The afternoon got off to a fair start with as many as 10 of the 11-man squad present for duty at the allotted time. The 11th man having to rest after an over strenuous warm-up the evening before. There was an important introduction to be made as the team was introduced to Sam Cook who was making his debut after a lifelong ambition to represent the Rioteers – he had travelled 12,000 miles to ensure his dream could be realised. A fine effort by anyone’s standard.
The skipper won the toss and elected to bowl, and it was noted that the temperature and dappled sunshine made a far more pleasant experience than the corresponding fixture 12 months prior – which was arctic-like. That was until the 6th over when one of the opening batsman, who was eager to score from the off, top edged a hook and the ball went skyward. Not believing his luck and already mentally writing up his skilful feat of wicket-keeping mastery for the match report, yours truly duly called “mine” and then made a royal blunder of epic proportions. The ball dropped to the ground as the fielders gazed in disbelief. Bowler Matt, was gracious on the surface at least!
Unfortunately, this set the tone as at least 8 chances were dropped during the rest of the increasingly cool afternoon! Needless to say, the dropped batsman went on to make plenty of runs and retired hurt to give some of his comrades a bit of middle practice. Both openers made big fifties before there was a rally of sorts by the tourists after the drinks break. Skipper (Martin Hillier) had seen enough and brought himself on to bowl. This change of pace seemed to confuse the batsmen and he trapped one LBW and had another stumped by the keeper – who having seen his comrades spill multiple catches, was feeling part of the gang again!
Skips then put his cousin George on to bowl from the same end and having not played since Ropley five years ago, rolled back the years with some fine bowling, generating both pace and bounce. He was duly rewarded with a snick to his other cousin behind the stumps who gratefully snaffled the one and only successful catch of the inning!
Matt came back on to bowl the last over before tea and, having bowled so well at the beginning with no reward (thanks to indifferent fielding), succeeded with 2 wickets. There were other highlights too. Pace and youth in the form of cousins Bertie and Sam – genuinely hurried the batsmen – and on another day would have both taken a hatful of wickets. Robert Rinaldo’s continuing guile and agility shone all afternoon. Damian’s brave fielding putting every part of his body on the line, and invariably in line with the ball. James Whiting, back by popular demand, delivered a pot pourri of assorted deliveries that fair bamboozled batsmen and keeper alike. Special mention must also go to Braz, though it pains me to say it, whose set of overs were tidy even against the batsman who was “in”.
Tea came and quickly went. Then out strode Sam and Matt to launch the Rioteer reposte. They didn’t disappoint, with double figures appearing on the score board before Matt fell to Brennan Bulpitt who bowled her opposite number in the second over. This brought the wiley Whiting to the crease to join Sam – by now starting to stroke the ball beautifully around the park. James also batted with aplomb and the pair put on another 70 runs before he succumbed on a total of 28. Sam followed in the same over, for 45 runs, to one that “didn’t bounce as much as it would have in New Zealand”! Sam had given great impetus to the inning and victory was certainly on the cards. However, with 2 new batsmen at the crease the innings had to build again. George (20-ish runs) and Bertie (26?) both set about the task diligently, and by the time their 50-run partnership ended were getting the run rate back on track.
Martin and I were next up, with victory 12 overs away at about 8 an over. After some lusty blows, however, the skipper departed which brought Damian to the middle. After looking solid for an over or so, one nipped back and took his off-bail – and with it the hope of victory. Veteran Richard “Braz” Brazier came chuntering to the crease. Complaining it was a tactical miscalculation for him to be batting so low in the order, he grimaced through the next few overs against everything the opposition could throw at him like a seasoned war-horse. Roberto was still back in the hutch as insurance, but in the end was not needed as the draw was played out.
Thank you to our hosts, St Mary Bourne, for a most enjoyable game and allowing us to play this form of declaration cricket. Also, thanks to the George Inn for the post-match entertainment. We hope to see you all again next year.
The last word must go to man of the match, Sam (whose mum, Kate née Hillier, erstwhile Rioteer scorer 1990-1992-ish and only female ever to have been officially allowed on tour), for successfully completing his rite of passage and becoming a Rioteer!