On a sunny Bank Holiday Monday in May 2001, a new team began as eleven twenty-something guys boarded a train at King’s Cross station to play a game of cricket in rural Nottinghamshire – our first game as the Allstars. Few realised what they were letting themselves in for, nor could they have thought that fledgling team would still be going strong after 20 seasons. Our founder Maxie Allen tells the story of that day …
Newark, Notts – Monday 28 May 2001.
South Muskham and Little Carlton CC 200-7 dec (37.5 overs: Nick Jones 3-29) beat St Anne’s Allstars 178 all out (34.5 overs: Nick Jones 66, Tom Morris 34, Dave Bracegirdle 4-24) by 22 runs.
If, the night before, I had dreamt we would score over 150 and lose by as small a margin as 22 runs, I would have dismissed it as ludicrous fantasy. In the end, thanks in great part to a spectacular innings by Nick Jones, we made a decent game of it.
As a day of entertainment, it could hardly have been bettered. The sun shone warmly on South Muskham and Little Carlton’s attractive ground, where an absorbing contest developed in the middle. Our hosts were charming and generous, and the post match celebrations extensive.
66 from 41 deliveries, and 3 for 29 with the ball, deservedly earned Jones the man of the match award. His brutal display contrasted with Tom Morris’ more classically composed 34, and Andy Dyer’s cussed 18.
Having won the toss, I had no option but to field first, to ensure the match wasn’t all over in 45 minutes. There was an early success when Highfield gave a return catch to Tristan Haddow-Allen, but then Lees and Stuart dropped anchor, compiling more than eighty for the second wicket.
Adam Clements bowled his eight overs off the reel, and can feel unlucky to have gone wicketless. His persistent line and length earned him several nicks and edges, none of which went to hand. The short boundary at the pavilion end was also causing problems, with loose deliveries evading the keeper to notch up 26 byes during the innings. Jones was our man with the golden arm, and made the breakthrough in his second over when he had Jamie Stuart caught behind by Tom Morris for an excellent 36.
Then came as close to a collapse we are ever likely to induce. Garreth Duncan turned one of his googlies to castle Lees, who had batted very well for his 39. Then, in Jones’ fifth over, he struck twice in three balls. The dismissals were virtually identical – a ball slightly short of a length lifted, left the batsman, and took the edge. Tristan Haddow-Allen took both catches at slip, the second a real beauty.
South Muskham were now reduced to 126 for 5, but our hopes of actually bowling them out soon faded. Gresswell and Claughton added 32 for the sixth wicket before the latter was bowled by Andy Dyer. Gresswell was then joined by Thompson, and with our strike bowlers out of the attack the pair accumulated runs in easy fashion. But before the innings closed there was a maiden wicket for Kieron Dolphin, who had Thompson give Morris a second catch behind the stumps. When their score reached 200 in the 38th over, South Muskham declared to leave us a highly gettable target.
Tim White started brightly before one popped up on him and squirted into the hands of short leg. Andy Clarke looked a million dollars as he shared a partnership of 39 with Morris. His dismissal was unfortunate – a firmly struck leg glance ricocheting off midwicket into the hands of David Bracegirdle at mid-on.
Until then Morris had batted with elegance and purpose, but the departure of Clarke subdued him and the innings became bogged down. Between the tenth and seventeenth overs we scored just ten runs, and there were four consecutive maidens. Tristan Haddow-Allen and Morris were both out trying to force the pace. The former’s miscued cut ended up in the hands of gully, while Mozza fed a pull shot straight down the throat of deep mid-wicket: 72 for 4.
But then came the partnership which almost transformed the match. At one end Dyer nurdled quick singles. At the other Jones blazed away like a man in a hurry to get to the pub. With a powerful bottom hand and a good eye, he tried to launch every single ball he received out of the ground. He kept connecting, and it kept whizzing to the boundary. His innings of 66 included 8 fours and 3 huge sixes, all disappearing into the next field. His assault on their bowling was nothing less than murderous, with three overs going for 11, one for 13 and one for 18.
With 29 overs gone we needed only another 57 from the remaining eleven, with 6 wickets in hand. But it was all going a bit too well – time for us to come back down to earth. Dave Bracegirdle knocked back Dyer’s off pole, then Jones – who had already been dropped in the deep three times – was caught off a skier.
At 160 for 6, Clements and Jim Jarrett still had victory in their sights, but the next Bracegirdle over put paid to our any such hopes. First Clements was bowled, which made way for an entertaining cameo from Kieron Dolphin. He had refused to bat in nets and here seemed reluctant to bat for any longer than was absolutely necessary. Attempting to hit his first ball through the covers, Dolphin instead deflected it onto middle stump.
Bracegirdle was now on a hat-trick, and the sight of me walking out to bat must have made him lick his lips. I survived three balls, though, before trying to pull him through cow corner and missing it completely. Soon Garreth was leg before on the shuffle and it was all over. Subsiding from 160 for 5 to 178 all out, our tail rather failed to wag.
Afterwards there was much merry making, as we repaired to the Crown for the barbecue, skittles and darts. We lost those as well. The captain took part in these festivities with, arguably, undue enthusiasm. On reaching King’s Cross on the way home, he was disorientated enough to lose all the rest of the team and leave his kit on the train.
It was a top day and our overall performance surpassed expectations. The Rain Men are next on June 16th. I bet they’re quaking in their boots.