Report by Harry Houlder:
The Shipton-under-Wychwood fixture, having only been added to the card during the Lollapalooza of 2019, has already become a firm favourite for many a tourist, boasting a fantastic ground, delicious spread at tea, perfectly balanced ratios of squash and perhaps most importantly, a 3-0 win loss record for the mighty FAS.
This year as the sun blazed down once more, a brand new FAS skipper, Dilshan "Lonerangersin" De Silva, led the troops into battle. Cries of "Once more unto the breach dear friends” were quickly replaced with "What do you mean you're injured?”, as Dilly discovered that ten-times Best Bowler Joe White couldn't bowl, eight-times Best Keeper James Houlder couldn't keep, and, judging by his golden duck the day before, four-times Best Batsman James Wyatt couldn't bat. A frantic rearrangement of roles ensues, and keeper-elect Mike Harrop asked for a couple of throws to get his eye in. Wyatty duly obliged in the most literal of senses, throwing the ball directly into his eye. After 10 minutes of ice packs, and Mike showing that years of being bullied for being ginger makes you tougher than the average man, we were ready to take to the field.
In keeping with the theme of the day, in the early overs four-times Best Fielder Harry Houlder showed that he couldn't field, dropping a sitter at square-leg and then hurling the ball for 5 overthrows, and then later on accidentally throwing the ball into his own face, becoming the second ginger with an (albeit much less impressive) black eye. After a miserly opening spell from Harrop Jr (1/15 off 5) and Jimmy Houlder (1/56) buying a wicket at the other end, Shipton's third wicket pair settled into the game and started to score freely. As the partnership threatened to take the game away from FAS, the young Shipton opener showed his naivety by falling for the simple line of "good players go twice": having chipped a ball over mid-on, he tamely chipped straight to mid-off the very next ball. Momentum arrested somewhat, FAS began to take wickets at regular intervals, but still struggled to stem the flow of runs. Mike Harrop, depth perception surely off kilter due to a now fully closed left eye, completed two sharp stumpings, and the leg spin of Houders (2/37) and skipper Dilly (3/32) did the main damage. But a highly competitive score of 210/8 off 35 overs was posted.
After a tea break that had RWD3.5 trying to bribe anyone else to open so he could get fully stuck in (he failed), we set about chasing down the target, knowing a fast start and wickets in hand were key. Unfortunately the 15 year old opening bowler who had "a bit about him" had other ideas, and soon we found ourselves with a scorecard resembling pre-Bazball England, at 27/3 in the 6th over and staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat. However, eight-times Best Keeper James Houlder also happens to be nine-times Best Batsman James Houlder, and was keen to buck the trend of the day. He walked to the crease and entered "god mode" (self-proclaimed), dispatching all bowlers to all parts, scoring so quickly that we had to clap his 61 because we couldn't add up the score quickly enough to clap his 50, and bringing up his second century of the 2022 For Two with the team total on 120/4. Ably assisted by Jimjam Wyatt, we began to take control of the game and the run chase. Alas, things couldn't last, and in the 30th over, two tons and an 80 in 30 degree heat caught up with Jimmy Houlder, and a ball skidded through a tired looking pull shot to rearrange his furniture, leaving him trudging back for a magnificent 112. There was still hope as Jimjam Wyatt was still there, until one quick single too many rearranged the structure of his hamstring, leaving him unable to run, and with that the chance of victory ran away from us. Shipton held on to win by 24 runs to notch up their first victory against FAS, and condemn Dilly to a long wait to break his captaincy duck.
Report by Daniel Mortlock:
This was, in some sense, the fixture we didn't want. Playing the Slaughters, and back at their pretty home ground after being shunted off to Bourton last year, was all good; but we really wanted an afternoon game both to suit our more, er, traditional approach to batting and so that we could get back to Mill Dene in time for the Pete Watkins classic rock singalong. In the end a compromise was reached: we'd get there early and bowl first, starting the game as soon as they had a top order; and we'd go for 15x8s game with no re-bowling of wides and no balls - one wonders what Baz would have thought of such things.
Once the game began - or, indeed, once the team sheet was posted on the WhatsApp group - it became pretty clear we were going to lose. Our bowling was not only pretty dismal - only one bowler conceded less than 11 an (eight-ball) over - but also simply outgunned - both Slaughters openers made it to fifty at more than a run a ball. A major problem was that they were a left/right combination and we were hiding - or at least trying to hide - a number of fielders, the result of which were some truly mis-shapen field settings and the half-chances going to the wrong people. One opener was summarily retired, but the other was bowled by Cliff Dare (1/12), who bowled beautifully - his economy was a third that of any other bowler, and for once the numbers didn't lie, as he was three times better than any of the rest of us today. We did at least manage a couple of good catches: Nick Porter put aside the memory of a sequence of recent drops to finally hold a spinning ball at point; and beleagured captain Daniel Mortlock (2/33) held on to a low return catch . . . but, otherwise, it was just a case of waiting for the innings to end to get to the bar.
By this stage the Shipton contingent had arrived - and gotten acces to the bar - so the second innings was coloured with a combination of sledges, banter and singing, all directed at our own players. This was all pretty warranted, as we were about as successful at mounting a serious chase as we had been at keeping the Slaughters to a manageable total. Our best partnership was between Felix Barras (17 off 16 balls) and Toby Reynolds (35 off 40 balls), but for all their good cuts and pulls they were never able to get the run rate above a run a ball. Toby looked good for back to back fifties until a mix up saw him run out, after which some entertainment was provided by Tom Reynolds (9) and Cliff Dare (11, highlighted by a dismissive one-handed flick for four that was more like a Federer backhand than anything usually seen in cricket). By this stage we probably could have appealed for the light - there was a bizarrely low cloud cover on this otherwise sunniest of tours - but it was a good thing that we didn't, as it provided Tom Dare (1* off 4 balls) with a chance to score his first FAS run.
Really, though, if your team's best performance is an innings of 1 not out then it's a pretty clear sign that things have not gone well - and so it was just as well we Nigel Reynolds's post-match performances to look forward to back at HQ . . .