Christ’s Hospital march to a famous victory
(in Howard Holdsworth’s last year at the school)
No greater fitting end to the teaching career of Howard Holdsworth could have occurred when the Christ’s Hospital 1st XI narrowly won the match by one wicket in the penultimate over.
Howard started at Christ’s Hospital as a boy in 1966 and in his time at the school was cricket captain for the years 1971 and 1972. Apart from a period as Headmaster of a prep-school, his entire working career has been at Christ’s Hospital. It was there that his true love for the game of cricket was fostered and it was a passion he has handed down to many generations of boys combining his love of teaching with his unabiding passion for the game of cricket. At the start of the day, Howard could not have anticipated the narrowest of finishes. The Martlets needed one wicket for victory. The number 10 and 11 of Christ’s Hospital needed ever fewer runs.
The day started with Christ’s Hospital offering the Martlets one of their players in a tradition seen before. Milo Fletcher joined the Martlets’ squad and after losing the toss, the Martlets were inserted by Christ’s Hospital. The toss was witnessed by both umpires, Barry Peay and Alan Newman, in accordance with one of the new rules of cricket.
The Martlets opened with Jonathan Hughes and Simon Warrender. Both were early victims to the excellent opening bowling of Christ’s Hospital’s Nathan Cooper in four overs. Next to the crease were Sam Cooper and Kemar Small. Kemar is the overseas from Slinfold and the latest bajan recruit to the Sussex Martlets. Sam and Kemar recovered from our early losses and at lunch, the score was 86-2 with Sam having hit his half century.
One of the great traditions at Christ’s Hospital is the band playing the school into the dining hall. Lunch was taken early at 12:15 to allow all players to go to the quad to witness the band playing, a truly impressive sight, and lunch was then taken in the Courtyard room. By this stage, Kemar, his home in Barbados, was in great awe, not only of the musical traditions of Christ’s Hospital but also the magnificence of all the buildings, as well as the ambiance of the Courtyard room for lunch.
Play resumed and Sam and Kemar accelerated the scoring, Sam hitting a century and going onto 138 before being caught at long on, with Kemar scoring his half century and remaining unbeaten at 83 playing with a side strain. A fleeting innings from Nick Beechey proved entertaining and then Steven Harman, a Sussex U16 player and an excellent substitute for Derek Horsham, secured the end of the innings when Martlets’ match manager, Stuart Ritchie, made an early declaration at 3:10pm on 254-4.
Sam’s score of 138 was the highest score ever against Christ’s Hospital beating the record set 29 years earlier to the day!
Opening the bowling for the Martlets was Steven Harman and Sam Cooper who said he had never taken a Martlet’s wicket when bowling. Stephen bowled an excellent line and length and with his third ball took the wicket of Christ’s Hospital opener and school cricket captain Will Freeman to a low one handed catch. This was followed by a fine leg side catch by keeper Joe Akers-Douglas. At 53 for three, the signs were promising for the Martlets but by tea the score was 137 for five and the match was finely balanced.
With the final session under way, Christ’s Hospital batsmen Solly Woodall found him self batting with his older sister. Sibling relationships in the Woodall family are obviously strong when brother ran out sister for nothing, with his older sister apologising (unnecessarily in the view of the Martlets) for the confusion between the wickets. Solly’s mental resilience was obviously strong as his innings progressed well but eventually he was out for 94 caught off returning opening bowler Steven Harman.
Entering the final five overs, Christ’s Hospital needed 19 runs to win with three wickets in hand. Two wickets fell, one to Sam Cooper, leaving Nathan Cooper at the crease with Ambrose Thwaites, grandson of legendary Martlet Ian Thwaites). Ten runs by Christ’s Hospital or one wicket by the Martlets would secure victory.
In many ways, it didn’t really matter who won the game. Howard Holdsworth was but now back on the ground after watching the first day of Sussex v Durham at the Arundel Cricket Festival to see Nathan Cooper score the winning runs.
Chairman Stuart Ritchie gave the victorious side his senior school speech to say that cricket doesn’t end with the school year and our Junior Martlets organiser John Bettridge would be delighted to hear from any of the boys or girls at Christ’s Hospital wanting to play cricket this summer for the Junior Martlets.
And as the ground was cleared, the chipper voices from the home side dressing room were welcomed by the vanquished Martlets who fully appreciated they had taken part in a very special day of cricket.
After the match, Dave Messenger, director of sport at Christ’s Hospital wrote to say:
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the manner in which you managed a truly superb cricket match on Wednesday, the final sentence in Howard’s brief match report, that goes to our boarding Houses (see below) almost says it all.
The 1st XI match was one of the best played in recent history on Big Side. CH started brightly as Nathan Cooper removed both openers in the opening 4 overs. What followed either side of lunch was a masterclass of batting as Sam Cooper (138) – who overtook the record for the highest Martlets score against CH, which had been set 29 years earlier to the day (sigh!) – and Kemar Small (83*) who added 204 in 37 overs. The declaration came after 47 overs with CH needing 255 to win. We lost captain Freeman in the first over, courtesy of a stunning catch by Milo Fletcher, who was guesting for the Martlets. (He also took two wickets!) At 55-3 victory looked a long way off, but a good partnership of 79 between Solly Woodall and Eric Swinn-Ward gave the innings some impetus. Solly batted beautifully and was unlucky to miss out on a century. His partnership of 62 with the supportive Henry Condron was crucial. Nathan Cooper saw us home in a nail-biting finish with Ambrose Thwaites. A great game and a fantastic advert for the sport. Well played, both teams.
I would simply add it was also a superb advert for what the Sussex Martlets is all about. It is these cricketing experiences that make the sport a truly wonderful game, which one hopes catches the imagination of young cricketers and instils in them a desire to engage in this tremendous sport for life. Once we got into the last 5 overs of the match the final result was insignificant, although some may say a tie would have been the desired outcome!”
As is so often the case in matches between Christ’s Hospital and the Sussex Martlets, cricket was the winner. But we also needed to remember that Howard Holdsworth was a winner too, with a tremendous innings at Christ’s Hospital of over 50 years, and who after the game was suitably reminisced with over a pint at The Bax Castle.
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