Martin Cox won the toss and, with the complete and total agreement of his team-mates, opted to bat first. I repeat, the wholehearted and unquestioning acquiescence of every single one of his team-mates.
I Zingari brought a testing attack to Oxfordshire, two decent and pacy openers, a ‘quicker-than-he-looks’ first change, and a young fizzing leggie (10-1-19-3) who turned the ball square (Cricinfo tells me that he has a first-class bowling average of 11.83).
Most of the Blenheim top order came and went in short order, with only Stoddart looking comfortable. Once he departed for 39, caution became the watchword with Cox (M) and (a never-before-seen defensive) Walker attempting to repair the innings by batting out overs (without scoring any runs). When they went with the mighty ‘heim still in double figures, thoughts turned understandably to an early tea, to be closely followed by early nibbles at the Woodstock Arms. The visitors presumably hoped for the same, as they brought back their opening bowlers to polish off the tail.
But, as the old saying goes, there’s many a slip ‘tween fried scampi and tartare sauce. (Note to Ed: check exact saying). First a buccaneering Angol (10) and then, wonder of wonders, Spearman (26) [that’s TWENTY-SIX for those of you reading the teleprinter] edged, guided and finally flayed the jazz-hatted toffs to take the palace players to a somewhat less depressing 132 all out, right on the stroke of (the Smartie-less and therefore sub-standard) tea. [Note to Scorer: please check if a batsman, run out after thinking the umpire has signalled ‘four’ when in fact the umpire is waving at him to stop running down the centre of the wicket, and is then ludicrously reprieved by an embarrassed opposition, is entitled to consider his TWENTY-SIX runs a ‘personal best’.]
Nigel Walker has seen it all. Born during the depths of the Boer War, growing up during the Depression in 1920’s coal country, being forced to watch Yorkshire CCC batting at 0.38 runs per over during the sixties and seventies. So playing against painted public-school popinjays holds no terrors for the wily wizard of Woodstock. He reeled off eight sterling overs, taking three top wickets for only 22. Young George then produced a fine but unlucky spell; his one wicket could easily have been three or four. But we’d scored too few runs, and the young fizzing bastard leggie of earlier (who Cricinfo tells me has a first-class batting average of 80.50) anchored their innings with 46*, and saw them home to a four wicket win.