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Match 13 (23rd scheduled) 2022: August 07

Chippenham CC vs Pimlico Strollers CC

Chippers and Strollers serve up a thriller in memory of Al
posted: August 08, 2022

Pimlico Strollers v Chippenham, 7 August 2022

This season's annual trip to Chippenham was made in the most poignant of circumstances, with the sad news last week of the sudden and unexpected passing of groundsman, wicketkeeper, batsman and club stalwart Alan Wright, well described by Dickie as "an ever-present genuine enthusiast for the game and almost impossible to dislodge from the crease" ...as Strollers bowlers of years past will doubtless recall, especially with that trademark left-handed shovel-pull of his forever thwarting their efforts.

It was fitting then that the game yesterday more than lived up to the longstanding tradition of the many epic battles between the two sides as we served up a real classic. With the weeks of baking hot and dry weather having clearly taken their toll on the pitch and the parched outfield, it was perhaps apt that upon the passing of it's devoted groundsman, the strip played a key part in proceedings. With numerous cracks appearing between the hardened plates of the wicket it was somewhat surprising (yet not surprising at all) that Chippenham stuck with tradition and opted to bat first upon winning the toss.

Initially it looked like a good decision with opener Charlie Ratley spanking an expansive cover drive for four off Harry's first delivery. However, it didn't take long for the pendulum to swing when, in the second over, Karthik found the edge of Bragg's bat and Davie C –  pouncing like the kitten he is – took an extraordinary diving catch shifting his weight from left to right to nab the ball just centimetres from the ground. Spencer, watching on from cover, caught sight of Davie's face who apparently couldn't believe he'd clung on!

Dramatic though it was, the catch set the tone for the whole day with batsmen on both sides struggling to find any kind of form on a surface that offered wildly varying bounce. Even dangerman Charlie couldn't judge it and, having punched away a trio of further boundaries, was thoroughly castled when Harry skidded a grubber under his bat ...much to Ratley's clear displeasure.

Karthik followed that up by yorking Asgar and Harry struck again to dismiss Osbaldeston in the same way. Andy Holmes (from the Chippenham 1st XI) looked on in disbelief as he chipped up a standing half volley from Karthik to Tom at cover. Tom, brought on at first change, got in on the act himself when Qumar swung at a wide one only to snick it to the Kitten and we celebrated in disbelief that we had Chippers seemingly on the ropes at 36-6!

Given the circumstances it almost seemed rude to contemplate rolling the oppo over but thankfully for the sake of the game a battling seventh wicket stand of 50 between messrs Kumar and Gibson steadied the Chippenham ship, both playing some attractive stuff despite the difficult conditions. Having put on a vital 33 Kumar was eventually skittled by Spencer, operating from the Newmarket end and, having managed to steer his side over the hundred mark, Gibson was trapped LBW shortly thereafter by Davie G who had offered no quarter with a probing line from the other end.

Gorton collected another when Arnold chipped one up to Tom and, having managed to spill an earlier caught and bowled chance, Spencer made no mistake to collect the return catch from Brown to close out Chippenham's innings on 111 all out – Nelson clearly striking. Gone, clearly, were the days when the Chippenham pitch was known as a batsman's paradise.

Before the change of innings approaching we took a moment to remember Al. Both sides, adorning black armbands throughout the game, lined up either side of the wicket to observe a minute's silence reflecting on what a wonderful character and competitor he was. It was a touching moment demonstrating how fondly he was regarded by both sides, being as he was very much at the heart of arranging this cherished fixture for so many years.

As much as for the cricket, Chippenham CC is fondly regarded for the tradition of it's famous teas and, after two years of going without owing to Covid disruption, we were more than delighted to enjoy the full spread back on offer ...abundant sandwiches, pork pies, cakes and cookies were back on the menu, much to our glee ...with no sign of that "cooked muck" that Charles Trevor is known to complain of back in north London.

As we chomped upon the fine fare on offer our thoughts turned to the chase ahead. Those of us who played the 2016 fixture remembered all too well the dangers of complacency having somehow lost despite bowling Chippenham out for 123 as we were skittled out then for just 95. So, given the state of the pitch, nobody was taking anything for granted. But with a likely 40 overs or so to knock off the modest runs required all we had to do was to keep our heads, occupy the crease and we'd surely get there. Surely... right?

Expecting a barrage from Charlie –  fearsomely fast at his best – we were boosted to learn that he wouldn't be bowling after all, battling as he was with a slipped disc... the odds seemed to be stacking even more in our favour. This should be straightforward.

Well, we wouldn't be the Strollers if we didn't do things the difficult way. Faced with some fairly pedestrian stuff in Charlie's absence we still somehow found all manner of ways to get ourselves in trouble, offering chance after chance. George was first to go when he chased a wide one from Gibson and generously scooped it to cover. Ali had looked solid in defence to start with but was out next when Gibson found a little extra bounce and he top-edged behind. Gav had timed a couple of nice drives for four through cover before he went for a third only to edge to Charlie at gully. Ratley pouched another when Dickie also snuck one behind to leave us reeling at 20-4 and the oppo whooped with joy... they were back in the game.

Our woes continued when Harry offered a tame catch to Qumar. Spencer, struggling with a sore wrist having aggrivated an injury from last week's game, was also soon to depart when he was sharply stumped attempting an ugly heave off Arnold ...this didn't look good.

Thankfully Davie C made a good fist of digging in with Tom as our total crept over fifty. Having struck a handful of meaty blows Tom tried one too many and holed out to Gibson for 17, leaving us six down with forty or so still to get – all our batsmen thus far out due to their own impatience. Mercifully Karthik, in at nine, showed more composure than those that came before and with Dave settled into a more comfortable rhythm, nurdling the ball around and running well between the wickets.

However, if our nerves were beginning to settle, they frayed once again when Davie played and missed to a straight one from Arnold, was triggered out LBW and he was back in the hutch for 16 with over thirty still required and only Dave G remaining. Bringing all his experience as an ex-Strollers skipper to bear, Gorton read the situation sensibly and stoically offered nothing other than a solid defence as he handed the scoring responsibilities over to Karthik.

Over the nail-biting next few minutes the score steadily climbed and, with Kathik dispatching a trio of powerful fours through the leg side, our target tantilisingly came into view. The hundred was up and, before we knew it, we just needed a couple for victory. Then tragedy as, against the run of play, Karthik strode down the wrong line and was trapped LBW by Asgar! In an act of sportsmanship that typifies Chippenham through and through, being that we only had 10, the oppo allowed us to recycle the last batsman out meaning Karthik swapped ends with Dave to take the match to it's conclusion. Chippers needed one wicket to win, we just needed one run.

In the end – in somewhat unglamourous fashion – the spoils were ours with four byes spilled and, with that, we secured only our fourth win at Chippenham. Not that the result really mattered to either side ...the day meant much more than that and with smiles all round we reflected on the shared and bittersweet knowledge that Al would have loved it. Both teams returned the The Tharp afterwards to raise a glass to our departed friend and it was decided that in the years to come the fixture should be rebranded the 'Alan Wright Memorial Trophy' ...a great way to remember the great man.

Gavin Richardson

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