Report by Daniel Mortlock:
If FAS should last for a thousand years men will look back and say this was their finest hour. Well, maybe that's over-egging it a bit, but it was certainly fine and, being a cricket match, lasted well over an hour. Our opposition were 9/11ths of a full-strength Royal Marines side with three tourists - Toby Reynolds, Hal Dare and Stoney - added in to even up the numbers.
We lost the toss and were duly asked to field on a Blockley track that just a few days' earlier had hosted the highest scoring game in club history. It was all too easy to imagine a repeat, but instead we were treated to one of the best FAS team bowling performances in recent memory. Joe White (1/21 off 8 overs) and Jamie Dare (4/16 off 8 overs) were both fast and accurate, completely justifying our "proper cricket" field settings. Still, with only one early wicket, the obvious fear was that the batsmen would cash in off the change bowlers, but Daniel Mortlock (0/17 off 5 overs) was as tight as the openers - and Zoe Dare was a relevation. Her in-swingers had her on figures of 3/3 at one stage, including the scalp of First Class player Pete Turnbull, stumped by 'keeper James Houlder after a brilliant leg-side take, to go with two other batsmen bowled through the gate. So far it had been a near-perfect performance, the "near" qualifier only being necessary because of some lax teenage ground-fielding, highlighted by Jamie's decision to forgo the long barrier at third man in favour of the rarely-seen "arch" arrangement.
The Marines' run rate did increase during the second half of their innings as they chanced their arm against Harry Houlder (0/39 off 6 overs), who was unlucky both to have a sitter dropped off his bowling and for a straight six to result from a leading edge when the batsman was trying to hit over mid-wicket. James Wyatt (1/22 off 7 overs) kept the batsmen pinned down, after which Jamie came back on and cut through the tail. Not only did he take four wickets with his bowling but he atoned for his earlier fielding with a superb direct-hit run out after stopping a solid drive in his follow through. Tom "Devon" Reynolds then took a sharp catch in the slips, providing both the nail in the "teenagers can't field" coffin and the icing on the cake of our superb team effort.
The Marines' final total of 148/10 (not all out, as we were playing 12 to bat) was surely nowhere near enough given the conditions, until it was revealed by Geoff that the aforementioned Mr Turnbull was in fact primarily a bowler, and had been clocked in the "low-to-mid 80's". That, as Nigel Reynolds put it, is "not something you generally see in the under 15 B team", suggesting that his son Tom might be a bit out of his depth at number 4. And so it turned out, as Turnbull soon had himself figures of 5.2 overs, 3 maidens, 5/2, thanks to an uncompromising mix of yorkers and throat balls. The only one of his wickets that wasn't bowled came about when James Wyatt (2 off 12 balls) played pretty correctly to fend off a delivery heading for his carotid artery, only for the ball to take the shoulder of the bat, presenting first slip, 20 yards back from the stumps, with a simple catch. Henry Hall (0 off 6 balls) wasn't so lucky, taking a nasty blow just above his recently broken sternum before becoming Turnbull's fifth victim. FAS lurched from 5/4 to 15/5 to 21/6 and then, when Nigel Reynolds (7 off 11 balls) was castled by a delighted Hal Dare, to a truly miserable 37/7.
Our target of 148 seemed a long way off, but Turnbull had been taken off after bowling 6 off his maximum 8 overs and the required run rate was still only 4.2 an over. Our 8th wicket pair of Harry Houlder and Daniel Mortlock hence set about batting time, their basic mantra being that we'd win if we could last the 40 overs. Harry seemed pretty comfortable from the outset, rotating the strike without taking risks, while Daniel punctuated dead-bat defense with the occasional wild swipe through cover that Cliff suggested was "in the style of Eoin Morgan's younger brother with cerebral palsy". The only real blip came when Stoney came on (to cries of "Bowler's name?") and lured Daniel into bunting back the easiest of return catches . . . which somehow went to ground.
By the time the total head reached 100/7 off 27 overs it was perhaps now back to being an even money game, but that of course meant the return of Turnbull, presumably with the idea of finishing things off - or at least breaking what was clearly now a very annoying partnership. Cliff's tactical response to this was to unilaterally re-jig the batting order, with Zoe promoted to number 10 and set to come in without a helmet. It would have been hilarious to see how the Marines would have responded to the instant negation of their big weapon, but sadly (or really happily) we never got the chance to find out. Turnbull was now coming in off a shortened run and, while still faster than most bowlers we typically face, was broadly playable, Harry knocking him for two fours - as well as surviving a ludricrously passionate appeal for a catch at short-cover off a clear bump ball that induced a decidedly petulant "Well if you want to win that badly, you can have it." from the fielder. We did indeed want to win it; and, once Turnbull had bowled out his allotment, it was clear that the Marines no longer did - they were more interested in getting back to the Mill in time for the England's World Cup semi-final. They duly got their medium pacers to bowl some pretty average spin, with the result that Harry started to score with complete freedom, hitting the winning boundary with 21 balls to spare. He finished on 62* off 83 balls and, with good support from Daniel (36* off 65 balls), put on an undefeated 115-run partnership that took us from Dunkirk to D-Day.
There was no time to celebrate, though, as there was only half an hour to kick-off, so it was all back to the Mill to find a spot in front of Wyatty's recently purchased projection system. When England went to half time 1-0 up against Croatia it seemed the day couldn't get any better . . .