Rioteers CC v Newport Inn CC, 24th September

“To everything … there is a season.” This unfortunatley applies also to cricket, and so the Rioteers arrived at Braishfield ready to play their last cricket of 2017, and what would end up being both their second and third games this season against good friends and splendid hosts, Newport Inn.

Having won the toss, Captain Hillier, confident in our attack, put Newport in to bat first. Martin’s confidence was justified, as the Rioteers’ bowlers worked with both speed and economy (J Hall 3-18, A Hillier 2-5, A Mills 2-19, B Hillier 2-29, R Rinaldo 1-10). There was some decent fielding too. Yours truly’s catch from a sharp cover drive off one of Archie’s balls, more an act of self defence than anything else, managed to stick. James Hillier took an assured catch off Robert Rinaldo—henceforth to be called Brinaldo—to secure the bowler’s first ever wicket (later in the day he experienced another first, but made himself less popular, by giving someone out for the first time). Newport were all out for 90.

It was still early and so the Rioteers went in to bat before tea.

Campbell, clearly with an eye on the weather and the Duckworth-Lewis rate, smote the opening ball of our innings for six, the second one for four, and continued much in this attitude. The run rate was looking good and continued to do so until Campbell fell for a swashbuckling 34. Jim Shea kept Campbell company till the former was out for 11, to be replaced by James Hillier who remained at the crease as others fell quickly until Martin walked out to join his brother.

Tea, provided by the Rioteers, was had at some point during the innings, although it was delayed while someone fetched the milk. If only the match manager had remembered that we’d need some …

In a fitting finale to the last game of the season, the two senior Hillier brothers saw us home. James ended his best ever season with the bat on 11 not out, while our skipper scored a graceful, characteristically confident, almost languid, 23 not out.

As there remained plenty of time in the day and there was a desire all round to squeeze as much cricket as possible out of the end of the season, we played a T10 match with our hosts before shaking off this mortal season.

Cricket is a game of perpetual regret, punctuated very occasionally by brief flickers of elation and/or flashes of hubris. On that note, it’s time to ponder one’s averages …

Rioteers CC v Hinton Admiral CC, 27th August

With the world and his dog joining queues stretching from Ringwood to Andover just to be part of The Rioteers’ own Barmy Army, the various routes adopted by our 11½ man team – Walder taking over at tea (with thanks to the oppo for their approval) from our wicky for the day and professional comedian, Matt Culmer … did he survive his Gig? … thankfully your match manager didn’t have to do the 2nd half of the show – meant the start was delayed to await the skipper and his crew, but the vast crowds seemed to have got lost leaving a youthful Greg Williams to blow his own trumpet and chant those Rioteer anthems alone as the sole Rioteer fan.

Hinton Admiral showed due respect to the fabulously balanced blend of youth and experience put out on the day – shame the same could not be said for the ratio of bowlers to batters – by providing the semi-professional surroundings of the Bashley 1st Team pitch. Its straw coloured track looked a belter… but looks can be deceiving… and local knowledge later revealed this strip would take more than half the wickets to fall on the day, behaving like a exhausted snail in a limbo competition (with apologies to whoever first coined that phrase).

A fine performance in the field saw Hinton Admiral restricted to 140 all out in fewer than their 40 overs… yes, an overs match on a Sunday! sacrilege in the view of your Match Manager.

With the pace attack of the younger Hilliers opening and a first ball bowled from Archie, the day started brightly… in fact very brightly, this being the hottest August Bank Holiday Sunday this year …

So many fine performances would vie for the champagne moment. Would it be: the swallow dive of an attempted catch from Brazier that elicited reminders of Clive Tuck efforts from the skipper, or the end to end walks that kept Jim Shea supple enough for yet another fine fielding performance, or the valiant sprinting around the outfield from Joe Stafford, or the sibling banter from Bertie when a charge reminiscent of many an older Hillier trying to snaffle a catch that ultimately went to ground, keeping up that famous family tradition. No, the award must surely go to the beguiling Williams delivery that captured the essence of Rioteer greats Doc and Dessie’s dolly drops, a drifting out-swinger that pitched on leg and moved towards middle and leg, delivered with the venom of that same limbo dancing snail, steered almost deliberately to the hands of a waiting Archie. A bowler/fielder combo that yielded a further pair of catches during the day.

A sterling performance behind the stumps from Matt Culmer was supported by some inspired field placings from the skipper, who managed to keep back overs from Hally (2 wkts from 6.2) and Simon Culmer (2 from 5), whose efforts to return from Australia a couple of days before just to turn up for this game and to show off his Aboriginal art inspired trainers and new haircut, were widely applauded.

And so to tea, and yet another fine, assorted buffet with Chocolate Caramel Wacko bars worthy of comment from Shea and plenty of Pink Fancies to tickle Brazier.

