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Match 13 2023 (19th scheduled): August 6

Chippenham v Pimlico Strollers CC

Chippenham claim inaugural Alan Wright Cup
posted: August 7, 2023

Strollers vs Chippenham, 6 August 2023

One year on from the sad passing of groundsman, wicketkeeper and all-round good egg Al Wright, we reconvened at Chippenham to compete for the newfound trophy named in his memory. Once again both sides served up a classic contest with, this time, the home team prevailing.

In contrast to recent years, with so little Summer weather to speak of the picturesque Chippenham ground looked lusher than ever with the greenest (and thickest) pitch your writer can recall. Perhaps it was even less of a surprise then that tradition was upheld and, when George won the toss, he put the oppo in to bat.

Local brothers Sean and Liam Ward joined their father in the Chippenham starting XI and strode out to the middle to open their innings. Our last few clashes at Chippers have resulted in low scoring affairs but with the Ward brothers at the crease it looked as if the natural order would be restored as, despite a probing line from Abhik and Viral, the lifeless pitch posed no apparent threat and the pair clobbered anything remotely short over mid on – in this case quite literally ‘cow corner’ with the bovine residents of the adjacent field impassively looking on as George trotted off to recover yet another boundary.

Thankfully the Wards found runs on the other side of the wicket much harder to come by thanks mainly to the efforts of master Andrew Bates (who had dutifully returned to the UK from his Greek cruise specially for this game) impressively throwing his considerable bulk on the line at point preventing sure fire boundaries. Also happily returning to the side was ex skip (and now local Cambs resident) Tom Harvey who put on a similar display of swan diving at anything heading in his direction, although speculation was rife that he may have done so merely to get out of chasing the ball to the ropes. No matter how close he got to the ball, it looked impressive regardless.

In the bad old days Graeme Holmes once remarked we could assume Chippenham were always going to score about 230-3, so why don’t we just give them that, skip fielding, take tea and try to chase it down? At 87 without loss it looked very much like the oppo were heading towards a tally of that size but then, mercifully, fortunes markedly swung our way. Having celebrated fatherhood just a few days prior, Davie G somehow managed to secure a pass to play cricket in deepest Cambridgeshire on Sunday (a man who clearly knows where his priorities lie – Ed) and, having been brought on to relieve Viral, was rewarded with the prize wicket of Sean Ward who simply misread the length and was bowled for 45.

Spencer, who had come on first change, repeated the trick next over to bowl Van Der Peer for just a couple and with Tom then defying his critics by diving at point to cling onto a difficult catch offered up by O’Keefe from his cousin’s bowling, Chippenham found themselves three down having just got into three figures and our comeback was on!

The procession continued after drinks with Spencer deceiving Bragg with flight and then, having shelled a difficult return catch from the dangerous Andy Holmes, made no such mistake at the second time of asking just a couple of deliveries later. At the other end, having eased past 50, Liam Ward understood it would be down to him to anchor the innings and build a defendable score so powered on regardless with some heavy hitting.

But the wickets continued to tumble. Having unluckily been denied a couple of close stumpings Davie C claimed his just reward when Brown snicked one behind off Spencer and the kitten cleanly took the catch. Liam, by now hurtling towards a hundred, was denied a ton when Gorton nabbed a third with Abhik catching a clubbed hoik in trademark style at deep mid on – and the Chippers opener departed for 87.

All that remained was to mop up the tail which we managed in textbook fashion – Spencer given the opportunity by George to collect a thoroughly deserved five for with one final (thirteenth!) over, which he duly managed, bowling the oppo’s skipper Ashley for a single. Tom wrapped things up with a rare straight one trapping Ward Snr LBW and, with that, Chippenham were dismissed for 156 – all ten wickets falling for just 69 runs… ooer!

