Finally, after months of planning, preparation, and modelling shots for the local paper, the day dawned. Dawn was the word as Wantage CC had officially their earliest ever start as we met up the club at 8am to get things set up. Mike and Barry celebrated the early start with a beer, which left a few raised eyebrows, but you had to hand it to them – beer at 8 in the morning is dedication to a cause. With those tinnies being guzzled people were put to work by Colin, who was overseeing proceedings with the air of a man who knew he had a long day ahead. A temporary fence was put up by the bush to stop too many balls getting lost, gazebos were erected, and the boundary was brought in on the pavilion side to allow room for the myriad sideshows, kwik cricket sets and perhaps most importantly, the beer festival. Steve Bramley turned up with the beer, Dave Richardson came with the piles of barbecue food, and Ian brought the raffle prizes, as we looked to ready ourselves for the throngs of people due from 10am.
The Helen & Douglas house team then turned up with their fundraising bits and bobs in their own gazebo, and the ground was truly looking the part. The assorted teams then began to turn up: Williams F1, Uffington (kindly supplying a team at short notice), and the Police boys, whose team had been rather decimated by some late player withdrawals. The two Wantage sides were drawn up, with some of the more long-standing members of the team being assigned to the ‘Veterans’ team, captained by a certain Will Harvester, whilst newer members, including Chappers and Dave Summersbee were tasked with taking the Helen & Douglas House representative team all the way. Stewie captained the latter side due to being our charity champion of the day, and team members were assigned celebratory orange HDH t-shirts in which to play.
These clashed horribly with the pink balls which were used throughout the day – kindly sponsored by PicNic’s company – but that was an irrelevance as the excitement got underway with a match between Uffington and the Wantage Vets. This saw some big hitting, with Steve Bramley coming in for some mega-tap (26 off one over!) but had some positive moments, including Barry being on a hat-trick after a stellar caught and bowled off one that went into orbit. HDH took part in the second game, against Williams, and Williams proved a surprise package, with some big runs racked up to leave HDH chasing a hefty total of over 70. In the return innings, Barry was run out with a direct hit from Jimmy Wallbridge, meaning the vets finished short of their total, and Ian’s efforts at running out the entire HDH team rather undermined their efforts to chase Williams’ total as the day began badly for the two host sides.
Luckily things were in better shape on the sidelines as people were beginning to stream in to enjoy the festivities. Beer was beginning to flow thanks to Ben Rendell doing a cardinal job under the beer gazebo, homemade cakes kept on turning up to keep Sue Mercer busy on the cake stand, and NiBbler was doing an outstanding job of selling raffle tickets, even though it was supposed to be Ian’s job. He was instead seen posing badly for a series of photographs for the local paper, which may turn up in the next week or so. Nick was so good at his job that the book of raffle tickets that had been bought for the purpose proved not enough for the prize-hungry punters and he had to have an emergency visit to the shop for more tickets. Clearly someone had their eye on that £10 health store voucher!
Back on the pitch the Police were getting their first run at 6-a-side cricket. Duncan, fresh from his duties as PA announcer for the day, was on, to great interest from the sidelines, and earned the biggest cheer of the day (so far!) when dropping a catch off his Dad. Frosty family relations after that one I’m sure! It made a tough job even tougher and their game against the Wantage Vets finished with the vets securing their first win of the day thanks to some big hitting from Will ‘Megatron’ Harvey. The other game saw Uffington overcome Williams with some enormous hitting which saw one player to his 50 off only 14 balls! Apologies for the sketchy details on this part of the day – the reviewer was busy behind the bar serving up lashings of coke and pints of lager and so was not afforded the best views of the square.
We were now getting through the day quite nicely, and despite a couple of extremely minor showers which fortunately saw the players back on as soon as they were off, spirits were extremely high. Duncan and Tim’s hi-jinks on the PA system were kindly backed up by someone who actually knew what they were doing and the music cues were beginning to match up with the big hits quite nicely! Tim’s duck impression was put to the test next over as HDH squared up to the Coppers. Duncan was given the prize job of opening the bowling to an in-form Dave Summersbee, and the runs flowed – until the last ball of the over that is, when Colin called for a cheeky third run and succeeded only in running himself out without facing a ball – which was a shame for him but good for the fines pot (more on that later). The innings still had plenty to deliver, as Dave attempted a reverse sweep only to screw it up and edge to the keeper, and Mikey got sweet revenge on Saturday skipper IC as he ran him out off the last ball of the innings to wild applause from the watching masses.
