Picture the scene.
Midsummer. Cricket Whites. A glorious setting at Shrewsbury School with an arboretum backdrop, under the watchful eye of Charles Darwin, who’s prominent statue cast an evolutionary eye over proceedings.
The Elms Colts A v Prestfelde Colts A.
Will S won the toss, and elected to field, and the skipper then took it upon himself to fire the opening salvos at the opposition, and succeeded in grabbing an early wicket; however, the Prestfelde opening pair responded well, and at the end of their first four overs, they had scored a steady 20 runs.
The second pair came in, and right at the end of their 4 overs, Will S turned to Jack M. Jack came in, and immediately landed the ball on a length; he was rewarded with a wicket on his second delivery, and then took 2 more on balls 5 & 6 – 3 wickets in an over is a royal return in pairs cricket, as it equates to minus 15 runs for the opposition, and Jack’s spell had a visible impact on the team in the field. The volume was augmented; all walked in with a new spring in their step, and the Elms started to take real control of the match.
Arthur G and Harry I bowled tidily, there was the obligatory direct hit run out from Will S; Olly M grew in confidence behind the stumps, and had a stumping off Monty F, and Johnny K-B showed great maturity to put a sharp dropped chance behind him immediately, and take a fine catch off a steepling top edge one ball later.
At the death, Monty F bowled the finest over I’ve seen from him all year; 5 Yorkers, and one good length ball that produced a wicket.
With 16 overs complete, Prestfelde finished on 215 – a grand total of 15 runs.
The boys came off buzzing, but, as the cantankerous old bird Geoffrey Boycott often says, ‘never judge a match until both sides ‘ave ‘ad a bat’…
This proved to be the case. Jack M and Olly M found Prestfelde’s opening bowlers sharp, and precise, and very hard to get away. Wickets fell, and the Elms were 198 after 4; Arthur G and Harry I were next at the crease, and batting continued to be a struggle. Arthur suffered a blow to the knee, and was replaced by Ted R, but even as a few runs started to mount up, Prestfelde’s bowlers, in particular a young leg-spinner called Rueben, continued to find a way through, and the wickets tempered our progress.
Johnny KB and Monty F approached their task with diligence; Monty announcing to the coach that he would not need to do anything risky; the bad ball could be sent to the boundary, anything straight, blocked. They built again, and with just one wicket falling in their 4 overs, Will S and Arthur G walked out for the final 4 overs with 208 on the board. 8 required for victory.
It would be over-egging the atmosphere to say that a hush descended on the Shrewsbury top pitch that increased the tension. This was largely due to the fact that there was a high quality girls One Dayer taking place on the 1st XI pitch with all the noise and razzmatazz associated with the IPL, but there was also an uninterrupted dialogue spewing forth from the caretaker coach, as his commentating background ratcheted up several notches with the increase of nerves and adrenalin.
Second ball Will S smashed the ball back at the bowler. It travelled like an exocet. All eyes turned to the boundary to watch it bounce blissfully over the rope for 4. But it didn’t. Somehow the bowler had taken a miracle catch, and the Elms were back down to 203.
Runs came in the next over, along with a catch off a no-ball. Ted R returned for the final 9 balls to make it safe.
Will S found the boundary a couple of times, but was caught again. The pressure gauge rose.
Another boundary, and then a gentle single saw the Elms come into the final over on 219.
Will S on strike. Prestefeld’s bowler landed 6 from 6 on the spot, all hitting the stumps, but Will S was not to be tempted with anything other than the sort of solid forward defence that would keep Geoffrey proud. A cry of ‘Yes’ from the skipper as he blocked the final ball alleviated the stress. The Elms had won by 4…
Speaking afterwards, the wonderful Umpires who gave up their time to preside over the match said what a pleasure it had been to be involved in a game that went to the final ball. What a pleasure it had been to be involved in a game of such a high standard. What a pleasure it had been to be involved in a game played in the spirit of cricket.
Huge congratulations to the whole team: Will S, Harry I, Ted R, Johnny KB, Jack M, Olly M, Monty F, and Arthur G, with 9th man Harry R as well.
Next up the Nationals at Oakham School (notable alumnus Stuart Broad). 8th of July. Put your staycations on hold. The Elms are on tour.