After our planned opposition pulled out late (clearly not adherents of the Mcluskey Withdrawal MethodTM) the Badgers secured a fixture against the intriguingly-named Cincinnati CC at Trinity Fields, where we had previously enjoyed matches against Sinjuns - not to mention the well-stocked and handsomely-balconied pavilion bar. Despite the fixture’s ad hoc nature the cricketing contest, like the bar and Mcluskey himself, proved to be a perfect match.
It looked like we might all be in there sooner than anticipated as strong early spells from Blake and Cornish threatened to make it a quick game, but Cincinatti’s numbers three (who made 91) and eight (31) batted calmly and prospered against some less consistent backup bowling. Cade in particular produced a heady mix of the unplayable, one ball rising dramatically from a length to strike the glove on its way to Stew at slip, and the unspeakable. After plenty of the latter from all concerned, an exhortation from Benno to focus on “tight lines” proved just the spur the Badgers needed, and the innings was wrapped up by another fierce spell from Blake who finished with three wickets to Cornish’s four.
Cincinnati Zoo was famously the home of the last passenger pigeons, a species formerly endemic to North America which was wiped out during the 19th century through hunting and deforestation. And speaking of passengers, the Badgers’ innings was certainly not marked by balanced contributions from throughout the batting order. As Chris batted majestically at one end to compose a sparkling 85 off just 47 balls, the rest of the top five scored a meagre six runs between them - eight times, Chris hit that many off a single ball. He seemed to be playing on a different pitch, and when he was in partnership with a less fluent but equally determined Cornish, a Badger victory felt inevitable.
When Chris eventually perished, Fitzy kept things ticking over, until Cornish received an unplayable lifting delivery and was caught behind. With 24 runs needed to win, four wickets in hand and ten overs to play, any result bar a Badger win still seemed unthinkable - but such is cricket’s capacity to surprise. The Badgers were thirteen runs shy of glory when Fitzy drove aerially to mid off, and as the bowlers and fielders smelt blood and tightened things up, the tension increased as Rex and Cade inched towards the target. Cade was bowled by a big leg break, and Hirsty (having been enjoying a serene second pint on the balcony minutes earlier) was caught off a leading edge - eight were still needed to win when last man Blake strode in.
As Badgers and hangers-on gathered nervously around the scorebook, three scrambled singles were followed by a slashed four from Blake through cow corner which levelled the scores. But next ball, summoning all his talents, the Cincinnati skipper produced a fine delivery which tailed in to strike the very top of off stump as Allyn looked to repeat the shot - sadly managing instead to repeat his unique Badgers feat of having been bowled as last man with the scores level.
Although the final half an hour had been disappointing for the Badgers, it was a pleasure to be involved in a grandstand finale after some great individual performances from both sides. Chris was a shoo-in for Badger of the Match for a fine display of batting in an innings when nobody except he, Cornish and Fitzy had scored more than six.