OWCC beaten by big-hitting Rifles
27 July 2014 – St Cross
As Old Wykehamist Matt Sabben-Clare was boarding a bus from Reading to Reading West in a bid to avoid signal failure at Woking, the first ball was bowled on the left wicket at St Cross. We had won the toss against The Rifles and had elected to bat on a pitch known for plenty of runs - cousins Bouch and Morgan braved the new ball.
The game started with drama as Bouch played the first ball straight to the man at square leg. This was made more extraordinary when someone at the pavilion pointed out that the fielder in question was our man Jack Champness, fielding in place of a Rifles player also stuck somewhere in Berkshire.
As the ball flew (quite slowly in fact) through the air, one can only imagine the predicament poor Jack was put in. For if he caught his opening batsman what would his team say? Or if he dropped him would he be lynched by a team trained in mortal combat? Given such a moral quandary it is no surprise that the ball was fumbled and ended on the floor. Bouch had survived a diamond duck.
To their credit, The Rifles took this bizarre turn of events extremely well and the game continued. But not for long, as it appeared luck was obeying something akin to Newton’s third law when Morgan was given out lbw after edging the ball onto his back leg.
The Riflemen were finding a good line and length and Bouch’s luck ran out despite playing some promising strokes. The wickets of Blackett and then Truell fell quite soon after and with just 49 on the board we found ourselves four wickets down. We needed someone to come in and steady the ship.
Cheeks still slightly flush; Jack Champness chose his lightweight bat specially and entered the fray. Picked more for his prowess in the twenty20 at Durham University than his dogged impressions of Boycott, Jack was never going to hold back. He put willow to leather in a flurry of well-hit boundaries, while the other end was held up well by Wilson, the rookie skipper.
Jack went on to hit an innings altering fifty five off 46 balls (imagine the damage should he have picked his heavier bat!) but succumbed when his eye for the ball failed him and he missed a straight one playing across the line. This brought in Rand, who played classy cricket until he got a rare squirty one off a generally very playable wicket. This left just enough time before lunch for Sabben-Clare and Wilson to meet for the first time – a fine place for introductions.
The skipper had clearly eaten too much at lunch and lifted one to square leg shortly after. But Sabben-Clare was showing poise and started scoring freely with our number 9 - Ashley Hull. The latter in particular was showing some muscle and the two of them started bringing the game to The Rifles.
Sabben-Clare and Hull were to amass 45 and 71 respectively and with an impressive cameo from Shipster we had reached 263 runs and a declaration that seemed unlikely at lunch.
With Shipster well known for finding an edge and Rand fond of an in-swinger, we looked to have a promising opening attack on a wicket with a slope and a bit of cloud cover. It wasn’t long before both openers had wickets and The Rifles were three down before tea, just 40 minutes into their innings. Rand then hit the top of off stop with a beauty and The Rifles were four down with just 70 on the board. Two-a-piece for the opening pair: OW confidence was high.
The Rifles number three, however, started to push the field out with some big hitting and was beginning to create a bit of a partnership with their number 5. Rand and Shipster’s figures were suffering and it was time for a change.
Freddie Blackett and Tom Guest were next up and despite some good bowling in the right areas, the two Riflemen couldn’t be shaken: recently back from Afghanistan they clearly found Cricket a comparatively easy lark! The partnership would take The Rifles to 176 before Shipster took a good catch off the bowling of Blackett – who it is great to see back from a broken leg during the football season. Then it was last gasp stuff and although Guesty nearly got their main man lbw with a variation in-swinger, the Riflemen were too good. We had our work cut out to pick up five more wickets and stem the runs and after a costly over late on from Wilson the game was sealed.
The chase was a very good one and Ed Alexander, The Rifles number three earned his man of the match performance with 106 not out. A good day for cricket and the visitors can find solace in many good performances.