When Saturday Comes
Richard aspires to be a match day cricket reporter, but as a heavy drinker with a nackered leg and an unrelenting fear of pencils, his dream of making the cut and being invited to write a 1st XI report for Great Harwood CC seems an unlikely one. However, after starting a rehabilitation course to fix his troublesome knee, and catching the eye of chief recruiter Neil during a clockwise lap of the ground a previous game, the future is suddenly looking brighter for Richard. Unfortunately, to make it into the big leagues, he’ll first have to win over his fear of graphite (or buy an iPad).
Whilst that may sound like a Wikipedia description to a poor quality Sean Bean film, Saturday 28th July was indeed the day of this long awaited debut. A perfect tide of school holidays, Geordie stag dos and the first rain the U.K. has seen since last years’ cricket season meant a shortage of cricket writers and, from nowhere, this unheralded novice is thrown into the lions den.
Ramsbottom away. A team that before the game sat third in the league, still with a reasonable chance of overhauling leaders Walsden and second place Lowerhouse, especially with the latter possibly having an eye on the heralded Worsley Cup Final derby that might just turn Burnley into a ghost town for several hours the following week.
Having organised a lift to the game via Stu, (I’m not driving, going to need a pint or two for creativity) I see that it’s pouring down and for the first time this season, the game looks like it may not start on time.
This is the first time our 1st XI has played at Ramsbottom in the Lancashire League. A couple of our players had played an odd game for previous clubs there, or watched football at the adjoining “stadium” (Neil’s probably been sent off there once or twice) but that was years ago, so this would be another new ground for most of the team.
We arrive early to find that coach John Seedle has already setup his cones and is stood looking at his watch with a “what time do you call this” expression. No relaxing wait while the rain stops these days, straight into a warm up and teamtalk.
Whilst the “athletes” are put through their paces, I do what all good reporters must do – have a look around the ground, and head straight for the tea room, which to my delight is already open for business. And what a fantastic setup. Chilli and rice, chips and cheese, hot turkey butties, all options but forget them all, it’s still Saturday morning and they’re doing a full English breakfast for 6 quid. Including a brew. That’ll be my warm up John.
After demolishing said breakfast, it appears I’m the only person on the ground from GHCC that’s not playing, scoring or coaching. As a result, the Ramsbottom tannoy announcer (yes, that’s a real thing) approaches me for a team list. Names provided, I am quickly reminded that our captain isn’t our captain today as he’s been on buckets of Budweiser in Newcastle’s Bigg Market, and that Chairman Maher has taken the reigns. Let’s get that team list back and tell them who’s really playing.
A couple of changes from last week, with Adam and Harris Masood returning in place of the absent skipper and Newy, who has decided he’d rather do ToughMudder, which is some sort of Ironman assault course 😳 (Newy, if you don’t want to play just say, you don’t have to put yourself through these sorts of things!)
Stand in captain Stu proves he’s an unlucky tosser yet again and Ramsbottom invite us to bat first. From the comments of the Ramsbottom faithful (most of which appear to have been faithful for LOTS of years) they don’t rate our batting very highly, several frustrated that as Rammy aren’t batting first they expect a very early finish…
Opening the batting are the bakery brothers – Oddie and Bunn, hoping the Ramsbottom bowlers throw a few pies early to get us off to a solid start. Bunny back opening the batting on the advice of a couple of senior players after looking like he’d learned a new, aggressive shot in this week’s nets.
A few overs in, we have made a steady start. Both openers looking solid and Bunny hitting the first two boundaries of the game with repeat shots off his legs through midwicket. After several chanceless overs, Matt Oddie decides he’s bored and has already got enough runs this year (John you need to set him a new runs target) and chips one back to the bowler. Nice and easy, might as well as thrown it to him and shouted “catch that”. Except the bowler must have liked bowling to Matt and unbelievably tried to head the ball instead of catching it. A massive let off.
What followed was more mature batting from messers Bunn and Oddie, both solid in defence, Matt manoeuvring the ball around for ones and Bunny putting away the rare bad ball.
A lap of the ground at this point reveals several things.
Firstly, there is a temporary bar setup next to the score box, which sadly isn’t in use, but had been built as part of Ramsbottom’s preparations to host the T20 finals day the following day (that was then postponed until later in the year due to the forecast bad weather). Secondly, whilst having a reputation for being one of the biggest grounds in the league, the actual playing surface is almost exactly the same size as our Cliffe Park ground – it is the surroundings that add to the scale of the ground, which is a superb venue with great views of the surrounding hills (and lightning 🌩). Finally, the early optimism that the Ramsbottom supporters had for an early crack of the Horlicks lid is starting to disappear, as we overhear comments such as “this lad can actually hold a bat Bill”.
As the partnership reaches 50, finally the first wicket falls, Bunny bowled by what Matt Oddie described during the imminent rain break as “literally the best ball I’ve ever seen” – Mr Fielding, if you’re reading this, well done, it was officially the best ball you’ve ever bowled amongst the 200 million wickets you’ve taken. Matt says so.
In walks Ashen at 3 who sets about forming a solid partnership with Matt, moving on the score steadily and playing beautifully.
The spinner then drops one short to Matt who does something completely unexpected. He hammers it over midwicket towards the tea room for… a one bounce four. Still can’t reach Matt. You’ll hit a six one day.
