Ten lions on a shirt

Matfield, Kent, Sunday 11 July 2021.

Matfield Green CC 163-5 (40 overs: William Izzard 82*, Sachin Singh 2-33) beat St Anne’s Allstars 162-7 (46 overs: Sachin Singh 43; Pete Cresswell 23*, Justin Bowden 3-35, Hal Cooper 2-20) by 5 wickets.

Report and photos by Garreth Duncan

Matfield is the most scenic of the fixtures on our calendar, their stunning ground truly evoking practically every cliché of what village cricket is supposed to be about. Our visits there always seem to coincide with great sporting events – on our first, to play Canbashers in 2007, we saw the Tour de France pass through the village, and our last visit, two years ago, was followed the next day by England’s nail-biting cricket World Cup victory. As befitting Kent, we were to be treated by a Spitfire fly-past.

This time, more than any other time, this time, we all hoped both that we’d get it right and an England triumph in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley would follow. It wasn’t to come home in both cases – but once again, we fought like lions in a tight contest before being edged out by superior opposition with just an over to go.

With the football looming, both sides did well to muster 10 players each. The previous day’s rain had left the pitch looking decidedly green, and Matfield’s skipper had no hesitation on putting us in to bat on winning the toss. Matt Biss and James Morgan opened the batting for the Allstars, and quickly found Hal Cooper a real handful as he’d been on our previous visits – pacy, prodigious swing and balls frequently keeping low. Justin Bowden, although not as quick, probed away accurately, and runs off the bat were hard to come by. Bowden made the first blow as Morgsy was bowled playing over another skidder, and next over Cooper struck as he had Matt trapped LBW. Hywel Roberts began with a crunching boundary through point, but Bowden replied instantly by pinning him leg before, and we were 29-3 and in some trouble.

With the openers rested, Sachin Singh and skipper Pete Cresswell then began a spirited Allstars fightback, carefully playing themselves in against change bowlers Simon Knott and Ian Woods. Sachin then began to unfurl his full range of shots once again as we began to accelerate, and the pair had added 69 for the fourth wicket before Sachin was caught at mid-on. Chris Woods’ eyes lit up at Wells’ friendly-looking bowling, only to miss a rare straight one, and we were 108-5.

Pete continued the fight, ably assisted by Gren Thompson and Sheahan Arnott, and we continued to advance. The return of the opening bowlers slowed our progress, Cooper having Gren caught at cover and Bowden bowling Sheahan after the Aussie had struck some meaty blows. We were pleased to welcome Max Bascombe back to the Allstars, and he cracked a boundary as the tea interval loomed. Our final score of 162-7 looked 30 or 40 short, and Matfield knew they could win if they didn’t give up the chase.

Matfield’s tea was as good as ever, and we set about defending our total. Gren Thompson, in his first Allstars appearance of the season, began superbly and quickly grabbed the first wicket as a full delivery trapped Giles Heady LBW. Their next was a gift, as a crazy mix-up left Euan Cooper and Keir Hoffmann at the same end, my throw from point effecting the easiest run-out of my long Allstars career. Sheahan followed up immediately by bowling Hoffmann, and Matfield were 32-3.

Sachin joined the attack, and soon got his reward as Hywel (who cheerfully regaled that Welsh radio had been playing “That’s Amore” and other Italian songs all day) joined the party with a stunning, low catch at square leg to remove Marcus Meredith. But Matfield’s star batsman William Izzard was already beginning to express himself and create the space. To dismiss him, we knew we had to hold and give but do it at the right time. But this wasn’t to be our afternoon in the field, as he was dropped three times – though all of them difficult chances.

Sachin showed us how it’s done, taking a smart caught and bowled to remove Cooper, and Matfield were 92-5 with 13 of the mandatory last 20 to bowl. Max bowled a tidy spell from the other end – but the (W)izzard continued to swing his bat freely. Finding an able partner in Bowden, the target continued to tick down. With only 30 needed off the last 5, we just had to hope Matfield were going to throw it away, going to blow it away – but we know they can play. There was only one way to beat them – get round the back – and Gren and Sheahan were recalled for one final blast. But we couldn’t break through, and Matfield got home with six balls remaining.

Nevertheless, it was another game where we gave it everything and can be proud of the effort we put up – twenty years of hurt never stops us dreaming. We look forward to visiting Matfield again next year – but next up, we head to Cambridge next Sunday to renew our friendly rivalry with Matt and Jono’s NCI at beautiful Parker’s Piece.

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