Bramshaw v. Rioteers, 1st August, 2021

The prospects of a game were not auspicious on Sunday with banks of cumulonimbus clouds overhead and rain falling at the 2pm start time. With this in mind the two captains opted for a 35 overs match and Rioteers were asked to bat.

Jim Shea and Martin Hillier opened the batting but, after scoring one delightful four, Jim was first to depart when failing to wait for a rank long-hop to arrive at his bat only to top edge a skier which was well caught. At this point it is worth recording that both sides had only ten men and had to field well; both did so commendably. Indeed, Bramshaw had seven teenagers in their side, the youngest only thirteen, but their tremendous team spirit and unstinting enthusiasm more than made up for any inexperience.

As one of the older opponents commented, Martin and James Hillier, the latter coming in at three, set about building a partnership by playing straight balls with classic defence, but punishing the bad ones ruthlessly. James looked a batsman of real pedigree with some wonderful straight drives and pull shots played with rolled wrists always keeping the ball down. Sadly, he failed to achieve a much deserved fifty only because he was erroneously run out by the square leg umpire’s poor decision (your Match reporter’s fault no less: sorry James!). However, Martin proceeded with ever increasing facility and some aggressive strokes including many clever placements behind square on the off, as well as trade-mark sixes over wide long-on. Campbell Williams scored some quick runs before being bowled, and Greg Williams, after an understandably hesitant start from a young batsman who has played only  few games for the Rioteers, gained in confidence and played some good scoring shots which augur well for the future. Again, it is pleasing to note how many young players were also in the Rioteers team: the future of Sunday cricket looks safe in the hands of these two clubs.

Last man to bat for Rioteers was Bertie Hillier who, after taking 24 off one over, made way for his father to complete an entertaining century. Indeed, Marting played so well, as he has done on many occasions for Rioteers for many years, that your reporter doubts that he was the only one to learn from Martin afterwards that this was only his second century. The innings closed during a heavy burst of rain which occasioned speculation of an early tea, but this was not ultimately taken: the score finally 219 for 4.

When it was taken, the tea turned out to be superb and all credit and thanks to Bramshaw CC for returning to the old, and much missed, tradition. 

Bramshaw’s chase got off to a cracking start: Ben, who had also opened the bowling, hit Archie Hillier, bowling the opening over up the hill, for a delightful cover-driven four in the first over. Bowling down the hill, your reporter’s treatment was even more brutal when a six over long on clearly demonstrated the batsmen’s intent. Any thoughts the Rioteers may have harboured of an easy win soon disappeared. When Ben was eventually caught at the wicket by James Hillier, standing up to Hall, (some small compensation for the latter’s earlier treatment) the other opener, Ollie, went on to a fine half century and eventually 74. Many bowlers were tried (in fact, both sides used eight bowlers, thus ensuring that all players were well involved in the game, very much in the spirit of Sunday cricket) and Greg C. and Wilf Hillier both impressed by bowling good lines and lengths on a 22 yard pitch, when they normally play on 19. Skipper Campbell and Robert Rinaldo also bowled well as well as fielding with same enthusiasm as the youngsters, whilst Archie returned for a second spell and wisely opted to bowl spin; taking pace off the ball made it harder to score runs as deflections no longer automatically reached the short boundaries.

With five wickets down and their excellent young captain, Bailey now batting, Bramshaw reached the last over with the game in the balance, as Campbell left unreported in his teasing e mail. Bertie  Hllier was bowling fast from the bottom end where he had already clean bowled the opponent’s top scorer, and Bramshaw needed three off the last ball to win. The first required run was easily taken and the second was necessarily risked; a good throw came in, James whipped off the bails and a loud appeal ensued. The verdict: “not out” so Bramshaw finished with 219 for 5 and a tie.

Much as Rioteers had tried to win, none begrudged  Bramshaw their fair share of an absolutely splendid match. Finally, a mention for both skippers who contrived such a closely fought game whilst giving players of all ages from 12 to 75 the opportunity to enjoy their involvement in village cricket.

Bringing It Home – Rioteers v Racqueteers, July 11

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 ?).

Rioteers v. Cadnam, 6th June, 2021

Joy at Last

Joy was unconfined on Sunday evening after the Rioteers 1st win of the season under seasoned campaigner and new captain Williams lifted them off the bottom of the table. With talk of new investment and an ambition for the IPL, things are looking up.

