The Racqueteers v White Hunters
Thursday 16th July 2020.
After the Covid-19 delay, our 10th Anniversary Racqueteers’ season got underway on a perfect summer’s evening at the sublimely picturesque Brockwood Park ground, against the ever-affable White Hunters CC.
With all the necessary social distancing and sanitising guidelines being correctly observed by both teams, captain Mike F won the toss and elected to bat.
Opening with the Professor, a steady start was made with a couple of stylish boundaries from the skipper before he fell to a stumping for 14. The Professor played with patience and concentration – on what was a much slower and trickier wicket than normally encountered at Brockwood – to be the only Racqueteer to retire, with a quality 27. Some strong middle order stroke play from Kendall (16) and an excellent late 18 from the talented Tom Talks ensured a reasonable total of 108 was posted in our 20 overs.
In reply the White Hunters started positively with some hard hitting from their openers; after the first few overs – despite a lively and probing opening spell from Nick – our total looked a little light…
However, two extraordinary 4 over displays of accurate, quality bowling from the ever-reliable Chris, taking 4 wickets for only 10 runs, and Lawrence (Head of Salmon) with a brilliant and frugal 4 for only 6 runs ensured the exciting game gradually swung our way. Perhaps the most remarkable feat was the sublime catching of Charlie Talks who took 4 wonderful catches including 2 soaring and tricky chances deep in the outfield!
All round, a very satisfying and enjoyable 16 run win was recorded in dismissing the opposition for 92 and marking the Racqueteers return to action. Well played all!
Vagabonds v Racqueteers
Sunday 26 July 2020 (at Bentworth)
After a successful season opener against the White Hunters, the Racqueteers ramped up the match program with a Sunday outing against the distinctly useful Vagabonds. The Bentworth ground is an annual delight, including the traditional drive over the pitch to the clubhouse parking, and surrounded by fields, trees, wandering animals and great views. Our match from last year had resulted in a heavy defeat by 10 wickets, with one of their batsmen on heavy-hitting fire and frequently finding the corn field over the road with hefty blows.
The Racqueteers batted first, and we were immediately tied down against a strong bowling attack. Edmund strained a quad muscle with his first run and limped through the next few overs. The pressure told and wickets started to fall. Mike C, Edmund and Mike F fell cheaply. No matter, Paddy came in and smote a mighty four. For once, though, even he couldn’t turn on the magic and was bowled a couple of balls later. This left us at 15-4 after 9 overs. Jack stabilised the ship, but when Gaurav went for one, leaving a ball that mysteriously nicked leg stump, we were in trouble at 29-5 and potentially staring at an innings well short of 100. However, Jack dug in and built a great innings of 42, including seven fours, well supported by Tom W with 10 and then Tom T. When Jack was finally out (caught), we were 98 for 7. Tom T had carefully played himself in and gradually opened up, hitting some nice fours and ending up second top scorer on 17 not out. The innings was timed and Angus came on for the last couple of overs, playing a great cameo by hitting three fours from the final three balls, leaving us with a respectable 138-9 against a strong bowling and fielding side.
Angus and Lawrence opened the bowling and after nine went from the first over, it was clear we needed wickets. One duly arrived in the next over, with a great pickup by Jack – after the ball had seemed to go past him – and a throw to Lawrence who took the bails off. Their opener grumbled but it was clearly out. The first ten overs were a fairly even battle with Angus and Lawrence restricting them to five an over, despite the occasional four or six. When Lawrence took the second opener in his final over with a good catch by Jack, the match was very much on at 53-2. However, it was not to be. Their captain and number three, Boote, pushed on with a big-hitting 66, including 7 fours and 4 sixes. Lawrence had earlier had a difficult caught and bowled chance against him, as did Guy, but otherwise chances were limited and despite dedicated fielding, the opposition had reached 114 by the time the next wicket fell, when Jack bowled Boote with an excellent ball. Guy, Tom T, Paddy and Jack bowled reasonably economically but were unable to stem the tide, with their number four also hitting strongly, including eight fours. The Vagabonds reached their target in the 23rd over, but the Racqueteers could reflect on an improved performance against a team who win most of their matches (and wear blazers), and a pleasant beer in the late afternoon sunshine.
