24 April 2017 v Christ Church, Oxford (report by Christ Church!)

Christ Church won the toss and the captain gratefully elected to bat . a decision which, if he is honest, was in part motivated by the hangover-induced torpor he detected in his troops. (Thank goodness for the 2pm start.) Samuel Oppenheimer and Richard Calver opened Christ Church.s account with swivels and caresses, scoring a lively 19 from the first two and a half overs. Oppenheimer.s departure (given out LBW by his incorruptible teammate, the stand-in umpire, Thomas Ames) brought Alfie Gibbs to the crease, who set about compiling a neat 50 partnership with Calver. Gibbs. elegant drives had the captain purring rather embarrassingly . one only hopes that the relative indiscipline of the old guard does not prove contagious.

Gibbs, remarkably, was stumped for 26 after momentarily lifting a back foot; Calver, seemingly bereft at the loss of his companion, perished two balls later for 27 in true English style, skying a sweep . a mistake the captain would later repeat. Jamie Golding and Benjamin Barnard in the middle order opted for a more muscular approach; judging from the scorebook, they seemed to deal mainly in boundaries, though both should be congratulated for running a three . rare fowl in the Christ Church scorebook. Barnard.s agricultural approach had him caught on the boundary for 17, with Golding continuing to (joint) top-score with 27. The captain, Titus Badawi-Crook, checked out for three, before loudly observing that it was high time that he sorted out tea anyway.

Harry Gilfillan contributed a vital 18; unfortunately, the obligatory shambolic run-out happened during his stay, with Thomas Ames the victim. To judge from the indignation of the latter, it was particularly shambolic this week: nevertheless, your correspondent, not having seen it, could not comment. Tuppy Morrissey, Laurence Mayne, and Jonah Munday at the end brought our score to a wonderfully unembarrassing 159 . perhaps a par score.

An ample tea was taken leisurely; the captain mustered as many half-remembered cricket clichéas he could; the field spread. Remarkable scenes. Laurence Mayne produced a leg stump yorker with the first ball of the innings. The star batsman, reportedly the scorer of a quick century at Lords at the last Eton vs. Harrow fixture, departed shell-shocked, the exultant team swarmed around their hero, and their umpire morosely straightened the diagonal leg stump. The miserly Munday produced a maiden at the other end. Our fielders leapt like salmon and chased like whippets. Richard Calver, who had so far in his cricketing career considered himself a batting all-rounder, will perhaps regret volunteering to try his hand at wicketkeeping. I fear that, so good was his performance behind the stumps, he will never graze an outfield in House colours again. Being a fresher Classicist with three free summers, I do not doubt that he will be an indispensable asset: we only hope that he is not a hard worker.

But as the Ramblers grew in confidence the House desponded. Their authoritative Number 3, Ed Collins, passed 30 having given only one difficult chance to Munday off his own bowling. And so when Samuel Oppenheimer spun one between bat and pad and onto off-stump, it seemed a turning point. Newly confident, the captain turned to himself, and five of his overs later found himself with a five wicket haul. He confesses that his own amazement at this development exceeded even that of those teammates who had seen him play before: needless to say, much of the credit must go to the bowlers at the other end . the jaggers and zig-zaggers of Oppenheimer, and later the enigmatic bamboozlers of the parsimonious Tuppy Morrissey, who remarkably (for a leg-spinner above all) conceded only 11 runs from his 5 overs.

Ali Hussain, sporting a maverick combination of blue shorts and electric yellow socks, took two wickets in quick time (he ended with the admirable figures of 2-10), bowling in tandem with the variously talented Gilfillan, who alternated between leg-spin and medium pace at will. With the opposition now 40 odd runs adrift with two wickets in hand, all were relaxed. The jokes flowed, dinner plans were discussed, details of the night before were shared. And before we knew it they were 30 runs away with one wicket in hand.

It would indeed not be unlike Christ Church to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but this time all were determined that the deserved win would be delivered. Mayne was brought back on, as was Badawi-Crook. Mayne was twice edged for four, and Badawi-Crook.s maiden was blemished by the ball, remarkably, hitting the keeper.s helmet behind the stumps. The cost were five penalty runs. The ‘wheels’ were ‘coming off’. They now needed 26, with a set number 8 on 25, and a chancy number 11 on 10.

Need we have feared? No-one had pointed out that there had not yet been the obligatory shambolic run-out: inevitably, the batsmen, with only 26 runs until victory, both watched from one end as a cackling Calver removed the bails at the other.

Christ Church cricket 2017, then, starts with triumph.