Sunday’s game faced a few headwinds; COVID grounded many younger Rioteers (meaning Greg didn’t get to revisit the scene of his famous 3 wickets in 4 balls); rain was due around 5pm; and it was competing with the Wimbledon final and a football game in the evening (about which we’re so over, already). However, a fine Rioteers team mixing youth, mid-life insouciance and no little flair served up another tight finish against our near homophones, the Racqueteers.
Smiling, Campbell lost the toss. On a pitch that was more pan de spagna than crespelleour hosts found scoring hard going against uniformly tight bowling. In the field, Guy and Sam demonstrated the latest sliding techniques to raised eyebrows from less supple teammates. Matt C and Andy revived their glorious Knott and Underwood double act, while the Wood-ster essayed John Lever before settling into a more convincing and effective Ray East. As Roberto’s imprecations tickled the bi-lingual umpire, wickets fell regularly, were evenly shared and fielding remained un-characteristically sharp. Runs escaped all but their skipper (using his feet well) and Rishi and Stots, whose use of the long handle gave the innings late momentum, before both fell to fine catches by Bertie on the boundary.
Thus, 133 was set from 25 overs – do-able, but also easily Munsoned.
Within 30 minutes, the Rioteers were sagely sharing Boycott-bingo phrase #3 – ‘you only know a good score once both teams have batted’. With half the team in the hutch for 30 odd, the Rioteers were looking down the wrong end of the telescope, thanks to some wicked inswinging Yorkers, injudicious leaves and genial self-immolation at the crease. With the innings gurning badly, Campbell joined his vice-captain to smite their way out of trouble. Odds were still against, but hope (and belief) remained until the skipper (still smiling) neglected to ground his bat after running a cheeky 3, and was run out. This brought Archie to join Bertie for the last wicket with 60 odd still required.
Could the de Boer brothers of the Stockbridge Road (who are not Dutch, not twins and never played together for Glasgow Rangers, but do bicker famously) pull off a Hollywood ending ? Or would the afternoon’s fine fielding performance be undone by an innings threatening to be more Joe Dolce than Joe Root ?
Need I have asked, dear reader ? Singles were turned into twos, twos into threes, the strike rotated coolly and the boundaries cleared as the target was chased down with an over and a bit to spare and the rain pelting hard. Archie finished on a canny 14*, Bertie on a sparkling 70* – bravissimo !
Ben fatto too to debutant Guy and to Sam (for coming back for seconds); ben tornato to returning amici Matt C and Woody (just as you thought you were out, we pull you back in) and grazie to our gracious hosts, the Racqueteers. Campbell next conducts the Rioteer commedia dell’arte at the Newport, (when the drinks are surely on Roberto ?).