Regular readers of Rioteers’ match reports should be prepared to suspend belief before continuing with this one.
On Sunday, 21st July, the Rioteers (but not initially their Captain) found themselves once more in the delightfully rural setting of Braishfield, ready to play old opponents, Newport Inn CC. In the absence of Martin Hillier at the appropriate time for the toss of a coin, Vice-captain Dave Bickford duly stepped in and, having called correctly, chose to bat on a dry wicket whose slope makes (un?)even Lords look like a billiard table.
Dave opened with Martin Hawthorne in a classic right/left-hander combination which produced a steady start despite some hostile bowling from the “top end”. Having established themselves, stroked some boundaries and begun to look settled, both succumbed in relatively quick succession. (Readers please note: Dave was not given LBW by the Rioteers’ own bowler-friendly umpire. Ed.) There then developed a most entertaining partnership by two batsmen of contrasting ages, shape, and style. The younger, taller Sam Cook (don’t mention the ODI Final) bludgeoned his way to 47 runs with five boundaries, including 2 sixes, whilst James Hillier played with the straightest bat in the team. However, James may have regretted his adherence to the classic tenets of this noble game when having to run no fewer than 40 of his score of 56 not out- no wonder that he retired, bemoaning the fact that the scorers could have informed him earlier than they actually did of his feat in reaching the half century.
As is his tried and tested custom, Campbell Williams decided to take a close look at the bowling and to assiduously assess the testing conditions before hitting his first 2 deliveries for 6! Live by the sword….Campbell made 29 before holing out in another attempted boundary hit. Meanwhile the much younger (it does show Campbell) Bertie Hillier demonstrated to his older partner exactly how to bat aggressively by hitting 7 fours and 2 sixes in his 54 not out before he too became the second batsman to retire, allowing Damian Stafford and Harry Hill brief cameos of innings. Indeed, Damian in his all too brief occupation of the crease, raised one of the bigger cheers of the day from an unusually large number of spectators by means of a textbook drive to extra cover. (One Newport player was heard to remark that it was time to cash in on such local interest by charging spectators an entrance fee. One assumes he was in jest. Ed.)
Rioteers declared at tea: 235 for 4 and 2 of those wickets were the result of superb catches in the deep by Ben Travers. Despite a slight hiccup with the water-heater which delayed the (liquid) tea, tea (food) itself was well worth waiting for: traditionally thick-cut sandwiches for healthy appetites and a wide variety of cakes. ( A lemon cake, my favourite. Ed.)
Rioteers produced yet more contrasts when in the field after tea, not least the age difference between the opening bowlers- well over fifty years. The younger, much faster Archie Hillier, came steaming down the slope and took two wickets, one courtesy of a slip catch by brother Bertie. Archie could well have had more but some chances went begging. At the other end John Hall, running (tottering?) up the hill, bowled much slower and offered to be taken off after 3 consecutive maidens bored everyone to death. (Spectators were observed to depart at this point. Ed.) The even younger Harry Hill replaced Archie down the hill (confused?) and also bowled fast but perhaps found the slope too great to adjust to his familiar rhythm. (Have patience dear readers; there is much more of his role to come. Ed.) Meanwhile our earlier maligned skipper demonstrated his adeptness at man-management, combining the pursuit of victory with the necessity to keep each individual involved in the game. His next bowling change, the introduction of Robert Rinaldo at the upslope end could have been a masterstroke, so many chances were created by his bowling. Sadly, chances did not become wickets most noticeably when Campbell reversed the tendency he perfected in Alderney, not to move forward for a catch, by failing to move backwards enough at mid-on to provide Robert with a deserved wicket. Campbell rubbed salt into the wound by later coming on to bowl at the same end then taking two wickets, one of which was a catch in the same mid-on position. (Could you write the script? Ed.) The catch in question was truly astonishing: the right-handed Bertie Hillier ran full pelt from mid-on towards the boundary before flinging himself horizontally to clutch the ball spectacularly with his outstretched left hand.
Bertie and Sam Cook both had spells at the top end, but without success. It is interesting to speculate at which point the slope fails to be an advantage to the bowler; on this occasion, it clearly was not as the final events of this compelling contest revealed.
Newport Inn CC, faced with so formidable a total, did not look like winning the game but at 78 for 3, then 107 for 4, well into the last 20 overs, they had every prospect of a draw. Moreover, the game was being played at 12-a-side to accommodate the number of visitors wishing to play in this popular fixture which meant that 11 wickets would have to fall. Well dear readers, it is at this point your credulity will be taxed; Martin turned again to pace: this time, Harry up the hill, and eventually Bertie back down it. Harry produced the performance of the season, if anything generating more pace than in his first spell at the apparently more favourable end. Four opponents were cleaned bowled: one in the earlier spell; one by a fast full toss which dipped at the last; one by a good length ball and one by a slow Yorker which visibly swung away. Another batsman was LBW and one caught which meant that Harry’s remarkable figures were:
7 overs; 1 Maiden; 13 Runs; 6 Wickets.
Bertie took the last wicket so Newport were all out for 123 runs- save, that is, for Richard Brazier who kindly agreed to make up Newport’s number when they generously agreed to 12-a-side game. Richard was 7 not out, including a sweetly timed 4 off the back foot, perhaps a portent of things to come now that he intends to forsake bowling for batsmanship.
After the game we retired, not to the hostelry from which our opponents are eponymously named, for it no longer exists, but to the Wheatsheaf. How apposite that the Rioteers should play Newport Inn in such fine spirit on and off the pitch.