Brazier, for it was he, had done a marvellous job of sorting out a team, and an oppo so welcoming on a glorious half term Sunday afternoon, and had even brought along a grandson as strike bowler, but after the second ball, a typical off stump Hill bullet had been planted firmly into the forest, things were looking like the traditional long hard afternoon, but having won the toss and elected to bowl on a damp green wicket, new captain Williams had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Leaving Hillier (B) in the outfield, he bowled himself for 8 straight overs, taking 1 for 26, thanks to an excellent stumping by the returning Gilby, when it was generally noted that it was good to have a decent keeper at last.

At the other (downhill) end Hill had taken 4 overs of toil and was then replaced by 5 overs of Hillier, and the rate had slowed but batsmen were still there, and the opener was playing cleanly through the offside, but a wall formed by the excellent Prince, Hillier (W) and Ronaldo triumvirate kept the run rate slow, and after reaching three figures the opener was run out for an excellent 102.

At this point Brazier (S) and Mills were keeping the run rate slow with 6 overs each of a mix of guile turn, flight, and simon’s right arm dollies, and with two overs from both Hillier (W) and Ronaldo bringing some welcome entertainment, it was the last 8 overs from Hill and Hillier (B) that kept the score down to an eminently chaseable 191 for about 6.

Tea, largely from Brazier (Mrs), was consumed with gusto, especially the flapjacks, but good to see the Masters and others joining the fray.

And so another key decision, to open with Brazier, and Hillier (J) and at 50 without loss in the face of an unusually weak bowling attack things were going swimmingly, but Hillier (J) fell, leading Prince to the wicket at three. And then the lengthy languid hitting of Prince, sped the rate up, but not the running, before simon played a foolish attempt to hit one off the square and was caught for just over 50, leading to Hillier (B) with his brand new bat, to whack a few more Into the forest, and that’s how it finished with Prince and Hillier ( B) undefeated, Prince, solidifying his unexpected number 3 spot, well into his fifities.

A few cold beers washed down with the taste of victory, and it was nice to see that the people who contributed a lot were not the usual suspects, but Prince, Millsy, Gilby Wilf and Rob, who fielded excellently, batted excellently and bowled excellently – so well done for Richard again getting such a strong team together during half term.

Onwards and upwards to Crawley …

Rioteers v. Hambledon, 9 May, 2021

The Rioteers’ post-Bickers/Stafford era (spoken of quietly as the Revie/ Bremner of the club) has started with 2 close finishes – how would the club, sporting 4 Hilliers (but not the usual ones), 2 debutants and 3 teenagers fare at the Cradle of Cricket against such storied opposition as Hambledon CC ?

Founded in 1750, the same year Hogarth (in his pre-roundabout period) etched Gin Lane. George II (the one before Nigel Hawthorne, and two before Hugh Laurie in Blackadder 3) was on the throne (the last foreign born monarch and last to lead an army into battle). Voltaire had yet to write Candide (1758), although historians of smut will confirm that Fanny Hill (that year’s Shades of Grey) was doing the rounds. Thomas Lord had yet to be born (in Yorkshire, to a disgraced Jacobite) and the arriviste Marylebone CC not yet founded (1787). Cook (James, not Alistair) had yet to join the Navy, let alone sail the Pacific and ‘discover’ Australia. The Ashes wouldn’t begin for another 130 years and the French Revolution was 39 years in the future. Beethoven (b 1770) hadn’t started his Unfinished Symphony, although Handel (cut the Wiki look ups, we get the picture – Ed).

Vice-captain Bertie won the toss, sending openers Martin White (guesting from the Crows and making his second Rioteers debut) and Jim to face motoric, Hendricks-like nag from one end and Hoggard-esque swing (and hair) from the other. Early going was challenging (to watch) with the bowlers on top. Martin W (9) fell alliteratively to a lovely lifting delivery which left him off a length. From 21/1, Hillier, M changed the tempo, lit up the electronic scoreboard and took the innings to 105/2 – when Jim (33) offered up one chance too many – then 124/3 – when Charlie (7) was castled by more extravagant swing. Marty then pulled a hamstring and retired out (75), leaving Sudip (9) and Roberto (28) to befuddle the opposition with their tip and run partnership, before Bertie (32*) lost 3 balls in a characteristically quick-fire cameo (of 3 sixes and 2 fours). Thus, with skipper Campbell and Hilliers J and W still padded up, the ‘Dons (sic) had been set 212 to win in 40 overs.

Tea was functional, except for Martin W’s leftovers and some shared jam tarts.