Matt looked in line to record his fourth 1st XI Lancashire League fifty of the season (a remarkable achievement for a 17 year old opening the batting) when he was unlucky to be bowled by one that kept low from Collinge for 39.
As Phil walked in to replace Matt, some very heavy spots of rain start to fall, and preempting the inevitable downpour, the umpires called the players off the field. Fifteen minutes of avoiding a soaking and we’re back on. An attritional innings from Phil seeing off the Ramsbottom professional’s off-spin, bookended by two magnificent cover drives that Geoffrey Boycott would dream of writing said books about. 100 up for the loss of just two wickets.
As the dark clouds gathered again, Ramsbottom finally get some quick success. Phil is run out by inches by a superb direct hit. He is followed by Paddy who is LBW to the fourth ball he faces leaving Fielding’s arm ball. Then, Allan is out first ball, chopping on yet another arm ball that again stayed a bit low. From 103/2 to 104/5 in the space of 6 balls. Right on cue, heavy rain means the covers are on again, with the loss of these 3 wickets almost certainly making a big difference to the DLS adjustments.
Four more overs lost, we have just 8 overs remaining to build a score as we re-enter the field. Ash and Jack go more attacking. Ash moves to 50 with a 6 over towards the away changing rooms, a well paced innings in challenging conditions. Jack has hit 5 boundaries in a run-a-ball 31 that came at a time we needed it.
The last over of the innings saw us lose three more wickets trying to add to the total. Jack (31), Ash (58) and Zeain (golden duck) all out caught. Only time for Stu to use captain’s privilege and walk in as the NON -STRIKING batsman – basically a runner – for the last ball. Ten fantasy league points for doing absolutely nothing! Not all daft…
We have finished 172/8 from our 44 overs. After DLS is applied and the players have eaten their pizza and chips, Ramsbottom will need to chase 181 to win.
Except they won’t as it’s raining again. When it finally stops, we have lost another 4 overs. Rammy chasing 172 from 40 overs.
Two balls bowled. Both dots. Back off for rain.
11 more overs lost. New target is 142 off 29 overs. Stu bowls 4 more dots to record the longest ever opening over maiden in the history of cricket.
Harris at the other end causes the two left handed openers problems until two balls slightly off line get punched to the midwicket boundary.
3.1 overs gone, Rammy 12-0. Rain again. To quote one individual enjoying the hospitality afforded to the match sponsors – “they’re on and off like a **house lamp”
Back on for another 5 balls, 2 runs added to the score, back off. Boring is this rain. Some time passes this time, to let things clear up. Finally the sky is getting lighter.
We have gone past the 20 over cut-off point, so the batting side must decide if they want to chase the 20 over target in less time. They decide to do so.
Now, you need a maths degree to work out the targets when there’s been so many interruptions, but Duckworth, Lewis and Stern, who I’ve decided must be accountants, say that the these are now the rules:
– Ramsbottom need 105 to win from 20 overs.
– There’s only time left for 19 overs total, so,
– Ramsbottom need 105 to win from 19 overs.
– They are already 14/0 from 4 of those overs
– They need another 91 from the remaining 15 overs.
– If they don’t get the 91, GHCC win the game.
– If it rains again, game over
Nice and simple is this cricket game. Apparently. Bowlers can only ball limited overs. One can ball 6 and others 4. Have you got all that? A captain’s nightmare.
Anyway, game on. Stu to bowl the next over as the batsmen look to attack. Ramsbottom’s young opener walks down the track and hits Stu back over his head for 4 – a real statement of intent. This is met 2 balls later by Mr Maher knocking the lad’s off stump out of the ground for the first wicket.
Ramsbottom pro Werner Coetsee in at 3 joining former Accrington captain Hanson at the crease, and you get the sense this is the key wicket – the score is moving along ahead of the required rate.
Chance! Pro stumped by Allan off Ash. Given out by the square leg umpire and the player walks off. Only to be called back by Allan who says he didn’t have the ball in his hand that broke the stumps. Really unlucky as it was a top effort. Great sportsmanship Allan 👍🏻
Ramsbottom moved on to 49/1 before Hanson skies one off Phil to the bucket hands of Matt Oddie. This is followed by another wicket as the new batsman forgets to stop spinning and hits his own wicket trying to sweep Ashen. 49/3. The game is in the balance.
A good partnership between Udwadia and Coetsee followed, which saw Ramsbottom advance to within 25 of the target. BIG WICKET – pro Coetsee is run out by Adam Masood as he attempted a second run to a slight misfield. Great fielding.
Stu back into the attack, and another wicket, caught behind. We have taken 5 wickets and earned a point. Though this was gone the best it got, with Ramsbottom doing enough to seal the victory in the penultimate over.
Despite the interruptions, this was a fantastic game of cricket in the end that both sides made a great fist of winning. The weather worked against us and the amended DLS total that Ramsbottom had to chase was always in their favour. However, to put up what would have been a very competitive first innings total had it not rained, and then to take 5 wickets and to take the game to the penultimate over in such circumstances is a credit to every one of the players representing GHCC.
Congratulations to Ramsbottom on a well deserved win in what at times were challenging conditions. And for the sportsmanship shown throughout the game which was in stark contrast to what we have witnessed on occasion in recent weeks.
Ramsbottom will host the T20 finals day on bank holiday Monday 27th August and by the looks of the setup they had planned today that should be a great event for those with a few spare hours. Just a shame we’re not in the finals