Stone Tour, Oxford, 2023: Wendover CC v Stone CC, 16th September 2023 

TOUR! As always, hotly anticipated, mainly for the piss-up, but also for some red-hot cricket action against those strange out-of-townie types. Journeys to Oxford were completed on Friday evening and immediately to the pub/club/late night shit food establishments. Saturday begins with a slap-up breakfast in what was an extremely religious setting. On three hours sleep and nursing some decent hangovers, a trip out to the picturesque setting of Wendover CC followed, where we were greeted by an astro pitch and a local rule – we can only play from one end, as the pond/mud stream combo at the other end would probably result in losing the ball every over. Skip kept up his disastrous 2023 toss record and we were sent out to field on another warm/sticky September afternoon.

We opened up with Walkie and Dicky. Walkie’s form has improved greatly in the past few weeks and he was back on it again today, as he found the outside edge on about 38 occasions, all of which flew agonisingly past Vice at slip and Gracie at third man to the fence. Dicky was very much unimpressed by the astro surface and immediately retired from all future synthetic pitch games. He might have had a wicket early on if I had managed to actually jump for the chance that I got my fingertips to (I am nursing a sore ankle from the Cudham game last week, you might have heard it mentioned). Changes didn’t bring much luck either as the openers raced to 89, before Pablo combined with Blainey and got rid of their youngster for one of the flukiest 47’s you’ll ever see – a very good catch from Beef at deep midwicket. More and more top edges found gaps as we toiled away, but Ryan eventually got his reward for a great spell as Blain held on to a loopy one in the covers. Rossington then pulled off a great stumping to give Keenan a second wicket. Pablo pulled himself level with Dicky at the top of the wicket-taking charts with an LBW shortly afterwards, his twentieth victim of a very good season, and ended his seven-over spell with 3-32. Meanwhile, their other opener was still banging away and was suddenly on 99. Walkie came back into the attack and finally an edge went to hand, their man trudging off one short of a maiden ton as Rossington pouched the snick. Candyman was into the attack next and he executed a contentious run out at the bowler’s end, but the decision stood. Candy also removed their Number 8 for a golden duck, with Walkie holding on to take the catch at mid off, then Vice looped one through their Number 9 shortly after. Their Numbers 6 and 10 saw out the final overs to take Wendover to an impressive 223 for 8. It was not our best day in the field as a few were guilty of shelling chances. Hangovers were fully blamed and off we trudged for probably the best tea we’ve had for a while. The bar was open too, as our subs bench were fully aware.

The leadership strode out to open the reply with eyes keenly focused on the short straight boundary. Vice attempted to play a supporting role to the Skipper, who larraped his first two balls to the fence, but this combo wasn’t to last, as a big waft outside off ended Vice’s day, retired hurt with what turned out to be a (very painful) side strain. Claims of average protection are frankly untrue. A surprised Muttley filled the gap, and immediately top edged to point, where what should have been an easy catch became the silliest drop ever seen. The lad had it and basically threw it on the floor. Much laughter from the pavilion. Skip chipped one up shortly after and was gone for 20, before Mutts did the exact same thing as previously, only this time the bloke held on to a totally unnecessary one-handed catch. Rossington did something similar for a scratchy 8, bringing in Gracie for some round the corner scoops and sweeps before he holed out in the deep for 15. Or did he? There was much controversy as to whether the fielder was over the boundary or not. Replays lean towards not out, but the decision stood [from the pavilion, it looked as if the lad had stepped back over the rope to claim the catch, but others closer to the action reckoned it was just on the right side – ed.] Blainey was quietly ticking along at the other end, while Ryan came and went for a rare duck as their slip took a stormer of a catch. Walkie came in at Number 8, and things were looking ropey at 98/6 with Vice absolutely not coming out to play again. A high comedy running incident saw Walkie fall on his arse but still managed to get back to the other end safely, before Blainey was adjudged bollocks before wicket for a decent 21. Candyman then showed up with a fantastic knock of 46, belting 6s and 4s all round the place, and he and Walkie (who batted excellently too) put on 77 to add some respectability to the Stone efforts before Walkie went bowled for 43. Dicky, who this season has forgotten what his bat looks like, nudged himself to an unbeaten 3 (the highlight of his weekend probably), joined by Pablo and his new gloves for the last wicket, which duly fell as Paul tamely tapped one back to the bowler for a solitary run in the final over. We finished on 179/9 and defeat by 44 runs.

Awards – droppers collected a communal Shitbag for their efforts, while the Candyman paraded Big Pat around the hostelries of Oxford for the night for his entertaining 46.

– Bill