The Veterans struggled against Williams as Williams racked up their second win, and tight bowling from HDH meant they saw their way through to victory against the Police, despite a exciting cameo of 11* from Duncan, who hit a six over cow before a one-handed tennis shot off Colin to the amusement of all. HDH followed that up with a hard fought win over Uffington, with two great innings from ‘Princess’ Dave Spencer and Richard ‘Miranda’ Chapman enough to see them set a high enough total. Dave’s innings included a clouted 6 which went over the beer tent and got stuck in the hedge which impressed a lot of people. A tight bowling performance including a great over at the death from Dave Summerset meant a narrow win was achieved. Williams then took the lead in the table with a big win over the Police, although there were two superb catches in the deep to remind everyone that despite some below par performances the Police could still be a ‘force’ to be reckoned with (ho, ho, ho).
The booze had now flowed heavily enough to see an end to the first two beers – the perry in particular having proved popular in the glorious sunshine. This lubrication made it easier to entertain people, and Duncan continued to take full advantage on the microphone, spouting his own personal brand of DJ-ship which must surely have made people not in the know wonder who he was. You had to hand it to him though – mexican waves are a rarity at most small clubs in South Oxfordshire, but we had two or three throughout the day as he encouraged crowd involvement and engagement.
Next up on-pitch was the grudge match between the veterans and the HDH team. The selection policy of the Vets captain meant that some big names missed out, and it ended up being a slightly one-sided affair. Stewie did get to open the batting, though, and hit two fours before being falsely stumped by Timmy Lane – who took the ball in front of the stumps. Lucky for him one of our volunteer umpires Tim Weekes either didn’t notice, or was too affected by the beer he was holding on-field to spot it – but it was good to have him enter the spirit of the occasion and he certainly clasped the memorial Wantage CC anniversary emblazoned pint glass with appropriate alacrity. Some more blows from Dave Spencer meant the HDH total was just a little too steep for the Vets and they couldn’t quite manage it, although there was an enjoyable batting cameo from Chief. In the other final game, Uffington blew their chance of reaching the final as the Police team unleashed hell on the unsuspecting Uffington team – Duncan ensuring he kept up his recent injury record by pulling up with a thigh strain before smearing some big runs off the last over to secure victory – two sixes off two balls dumping Uffington out of the competition and ensuring HDH reached the final.
Now the excitement began – Captain Stewie tried to drop himself after finding it impossible to make a decision on who should miss out, but eventually the decision was taken to draw straws and Mikey was the unlucky recipient. HDH batted first, with Colin and Spence opening the batting. Dave departed for a disappointing duck, and it was runs from Colin, Dave Summersbee, and then Chappers and Ian which saw us to 61. It was an underwhelming total which was routinely getting beaten throughout the day, but the pressure of the final obviously told as the Williams team couldn’t quite make enough. There were two excellent run outs from Colin to turn the game, but truly the moment of the day was reserved for the last ball. The game was already won, but a ball went high up in the air towards long-off, where Stewie lurked. He was off like a whippet, tearing in at high speed before swooping to the ground and taking the catch an inch from the ground. The team went bananas, with great man-hug celebrations and the crowd whooped for the charity’s favourite son. Stewie led the team off to a round of applause and Duncan took to the microphone for the raffle awards.
The raffle was well received, with some particular humour derived from Tim choosing sweets as his prize – Duncan was at pains to point out how disappointed the youngsters at the front looked at this turn of events! Former President Geoff Bailey was able to secure a prized Wantage hoodie and James was left very disappointed not to win the Williams hat signed by Valtteri Bottas. Once the raffle was done, Geoff kindly provided some words, and presented the “Bucks Fizz” balls-up of the day award to Duncan for dropping a catch off his Dad, and the “Champagne Moment”went to Stewie for his diving catch which won the match. He provided an emotional speech in response to the award which left barely a dry eye at the ground. Speaking of tears – the amount of fines money the Wantage players were made to cough up at the end of the day could reduce anyone to snivelling, as harsh penalties were dished out with great mirth to every single individual. A nice round extra £50 to add to the HDH fund! Stewie handed the microphone back to Geoff, and all that was left was to deliver the trophy to an expectant team, pose for the photos, and cover everyone in champagne…and bucks fizz.
All in all, a brilliant day, showcasing all the best things about our cricket club. Words cannot express how thankful we all are to all volunteers, without whom none of the day could have been possible. Everyone who helped should feel rightly proud of their efforts. We raised over £1,200 for Helen & Douglas House and proved that we have a lot of special people involved at our club.