Our visit to Bramshaw for a match played in a wonderful spirit against splendid hosts provided a much needed shot of adrenalin to the heart and morale of anyone that had read the match report from the previous week.
Captain Bickers won the toss and elected to field first, based on the encouraging and not-at-all paranoia-inducing argument that “we only have two batsmen”.
Some fine bowling from our young and not-so-young attack, combined with some decent fielding, together with the sporting retirement of the opposition’s county-level batsman at 52 not out, kept Bramshaw’s total to 237 for eight. Archie H., Richard B. and Harry H. each took two wickets, the latter for an impressively economical 16. Matthew L. and Campbell W. took one apiece.
There was a moment of Dadaism when our hosts’ number 10 batsman was caught. The catch took place both in slow motion and in two, alternate worlds. Somewhere, in a dimension less apparent, Jim Shea celebrated his catch, relieved he hadn’t dropped it; in the dimension overseen by the bureaucrats, he experienced a similar mixture of emotions, but with the glory going to Archie, who had ghosted in to snatch the ball. Had these two triumphs happened in the same dimension things might’ve got very messy.
We had been set a chase-able target on a ground with some short boundaries. From the crease at the top of the hill cow corner was more like calf corner.
Our hosts provided a splendid tea, although Jim Shea’s pork-pie imperialism prevented everyone from sampling everything that was on offer.
Our opening three batsmen made a strong start—Jim Shea (21), Simon B. (57), and Captain Bickers (28) setting us up nicely. The contributions of the middle-aged order—Damian S. (10), Campbell W. (8), Robert R. (6)—were perfectly calibrated to cede the crease at just the right moment to the younger and wiser members of the team. Archie H. and Bertie H. were both in confident form and went on to make, respectively and in short order, 27 and 66 not out. This was Bertie’s first ever half century for the Rioteers.
The whole team was grateful for the assiduous umpiring of our injured club captain. A noteworthy moment came when Robert R. scored a rare five, running one and brilliantly obtaining four more from an overthrow courtesy of the absence of a coat of varnish that Bramshaw had omitted to add to the stumps.
In the last over, with six needed to win, Matthew L. had the strike, but fell gallantly on his sword on the third ball, making sure that he not Bertie H. got run out, and that Bertie got to face the final three balls of the match from Bramshaw’s Dorsetshire Death Bowler. On the fourth ball of the over, with six runs needed to secure a Rioteers win, Bertie smote farewell to the match ball in no uncertain terms, with a lovely, straight shot that cleared the fence by a long way. The ball, not retrieved, is still out there somewhere, its head spinning.
The match was an occasion on which all rioteers were able to take pride in the cheerful manner in which we set about our endeavours. But special mention must go the match-winning performance of Bertie. Congratulations to him on the first of many half centuries.
Why do we play cricket? This game answered that question with poetic eloquence and in a beautiful setting.