It was a beautifully warm and sunny Spring day to open the season at the charming cricket club of St Mary Bourne. The Rioteers team assembled full of anticipation. Firstly, introductions were needed as no less than 5 of the team were making their Rioteer debut. The Match Manager (yours truly) was very grateful that the fab 5 agreed to step into the breach – and hopefully they will continue to do so throughout the season when available!
With the club skipper, Campbell, unavailable – paying homage to our patron saint – the first decision was to select a captain. Surprisingly James “nipper” Hillier was given the nod by the elder statesmen, and promptly lost the toss. Put into bat, Martin and Jon were given the opening duties while the rest of the batting order could be mulled over while watching the score accumulate serenely in the sunshine. The reality of the next few minutes could not be more off-plan. The ball was swinging wildly, the pitch was keeping low and the SMB bowlers skilfully controlled both factors to great effect. The cream of the batting line-up (Martin, Jon, Graeme, Chris and Tom) paraded in and back again with alarming regularity and a sense of panic had set in to the ranks and the debutant skipper. Within a shake of a lamb’s tail, the score after 6 overs was 7 runs for 5 wickets.
At the fifth wicket Nipper the Skipper was joined at the crease by Bertie. As luck would have it a sporting gesture from SMB captain, James, he took himself and the other opening bowler off. Bertie led the fight back with an assured 21 with some typical clean hitting. He succumbed in the 14th over – caught by the SMB captain, who could do no wrong. The score by this stage had moved swiftly to 53 for 6. The newly appointed skipper, who had dropped anchor, was assisted by the final 4 batsmen, notably Robert Rinaldo and Peter “Cledders” Cledwyn, and very briefly Simon Hunt(!) before being the final wicket to fall in the 24th over for 40. The last man standing was the 12 year old debutant Will Gilbey. As tea was hurriedly brought forward, the total score was 91 all out.
After some refreshment the skipper watched the players warming up to assess who the bowling attack could be. Bertie opened from the Village Hub end and was straight on the money inducing an inside edge on to the stumps. One down. The next 7 overs were tight and full of tension. Jon Gilbey’s first 4 overs going for just 5 runs, Bertie’s for 7.
But a spark was needed and young Will Gilbey was thrown the ball. His first ball for the Rioteers saw the no.3 batsman push upwards and Graeme Johnson duly obliged in the covers. 2 down for 13, but the wicket brought danger man Johnny Orange to the fray. He clipped his third ball nicely off his legs and called for 2, perhaps he had not seen that it was Bertie covering the legside boundary? The resulting run out gave a boost of morale to the fielding team who began to think they may just cause SMB a few problems, at least, on their way to inevitable victory.
Johnny’s son Tom began to put together a partnership with the opener, moving the score on to 30 when he was clean bowled by William, the boy wonder. At the other end Graeme was plugging away – having not bowled a ball for many years – and he began to find his rhythm. Bowling 5 straight overs, Graeme struck in his last to remove batsman number 6 – so 5 wickets down and the total 43.
Chris Partridge was brought on to bowl to give William a rest. 6 deliveries full of mystery. It may seem harsh that the skipper took him off, and amidst whispers of nepotism brought on his brother Martin. However, the SMB number 7 had scored quickly against the Rioteers in previous years, so the guile of Hillier M was called into action. In his first over he was promptly despatched for 2 fours – on the face of it an inauspicious start but for the 5th ball of the over where the flight deceived the batsman who was stranded only for Nipper to drop the ball and miss the stumping. A costly mistake perhaps? The score was beginning to creep along – the 6th wicket partnership worth a valuable 23 runs. It was time to bring Bertie back into the attack – no point leaving him any later as SMB edged closer to their target. As drinks were taken, the score had moved on to 66 for 5.
It should be said that every SMB run was hard earned as the Rioteers fielded like their lives depended on it – the Cats in the covers (Roberto and Graeme), the Cobras at mid-on and mid-off (Chris and Tom Townsend) and special mention to the Long Barrier of Longparish, Simon Hunt. Nothing was going to penetrate that ring of steel.
Second over after drinks Nipper was given the opportunity to make amends and this time affected a stumping off his brother to end the dangerous inning of the number 7 batsman. At the other end Bertie produced another pearl to remove the number 8 and a wicket maiden. The score was 67 -7. Rioteers eyes widened – was this really happening?
SMB captain James was now at the crease to join the limpet like opener and together they saw Bertie’s last over off (another maiden) and picked singles off Martin. Jon was brought back into the attack and produced a Flintoff-like over to remove the skipper and with the very next ball the number 10 as well – both clean bowled. A hat-trick (the third hat-trick ball in the match) to win the game was on. The fielders surrounded the bat, Jon reached the end of his run up, turned and cantered towards the crease and sent the ball, arrow like, towards the stumps….where it was solidly met by a very proficient number 11. The next few overs saw these seasoned batsmen accumulate again – a single here and there, and the odd four to bring them with in 7 runs of the Rioteers total, with 9 or 10 overs still left in the game.
The tension was palpable, every player felt the heavy burden of victory or defeat was on them and their individual actions. Who could be turned to? Who was going to see this through? The ball was thrown to Rioteers lucky charm, Billy the Kid. His first ball of this second spell was typically wicket to wicket, no run. His second drifted slightly down leg, and was nudged to leg for an easy single – except the non-striker refused to run. Jon threw quickly but inaccurately to Cledders at slip who skillfully gathered the ball and redirect it towards the wicket as two more Rioteers fell over themselves to push the ball against the stumps. Surely the batsmen will have made their ground? The bails tumbled, the players turned to see if the batsman was home, to see the 2 of them in earnest debate at the bowlers end. The Game was Won in a fittingly extraordinary way. My thoughts go to their not out opening batsman who was stranded on 30.
The team: Chris Partridge, Tom Townsend, Simon Hunt, Graeme Johnson, William “Billy the Kid” Gilbey, Jon Gilbey, Robert Rinaldo, Peter Cledwyn, Bertie, Martin and James Hillier.
Sadly, Coombe Bisset was rained off yesterday – so onwards next week to Appleshaw (8th May 1pm), Simon Brazier is Match Manager. Cheers, James