Refreshers v Philanderers; Saturday 18 July 2020

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2020 has been a very strange year. Nothing has been normal. And that includes cricket. For until early July 2020 everyone in the country (apart from self-isolating English and West Indian test sides) has been banned from playing cricket on account of Covid-19. But in late June, the Government announced that cricket could be played from 4 July albeit under very strict conditions. For example (and this is just a few of them), no food could be provided. Everyone had to bring their own. The pavilion at every ground basically had to remain shut. Every six overs the players had to come off to hand sanitize. Every six overs the ball had to be cleaned with an anti-bacterial wipe. And whilst playing, apart from the wicket keeper and the slips, everyone had to try to remain 2 metres apart. 

With very little notice, the match manager for the fixture between the Refreshers and the Philanderers was suddenly told that the game could go ahead at Warborough. Obviously that led to mild panic about raising a side. But with a couple of new players (more later) we did it. And the game took place on Saturday 18 July. A perfect cricketing day. Sun out. But not too hot. And never cold. And certainly no rain.

Now the fixture against the Philanders was a relatively newish one. This was our fourth. We had lost in the Oxford Parks on the first occasion. On the second occasion we had a winning draw, failing to take the tenth wicket. On the third occasion, we had lost comfortably. So this was one we really wanted to win even if the notice was short.

Things did not start well. The night before the game Richard Saunders sent a text to say that his dog, Wesley, a regular feature at Refreshers games was seriously ill. Understandably Richard said he was not going to be able to make it (and I am really sorry to have to report that Wesley died on the morning of Sunday 19 July 2020). Which meant the search for a new player (and preferably a wicket keeper because RS was going to be forced to keep) started. It did not yield a new keeper. But it did yield the boyfriend of one of David Alexander’s children, Jack Sykes (aged about 18), although he said he had not played cricket for 4 years. So we had 11 again. And the mighty Owen Roach, who has bowled (and bowled fast) for Refreshers for about 20 years, announced that he had actually started as a wicket keeper! 

But on to the game. This year it was to be a 35-over game. And it started well. David Alexander won the toss and we did what the team wanted. We bowled. The bowling was opened by Angus Livingstone, David’s nephew and more importantly a bowler due to get a cricket blue at Oxford later this year in the postponed game against Cambridge. He proved a bit too quick for wicket keeper Owen in his first over (9 byes), but thereafter the Refreshers’ new keeper did well (especially in what he described as children’s wicket keeping gloves – it is true they were a little small for his hands). And then Angus uprooted the middle stump of one of the openers and things were looking good. 

At the other end Harry Bell (18, son of Chris) then did the same to the other opener and things were looking even better. And better still they got as the Philanderers slipped to 80 for 8 including three wickets for Harry’s dad, Chris, a wicket for Andy Gardner and a stunning direct hit run out by Milo Skelton (aged early 20s). Of course, that led to the Philanderers skipper, Jonathan Orders taking charge, and getting their score up to 134 when their final wicket fell in the 33rd over.

By this stage, the Philanderers had still not worked out who the man who had been standing at slip most of the day was. The man who was going to open the batting as in his first game for Refreshers. But the Refreshers’ captain knew who he was – a very good friend of Owen’s – and thought it would be a good idea if he opened the batting together with Skelton junior. Things got off to a promising start, although we lost both Skelton junior and Skelton senior. And when we were 59 for 2, our mystery guest, who I shall now reveal, had 54. None other than Philo Wallace (a wonderful Barbadian cricketer who played 7 tests – top score 92 – and 33 ODIs – top score 103 – for West Indies in the 1990s and who is actually qualifying as a lawyer right now in England!). Well the rest of the chase went fairly quickly although Philo did not have it all his way. For our Saunders replacement, young Jack, whacked a quick 19, and Jack Bell (another son of Chris) hit 9 in about 3 deliveries before getting out with 2 runs required. Of course Chris then joined the great Philo, who finished the game off ending with 80 not out. A great win after 4 years of trying. And the Refreshers may have found another rather useful player! Nay possibly more than one.        

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