Once again the Rioteers were lured to that epitome of a Sunday fixture: Newport Inn CC at Braishfield. So many aspects of this fixture typify the amateur Sunday game: the 2.30pm start, gloriously defying current trends for early combat which would deprive dedicated Rioteers of their lunchtime pint (pintS, Ed.); the wooden pavilion with a more than passing resemblance to a garden shed; and by no means least, the fact that one team had 14 players, the other, only 10. Can you imagine, dear reader, India lending a struggling England a couple of players if the occasion were to arise? No? Well, that is precisely what the Rioteers altruistically offered Newport Inn CC on Sunday last.
You may recall that the weather forecast for the weekend in question invoked the now all too familiar apocalyptic elements (Michael Fish it’s your fault!). On this occasion the cause of apprehension was not storm and flood, but extreme heat- and here comes the connection with the first paragraph for those readers already inclined to accuse the Match Manager of a brazen lack of continuity in this report. In order to cope with the expected debilitating conditions, it was proposed to play 12 a side, but with only 11 on the field at one time, and only 11 to bat. Thus, each player would be allowed a few overs’ break to recover from the heat- essential for the Rioteers with 2 septuagenarians in the “squad”. However, the opposition reported a deficiency of one in their team, whilst at that point the Rioteers had potentially 16 available! However, at late stages Simon H withdrew as he was on (in?) Alderney and wished to avoid the heat wave; no doubt he was enjoying the attractions of the island with which those players who recently visited this offshore haven would readily empathise, and Harry H. was offered a ticket for the final of one of the new-fangled competitions with which seriously traditional Rioteers would not empathise! (only kidding Harry Ed.) On the day, Archie H. volunteered to play for the opposition along with his Uni. mate, Guy. Interestingly, the latter, a would-be army officer, found himself confronting an actual one: Lt Col Tim Osman. In the event, in terms of runs scored, the potential shaded the actual….
….which , at last, leads us to the game itself. Rioteers batted first and opened with experience: Martin H. and Major Tom (so sorry: wrong rank and wrong vowel! Ed). Tim was into his stride more quickly and seemed well set with a score in the 20s when he holed out to mid-on who took a good catch from a fierce drive. Robert R. was promoted to number four and mixed his baseball shots in the arc between mid-wicket and square leg with a few runs on the offside. Mark N. ( the method of using the initial letter of the surname avoids the Match Manager’s propensity for spelling this particular case incorrectly!) came in next and produced in an abbreviated innings, one absolutely magnificent pull for 4 to square leg off Newport’s quickish opening bowler. Williams father and son came next, Campbell scoring more boundaries but Greg definitely playing with the straighter bat! Meanwhile, Martin continued his measured and responsible innings, most unfairly labelled “boring” by his unappreciative offspring.
Another brief innings followed from Hugo P. with some lusty blows and great enthusiasm; no wonder he engenders so much good will from the rest of the team but also a degree of micky-taking which he endures with consummate bonhomie. Thereafter, some aggressive batting ensued which quickly piled on the runs: Dan C. contributed some classic shots, Bertie H. some of sheer power but also at least one cover drive on the ground which scorched the already ochre turf. Both went in their 20s before last man, Zach O., came in and, as had Greg before him, demonstrated the potential which had older members of the team hoping that these young players would be with us whenever possible in future seasons.
Finally, but certainly not least, let us return to Martin’s performance in carrying his bat (if you listened to his sons you would think that was literally all he did) of 85 not out in a team score of 210 for 9. This was by no means Martin’s highest score but it was a beautifully constructed and well paced innings, containing familiar singles (including attempts to put off the fielder, Archie no less, by shouting, “quick, they are looking for two!” when he had no such intention), heaves to mid-wicket, nowadays called “slog-sweeps”, and, believe it or not, classic cover drives off front and back foot.
In truth, the score seemed too much for the opposition, and so it proved but not before 163 runs were grittily carved out and with the game extending well enough into the final 20 overs for considerable interest to be maintained. Rioteers opened the bowling with 2 players of contrasting age but similarly classic sideways on actions. In the event neither Dan nor Zach had much luck but both were a pleasure to watch. First change was Bertie with considerable extra pace – your reporter can confirm that his pace indeed compared favourably with that of the opening bowlers for Hampshire Academy recently observed at Alton. Father and son both bowled, Campbell taking a wicket early in his spell, Greg gaining his with some very well flighted off-spinners. Sam, Mark and Hugo all enjoyed decent spells before Bertie came back to finish things off.
In case you had forgotten, dear reader, we shall now return to the original theme: the lending of players from one team to another. In this case, Archie and Guy proved invaluable in making a partnership of more than 50 at a late stage in Newport’s innings. Archie played some fine shots and it is no exaggeration to say that had he not got out, the Rioteers may soon have been worried. Guy brought his own brand of unconventional, but nevertheless effective batsmanship (and a degree of humorous gamesmanship it should be noted) to the occasion and was well on his way to half century when he too was unexpectedly dismissed. All in all, is it any wonder that this is such a popular fixture in the Rioteers’ season? Our thanks to Newport Inn for their hospitality on and off the field (the tea was superb!).