Astons of Didcot v Walsall Health CC……13th July 2010.
The annual trip to Didcot, in deepest Oxfordshire was a fixture that was always eagerly anticipated by the WHCC faithfuls throughout the early years of the 21st Century. It was a fair way to travel for a Sunday friendly, but the hosts were always welcoming, and for some reason, memorable moments on the field occurred frequently. Tim Henman, whose house overlooked the ground, regularly witnessed the annual drama that this fixture produced. This particular game was no different…..
The XI who travelled to play The Astons on this day were… Richard Fell (Capt) Andy Gorton, Sam Stephens, Nathan Reeves, Chris Hall, Tim Oliver, Dave Stephens, JP, Nic Slym, Adam Smith and Neeraj. Club Captain Richard Fell, lost the toss and informed his top order they were batting. Maybe the skipper didn’t stress this point clear enough, because for the first hour of the innings, batting was replaced by blocking, playing and missing. In all fairness, the Didcot pitch was never easy to score on, the home team always seemed to have “inside knowledge” on how to exploit the slope, which made the modern day travelator at Rushall look like the Somerset Levels.
Opening bowler, Larry Gray, who at the time was employed as Tim Henman’s chauffeur, was always a thorn in the Elfs side. A clever exponent of the pitch, and tricky to get away. Gort, Fell, and Sam Stephens struggled to score, all perishing before making the impact on the game they had hoped for. Chris Hall, now at the crease, looked at the scoreboard, 35-3 didn’t make pleasant reading. After a dominant Didcot first hour, Nathan Reeves walked out to the middle to join Chally…. The whole course of the game was about to change.
The advice to Nath from the Captain, was to try and hang around if you can. We’re in a spot of bother here, play yourself in for a bit, support Chally, play sensibly. Hmmmm. Somehow, I don’t think Nathan agreed with his skipper, because after just 2 balls of… “playing himself in” launched the first six of the game into the field over deep square leg. There were still some forlorn shouts from the sidelines of ….”Head down now Nath” But what followed was one of the most attacking innings in Elf history. There were already signs Nath was in decent form with the bat. 7 days earlier, back at the Aldridge Colosseum, two passing cars were extremely fortunate not to get their windows smashed in when Nath pummelled successive sixes onto the road over the far side of the pitch.
Chris Hall, standing at the non strikers end, had the best seat in the house. As Nathan Reeves took Centre stage, and simply took the Didcot bowlers apart. Take a look at this run of scoring strokes. 6 4..1 4 4.4..6 4 4 4 4..6 6. Dot balls were suddenly facing extinction. It was getting to the point where the only concern was game abandonment, due to Didcot running out of balls. It was an innings straight out of the Dan Armstrong textbook. Several times the ball disappeared over the trees into the adjacent field, and it was the sort of field, that if the ball went in there, you simply wasn’t finding it. Unless you enjoyed covering your whole body in stinging nettles,
or had the survival skills of Bear Grylls. How Tim Henman’s windows survived the N.Reeves onslaught remains a mystery to this day. From a very precarious position of 35-3, Nathan’s fearless innings, easily one of the fastest 50’s in club history, had taken us to 120-5.
The Didcot skipper could only stand at mid on, scratching his head. One by one, every fielder was told to give themselves 10 yards, then 20, then 30, but it made no difference. If the laws of the game allowed all 10 fielders to stand in the neighbouring village of Aston Upthorpe, that may have been the only possible solution to contain the N.Reeves juggernaut.
Nobody who was lucky enough to be there that day, wanted the entertainment to end. But sadly, on 64 (off 35 balls) Nath was bowled by the left arm guile of Smith. His highest score for WHCC, and a complete game changer in the match. As Nathan walked off the pitch to a standing ovation, first on the scene was Captain Richard Fell, who thanked his player for following his instructions to the absolute letter……Tim Oliver (23) and Dave Stephens (10) continued the innings in a slightly more subtle fashion, but the two experienced campaigners made sure we had a target of over 150 to defend.
Now the teas here were always decent, and it was around this time that Sam Stephens and Richard Fell played out their weekly duel for the “Amount of Sandwiches eaten at tea World Record” From memory this was the day that Sam set the benchmark that still stands today at an astonishing 24. Admittedly, it was more of an away game for Fell, who’s speciality at the time was cakes. Fell said after the game, “If I had gone for 25, there wouldn’t have been any room left for a home made slice of coffee and walnut” I did say memorable moments happened at this ground.
After Nathan’s heroics with the bat, we were all determined to secure the victory his innings deserved. And with a bowling line up of a fully fuelled Sam Stephens, his Dad Dave, Tim Oliver and Chris Hall, all eager to get the ball in their hands, the donations from this quartet were in short supply. With Sam steaming in to remove the top order for figures of 3-23, and Dave at the other end keeping it tight 7 overs 4 maidens 0-13 (unlucky)….Didcot were struggling for any momentum. Timmy O and Chally then came on to bowl in tandem, maintaining the stranglehold we had on the game. Tim with figures of 6 overs 3 maidens 1-10 and Chally 6 overs 4 maidens 3-15, pretty much got us over the line. Didcot surrendered at 90-8, well short of the 152 required runs.
It was another superb day out at Didcot, the journey home was a long one, but there was plenty of material to discuss about this game on the way back to the Midlands. 7 lost balls, destructive batting, the fastest 50, huge sixes, Henman’s windows, Sam v Food, it was another one of those days.
Walsall Health CC beat The Astons of Didcot by 62 runs
Written by Chris Hall.