Result: Won by 7 runs
With Fergus Cable-Alexander crying off injured (or still hungover from Watkins’ stag), and with Meier now favouring a berth lower down the order, self-promoted opener Conway strode confidently to the middle with all the air and swagger of Liam Gallagher on a night out on the Colombian marching powder. Alongside him was the lesser-spotted veteran G. Ellis in a rare-as-rockinghorse-shit IVCC appearance.
A gentle start from Garr, sporting his (Toby) Carberry-esque helmet, saw a gentle push for 2 in the first over to get our 2022 tally up and running. The second over saw three lusty 4s in a row smote to the boundary with typical Antipodean aggression by Sam. Somebody was taking it all rather seriously. Both Garr and Sam dealt with the gentle dibbly dobblies of the Isis opening pair Big Tim Westwood and Slowa Fella with ease, and were only really troubled when the change bowlers came on – Isis sneakily holding back their better bowlers until our pair had got themselves set.
Garr was eventually bowled off his pads for a very respectable 30 by former Uruguayan midfielder Gus Poyet. In typical fiery ginger form, Garr was ready to go to war with the umpire for what would have been a questionable LBW decision only to realise that the ball had actually disturbed his furniture and he trudged off with a faint whiff of embarrassment lingering behind him. At least, I think that’s what that smell was.
Vice Captain and batter extraodinnaire Ross took up his baton in the familiar #3 slot, though initially struggled to find his usual fluency, notably to a few legside wobblers that usually would have been despatched into the next county but instead dribbled through to the keeper unscathed. YipYip at the other end was chomping at the bit to open his season with the semi he is so desperate for and so, in predictable Conway style, he miscued a pull to cover for a Ron measley 49. So close, and yet…
Senor Ross was finding his touch though and did clear the ropes for a super sexy maximum before being bowled for 19. This left Meier and Davis to deal with the remaining overs, under sustained bowling pressure from a wild bowling lineup alongside Poyet of the Italian Fasta Fella, the bouffant Andre Agassi, and new Head of English Cricket, Mr Rob Key. Two nerveless, chanceless innings with a few gusty hoes or lusty blows (including one delicious backfoot drive for 4 through the off side – yes you read that right the OFF side! – for Ben) and a few quickly scampered singles from the two (ahem) youngsters saw IVCC end their innings on a decent total of 135-3 from their 20.
Following the world’s gentlest warm up on the boundary, IVCC took to the field opening with two left armers Brabham and Tyler. With sight-screens relocated accordingly, DB sent down a gentle Boston strangler down the left side which Isis opener only succeeded in edging through to our own Muscle Mary, Ben Davis, behind the stumps. A wicket off the first ball of an innings? A first in IVCC folklore, certainly as far as this writer can remember (though I can barely remember what I had for breakfast so best not to call me as your star witness anytime soon). Not to be outdone, Tyler sent down the similar-but-different ‘Bicester’ Strangler in his first over which saw a super one-handed diving catch from Davis behind the stumps, and the lads were cock-a-hoop! The more naïve reader might be expecting an absolute trouncing was on the cards, but the more experienced of you know that cricket is a funny old game where anything can happen, and where the chance of victory can ebb and flow like the contents of a toddler’s underpants.
Solid spells from Dickie and DB saw the oppo’s score stifled, but with no further wickets taken. The soon-to-be-married Tim Ellis took first change and, coming off a new shorter, less energetic run up, was nice and tidy for his spell and the Groom was unlucky not to get any rewards for his endeavours. I’m sure he’ll be rewarded come his wedding night. At the other end, senior stalwart Dan ‘Daddy’ Trinder opened his account with a rank longhop that was biffed to the legside boundary with nonchalance by Isis opening bat Blatchford, who was now settling into his innings and starting to look more comfortable and looking to score. Trinder was soon into his stride, however, with a delicate yet probing line outside off, so it was somewhat of a shame to see him pulled out of the affray after only 2 overs by the skipper. In completely unrelated news, he was replaced by the luxuriously-locked Smith at the Bonfire End whilst young whippersnapper George Trinder took up the mantle from the Pavilion End.
Sometimes I yearn for the good old days when Bill would steam in off his long run up and bowl with searing pace and unerring inaccuracy at some poor unsuspecting batter, and then we would all titter ungraciously as we watched the batter dive for cover to avoid another heat-seeking beamer and watch Ben do his best behind the stumps to get vaguely near it before it whistled off for 4 byes. Sadly, those days seem to be well and truly behind us. A slimmed down yet shaggier Smith coming off a shorter run up is what we are greeted with these days. Still with the same unmistakeable windmill action, but now with a hint of tweak in there, the skipper has seemingly – nay sportingly – withdrawn the underrated beamer from his bowling arsenal and now prefers a more accurate and niggling proffering on a good length.
The Isis batters were by now pretty well set and starting to find the gaps and run the hard 2s as their score, which initially looked well below par, slowly crept upwards and beyond 3 figures. A few catches were shelled (two very tough chances for the Wookie and the skipper), but fielding was certainly better than we would usually expect for the first game of the season. George was finding some lovely flight and gentle turn to keep the batters on their toes but wickets remained at a premium until he drew the Isis #4 forward looking for a spectacular mow to cow corner, only to miss completely and Davis behind the stumps completed a deft stumping. Not long after, it was Daddy’s turn to get in on the action: with the ball patted down to the legside boundary, the Isis batters would be forgiven thinking that there was an easy 2 to Old Man Time. But they would be wrong. Swooping with all the agility of a man at least two years younger, Dan dexterously picked up the ball and launched it with surprising accuracy towards Davis who, in scenes reminiscent of that fateful afternoon in 2019 when Buttler destroyed Guptil’s stumps to win the World Cup, similarly smashed down the Isis #5’s stumps to leave the opposition reeling in shock.
With the match still very much in the balance, solid death bowling was required from Messrs Ross and G. Trinder to see out the game. With excellent fielding on the legside boundary from Conway in particular, IVCC saw out the game and secured a tight win by 7 runs.
Despite a strong batting performance from Sam, and excellent keeping behind the stumps from Ben who was involved in all 4 dismissals, the Man of the Match award went to young George for a sumptuous bowling performance.