The Shea/Walder opening partnership warm up routine of staying in the shade for as long as possible may not be followed again this year but proved beneficial for one of the pair.

Your match manager was quickly partnered by a swashbuckling Damian Stafford whose 8 was second top score (ignoring the useful 15 from Mr Extras) and helped form the highest partnership of the innings.

With the run rate being matched at the half way point, Walder’s exit for 30 revealed a tail of Brontosaurus proportions and the innings closed after 30 overs on a score of 80, just as the bar opened … perfect timing!

Rioteers CC v East Meon CC, 20th August

A number of schools of thought exist about August …

Firstly you have those of 11 years or younger who see it as a Haribo fuelled den of delight with sleepovers, no school and acres of screen time.

Secondly there are those careworn parents who see the period as a mine–field of juggling jobs, holidays and overdrafts and wishing for the strictures that September will bring.

And finally you have the middle-aged match manager who is faced with underwhelming weather and an empty team sheet. The batsmen have buggered off to Biarritz and the bulk of the bowlers are sitting in a leaky tent in Devon with their assorted offspring.

After much wrangling 11 Rioteers strong, true and mostly upright sidled onto the field of play from all corners of the south of England. The sky was the slate grey you’d only find in Blighty in August but crucially the rain was plying its trade elsewhere as we commenced.

The opposition batted first. Hall and Lowden bowled the first 15 overs and managed to hold the opposition in some sort of check as they glided to 108 – 1. We were then treated to a rather brutal display of batting by an array of Atkinson’s and a number of boundaries ensued. Rioteer debutant’s Jonny Druce and Ralph Palmer bowled well and were among the wickets. Robert Rinaldo had a great direct hit for a run out. Brazier was called upon to unleash a one over spell (following his amazing yet unlikely, boundary catch) and Lowden and Hall again tried to stem the tide at the death.

The result was 240 for 7 which, to be honest, was a little lower than looked likely in the heat of the innings.

The opposition had a number of phone apps which all agreed on the same outcome but differed slightly on the timings: it was going to hose it down. We therefore elected to bat for half an hour to enjoy the lack of rain. Druce and Shea got off to a steady start and looked strong and stable until Druce holed out for 8 and Tim Barker came in. A quick fire and elegant 12 ensued before one popped up and he was caught. This brought skipper Bickford to the crease, along with the rain.

We went into tea on 33 for 2 and filled our boots. An excellent spread it was too, with crustless cucumber sandwiches with pepper in (?? Are you sure – ed) and a wonderful array of cakes.

There then ensued what can only be described as a soggy rear-guard as Shea (once the chocolate cake had kicked in) became more expansive until holing out to a superb one handed diving catch. James Hillier, Ralph Palmer and Robert Rinaldo held out as the rain purred down and the fielders and bowlers tried in vain to master the slippery conditions and the tail enders. Damian Stafford, despite pacing around padded up and ready to go, remained in the hutch and we finished on 95 for 5 and a draw can be chiselled into this years results.

Roll on September.

Rioteers CC v Longparish CC, 9th July

After a testing recruitment drive, 11 Rioteers worthy of the name arrived at the quintessential home of English village cricket – complete with thatched pavilion chalk streams and water-meadows – Longparish. Home of the retired master of cricket correspondence, John Woodcock – oh what would he make of the match which surely was worthy of the great man’s quill!

Our skipper, struggling with a knee injury which has affected his appearances this season, was last to hobble into view with the Winchester ½ of the Rioteer team. He promptly lost the toss and the signal was relayed to the openers Martin Hawthorne and Tim Barker – in only his second knock for the Rioteers.

Tim clearly looked to dominate the attack from the off with very positive and stylish stroke-play. Unfortunately, after a short while Tim met his demise before his full potential was fully realised. 10 scored. Meanwhile his partner was providing the anchor role. Although there was many a dot ball, when Martin decided to hit the ball he did indeed hit the ball – to the boundary – his first 3 scoring strokes racing for four.

Tim’s wicket brought James Whiting to the crease on his Rioteer debut. James transpired to be a natural Rioteer – promising much but producing little. James, playing against his own village gave way to another James playing against his own village. Now I forgot to mention that James the debutant was cleaned bowled through the gate by, at the risk of sounding sexist, a girl! James, yours truly, strode to the wicket full of confidence having hit a few peachy shots in the nets. First up was a ball pitched up and inviting a drive which it duly received, but only as far as extra cover’s welcoming mitts. Golden Duck and another James heading back to the pavilion, a jubilant Longparish and 2 wickets in 2 balls to the talented Tally O’Farrell (watch out for that name in years to come). The hat-trick was on, and Archie Hillier replaced his uncle at the crease. Looking as cool as a Fox’s Glacier Mint with the confidence to boot, he was the man to steady the ship. He clipped his first ball off the middle of the bat to mid-wicket – a shot we would all be pleased with 99 times out of 100 – only to find the script-writers had out-done him and he was caught by a very sharp short fielder millimetres off the turf (the ball, not the fielder). The hat-trick was complete. A girl called Tally had done for 3 of the Rioteer’s finest in successive balls. 2 Hilliers back to the hutch for Goldens. In turned out Tally’s mother was the scorer, and to her credit showed no sign of gloating but consoled us in saying that she is a county player, playing for Hampshire ladies under 17s…….though she qualifies to play for the under 15s!