Two Lewises opened for Hambledon. Lulled into taking on Bertie in the first over, only one was left by the end of it (6/1). The hosts’ progress was then relatively orderly in the evening sunshine, before Martin W took a stunning return catch to rival Campbell’s at St Mary Bourne (about which James is still finding adequate words for his much-anticipated match report). Wilf, channelling John Hall’s canny control, then struck with two crucial wickets. With Sam’s strong arm and willing running sweeping up one boundary, James’s solid glovework and hamstrung Hillier coming off no paces, with 15 overs left the game was still anyone’s.

The tense silence was broken only by Hambledon’s Wally ‘The Voice’ Grout doppelganger and the Hillier brothers listing famous Martins between balls. (Bormann, Luther and Heidegger, anyone ?) As the weather closed in, so too did LeClerq (jnr) on a maiden century. Campbell applied the brakes, bringing himself and Bertie back on. In light rain, a couple of half chances were created, but spilled. And for the second successive week, the game went to the last over, with 3 runs required.

After 2 dots, Captain Kevin slashed one straight to opposite number Campbell. This was the game in microcosm – skipper to skipper, mano a mano. ? Kevin groaned, the crowd coo-ed, Campbell had it, then didn’t. Roberto cursed colourfully, but as another dot ball it still left 3 from 3. A quick single. 2 from 2. Then, the coup de grace – a sliced two and Hambledon had it. Close, but no cigar for the Rioteers, who may not be winning games, but are winning friends and wearing smiles.

Huge thanks to Hambledon for a wonderful game, played in the right way. And a big shout out to the club for their commitment to inclusive, developmental cricket. Many institutions are weighed down by their history. Hambledon celebrate theirs, wonderfully.

Next up, Rioteers visit Hursley Park (founded 1785 …)

AC11 … White line of duty (Rioteers v. Coombe Bisset, 2 May, 2021)

A Cricketing 11
In line with others I waited for the thrilling denouement on Sunday evening, when it came down to the very final scene. 
Who is h. Would he come good eventually? Would there be a massive shoot out at the end. Would h be hall, hillier or hill. What was the role of dc trickett, arriving late in the final episode? 
In the end press reports suggest an anticlimactic end, but very enjoyable to have been part of. 
Many unanswered questions suggest another episode next week. 
For those wanting more details, we can suggest reading the mail on line, where the werkends plot twists abound, but … 
Could h be hambledon? 
Tune in next week to find out …

Winner of the 2020 award for sartorial elegance

There are two nominees for this prestigious award this year, both on account of their attire at the game against Crawley in Winchester on 20 September.

First nominee. Dessie sported a hat that suggested he’d lost a bet with the Flowerpot Men, notwithstanding which, and especially when combined with his pads as he waited, like a coiled spring but sadly in the end un-needed to go to the middle and seize victory for the Rioteers, he achieved a sartorial elegance that transcended mere fashion.

Second nominee. Marty, realising how special the occasion was, raised the sartorial bar. In these times in which we turn up in our whites owing to the lack of changing facilities, he sauntered toward his teammates, as if along a Milanese catwalk, deserving but not receiving his own theme tune, in his new Dolce e Gabana whites and linen shirt.

And the winner is … Marty. His prize is that he be awarded the theme tune that his sartorial elegance richly deserves.

Rioteers CC v. East Meon, 16 Aug., 2020

A strong turn out on a murky Sunday afternoon.

The players met at the Izaak Walton for a loosener, while the match manager with Charlie following in convoy arrived at the ground with at least 5 mins to spare.

The toss was lost and E Meon decided to bat in the constant drizzle.

With Jim Shea injured and Braz stepping into scorer mode we were able to cap another Rioteer debutant Simon Wilson – strong journalistic background, so I’ll be brief !
First up Bertie was given the new ball and managed to bring our debutant into play at mid-wicket where he managed everything but stopping the ball, showing top Rioteer credentials from the off!

Welcome Simon, to the Rioteers!

Capt Bickers having chosen to keep wicket whilst awaiting Simon Brazier’s arrival was in for a rough ride. One of Bertie’s hurled missiles pitching slightly short of a length and shooting along the ground, the next flying wide and high to the fine leg boundary. Then the fourth a good length ball going down leg-side took off viciously scything through the Bickers’ grasping gloves and pinging him on the side of his unprotected head. He went down in shock and pain. Meanwhile Simon Braz had arrived and was padding up.

Poor Bickers had to retire hurt and the game continued with Simon taking over the gloves.

However the drizzle upped it’s tempo and the game was abandoned after another couple of overs.

We all retired to the Izaak Walton for the debrief and to check if the skipper was fit to drive home.

So the skipper continues unbeaten but only just !

