Peopleton, a lovely village in Worcestershire, where we started to visit back in 2009. Usually a ground where plenty of runs are scored. Many a time, that red leather ball has introduced itself to the cows in the field over the far side of the pitch. But not on this day… The 2011 edition will be remembered for one outstanding bowling performance, from a legendary player, to win us a game we had been behind in from the very first ball.
The side who travelled that day in batting order…Steve Hartshorne. Dave Stephens (still opening the batting in those days) Sam Stephens. Nathan Reeves. Rich Fell (Capt) Tim Oliver. Nic Slym. Dave Atkins. John Nicholls. Chris Hall and John Hinton, arrived to conditions recorded in the scorebook as dull and damp. The home side won the toss, and had no hesitation in taking the new ball.
It soon became apparent, that these were not easy conditions to bat in. Dave, Sam and Nathan Reeves were all out for single figure scores. 12-3 wasn’t the best of starts. So when Captain Rich Fell joined opener Steve Hartshorne, the two men dug in. Plenty of dot balls followed, the two batsmen grinding out runs in the testing conditions. Steve was finally bowled by Holton for 16. An innings that lasted 1 hour 22 mins. But it was important for someone to hold the innings together which Steve was always such a Master of.
When Rich Fell was caught for another gritty 19 in 57 mins, followed by Nic Slym (7) suffering from a bout of vertigo after being asked to bat at the dizzy heights of No7. We found ourselves facing a score below 100. Dave Atkins being run out for 0 added to our tales of woe. The score of 77-7 didn’t exactly feel a lucky one, as Chris Hall walked out to join Tim Oliver, still with 12 overs remaining.
Captain Fell, always thinking, made a smart move to do a stint of umpiring. This gave him the opportunity to chat to the two batsmen at the crease….Get us to 120, its not easy out here, was the message. Tim, with that familiar smile, understood exactly what was needed, having been in this type of situation so many times before, calmly going about his business. Playing straight in the V, finding the gaps, picking up four boundaries to reach 33 not out. With Chris Hall just happy to stay out there with Tim, the two men shared a priceless unbeaten partnership of 46 to get us up to 123-7 off 40 overs. The game felt back on.
After tea was taken, Peopleton seemed intent on chasing down a low score quickly. After a few early boundaries, Chris Hall and Sam Stephens made the breakthrough, reducing the home side to 20-2, effectively 20-3, as they only had 10 players. For the first time in the match, WHCC were in the box seat. A first scent of victory didn’t last long as Peopleton continued to play aggressively. Stickler (47) and Holtom (12) advanced their score to 85-3….Just 39 to win, 7 wkts in hand, and loads of time.
It was at this point in the match where the man who had rescued our batting was thrown the ball. After a couple of calf stretches, and three looseners to the fielder at mid on, Tim Oliver immediately trapped Holtom, lbw for 47. Maybe inspiring the young pretender, Sam Stephens, to pick up two more quick wickets in the final over of his own spell. Always a good reader of a game, Tim now sensed an unlikely victory. His second over proved to be the decisive one…A three wicket maiden….How often do we see one of those? It was one of those classic T.Oliver overs, relentlessly firing the ball into middle and leg stump, the Peopleton lower order had no answer, leaving WHCC close to a memorable victory. Never a player to blink when he saw the finish line, it took Tim just three more balls to wrap up the Peopleton innings. Finishing with remarkable figures of 3.3 overs 2 maidens 5-1. One of many T.Oliver 5-fors in just 21 balls, to complete another match winning contribution.
It wouldn’t have been noted at the time, but after a few calculations, Tim’s 5th wicket of this match winning spell was also his 350th for the club. In addition to over 5,000 runs, and plenty of catches. Tim also stands alone, with Rick Jarrams as the only two players to reach the milestone of 300 appearances. You can look through all the scorebooks and pick out any number of occasions when the name Tim Oliver appears, producing with either bat or ball to help win his team a game of cricket. I just picked this one out because I was lucky enough to be there. That spell, along with his rearguard innings earlier in the match, was defiant, determined and full of character. You would see a few players give up in that type of situation, or just not fancy the job, but giving up just wasn’t in Tim’s nature……
Great bowler..Yes. Great batsman..Yes. Great competitor..Yes. Great bloke..Yes.
Still missed by everyone…….Most definitely. Yes.