Cometh the hour cometh the man, albeit with a slight limp and awkward gait. Could the third Hillier offer any resistance? Indeed he could along with the other Martin, a brace of Martin H’s consolidated and then opened their shoulders taking the total from 39 for 4 to 123 before Martin Hawthorne was bowled for 35. Jim Shea took on the mantel of a supporting role to Martin Hillier’s progressive innings, and it was noted that one boundary was even scored on the offside – another spoke to add to the wagon wheel, and a lonely spoke at that.

Martin, or his gammy leg, had had enough after scoring 77 and retired with the score on 157, thus bring the 4th Hillier to the wicket, namely Bertie, son of Martin, brother of Archie, Nephew of James. Bowled! Golden Duck and a third for the family – has Wisden ever known this before?

This signalled Jim to lead the charge which he did ably before retiring himself on 29 including 4 fours. Matt Culmer and Simon Swales saw the Rioteers through to tea with a respectable 188 for 6 after being 39 for 4.

Tea was a joy to behold – both in its quantity and quality. Sandwiches generously filled with a range of savoury flavours, an assorted buffet of cakes and bowls of sausage rolls and other finger food – enough for the team and the travelling support (some all the way from Birmingham) to fill their bellies while analysing the extraordinary ebbs and flows of the previous 2 hours.

However, tide, time and tea waiteth for no man and as the Longparish opening pair strode to the wicket, the skipper realised he’d have to cajole his team away from the feast and girder their loins for the field.

Longparish’s young side made assured and steady progress, surpassing the Rioteer’s total with two overs and 6 wickets to spare. However, the innings was punctuated by some notable events! The first was the fact that Matt Culmer, having clearly worked on his new bowling style, got a wicket! The second, that he pulled off a most remarkable catch off his own bowling to set up a hat-trick. He took the catch at mid-on, having finished his follow through at silly mid-off. Somehow, and this is the reason for the late report, he managed to stop, turn, run, leap and fly about 15 yards in the space of a second to pull off a gravity defying catch – a feat only possible at the limits of the space-time-continuum. Matt was the pick of the bowlers finishing with 2-21.

Archie put in a solid 5 overs, without success, before he had to leave to book his camping spot on Wimbledon Common to ensure a Monday ticket at the All England Club. This brought to the field Wilf Hillier, Longparish under 10s and experienced Rioteer sub-fielder who stopped a few certain boundaries! Bertie was worked hard by the skipper and earned the wicket of his nemesis, Tally, and ended up bowling 13 overs 1-52.

James Whiting caught a well-judged skier – that should probably be sky-er? – off Hillier M, as did Martin Hawthorne off Hillier J. Unfortunately for Hillier J, Martin was standing in the cow field and the umpire signalled a six!

Simon Swales, James Whiting and Robert Rinaldo all looked good in their spells, and were unlucky not to have more success. Robert is compiling a separate spreadsheet of statisitics to include assists, runs stopped, played and missed etc (good luck Robert!). Tim was compact and agile behind the stumps – keeping up the tradition of strong Rioteer wicket-keepers!

The youthful Longparish, apart from the Golden Duck, all made runs with their opener retiring having made fifty. Tally made 23, and the Gardner brothers chipped in with scores in the 30s.

I think that was just about it apart from a merry time was had at the Cricketers, where Tim and James W swore allegiance to the Rioteers – at least that was my interpretation – so we hope to see them again soon!

Rioteers CC v Newport Inn CC, 30th July

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.

Rioteers CC v Broadhalfpenny Brigands, 2nd July

On a glorious afternoon at the legendary cradle of cricket the might of the Rioteers took on the Brigands.   VC Bickford was again in charge and successfully called the coin toss and elected to field, no doubt in the hope that the Rioteers could follow the successful run chase of the week before at Bramshaw.

Rioteers opening bowlers were the seasoned Williams and the extremely seasoned Hall.  Both started right on the money and the Brigands openers were beaten on numerous occasions.  Hall then produced a beauty that nipped back and made of mess of the opener’s stumps.  Brigands then progressed steadily until Williams produced a rare half volley then was dispatched back past Bickford at short mid off…. or was it?  Like an aged Salmon desperately straining up river to reach the spawning grounds one last time Bickford flew to his right and plucked the ball  out of thin air.

