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Sun 15th May 2022 vs. Oxford Downs (A) @ Standlake

Match report

The Villagers are quickly becoming accustomed to long afternoons of toil at Standlake, and 2022 proved no different. With Bezos’ nosey speaker robot predicting inclement weather all afternoon, it was touch-and-go as to whether (weather) the game would even go ahead. But with some recent dry weather, a gentle dousing of the outfield was welcomed by the Standlake groundstaff and, as long as we weren’t actually standing in a lake when fielding, IVCC were happy to engage in battle once more.

With a large pool of players to choose from, Oxford Downs always put out a strong side, and this year was no different. With memories of a drubbing from 2019 still in our minds, we took to the field without the usual swagger and nonchalance that has become our calling card of late, and even a man down as Mr Ross was uncharacteristically tardy. Opening with Dan Trinder, we were quickly under cosh as the openers found the boundary fence with ease, and Trinds struggled for length. Daylight up the other end was also finding things difficult and a big total looked likely.

In our last game here, in 2019, we managed to take one wicket all day – a run out with Meier keeping wicket. As regular keeper Davis cried off with Covid, Meier was again behind the stumps and again it was a run out – featuring a calamitous collision between the two batters and an excellent throw from the boundary from George – that finally broke the deadlock and Downs were 58–1.

George came onto to bowl and bowled well, but anything too straight was punished rather too effectively by the Downs opener, who ended up retiring after scoring a century. As every good spinner should, George found some wonderful flight and was rewarded with two wickets. Smith, from the Pavillion End started well but then he too struggled for length and we even saw the fabled Smith beamer pulled out at one stage. But the Villagers kept plugging away in the field (one recalls a decent catch by Timmy Morton), despite Conway hobbling and despite Dickie Tyler turning up with a mahoosive hangover after a rugby club dinner the night before. Lesser men would have called in sick, but the Wookie is no mere mortal, and his dedication to the club can only be applauded. And never shirking responsibility, he even bowled a few, albeit lengthy and expensive, overs for the team. Salute!

With Ross finally making an appearance, and 150 already on the board, one Downs batter made the mistake of skying the ball to the one man in the Village side who can actually catch, and Olly took a really difficult chance in windy and wet conditions. He bowled well too, proving once again to be our most economical bowler. Daddy Trinder returned for a second spell of excellent bowling, finally finding the right line and length and ending up with 4 well-taken wickets to his name, including a clear LBW and one jaffa that pitched on middle and leg and took out the off stump. Well bowled that man.

With a rusty wicketkeeper (Meier), a crocked Aussie fielder (Conway), a hungover Wookie (Tyler), and cold and wet weather, it wasn’t our finest performance in the field. Downs unfortunately batted too long and declared too late, leaving IVCC with a mammoth and improbable 297 to chase for the win. But with a strong batting lineup, there was always a chance. And then Fergus went in to open the batting… One recalls the first ball of our previous innings here, where Downs packed 8 men into the slips and FCA stood tall and pushed an easy 3 into the offside. No such joy here, I’m afraid. With only 2 slips in this time, FCA wafted airily and ended up snicking off to his first ball of the season. Not the start he, nor the Village, would have wanted. It is a long season though, and FCA is too good a batter to let one mistake linger for too long. He'll probably get a classy 50 in the next game - such is the ying and yang of opening the batting.

Fresh from a match-winning 49 in the opening game, Conway’s confidence was even higher than usual. After a gentle start though, Sam aimed a backfoot drive through the offside that was expertly taken down low by short extra cover and IVCC were deep in the mire already. But in Smith and Morton we had two of our finest batters at the crease and both looked relatively comfortable early on. It’s been a few years since the skipper had a happy knack of running people out. Perhaps time off over the pandemic has reignited the ginger whippersnapper’s desire for quick singles. With the greatest of respect to Mr Morton, he is no Usain Bolt between the stumps, and he never really stood a chance. 3 wickets down, and barely 20 runs on the board, quickly turned to 4 as Smith was bowled trying to work a straight one to the leg side.

With two new batters in, a rearguard action was required. The kind of situation the Chairman relishes. Happy to ignore anything that didn’t threaten the stumps to try to bring some stability to the innings, Meier nurdled the odd ball through for a single to allow star batsman Ross to keep the strike. There was an early reprieve for Olly who hit one down backward square leg’s throat only to see a wet ball slip through cold fingers. He followed this up a few overs later with a textbook cover drive for 4 that drew coohs of delight from the pavilion and even a smattering of applause from the opposition. Just as the innings was beginning to settle (and featuring some of his now trademark 'Radley' leaves), Olly sliced a wide one to backward point and the Villagers’ hearts sank.

But they had forgotten we still had the mighty Daylight to bat. As the club’s leading appearance maker, it’s a surprise that Mr Berry has only two half centuries to his name – a thundering 74 v Wiley back in 2016, and an excellent 62* v Long Compton in 2019. Well, sports fans, better make that three. After a cautious start, the man with the baseball-style stance soon opened up and found his range with a display of brutal clubbing straight down the wicket and to the leg side. With the IVCC total gaining an air of respectability, but the rain becoming heavier, the two skippers shook hands on a draw leaving Meier on 38* and Berry on 62*, and the Village only 150-odd short of what would have been a famous victory…

Man of the Match was awarded to Daylight Robbery for his efforts as a bowler and a batter. Special mention to Dan Trinder for an excellent second spell and figures of 9-0-77-4.

Ali, Chairman 19/05/22