Sussex Martlets 173-8
Funny old game, cricket. Two games to match-manage in May which, by a quirk of statistical fate, produced identical innings scores. Happily, we turned the loss against the Arabs into a sensational win against Goodwood. Furthermore, the chief architects of victory were the younger halves of two father/son pairings in the side. Those of you ill-disposed to paternal, parochial sentimentality had better look away now.
A lush and emerald strip greeted us at a ground where the magnificence of the setting has, on occasion, been known to trump the exactitude of groundsmanship. This time the slightly under-cut outfield sat atop hardened soil. Perhaps this, after all, would be the year for batsmen to get value for their shots.
We won the toss and inserted our hosts, opening with Alex Garlick (fresh from Stirlands and Sussex 2nd XI duties) and Frankie Ashworth (taking a break from GCSE’s (O-levels for our older readers)). Garlick soon dismissed veteran opener Tony Gammon with the score at 3. The earlier-feared wicket played surprisingly well, and although no more wickets were immediately taken, our opening bowlers kept the scoring rate down so low that it was appropriate not only in the context of Sunday cricket but also in the context of the match to open it up. Enter in succession Paul Walker (offers) to replace Ashworth, then Graeme Watkins (leggery wrong-uns) to replace the impressively pacey Garlick, and then Henry Rydon (taking a break from A-levels) to replace Watkins. It was Rydon, bowling off-spin with such exquisite and mature variation that his wicket-keeping father could only grin with pride, who delivered the next break-through, bowling Whitby cannily through the gate for 28. Margarson came on to replace Walker at the other end and soon bowled the laconically impressive Miles for 84. Rydon was rewarded with a second wicket – a to-be-treasured-forever Stumped Rydon, Bowled Rydon. Ah, happy days.
With Goodwood now accelerating the scoring rate, young Ashworth returned at the top end to tighten things up and Goodwood declared at 4.20pm, having received 48 overs from us. Permit me to observe that Ashworth, though wicket-less, was genuinely quick and finished with the astonishingly miserly figures of 10o-6m-5r-0w.
Tea at Goodwood is always delicious affair and a strong determinant in wanting to field first. Our openers strode out with confidence, and Torquil Deacon (15) looked particularly elegant. But Wild was soon dismissed by the inappropriately named ‘Heaven’, for his hooping seamers had our top order in all sorts of hell. He and medium pacer Beard were rested but only to be replaced by the infuriatingly accurate dibbly-dobblers of old friends Mayne and Willmer. We were set the trap on multiple occasions, and promptly lured ourselves into it. More wickets fell. As Paul Walker left his attendant family to go into bat, Midge Martin remarked ‘don’t worry, he’ll be back soon’, more (I trust) with an eye on humour than hope. But Midge’s verbal sword was as mighty as his scorer’s pen, and a careless run-out soon brought Walker home again to amplify his afternoon’s disappointment of Huddersfield losing the play-off final.
Frankly, at this point we were dead and buried at 83-6 as the final 20 overs started. ‘Not exactly going according to plan, Skip’, observed Stuart Ritchie summoning his finest Sherlock Holmesian instincts. Oh ye of little faith, Stuart. Graeme Watkins and then Mike Margarson decided to set a different tempo, looking intelligently for singles in gaps. Watkins holed out having turned the momentum to our advantage, and Margarson was joined by Frankie Ashworth. Both proceeded to play with an odd cocktail of determination and not a care in the world. Troublesome seamer Heaven returned, but the pair continued to play the ball on its merits and soon got us back to needing only 3.5 an over. In strode Henry Rydon to replace the valiant Margarson (30), and so it was that the youngest players on the field sought, and found, the 21 required for a stunning victory by applying skill, common sense, and a keen sense of the arithmetic that the national examiners are in the middle of testing. It was left to Rydon to finish it off with a glorious 6 up the hill with 3 overs and one wicket (belonging to your by-now fingernail-less correspondent) to spare. Rydon (14*) and Ashworth (30*) thus returned to the pavilion generously applauded by their opponents and rightly feted by grateful team-mates … and even prouder fathers.
We immediately lubricated the Goodwood dressing room with a jug of ale, although once delivered the door stayed shut as they contemplated a grisly moratorium. But none was really necessary. This was Sunday cricket of the finest order. Hostile seam bowling, plenty of accurate spin, gentle banter during and after battle with old friends, the revelation of some youthful talent, a tight finish – and a win!
So as match-manager, captain and father, it really was just a perfect day.
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