Brigands then progressed steadily with the openers being replaced by Wood and Harrison “one boot” Hill.  With Hill bowling a tight line the Brigands looked to get after Wood.  But that was their mistake as their No.3 blasted a ball (“going like a tracer bullet” to quote Wood) through midwicket where Hawthorne stuck his right hand out and snared a catch to rival Bickford’s early effort.   Brigands then continued to accumulate steadily.  Other highlights for the Rioteers included a sharp stumping by Brazier S and by his own assessment three tidy and unlucky overs by Brazier R.  Needham also bowled a tidy spell and Harrison Hill despite the borrowed shoes again bowled very well snaring one wicket and being unlucky with other shouts.  Brigands declared with their total at 201-5.

Tea was again excellent with the homemade Strawberry cake being a particular highlight.

Rioteers opened with skipper Bickford and Brazier S.  Bickford departed relatively early and was replaced by Needham.  An excellent partnership then developed with both players passing 50 and the 100 partnership.  Needham then departed for 51, an excellent maiden Rioteers fifty.  He was replaced by Stafford who unfortunately got a good one first up.  He was replaced by Hawthorne who calmly stroked the hat trick ball to the cover boundary.  Another good partnership developed until with about 30 required Hawthorne managed to miss a straight one and was bowled for 27.  Wood then strode to the wicket and progressed at a run rate of 2 per ball (out second ball for 4).  He was then replaced  by Williams who played a beautifully paced cameo of 20 not out and in conjunction with Simon Brazier’s excellent 81 not out saw Rioteers to another fantastic victory on the first ball of the final over.

The team then repaired to the Bat and Ball pub to celebrate another Rioteers victory.

Rioteers CC v Bramshaw CC, 25 June, 2017

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.

Bertie Hillier – 66 not out

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.

Rioteers CC v Bryanston Butterflies, 18th June, 2017

Rioteers arrived with on paper and in all other respects a weak side.

Not something we planned but due to several availabilities the batting looked particularly fragile.

On the bowling front against a youngish BB side this looked weak too with Harrison aged 12 and 3 teenagers complimented by Lowden and our veteran Hampshire bowler Hall (72). Trying to post a reasonable score was our first challenge and much relied on Simon B posting a big score and others supporting him. Neither happened and we struggled to a paltry 84 all out by lunch.

Clearly we were never in the game. The skipper opened with Harrison and Archie H who tried their best as did Bertie H and Lowden but BB overtook our score in just 10.2 overs.

We believe this is our 51st year we have been invited by the BB’s having first played them in 1966 on the way home from the Yetminster tour.

It is a privilege to be offered a full day game and we hope they continue to invite us but we need to turn up with at least a side on paper that can give them a game.

Looking back this is probably our worst performance ever although many of you can remember them posting big scores and our struggling to reach them.

So the moral to the story is we must select a team to try and match them next year and no doubt we can.

Thank you BB’s for a splendid and expansive Lunch and Tea which we could not do justice to but fortunately Doc appeared to hoover up what was left.

Rioteers CC v Cadnam CC, June 11th, 2017

On Sunday, the world’s number 1 ranked team (South Africa) played arguably the world’s most accomplished all round side (India) at the same time as the Rioteers swaggered down to Cadnam.   Thousands of fans brought noise, colour and exuberance to one match, whereas the other had a legendary bread and butter pudding.

In both matches, the side batting first scored rather fewer than they would have hoped, which the other side knocked off to win by quite a few wickets, thanks to an innings from their star players, almost playing within themselves.

However, the Rioteers broke the recent pattern of fielding first at Cadnam and spending hours in the forest looking for a lost ball; of being bludgeoned physically and cricketing wise, and of hanging on for a draw almost from the first, and took the game to Cadnam, with noteworthy knocks from Cap’n Bix and Archie getting us to 176/9.

Whereas the only spark from SA was their (Theresa, not Peter) May-esque self-immolation of 3 comical run outs (one more than the Rioteers managed), as yet again, they limped out of a major tournament rather joylessly.

So as SA look to rediscover their true houding ;  their inner Jonty Rhodes – reincarnated as Hillier (B) this season it seems – their Lance Klusener grunt and their Peter/Shaun Pollock vim (delete according to vintage), they could do worse than observe the Rioteers’ renaissance and at least go down with some style.

Big shout out to debutants Tom (‘bowled well without luck’ – Bix) and Tim (‘a real find behind the stumps’) and a welcome back to Jim Slape (3 wickets for not very many) – we look forward to seeing you Rioteering again soon.

Next Sunday sees the Champions Trophy final and Rioteers v Bryanston – one a rather arriviste fixture of only passing interest and little quality or pedigree, the other (that’s enough of that – ed.)

(Braz has taken the scorebook to France for some light holiday reading, hence detail-lite match report).