Stonor CC vs Blenheim Park CC – 17th September 2017

After some drop outs had dropped out (some with more apt excuses than others) a ramshackle bunch of debutants, seasoned veterans, Blenheim Old Boys returning to the fold, whippersnappers and, eventually, a couple of hairdressers were assembled to form a team to do battle with the fellow country house cricketers from Stonor. With a rookie captain too and so little time to gel as a team, surely we had no chance?

Well the toss was won and on a more than damp track we bowled. The last time Spearman (P) and Vaughan-Fowler worked closely together was whilst compiling Blenheim’s record 11th wicket partnership* earlier in the season. This time around they were tasked with opening the bowling and performed an equally suitable job as after 12 overs the Stonor openers had mustered only 30 runs.

With the arrival of a couple of dandies and therefore a full fielding complement paradoxically the run rate temporarily increased and it wasn’t until the 21st over that the openers were separated with first change Talbot (G) breaking through their defences. However, with the introduction of debutant Spearman (W) – taking over from the unlucky Spearman (J) – the Stonor top order was again reined in.

Chances and half chances were created throughout the innings but either dropped or jibbed. Spearman’s J & W along with Angol being the unfortunate bowlers. Fellow bowlers were exclusively the culprits and, at his time of the season when the coveted BPCC bowler of the year award is up for grabs, conspiracy theories abounded surrounding the legitimacy of efforts made. Until that is, it was realised that every player could lay claim to being a bowler (of sorts – everything is relative of course) and we were all just being our usual hapless selves.

Spearman (W) bowled his first 10 overs of off-spin for 29 runs (of course he’s related!). He was eventually rewarded when captain Gokani used his hands for the first time in the match (at the 3rd time of asking – 4th if you count the missed toss) to snaffle one of the more difficult chances at backward point.

Stoner’s batsman remained strangely reluctant to cut free though despite the wickets in hand and in this timed game remained at under 3 an over until the final few overs. Their innings closed on 158-2.

In sharp contrast to our hosts, Blenheim’s openers got off to a flier with Keyes – visibly buoyed by an adequate turn behind the stumps – playing the pinch hitter. With fellow opener Talbot (J) playing a supporting role we had raced to 42 off only 6 overs. But, as always with any Blenheim side, nothing is ever simple. First Keyes (bowled, 32) then Talbot (J) (caught behind, 17) perished within 2 overs opening up our often brittle middle order and leading to a flurry of activity in the pavilion.

But the expected collapse didn’t materialise.

With the sun now shining after earlier showers and the antipodean Day picking up the ones and, well ones, really, and Talbot the younger getting into line and defending, we all looked on at the aesthetically pleasing cricket scene in front of us. To be fair, at this stage of the game the herds of deers doing their best impressions of sheeps (or if you’re a pedant: deer doing sheep impressions) were much more appealing to the eye than the cricket fare.

Going into the final 20 overs 97 were still required so it was still very much game on with all results possible.

Day then cut, late cut, and cut again and Talbot (G) himself cut loose finding the boundary with alarming regularity – one of which secured a well-deserved maiden Blenheim 50. He eventually succumbed for a stylists 53 to cap an excellent game for the young(ish) all-rounder. With 30 off 8 required, however, there was still time for Blenheim to make a deer’s ear from the silky start.

Into the valley strode Wes Spearman and after initially playing and missing he calmed the Blenheim nerves somewhat by finding the boundary twice himself.

In a nice touch at the end, Day (bowled, 35) ensured that Gokani – hitherto performing a fascinating Mike Brearley role (contributing almost nothing except ‘masterminding’ our victory) – got to hit the winning boundary with still 3 overs to spare.

After an afternoon’s cricket then on a sodden wicket where only 6 wickets fell all day, we had triumphed again and retired to the Crown at Pishill. Yes, Pishill.

So, what a way to end the season – a cricket game as honest as Days innings was long, a cracking all-round team effort in glorious sun (in the end) at a magnificent (and hopefully to be revisited) venue. And with Blenheim unbeaten in September surely there will be calls for a manager of month award? Now let me see – who was this month’s manager …