Vagabonds beat The Racqueteers by 7 wickets
Racqueteers: 138 for 9 off 36 overs
Vagabonds: 142 for 3 off 22.2 overs
Newport Inn v Racqueteers
Wednesday 29 July 2020 (at Braishfield Cricket Club)
The Racqueteers played our second match in four days on a fine summer’s evening. The venue was Braishfield’s stunning and slightly sloping cricket ground, surrounded by fields and highlighted by the lowering sunlight. Sheep outnumbered the human spectators by about fifty to one, and they were in for a treat, with a nailbiting finish and the result in question until the final couple of balls.
Before we start, it’s worth reminding ourselves of law 41.3, which played an important part in proceedings: “If a helmet belonging to the fielding side is on the ground within the field of play, and the ball while in play strikes it, the ball shall become dead. 5 penalty runs will then be awarded to the batting side.” Credit should also be given to Edmund, who volunteered to umpire both innings. The Racqueteers batted first and Tom W and Mike F gave us a strong foundation, putting on 39 for the first wicket over eight overs, scoring 19 and 18 respectively. The opposition bowled and fielded tightly and the run rate hovered around five an over, with boundaries difficult to come by. Kendall came in at three and anchored the innings. He pushed the score on as the opposition briefly threatened to throttle the run rate, supported by Nick and Angus. A magnificent final shot for six confirmed Kendall’s retirement for 30. For the final four overs, Guy, Chris and Julien kept the score moving with some scrambled singles and extras and the odd dive to the crease, adding 18 runs. Their number one bowled the final over, and possibly the crucial score was from the third ball, which Julien judiciously left – it hit the wicket-keeper’s helmet and gave us five runs via law 41.3. This left us with 107 to defend.
The Talks family opened the bowling, with Tom and Lawrence taking the stage. Jack (The Professor) opened for the opposition and hit out well, including one six, of which Kendall remarked “why don’t you do that for us?” Tom bowled tightly with 13 runs and Lawrence took the crucial wicket of Jack, caught by Nick for 24, one short of retirement. Jack’s runs had moved the opposition ahead of the run rate and it came down to Nick and Angus to tighten things up. Angus bowled a superb spell of 3 overs for 2 runs, taking a deserved wicket (bowled) in his final over. Nick bowled an accurate and fast spell of 3 overs for 10 runs, also taking a wicket (bowled) and achieving a run out with a superb direct hit. The run rate had been reduced, but Newport only needed just over 5 an over and a father and son pair were now in and hitting out. Chris and Mike C took on the bowling duties. Chris was punished in his first over, but came back with two much tighter overs, while Mike bowled four tidy overs for 20 runs. The score was also kept down by some excellent fielding and good field placement by the skipper. Sixteen runs were needed off the final two overs to win and the opposition had plenty of wickets in hand. A single loose ball or a boundary would make this very difficult. Mike F bowled the 19th over with six tight balls and five runs conceded, meaning ten were needed off the final over for a tie. Mike C was ready to bowl, but the opposition pointed out he’d already had his four overs, so Nick took the ball. Again, a crucial and tight over was bowled with five runs conceded, but it wasn’t until the final ball that we felt safe and could celebrate the victory.
The Racqueteers beat Newport Inn by 6 runs
Racqueteers: 107 for 7 off 20 overs
Newport Inn: 101 for 4 off 20 overs
Racqueteers v Goodwood.
6th August 2020.
