Racqueteers’ hopes dashed by boy assassin.
The Racqueteer’s game against the Vagabonds represents everything good about English village cricket and is a high-spot on our fixture list – so brilliantly compiled by our President. Their crimson and pink stripy blazers and caps, their chocolate-box pavilion with its bat and stumps rampant in the thatch and the timeless beauty of the pastoral tableau which is Bentworth, all conjure up a Corinthian age of cricketing chivalry and sportsmanship. But don’t let appearances fool you. Cache’d beneath this charming exterior lies a team with a steely, if good hearted and fair-minded, determination to win and a good deal of cricketing skill with the receipts to prove it.
Whether we have in the past been spellbound by the setting’s timeless beauty or just beaten by better the team – the record books show that over the years we have always struggled to compete with the Vagabonds. But this year would, of course, be different.
Racqueteers batted first – Skip winning a rare toss. Racqueteers dominated the early exchanges – the opening pair, Nathan and Sepia, looking confident, with the former especially commanding, against a steady and increasingly disciplined attack. Back to his old tricks, Sepia then ran Nathan (20) out after a communication breakdown. Skip (14) and Sepia (33) then played fluently taking the score past 95 in 20 overs. Both then fell in quick succession, the former to the offy, the later to the left armer – both bowling with loop, bounce and turn. Rishi came in next and smacked his first ball for four and then fell, LBW, to the next, despite being ‘a long way forward’. The Barke cousins Jules and Finian added energy with some top notch running to get the innings back on track. After a lovely 4 Jules was well caught next ball at deepish mid-off. Finian, in his inaugural outing, went on his languid way to a commanding and entertaining 75 not out. With late contributions from Yox (8) and Danger (14) we finished on 219 for 6.
A lovely tea, thoughtfully provided by the President, was then taken in the shade and we were ready for the field. It’s the first time we have broken the 200-run barrier against Vagabonds – surely this would be enough to push them close this time. All looked to be going well until deep into the innings. Our youthful opening seam bowling brothers, George (7-0-25) and Louie (9-2-44) bowled beautifully with great skill and control in their opening spells against the impressive top order. First change, Rishi (5-1-25) bowled with great ferocity, some variability and no luck – beating the bat many times, and Danger bowled a short but brave spell carrying a nasty injury. Mike exerted control in his short spell. Despite all this and some enthusiastic fielding and classy keeping from debutant Yox (who caught a stunning catch down the leg side off their sporting-walking number 3) we were undone by a quite remarkable innings by a 15-year-old will-o’-the-wis – unorthodox but with a great eye and even sweeter timing who took them home with 4 overs to spare. Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say – well played young man (As Brian Clough would say of his Nigel). Vagabonds finished on 220 for 3.
We retired to the Sun Inn, a wonderful tiny and very dark old fashioned country pub, to partake of a shandy, listen to some excellent Irish fiddling and plan next year’s triumphant return to Bentworth.