In the bucolic setting of Braishfield, bathed in the unaccustomed warmth of this unusual summer, the Rioteers put in a performance as rare as the weather and one which befitted the glorious tea provided by our opponents. However, not all omens were auspicious at the start: the opposing captain was obliged to point out some ominous cracks in the outfield which aroused concern for the unwary fieldsman, but also speculation as to their origin. Fanciful thoughts of tectonic activity were ruled out by your correspondent in favour of the more prosaic explanation that Tertiary sedimentary rocks such as clay are prone to contraction when dried out.
A further problem soon became apparent: for a match designated as 12 a side, the Rioteers turned up with 13 players! Your correspondent, now less certain of his ground, (please excuse the geological pun) acknowledged responsibility and was rescued by Dessie’s generous offer to umpire.
Thus, with the nonsense resolved, the game began with the Rioteers put in to bat. Another unusual aspect of this far from ordinary game was that Simon Brazier, although present, was not to open the visitors’ innings; rather, Martin Hawthorne, (30 runs) and Dave Bickford (23) did so and provided all the impetus of a fine opening stand. When the former was bowled by a Yorker, James Hillier strode to the crease with all the confident authority of a batsman intent upon a major innings. So it proved: with one 6 and eight fours, James played the dominant role in a fine partnership with Simon, (demoted to?) number four in the batting order. After reaching his fifty, James trudged off to the bewilderment of most players on the field. Was he retiring to give others a chance? Was he simply knackered? Apparently he had injured his Achilles but knowledge of the reason appeared to engender little sympathy from his colleagues. Simon went on to make an elegant 36 but only one other Rioteer managed to exceed the total number of extras, 12, namely Bertie Hillier who made 14 and appeared to be cutting loose when he was bowled. (Your correspondent hesitates to offer the advice to Bertie that moving one’s feet might enhance the chance of batting survival, on the grounds that he himself achieved a first ball duck.) One other item typified what “friendly cricket” is all about when young Charlie Light came in to bat and was bowled at for several overs by the even younger Wilf Hillier. Hopefully both will go on to enjoy the game and play often for these long established rival teams. Rioteers declared at tea with 185 for 10. (Declared with 10 wickets down? Yet more Sunday nonsense! And so much the better for it.)
So to that sumptuous tea: prawn cocktail sandwiches, fresh strawberries and a variety of cakes were just some of the delights. Would the Rioteers suffer the consequences of their indulgence when they went into the field?
Apparently not. Hall took a wicket in the first over and here credit must be given to the home umpire who was prepared to raise his finger after just 3 deliveries upon hearing the cry for lbw. At least sportsmanship is still present in Sunday Village Cricket if not in some of the higher levels of the game.
Thereafter, Newport Inn’s wickets fell at regular intervals, not because of problems with the wicket which was less affected by drought than was the outfield, but because of some fine bowling and fielding. Campbell Williams started the rot with 2 wickets for 13 runs, abetted by a fine catch from Simon behind the stumps and by Bertie at mid-off for a peach of a dismissal well above his head as he ran backwards. Both Bertie (1 for 10) and brother Archie (3 for 13) bowled fast so that only Dick Travers managed a substantial innings (22 not out) for Newport. Wilf, Andy Mills, Richard Brazier and skipper, Martin Hillier who also took 2 good catches, all took a wicket so that Newport Inn CC were finally bowled out for the infamous score of 111!
Result: Rioteers won by 74 runs. More importantly, a sunny afternoon in the English countryside was much enjoyed by both sides.