It’s always a joy to assemble at the sublime Goodwood for our annual foray into rural Sussex. Despite the upheavals of our disrupted season, it was great to be able to play the affable Goodwood this year in what will be their only match of 2020! The hosts had, very considerately, laid out excellent social-distancing ropes and seating that made for a very comfortable evening for both players and spectators alike.
Batting first (as is traditional for essential barbecuing considerations in normal years!) in perfect conditions, our openers, skipper Mike F and the Professor, both played with style and purpose as assured boundaries and positive strokes came at a good rate. It must be noted that the superbly in-form Professor has scored over 200 runs in the calendar week (for his various clubs!) including a fine century at the weekend!
Both retired, having passed 25, only for the mantle to be carried on by further elegant stroke play from the hard-hitting Kendall (23) and the mercurial Paddy (20) before further momentum was added by an aggressive innings from Stu who peppered the boundary for a quick fire 27 retired.
Thus, we posted a very respectable 144 in our 20 overs.
The Goodwood openers started brightly with some no-nonsense boundaries and looked up for what was quite a total to chase in the gently receding light of the August evening…
However, despite an unfortunate recurrence of the President’s injury (that meant he could only bowl one over) The Racqueteers’ attack proved stalwart in its task.
Angus bowled quickly & beautifully, conceding only 15 runs whilst taking a crucial wicket in his 4 overs. Ably supported by the ever-probing Paddy (1 for 25) and a lively Aussie Stu (0 for 18) and the hosts were always a little behind the challenging run rate.
With two overs of guile from Sepia and great support in the field – including a terrific catch by Mike Perry – we held our nerve with the Professor bowling three frugal overs (taking 2 for only 17) and the skipper picking up a wicket expertly stumped by G – and the job was done!
Goodwood were held to 120 for 5 in their requisite 20 overs: The Racqueteers win by 22 runs on an idyllic summer’s evening under the ancient spreading branches of the majestic Cedar of Lebanon, serenely overlooked by Goodwood House.
Perfect – well played The Racqueteers!
RHC Hospital team v Racqueteers
9th August 2020
North Walls, Winchester
91.5 degrees; 85% humidity
On an unusually hot and humid day at North Walls, The Racqueteers produced one of their most complete and compelling performances of recent years to defeat a strong RHC Hospital eleven by a record-breaking 129 runs.
To the great relief of all Racqueteers, our skipper won the toss and elected to bat. Steady Hospital bowling, encouraged by a pitch of uncertain bounce and pace and supported by the effective combination of perfectly synchronised, yet totally arbitrary and indiscriminate appealing from our opponents, saw Kendall (10 runs) and Mike F (10 runs) fall early. Edmund, batting with suprisingly fluency, moved quickly to 30 before falling to a ball that popped outside his off stump. Mike C (19 runs) kept up the momentum with some well-judged and powerful hitting until he fell to a catch in the deep. With 7 overs to go, the ever impressive, Jack (61 not out), the glue that held the innings together, was joined by Paddy, who played a typically elegant and cultured, yet brutally effective, rapid fire knock (50 not out) to take the overall score to 207 for 4 off 35 overs. An encouraging effort in extremis.
When the Hospital batted, the combination of youth and pace proved too-hot-to-handle as Angus (3 for 13) and Harry T (2 for 13) blew away the top order – Angus taking the vital wicket of the ever classy Davies, first ball. Five down after just seven overs, the Hospital tried to steady the ship but Chris (1 for 7) Jules (1 for 27) and Charlie (3 for 12), employing varying styles and approaches, chipped away to leave their innings in tatters – 78 all out.
A memorable day’s cricket by The Racqueteers – played with great enthusiasm and commendable team spirit. This was no better illustrated than by Gaurav who, standing up to Julien, bravely put his body on the line to charge down a full blooded pull behind the stumps by the big-hitting beefy Wiles from no more than two meters away – only just failing to cling on to a catch as the ball ricocheted temptingly into the air off his box.