We celebrated our comeback over that most truly delectable of treats, the famed Chippenham tea – as always, worth the journey in and of itself – and were enthused even more as the sun finally poked out from behind the clouds to warm up what had so far been a blustery and pretty chilly afternoon. George, it seems, had called correctly and we would enjoy the best of the batting conditions.

Not that we started well. Dave C was elevated to open the innings but was out for a golden duck second ball when Ward Snr skittled one through the gate. Oh dear. Abhik got our score underway with a trio of well struck fours and looked to be in decent touch until Batesy triggered him out LBW on 19 to one that, from the boundary, looked to be of questionable height.

Gav’s heart sank as, having reached the middle, he was greeted by the sight of his nemesis Sean Ward taking off his sweater and pacing out his run up to start his spell (Richardson having been Ward’s bunny at Chippenham for more years than he cares to remember). The big man counted his blessings when he was put down by Liam, attempting an acrobatic catch at short cover, and things rapidly got worse when Ward – considerably quicker than anyone else in the Chippers attack – fizzed his first over down and simply ploughed through Tom’s defences as he played on. Three down for thirty-odd …this wasn’t going well.

Viral came in next and, with time still on our side, sagely suggested the best plan was simply to dig in, tough it out and to try to ward off Ward. Somehow or other this they did, Gav defiantly wearing a few Brian Close style to protect his wicket at all costs. Viral took advantage of the medium pace offered by Sean’s dad at the other end and we gradually began getting the scoreboard ticking over again. The fifty came up and by drinks we had made it to 70-3 as we steadily rebuilt and our hopes revived.

At the stroke of 5.30pm the final twenty overs began. After six more balls of searing speed from Sean he thankfully called it a day and Gav celebrated with a trademark cut shot for four off Brown who was brought on to replace Ward at a much more palatable pace. However, as is so often in case, the change of gear brought about a lapse in concentration and next over the big man found himself bowled for 15 not by a speed merchant but by a sedate off break from Kumar. Damn.

From here things began to unravel again. George, in at six, was caught short of his ground and was run out without scoring. Dickie followed a couple of deliveries later when he misread the length from Brown and was also bowled for a duck. Spencer, dropping down late in the order, thankfully restored some order and paired up with Viral to bring some fluidity back to our innings and we cruised past the hundred mark without further incident.

With Viral now motoring through the gears on his way past 50, Chippenham sensed trouble and the field was set back and the Ward brothers brought on at both ends in an attempt to stem our scoring. Spencer got in on the act too with several boundaries slotted through the gap down the hill but was freakishly undone when he marched down the wicket to Liam, missed, and the ball deflected off wicketkeeper Andy’s pads onto the stumps …an unfortunate way to go.

With 28 still needed from the final 3 overs we found ourselves in a quandary what to do – keep up the charge or shut up shop for the draw? While Viral remained at the middle we felt the win still remained possible but, in his haste to claim it, Dave G backed up too far too fast from the non striker’s end and was run out of his ground for a duck. Batesy fell even more cruelly, run out without facing and we teetered on the brink of defeat.

Having only ten Strollers at our disposal, Davie G marched back out for an encore and, sensing the moment for victory had passed, farmed the strike as best he could. However, with Viral striking the final ball of the penultimate over for four through midwicket, Gorton was exposed to face Sean at the last. Ward needed only one delivery to seal the game as the stumps were clattered and that was that – Gorton bizarrely falling for a duck twice in the same innings. In the end the home team had won by just 16 runs.

Viral marched off mournfully unbeaten on a superb 71 and the sting that we had let this one get away set in – no fewer than six ducks on our scorecard (!) had clearly cost us. However, such negative thoughts were soon cast aside as, with a few touching words in memory of Al, George presented his opposite number Ash with the trophy and we remembered why we were all here in the first place. With that, we repaired speedily to The Tharp to sink a few ales and recount with our friends from the opposition what had been yet another great game which swung this way and that. We’ll be back next year and perhaps then we’ll get our mits on Al’s cup.

 

Gavin Richardson
07.08.2023

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