Where were you when Stokes beat the Aussies?
The Rioteer faithful (that unlikely fan base) travelled varying distances to the quintessential, idyllic cricket ground of Longparish – from 200 yds to 12,000 miles in the case of Damian’s cousin Diane from Australia.
Meanwhile at Headingley, Australia had removed Root early doors and Bairstow had also fallen – the Ashes were as good as lost.
As ever, the sun shone on this part of rural Hampshire in the water meadows along the River Test – home of Mayfly Gin (quick plug for my friends who launched their Gin this weekend – available at Caviste and the Leckford Farm Shop).
Before play began, the Rioteers gathered in the dressing room where skipper Martin said a few kind words, before Jim Shea and then Damian said a few more, even kinder words and presented a bottle of bubbly (wrapped in the Financial Times) to Sam Cook who had joined the team this season, in his mother’s footsteps, and contributed so fully with bat, ball and more importantly Rioteer spirit all summer, with this his final hurrah before returning to Auckland.
Martin lost the toss (I think) and the Rioteers were put into the field. Bertie opened the bowling from the Hurstbourne Priors end and found the edge with his second ball which flew to the big birthday boy bucket hands Bickers who joyfully caught the ball behind the stumps. Brother Archie bowled from the Plough end with equal pace and menace. Both brothers picked up a couple of wickets but also combined to pull off an exceptional run-out. Bertie bowled and the batsman edged along the ground wide of Archie at slip, who managed to stretch, pick up and throw the ball with alarming velocity to the bowlers end to throw down the stumps – with a small deviation off Bertie’s hand, though I am assured it would have hit anyway – Archie said so.
Meanwhile at Headingley Buttler and Woakes had been dismissed and another nail was in the coffin of the little urn (not sure if that works) needing over 100 runs with 3 wickets left.
Longparish made steady progress through Luke Benzing, who top scored for the hosts with 31 runs, and Sam Gardner – but couldn’t quite break free as the Rioteer bowlers kept a nagging line and length. John Hall’s un-erring accuracy earned him 2 wickets in this middle spell, while Sam’s off-spin at the other end tied the hosts down and he, too, picked up the wicket of danger man Luke B.
Meanwhile at Headingley Broad and Archer had gone, England had tried hard but over 70 runs left with one wicket remaining – impossible.
Another brother bowling combination ensued in the form of skipper Martin and yours truly, though I was inexplicably taken off in my prime after only 2 overs. However, I am pleased to say that Jonathan Arnold, making his debut for the Rioteers against his son Ben playing for the hosts, took over from the Plough end and bowled brilliantly with figures of 4 overs, 2 maidens, 1 wicket for 2 runs. Negotiations are taking place to arrange a more permanent transfer.
Jim Shea also showed us what we have been missing this season with an array of unplayable deliveries in what was the most memorable over of the match. To put Jim’s over into context, word had reached the middle that “meanwhile in Headingley” Stokes had gone berserk with the bat and had brought England to the brink of victory. Every ball Jim bowled was followed by anxious looks to the boundary where the Longparish team were gathered around a mobile telephone. At least twice, their reactions conveyed the Aussies had won only for emotions to be catapulted the other way when shouts of “He’s not out” raced across the outfield. As Jim trundled up to bowl his last ball he looked like a spent man, drained of emotion, but as the ball left his hand a great cheer arose from the pavilion heralding the impossible had become possible, England had defeated Australia and Jim had completed his over, conceding just 3 runs.
It is clear that both the Jameses have been under-used in the bowling attack this season – but there are still 3 games to go.
Talking of underused resources, the Rioteer bowling record holder was never even taken out of his wrapper. Clearly Richard “Braz” Brazier was being kept up the skipper’s sleeve in case of a Longparish counter attack. But just as it seemed Martin Bearpark was on the brink of doing just that, his partner succumbed to Bertie’s final ball.
Brazier, however, cannot be kept out of the action and it is important to properly describe the athleticism and bravery that belied his years as he ran in from mid-on and dived headlong to pick up the catch of the day – well that’s how I remember it. 4 catches were held during the afternoon with no drops recorded. The other catchers may have to reveal themselves to the editor (thanks Damian) as I’m afraid I can’t remember, but I think Bertie had one and perhaps Martin the other? [If you reckon you got a catch and have been cruelly under-represented, please call our customer complaints department on the number not provided. Ed.]
Tea followed the Longparish inning that finished on 139 with Martin B the not out batsman on 15. And what a tea it was. Even though the temperature was in the 30s, the delicious cakes, heartily filled rolls, fruity tarts, bountiful crisps, lashings of cold cordial and hot tea were consumed with relish. Thanks to Jonathan and Claire for a magnificent and much appreciated feast – more reason to finalise a transfer deal.
Martin sent in Archie and Sam to open the batting – Sam batting in his final Rioteer match of the season in front of his grandparents. The Longparish attack was strong and accurate but Sam was in in “all or nothing mode”. Last week his first shot went for six, the second was out. Sam began as he left off last week, while Archie took up his uncle’s mantle with a steadier approach. Sam chanced his arm and a few difficult chances went down, and there was a chance that those chances would be rued later.
Nathan Smith broke through for Longparish removing Archie with an LBW appeal that even his uncle could find no fault with as he raised his finger – the score 45. The raised finger brought Damian into the fray who was clearly hyped up with the emotion that followed England’s victory barely an hour before. It was clear by the glint in his eye that he was Ben Stokes, but sadly had forgotten the first few painful, patient, watchful hours that marked the beginning of Stokes’ epic knock. After a cleverly worked leg-bye, Damian looked to launch his first ball from Will McDermott – only to hear the death rattle as the ball evaded bat and imploded into the timbers sending the bails flying – the score 46.
Damian’s demise led to the aforementioned Birthday Boy Bucket Hands Bickers striding out to the crease. Dave showed all his experience and great touch as he kept his end ticking over and ended on a commendable 18 not out. At the other end, however, Sam had stepped up a gear and had swapped edges for full blooded drives off the middle. To their great credit, the young Longparish bowlers did not waiver and stuck to their task, bowling good lines. However, every dog has his day, and this was surely Sam’s as every swing connected and the scoring gathered pace and victory was assured in fairly quick order with a final six from Sam. That shot not only saw the visitors’ home but also brought up a tantalising 99th run for Sam – or so we thought until a recount of his score showed that he had indeed scored his maiden century – a great knock.
Both matches were duly celebrated after the match at The Swan in Barton Stacey (the Cricketer’s having closed after Sunday lunch).
Thanks to Longparish for being great hosts once again and look forward to 2020.
The Rioteers next match is a joint affair with the Raqueteers on Saturday 7th v Catus (Andy Mills match manager) and the following day Sunday 8th v Chute (Damian match manager).