The day was bright and sunny as we welcomed Witney Swifts to the home of cricket. The pitch was as glorious and flat as a newly constructed Chinese road, outfield lightning fast and the weather set fair, so Baz astounded the cricketing world by winning the toss and electing to field first. Clearly he had a master strategy…

The bowling was opened by Grant and Will, the powerhouses of the Wantage attack. Grant started beautifully with three maidens on the trot (akin to a normal night in Shush), with Will taking a little time to find his length. It was Grand Master Harvey who made the breakthrough though; a genius piece of bowling, a knee-high leg stump full toss drawing the batsman into top edging to Grant at fine leg. At that point, Godwin strode to the crease and attempted to flay the bowling to all parts – he was there for a good time, not a long time. Sadly, his good time at the crease was extended by Pritch having managed to smear some of the butter intended for teas on his fingers and so dropping a relatively simple change at deep extra cover off Grant, who took the drop with his usual good grace.

Pritch was introduced to the attack in an attempt to steady the ship and bowled very nicely with some excellent flight, but he was let down in the field on a few occasions. Will ‘Old’un’ Harvey and Bramley succeeded in letting a couple of balls through, and Spence forgot the leg-spinners union and contrived to recreate the Golden Gate bridge while diving after one stroke.

As is usually the way, drinks brought a wicket; Godwin, having been successfully tied down prior to the break, had a wild charge at the first ball from Pritch after refreshments and was easily stumped by Colin. This brought Davies to the crease who, with the remaining opener Seacole, proceeded to bat nicely for a few overs and keep the board ticking over. Seacole was finally well caught by Joey ‘Jugs’ Graham at backward square leg for 33 off Baz, and at the 30 over stage Witney were 114-3.

The next 15 overs will probably rank as some of the worst fielding overs in the Wantage season; Davies and Grant (the Witney one who can bat, as oppose to the Wantage Grant) batted well and pushed hard to get 52 and 59* respectively, but they were aided by some poor and inattentive fielding by Wantage. Witney rattled along for a number of overs until Baz introduced Joe into the attack, who held onto a sharp caught and bowled chance to finally remove Davies. Joe bowled well but was unlucky to have a couple of genuine edges fly through the vacant slip cordon.

That was the last bowler attributed wicket Wantage achieved; there were a couple of run outs as Witney looked to kick on (an excellent piece of work from Dave Summersknee who had a good day in the field and a good return from the deep by Jayesh), but Witney kept coming as they ended on 217-6 from their 45 overs.

Tea on this occasion was provided by Pritch and was well received by all and so, with the minor matter of 218 needed, Wantage took the field with Colin and Chappers leading the way.

A watchful first eight overs ensued with neither taking undue risks – Colin was first to go nicking a wide ball from the opener. In his own words, ‘it was the first bad ball he’d bowled, so I thought I’d better hit it’. He departed for 12 from 27. This brought the captain’s favourite Dave to the crease who started in his usual solid manner. At the other end, Chappers had taken a turn for the worse. Feeling a bit ill, most batsmen would retire ill and return later to continue the fight, but not Chappers. He bravely holed out playing his traditional pull shot to mid-off and retired to the showers for some dry heaving (sympathy morning sickness?). This brought the captain’s second favourite Dave to the crease, and for a time all was well. Spence and DSummers saw Wantage through to drinks only two down; a long way to go, but there was still hope.

Wantage’s position was improved further shortly after the break, with Princess taking a liking to the bowling of the elder Godwin and smashing him for 20 off one over. The younger Godwin, bowling at the other end, didn’t take kindly to this treatment of his dear Papa, and proceeded to remove Summerswipe first ball of the following over, who tried to pull a ball that was too full, and then pinning Baz plumb in front later that over. DS departed for 16 off 37, Baz for 1 off 2.

This brought the Pirate to the crease, who encouraged Spence to keep going. A subsequent Godwin (elder) over disappeared for twelve with 2 sixes, including one that struck Chaz’s car, which had been foolishly parked at deep long on. Once again, the younger Godwin replied and took the wicket of Brammers, who perished playing the ugliest shot seen by a Wantage top 6 batsman in quite some time (i.e. at least a few overs).

With Spence going at a decent rate and keeping the spectators interested, Witney turned back to their opening bowler to break the deadlock. Princess responded by smashing him to the cover boundary for 4 to bring up his half century. After which, the innings descended into a bit of a farce.

Jayesh spanked both the returning opener and Godwin Jnr for 4, before the final ball of an over from the latter clattered into his pads. Princess set off for a cheeky single, only to find Jayesh not on the same wavelength – the result, Jayesh sacrificed himself and started running only to be run out by some way. To make matters worse, he landed on his face trying to dive home and suffered a pig’s ear nomination in the process.

This brought Joe ‘Runway’ Braham to the crease, and he began to rebuild with Spence, running hard and putting the fielders under pressure. Sadly, the fielders coped better than the batsmen under said pressure; Joe struck a lovely straight drive and immediately called confidently for a run, only to see the fielder swoop, gather the ball and hit the stumps directly, leaving Princess well short of his ground – run out for a well-made 59 off 59 balls and, with that, the Wantage fight was largely extinguished.

Pritch and Grant both strode to the crease and scored more than Baz (i.e. 2 and 4), but were both well bowled by the opener. There was, at this stage, a real optimism on the sidelines that Harvester, in at 10b, would also exceed 1 and therefore consign Baz to flag collection duty. Sadly, it was not to be – Joey demonstrating that he’s much better at running in to bowl than he is between the sticks with his third run out in as many games; a firm drive to long on illicted an immediate call of ‘two’. Sadly for Megatron, his legs could not run that fast and he was stranded for 0 and lumbered with flag collection to the delight of Baz and the dismay of the general collective.

In the end Witney won by 88 runs and were good value for their win. After 30 overs the scores had been nearly identical (Witney with 114, Wantage with 111), but Witney had kept wickets in hand and that proved took be the decisive factor.

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Champagne moment – Spence for a six over long on that left a lovely dent in Chaz’ car

Pigs ear – Pritch for dropping their number three at deep extra cover off Grant.

MOTM – Spence for his 59 off 59 balls

TFC – Steve Bramley for a series of unfortunate mis-fields and only scoring 4 off 14 balls. Fortunately he didn’t have to wait long before exercising his fining powers, with the boys (and Philippa) off to Great Horwood the following day for the rearranged cup game.

~ Spence