New Dogs, Old Tricks – Rioteers (109/6) beat Medstead (103 all out)

And so to Medstead, on a scorcher of an afternoon.  The previous day’s Test themes of exciting young pacemen; challenging left-armers; unplayable rippers; misbehaving pitches and the quiet guys playing bold, match-winning innings fuelled much of the pre-match chatter and provided a convenient (lazy- Ed) template for a close, intriguing game.

Cap’n Bix won the toss and deeming the pitch of baked white thatch unreadable, sagely snubbed convention by inviting the opposition to bat first, with nary a snide comment from a keen Rioteers side boosted by debutants Max, Phil and Oscar. Harry and Bertie hit the pitch hard and their groove early, and the wicket delivered sufficient variability to reduce Medstead to 27/3 – all wickets to Harry with the seemingly luckless Bertie suffering 2 dropped catches.  Phil then added drift and bounce with his left-armers, producing 3 fine catches, one by Bix via the ‘keeper’s helmet (which had the pub quizzers rushing to the rules book to verify ICC Rule Amendment, 26/9/17) and two worldies from Damian that had Brazier (R) coo-ing in appreciation.  This left the innings looking flat-footed at 35/6 before Pearce (37) and first Fonz (18) and then Cooper (17) took the pitch out of the equation with some controlled hitting to get Medstead to 103.  This despite Marty locking up one end with a marathon spell of wrong ‘uns and flippers that drew breathless (if inaccurate) comparisons with Yasir Shah, and Max’s no-ball lob shattering the stumps early in his spell.

Tea was leisurely, as the teams rehydrated before Simon and Oscar strapped up to take on what euphemism dictates be called a ‘tricky’ total.   Simon’s customary watchfulness was compounded by a very late night, but Oscar opened his shoulders to settle early nerves with a brisk 29 before the #3 neglected his off-stump again, Damian fell to a fine stretching catch (he who lives by the sword etc – Ed) and Max caught the mood for the obligatory mid-innings wobble.  By now, nerves were shredded by SJ’s 5 maidens in a 7 over spell of mesmerising spin, which drew breathless (if inaccurate) comparisons with Marty (admittedly only from Marty).    Whatever Simon and Bix had at the drinks break didn’t help, as each fell to their first ball afterwards, leaving the Rioteers at 51/6 – halfway there (for the Tiggers), but more than halfway not (for the Eeyores).  Tense.

Cue calm counter-attack from Bertie, who in the space of a couple of overs broke the back of the run chase and added a cool partnership of 48 with Phil, who with 11/4 and 15* played the all-rounder Woakes to Bertie’s Buttler (similarly angst-ridden by dropped catches).   Damian’s chiselling insistence on enforcing wides threatened to finish the game on a dull technicality before Bertie steepled a huge 6 to take the Rioteers home by 4 wickets.

With Brazier (R) channelling Statler and Waldorf as he scored from a bench at 3rd man, musing loudly about which grounds at which he’d like an end named after himself (Ian Bell is said to prefer a Stand – ed); Hugo backfilling club history to the new boys (you wait years for a left-arm bowler, and 2 come along at once – welcome to the club, chaps) and Dessie and Val brewing up, there was a quiet sense of both rejuvenation and continuity at the game.  The beer garden at the wonderfully named Castle of Comfort deserves special mention for its herd of ornamental Ganeshes, which added a trippy element to a thoroughly wonderful afternoon’s cricket.  Cap’n Bix’s merry bandwagon rolls on.

Rioteers CC v. Newport CC, 19 July, 2020

Our season finally got underway against our old favourites – Newport Inn CC – on their picturesque ground in Braishfield.

Our young but experienced team gathered under the new captain – Bickers, who lost his first toss and the Rioteers were asked to bowl.

Harrisson Hill (15) opened up with the now elderly Williams. After 11 overs the oppo managed just 23 runs with Harrison getting straight back on line and length (6-5-2-1) whist Williams was his usual self – leaking runs.

The Hillier family then took over. B Hillier being the pick of the family (3-8) with A Hillier (2-23) whist Daddy Hillier was wayward and expensive.

Debutant Gregory Williams bowled neatly without success whilst his father returned to pick up the “bunnies” with the skipper gaining one wicket courtesy of a stunning catch at mid wicket by Shea.

The Newport ended their innings on 147 setting the Rioteers a smallish target to chase after tea.

Simon B and Charlie Branch opened up, Simon plodding 6 singles to start whilst losing Branch (10) and Shea (1) in the 4th over.

Bickford steadied the ship outscoring Simon who plodded on to his fifty before retiring. Bickford perished on 32 as did past captain Hillier (22) before Archie and the elderly Williams saw the Rioteers to a 6 wkt victory.