Although, truncated, so far this has been a great season for the Racqueteers – winning four games of very competitive and enjoyable cricket played in some lovely settings with the sun on our backs.
The Racqueteers v The Milbury’s .
23rd August 2020.
Whilst rain showers were all around – over Winchester and in the Meon Valley – we were blessed with a dry and predominantly sunny afternoon for our longer than usual (30 overs) re-arranged match at the ever picturesque Holt ground.
Winning the toss and batting first (as usual!) the Professor and Mike F made a good well-paced start on the artificial track that was staying much lower than usual. The Professor (21) uncharacteristically got out and whilst everyone contributed – notably Stu (11) and the hard-hitting Harry T (19) – only skipper Mike F retired with a patient 31 not out. Thus we posted a decent 135 for 7 in our allotted 30 overs.
After a sociable break for our distanced teas play resumed…
Immediately the powerful Racqueteers attack put the hosts under pressure with a well-focused and threatening spell of genuine fast bowling from Angus who took an impressive 3 for 17 in his 5 overs.
He was ably supported by Lawrence T (Head of Salmon) bowling 4 overs, 1 for 9, and our thankfully fully-fit President whose 5 overs only cost a frugal 5 runs!
The extraordinary bowling figures don’t end there: Harry only gave away 3 runs in the same number of overs and David P (on his Racqueteers debut) bowled with great skill and guile conceding just 9 in his 3 overs.
The crowning glory of our performance with the ball must go to Stu who destroyed any further remaining Milbury’s resistance with a fiery 3 wickets for 5 in just 2.2 overs!
With great supportive fielding too (including a good catch by the Prof in the gully and a fine diving effort from the skipper at slip, off the bowling of Chris) plus two super run-outs & tidy work by G behind the stumps and an impressive win, by 45 runs, was competed.
Our winning streak continues on another beautiful Hampshire cricket ground; mention must also go to the affable Lyndon who joined us and most-ably umpired all afternoon.
We all retired to The Milbury’s pub for a very well-earned drink & refreshments and to celebrate a really impressive performance on a tricky wicket. Well played The Racqueteers!
We now look forward to the first of our September fixtures at Swanmore.
Swanmore v The Racqueteers, September 6th 2020
Question: If The Racqueteers bat first and score in excess of 220 but still feel that they may not have enough runs to win, where are we playing?
Answer: The bowler’s graveyard that is the artificial wicket at Swanmore.
The Racqueteers batted first. Jack and Tom W shared a fine unbeaten century partnership for the first wicket – Tom looking particularly impressive on the drive between cover point and extra cover. Mike F (42 not out) and Stu then picked up the baton and the pace. The latter falling for a fluent 38 – just as he was starting to slip through his gears. This left us 167 for 1 with 10 overs to go. Wickets then started to tumble as our middle order tried to press home the advantage and although the board kept ticking, no one was quite able to dominate the bowling. Nevertheless, we ended on a very respectable 225 for 6 – good enough on most tracks – but was it going to be enough here?
When it was their turn to bat, the Swanmore openers, batting with little elegance but plenty of clubbing power, flew out of the blocks to reach 100 for none in the 16th over. Although the run rate dropped a little subsequently it still looked like the home side were on for a very comfortable win. Our cause was not helped by losing our skipper with a nasty muscle strain – reducing us to 10 and depriving us of 8 overs of accurate off-spin on a pitch perfectly suited to it. Vice-captain Jack took over and threw the ball to Julien (8-0-3-47) who, initially working in tandem with his (much less impressive) dad, bowled with considerable control, loop and bounce to give us a glimmer of hope – supported by two sharp catches from Tom W and Sudip. But it was ultimately not to be – despite a lively burst from Don (3-0-10-0) – and Swanmore won with 4 overs to spare and just 3 wickets down.
An ultimately disappointing outcome leavened by both a number of precious individual performances and great overall team spirit.
