Questions going into the last game of the season included whether we would play at all, given the weather, whether the annual team photo would go ahead in torrential rain at 12.45, who would emerge as our leading wicket-taker for the season, how Gloucester Gipsies’ 80 year-old opening bowler would fare against our three leading run-scorers, and whether I would scrape through the whole season without being out once. To which the answers were: yes, yes, Simon Pettit, very well, and yes.
If those had been the only questions, the pick of the answers would have been:
J Bellfield, 6 overs, 3 maidens, 2 wickets for 7 runs.
But there was more to come.
Simon Pettit and the opposition captain Andy Beer conferred at 10.30am and the Gipsies bravely decided to travel, despite the rain. They arrived in time to watch the end of the England v Tonga world cup rugby match in the pavilion as the rain reached Middleton Park. We decided to try a 30 over format, maximum 7 overs per bowler, if the rain were to stop. Gloucestershire Gipsies won the toss and chose to bat first.
It was Tim Cranston’s last game for the club. He opened the bowling with Matt Dipple, who was three wickets behind Simon Pettit for the season. Matt bowled the two openers in his first five over spell. Simon Pettit came on and bowled his seven overs in a row, having one player well caught at mid-off by Mark Ford-Langstaff and bowling another. Asif Kamal bowled his seven overs also in one spell, then Mark Ford-Langstaff and I had an over each, so that the opening bowlers could return for their final two overs, at the opposite ends. Matt Dipple bowled another in his sixth over and took his fourth wicket, also clean bowled, with the first ball of his final over. So now he was on 29 wickets for the season, with Simon Pettit on 30. One of his remaining deliveries might have been caught at mid-off if I had put the taller fielder at extra cover there. That would have been Simon Pettit, which would have made for a great conclusion to the battle for the most wickets in the season. Tim Cranston had the last over and we were pleased to have restricted the Gipsies to 157-6.
After twenty overs, another downpour had forced us to retreat to the pavilion for an early and delicious tea, courtesy of Howard Lancaster and Karen Goddard.
Tim House had fielded at fine leg both ends to preserve his right hand, injured in the Turville Park game. He opened the batting with Mark Ford-Langstaff. Tim was stumped and Mark was run out. Tim Riley at number three mis-hit a full toss to cover point. Howard Lancaster, Stevyn Jackson and Simon Pettit were also all caught when they failed to hit the ball as cleanly as they would have liked. Matt Dipple then hit the ball more firmly than anyone had all day, only to be caught and bowled. This brought Tim Cranston to the crease. Tim Riley umpired without fear or favour, affection or design. So what if it was Tim’s last innings for the club and the Gipsies bowler was right arm round the wicket? Tim was out LBW and walked off to a hero’s welcome from his family and the wider crowd. Asif Kamal hit a good boundary before he was the first of our players to be bowled, at which point I joined Stuart Batts at 57-9. Team-mates had such confidence in us that their primary concern was for a single to be scrambled somehow so that we would not have lost by 100 runs.
The big question of the day turned out to be this: ‘How did Stuart Batts play?’ First, how did he get to play at all? Stuart had come along for the photo at 12.45 and therefore had his basic kit but had made the schoolboy error of leaving his bat, gloves and pads at home, naively thinking they would not be needed for the team picture. Little did he know that Asif Kamal had decided for himself that we would not be playing and had boycotted the photo and the start of the match, which saw Stuart promoted to 12th Man, or that Jay Mumtaz would be jittery about slipping on the wet grass given an imminent second operation on his broken hand. So Stuart made it into the XI, Mark Ford-Langstaff lent him the remaining kit and Stuart was thus well-equipped to take an unexpected chance to score the first boundary of his career. For this, he won the champagne moment as he top-scored on 13 before he too was bowled. I was left on 11 not out, having scored a boundary myself. Our partnership of 26 was the highest of our innings and saw us reach 83 all out.
We still have the end of season dinner and the golf tournament to come but some thanks are in order now. Thank you to the club officers and committee for all their work and support throughout the year, especially to Tim House, club vice-captain, Mark Ford-Langstaff and Simon Pettit for leading the side when I have not been playing and for their advice and encouragement when I have. Many thanks to Chris Greer who yet again was our scorer. Thanks to all who umpired for us during this match and earlier in the season. Thanks to Dr Nick Thompson and Simon Pettit for the pitch and for letting us play on it despite the weather. Thanks to all those who have come to nets, including this last week Simon Pettit and Stuart Batts who showed in this game what practising can contribute to performance. Thanks also to everyone who has played this season and especially our three departing club members, Jim Watson, Jon O’Neill and now Tim Cranston, who are all destined for the West Country, which increases the chances of a tour. Thank you to our social members and to the families of players who combine to create such a great atmosphere outside and inside the pavilion.
For example, Rosie Cranston had kindly brought food, including strawberries and raspberries, to accompany the standard barbecue, which was run for the last time by Tim Cranston, assisted by David Cranston. Many thanks to Team Cranston, including Jude, Beth and Josh who also came to the game. Rosie and Tim could also be found at various times serving behind the bar, where Howard Lancaster and Simon Pettit yet again led the way.
The Gipsies stayed to enjoy their win and the fact that we had played at all. They are a delightful club. In his few words to the gathering, their captain pointed out that the other opening bowler, his son, was seventeen and that their openers’ combined ages were close to a hundred. In my remarks, I avoided any reference to Stuart’s surname but I do think that his outstanding performance entitles me to conclude this season’s match reports with a short summary of our progress as a club: Stuart Batts.