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Sun 31st Jul 2016 vs. Wolvercote (A) @ Cutteslowe Park

Match report

Wolf pack feasts on IVCC carrion: IVCC vs Wolvercote CC, Sun 31st July 2016

IVCC returned to Cutteslowe Park, scene of the glorious inaugural VP Day, for a re-run of one of 2015’s matches vs local OCA side Wolvercote. It had been a trying week for the Village selection committee, but eventually (and not at match start, it must be said!), the visitors managed to get 11 players on to the field. Unfortunately, injuries to Daylight (finger), Ali (back) and Cav (thumb-print on head) meant that they were without a wicketkeeper. Srini “Fingerbang” Gutta, himself a late replacement for the hungover Ram, stepped in for his second IVCC appearance (having made his debut against Isis the week before) and donned the gloves.

Captain Bill lost the toss and the home side elected to bat first on a pitch which had reportedly shown a bit of life in the previous day’s league game. Bill opened up from the Bunting End and immediately found pace, bounce and carry out of a somewhat spicy deck. His opening over included a play-and-miss, a couple of snorters which reared up off a length and finally two edges to the vacant third-man boundary where the late chairman (that’s late-late, not dead-late) should have been. Alex Troth opened up from the Car Park End and soon settled into one of his best spells for IVCC, bowling with consistent line and length. Even Alex, who falls somewhere between “Military Medium” and “Bibb” on the pace spectrum, found some extra bounce out of the wicket and gave both batsmen early problems.

They say that Troth is stranger than fiction, and indeed it was Alex’s mystery ball which made the early breakthrough. There’s much talk in cricket about googlies, doosras, sliders and the like, but Alex appears to have developed the ultimate mystery ball: the quantum long-hop, a ball which pitches half-way and appears to both rear up and shoot along the floor at once. The hapless Manzoor attempted to play the former and watched in horror as the latter scuttled under his bat and uprooted his off-stump.

Bill continued to wheel away at the other end and came agonizingly close to a wicket on a couple of occasions, most notably when new man Ben Madden gloved past Tim at slip. Madden, batting without a helmet, was also given a fright by a ball which leapt up off a good length and came perilously close to performing some unwanted dentistry. Frustrated by a lack of good fortune, Bill pulled himself off after three overs and then took himself out of the bowling attack.

Garr, a man still scarred from his bowling performance in this fixture last year (0-30 from 2 overs) took up the duties from the Bunting End and immediately settled into a good rhythm, bowling a good line and length with decent pace, and finding similar assistance from the pitch. Early in his second over, Garr, recalling fond memories of bowling short balls at Ali and Alex on the helpfully bouncy indoor surface at Abingdon School over the winter, banged one in short to Wolvercote’s opener O’Hickey. The ball reared up to chin height, and the batsman could only flail wildly and send a top edge high into the sky for Tim “Captain America” Morton to take a catch at slip. Another wicket followed later in the same over, Garr pinning home captain Rhys Davies leg-before for just a single run.

YCHT Troth picked up his second wicket in the 14th over (a wicket maiden, no less), with number 5 Potter back on his broomstick and flying back to the pavilion for a duck. Alex finished up with figures of 8-1-18-2, his best figures in a long-form game. Wolvercote were 39 for 4, and the prospect of an early finish was on the cards.

IVCC did not reckon with Madden however, who took advantage of some good fortune and cashed in as IVCC’s change bowling offered up a buffet to rival the wonderful tea that was to be on offer later in the day. Garr tired towards the end of his spell and offered up too many “hit me” deliveries (2-8 off his first 4 overs; 0-26 off the next 4); Dickie Tyler (0-36 from 3) couldn’t find the right line and saw the square-leg boundary peppered with sweep shots.

With Garr taking over wicket-keeping duties, Srini then took over from the Car Park End and showed everyone else how it’s done, bowling with good accuracy and lively pace off a short run. Fingerbang entertained everyone with exuberant appealing and the best wicket celebrations the club has seen, picking up his first when he dismissed Toby Shelley for 28, caught by Meier in the covers. Ali (1-40 from 5) himself then got in on the action, with Garr holding on to a thin edge behind the stumps to dismiss a man whose parents were apparently Transformers fans, Luke Murgatroyd.

From then, wickets continued to fall at regular intervals as Srini (4-29) and Bill (1-19) cleaned up the tail, but the damage had been done by Madden (last man out for a well-crafted 86), Shelley and the Transformer (18), and Wolvercote finished on a daunting total of 195 all out.

The chase started in promising fashion, with IVCC openers Meier and Fergus Cable-Alexander moving serenely to 10-0 off 3 overs. Wolvercote openers Shelley and Will Coles managed to tighten things up and put a brake on the scoring, something which no doubt contributed to FCA’s dismissal for 15 as he threw his hands at a wide one outside off-stump and was caught in the covers. There was controversy in the over before, as Troth raised his finger to give Ali out caught behind, a decision which Ali (4) vehemently disputed.

The double-breakthrough saw Baldons pair Mark Denning and Captain America come together. After a short period of consolidation, both started to open up and play some lovely shots. Mark peppered mid-off with some sumptuously timed drives, while Tim brought back memories of his day in the sun at Wantage with some huge hits over midwicket. 93 for 2 at drinks, IVCC were in a great position and the chase was very much on.

Enter Quantum Troth. Wolvercote bowler Perera, bowling right-arm round-the-wicket, hit Denning on the pads and appealed; Alex determined that the ball somehow pitched in line with the stumps and was going on to hit the poles, and raised that Finger-o-Doom once more, Denning dismissed for a well-compiled 34.

In hindsight, the end of Mark’s innings signalled the end of IVCC’s hopes of reaching their target. With the partnership over, the run-rate slowed and further wickets fell as Matt Law (2) and Will Taylor (1) both saw their furniture disturbed by the ball.

Srini joined Tim at the wicket and the pair put on an entertaining 38, during which Tim brought up his second IVCC score of 50+ with a superb lofted drive to mid-off. Tim fell trying to play a similar shot, well caught by home captain Davies at mid-on and out for an excellent 60. At this stage, Tim has a huge lead in the 2016 run-scoring charts and is surely a shoe-in for the batting award at this year’s dinner.

Then followed some fun but fruitless partnerships involving Srini, first with Garr (who threw his bat at everything with great vigour but little result), and then with the skipper. After an innings which included a lot of lung-busting running, Srini was bowled by Manzoor for an excellent 37 and sloped off to the boundary for a much-needed lie-down while his team mates looked on with genuine concern. Bill finished on 12 not out, an innings which catapulted him up the all-time run chart into third, but more importantly included the ruthless run out of Quantum Troth (3) in the desperate search for runs in the final over: unfortunately for Alex, both versions of him were well out in this instance. The match finished with Dickie Tyler leaving a ball outside his off-stump, the victory out of reach but Dickie’s red-inker safely confirmed, and IVCC were 13 runs short.

It was a fun afternoon of cricket, played in the right spirit by all, and the game was as exciting and tight as the scorecard suggests. IVCC will reflect on the middle period of the Wolvercote innings as being costly, and Alex’s £20 fine in the Jacob’s Inn after the game is a good reflection of his contribution to our run-chase. Hopefully he won’t be allowed to umpire again (or at least, we can tie his hands behind his back).