Droxford v Racqueteers
Sunday 20 September 2020 (at Droxford)
The Racqueteers played their eighth and penultimate match of the season at Droxford Cricket Club. This was our first-ever match against Droxford and the ground did not disappoint. Just as our sat navs were on the verge of giving up and taking us back to Swanmore, we each arrived, via a narrow lane opposite the White Horse, on the outer edges of Droxford village, with the South Downs gently rolling in the background. Two ancient trees on the pitch guarded the clubhouse boundary, like Charybdis and Scylla – sea monsters of Greek legend – preventing sailors reaching the shore. Actually they were part of the boundary with a four being scored if they were struck, but let’s not spoil the metaphor. Finally, proving the great variety that village cricket offers, the pitch had a considerable slope.
The match was to be 40 overs each and the Professor won the toss, electing to bat. Edmund and Gaurav opened and the rest of the team chilled for an hour as they put on 36 for the first wicket in 12 overs. Against a strong bowling attack – which was especially fast and accurate coming down the hill – and good fielding, Droxford were difficult to get away. Some unpredictable bounces and balls staying low didn’t help, but the openers built a good foundation before Gaurav was caught for 12. Jack came in and built partnerships with Edmund (who went four overs later for 22), Tom, who scored 13, and Nick, who scored a strong 26. Jack elected to retire after scoring an excellent 50, including 8 fours. Although the top five batsmen all performed well and scored in double figures, the Droxford bowling and fielded had remained strong, with their top three bowlers conceding no more than three an over, and we found ourselves at 130 for 4 off 31 overs when Nick was bowled. Ideally we would push on, but Droxford remained difficult to put away and in fact their number seven bowler took 3 for 5 off six overs. The final six Racqueteers batsmen all scored runs and pushed the score on a bit, but they all fell in single figures – caught or bowled plus a runout for Jonathan (I’m sure he was close!). This left us with a respectable score of 156. The question was, would this be enough in a 40-over match?
The Racqueteers fielding performance was eventful without even considering the cricket. In no particular order: Gaurav had a conference call at 5:00, so arranged a swift changeover of wicket-keeping duties with Jack mid-innings; Chris turned up and was drafted in as a substitute fielder at various times; our injured skipper Mike F and Lol also appeared to inspire us; Guy left the field for a couple of overs with a “blood injury” (a bleeding thumb after stopping the ball on the joint); and there was also a deflected runout and a wicket first ball of the innings. Anyway, back to the cricket. Angus’s first ball tickled their opener’s leg bail off to everyone’s surprise, I believe after the batsman left it and it hit the leg stump – but without an action reply, we’re not quite sure what happened. Angus and Mike C bowled a tidy opening spell, with Droxford keeping slightly ahead of the run rate needed but not by much. The next wicket came in the seventh over with an excellent ball from Angus taking down the stumps. A further wicket fell in the next over. Mike C made an excellent stop off his own bowling, deflecting a powerful drive from the batsman onto the stumps and running out the batsman at the bowling end. The umpire was a little uncertain as it was so unexpected, but it was clearly out and Droxford were 40-3 off eight overs, with the match very much on. Unfortunately, a stand of 86 followed. The Droxford batsmen played well and also knew the ground, with some skilful use of the guarding trees to make fours. There were a couple of hard catch chances that went down, but it wasn’t until Angus returned for a second spell that the fourth wicket fell, a superb slip catch by Jack. At this point, they needed 37 runs off 17 overs, so we needed wickets. It wasn’t to be. Although Julien, Guy, Nick and David (at times) made them work for their runs, they reached the target with 10 overs remaining, and their number two scoring 78 not out.
We retired to the White Horse to reflect on an extremely enjoyable game of cricket, and hopefully we will be back next year with a different result. Out of interest, the Droxford account of the match is here.
Droxford beat The Racqueteers by 7 wickets
Racqueteers: 156 all out off 38.3 overs
Droxford: 157 for 4 off 29.3 overs