-14-1).

At this point the skipper decided to test the new boy out, with a more experienced boy at the other end, so Winston and Tweeks took over and kept up the relentless pressure on the batsmen. Another couple of wickets followed in quick succession – Wiggo pinning Ling with an excellent yorker to remove him LBW for 11, quickly followed by Tweeks removing Siriwardene who top edged a sweep to Winston at short fine leg leaving the score 60-7.

It was around this time that the attention of some of the fielders turned to Chaz who was sitting next to IC, who had kindly agreed to come and score whilst being injured, although Jax (Chaz’ long-suffering partner) had settled some way away from the pair. The reason for her distance quickly became apparent as loud bellows of encouragement were heard across the ground, and wry comments were made about whether the club had insurance to cover someone going deaf through noise exposure. 

It was the Downs batters who took encouragement however with Bishop and Gould digging in well for their team and hitting some lovely shots to move the score along. Chief was introduced into the attack but struggled to find his line, although his second over did bring a wicket through an excellent piece of fielding from Scotty. Bishop turned the ball to square leg and was called through by his partner, only for Scotty to swoop in and deliver a direct hit to the bowler’s end leaving him short, run-out for 22.

Gould and Bello opened the shoulders and managed to hit a few boundaries off Scotty and Tweeks, reintroduced into the attack, however the innings was quickly brought to a close. First Scotty produced a ripper of a delivery to bowl Gould, who departed for a well-made 20, and then the following over Tweeks teased a delivery through the forward defensive of A. List, the Downs’ number 11, to bring the innings to a close with Downs all out for 113.

An excellent result for Wantage on the back of one very sizable batting partnership and a destructive opening spell from the bowlers – this result leaves us having played 3, won 2, and threatening to enter nosebleed territory sat third in the table.

Thanks go to Oxford Downs for being excellent opponents and we wish them well for the remainder of the season, and will see them for the return fixture, and also to our umpire Ali who had to stand at both ends throughout the game. And with the game won and shower-time much enjoyed by all thanks to Colin’s new ‘shower cream’ (Moroccan Sunset), we moved onto the awards.

Pigs ear was comfortably won by Will Harvey for his full-throated solo LBW appeal when the ball had met the middle of the batsman’s blade (and it was going down leg anyway…). Other nominations were Bhu for his drop, and Summs for running Bhu out.

Champagne moment was a more hotly contested affair with Winston’s lovely six off his second ball just beating out the other nominations, which were Scotty’s run out, Colin’s excellent catch down the leg-side, and Spenny’s glorious over extra cover drive. 

MoTM was, unsurprisingly, won by Winston for his match performance of 108 runs and 5-1-12-1. Other nominations were Spenny and Mabbs.

Result – Wantage & Grove CC (26pts) beat Oxford Downs (7pts) by 129 runs 

– Spenny