The last Sunday in July saw the Rioteers return to a favourite haunt: Newport Inn CC at Braishfield. However, that the game was played at all was due to the large contingents from just two families: the Osmans and the Staffords, with Harry from the former, and Will and Joe from the latter, all making their debuts for the Rioteers. Otherwise, the absence of no fewer than sixteen regular, or at least occasional, players had put the game in jeopardy, which would have been a great pity because Newport Inn CC had made the match something of a special occasion. Regular readers of this column will know that a review of the match tea occupies an unusually prominent place in any match report and our opponents did not let this reviewer down. The tea was magnificent and a gazebo had been erected to house its copious contents. Even with as many as forty spectators present no one went hungry – not even the Doc!
As for the cricket, one problem soon emerged: there were only two regular bowlers present in the Rioteers’ XI and with Newport batting first, problems could easily be foreseen. For the first hour or so, Campbell Williams and John Hall kept some semblance of control, although even then the scoring rate had crept up to four an over. Eventually Hall bowled one batsman who could not decide which to play of the many shots he was contemplating when the ball virtually stopped on the still wet wicket. Wiliams soon followed with two more wickets and the fielding side allowed themselves a little optimism. However, too many factors conspired against us; opening spells of 11 overs for Hall and 13 for Williams proved a few too many and tiredness crept in; fortune did not go our way as a number of wayward shots by the batsmen eluded the fielders’ grasp; one boundary was invitingly short; but, above all, two Newport batsmen played exceptionally well and scored centuries. Shorter spells by Tim Osman and captain, Dave Bickford, were expensive but no less so than the those of the returning opening bowlers so Newport Inn posted 267 runs by tea.
As if 267 were not a daunting enough prospect, the lavish excess of tea may have contributed a further dimension of difficulty to the task. Nevertheless, the batting strength appeared greater than the bowling, at least on paper. However, no batsman who established a start to his innings actually went on to make the big score necessary to challenge so formidable a total. Dave Bickford, for example, opened the batting and was going well before being dispatched by a ball he intended to go for a boundary. Damian Stafford and Mark Carrington both played some good shots and then got out just when they were looking comfortable. Tim Osman cleared the boundary on several occasions with strokes which made batsmanship look ridiculously easy, only to pop one vertically up in the air rather than into the adjacent field. So, the only Rioteer to construct a real innings was Nick Osman. He started as one playing his first game of the season, and one who scored few runs at all last year: namely, with more hesitancy than fluency. But, he was prepared to graft and eventually the runs began to flow, especially from his favourite off drive. Just as Nick approached his fifty, last man, Dessie, no doubt basking in the glow of his square cut boundary, took pity on Nick and saved him the expense of a jug, by getting out! Nick was high and dry (not least in the absence of the aforementioned jug) on 49n.
Despite the defeat, all appeared to enjoy a memorable afternoon. All credit to our generous hosts and deserved victors, Newport Inn CC.