The following reminiscences were originally written as part of my family history work that was, like cricket, a onetime obsession that still keeps me occupied from time to time.
Please be aware that the names of teammates have been changed to save them from ignominy!
47, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Sessay CC 3rd XI, Sessay, May 2009, Nidderdale League Division 7
After mustering only 19 runs in four matches at the start of the 2009 campaign and having resisted an invitation the previous week to move down the order, I dug deep to record a chanceless career best score of 47 when opening the batting at Sessay. The next highest score was Jon Rose’s 16 and I was the last man out having occupied the crease for 43.1 overs, thus falling an agonising eleven deliveries short of securing a point for the team. Had my attempt at a delicate lob evaded the gully fielder it would surely have run down the slope for a boundary and taken me to a still elusive maiden half-century. As it was, the ball dropped kindly into the fielder’s hands and in hindsight I should’ve probably left the ball alone. Despite a brave effort in the field we lost the match.
40, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Northallerton CC 1st XI, Birstwith, August 2008, Nidderdale League Division 7
This was the sort of innings that I had designed myself to play and most importantly contributed to a victory for the team. In pursuit of a target of 173 in 45 overs and needing to score all of those runs to preserve our Division Seven status, I opened the batting alongside Randy Rose. I had a huge let off when I was dropped on zero by the square leg fielder and we made them pay as we went on to record an opening stand of 66 of which Randy contributed 58. After he departed we soon lost another wicket, that of Skeet Hardy for a duck. I then shared another half-century stand (53) with Bryan Lambert (31) however again, when one partner departed another wicket soon followed, this time it was Marc Richardson who failed to score. I was on course for a third half-century partnership of the match having put on 42 with David Horton when I set off from the non-striker’s end for a single. David sent me back and despite a desperate dive I was short of my ground and run out just five runs short of victory. Fortunately we made it over the line but I would have liked to have carried my bat and been there at the end. This was at the time my career best score and curiously of the forty runs that I scored in nearly as many overs, I actually scored exactly half those runs in boundaries.
37, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Ripon CC 3rd XI, Ripon Grammar School, August 2008, Nidderdale League Division 7
This match was played the Saturday before the Northallerton match so I actually recorded career best scores two weeks in a row. That definitely represents the purplest patch of my batting career. The match was played at Ripon Grammar School, which I personally think is a beautiful place to play cricket. I batted at number three in the order but soon walked to the crease following the departure of Marc Richardson for a duck. (A less productive two weeks for him then!) Having been dismissed for a duck on my only previous outing at Ripon, I survived a heart in mouth LBW shout when yet to get of the mark and was also dropped behind when on five. I say dropped, it was an intentional guide through a slip area devoid of fielders that the wicketkeeper got a fingertip too. It was never a catchable chance. I made 37 (1 four) at a rate of just over one run an over before skying an attempted pull to square leg. The next highest score was Randy Rose’s 13. A total of 104 was always going to be difficult to defend but we had the hosts in trouble at 66-6 before they recovered to reach 104-6. However with the scores tied we then took three wickets, one a smart low catch at midwicket by myself off the bowling of veteran spinner Tommy Lyon before a streaky edge for a single off the same bowler saw Ripon over the line. Teammate Skeet Hardy was unlucky to finish on the losing side having recorded career best bowling figures of 7-25.
35, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Rainton CC 2nd XI, Birstwith, May 2015, Nidderdale League Division 8
Having being dismissed first ball in a T20 match the Wednesday before, I commenced this innings in completely opposite fashion by launching a medium pace full toss into the sheep paddock on the leg-side boundary for six. I was as surprised as everybody else! I didn’t even hit the ball particularly hard but it just flew high off the middle of the bat and went the distance. It was the fourth six of my career but the first that didn’t have assistance from either a fielder or a tree. I flashed hard at a few deliveries outside off stump and pulled really well, striking four fours in my innings. I had a partnership off 47 with the attack minded Edmund Hebblestone (35) and saw five wickets fall at the other end before I was the ninth wicket to fall when not quite striking the ball cleanly as I cut to backward point. However our last wicket pair of Olivier Hubbard and Denny Gover saw out nearly ten overs to help us record an epic point against a strong side on a relentlessly raining afternoon.
34, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Newby Hall CC 3rd XI, Bishop Monkton, August 2005, Nidderdale League Division 8
Again this was actually a career best score at the time, breaking the previous record that stood at just 12 that I had made on the opening day of the same campaign. This was my first time batting as high as number three in the order and I had an anxious wait as Gill Rodman (32) and Tim Chalmers (9) put on 47 for the first wicket. Before long though we’d stumbled to 63-3 before wicketkeeper Drew Lamb (26) and I steadied the ship with a partnership of 47 though it would have been less had I not heeded Drew’s call of “No” when having slashed straight to point I set off for an optimistic single. A full stretch drive just got me back into my crease (Unlike against Northallerton!) Following Drew’s departure, captain David Horton and I recorded a partnership of 40. I registered five boundaries and played some of the most convincing shots of my career. The innings contained a little luck. I was dropped by the wicketkeeper, trying to cut the spinner when on 15 and was dropped on another two occasions later in the innings. I was clearly getting a little excited when despite my captain’s best efforts to calm me down, I attempted to loft the pace bowler straight back over his head only to lose my middle stump. The innings however helped us secure the inaugural Division Eight title that very day. My performance with the ball also helped on that front but more of that later…
6-25, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. North Stainley CC 2nd XI, North Stainley, July 2006, Nidderdale League Division 7
Following some early strikes from opening bowlers Randy Rose and Christian Rilee, I seized the opportunity to rip through the hosts middle order and record career best figures of 6-25. At one point my figures were actually 5-17 before the opposition number ten clubbed a couple of agricultural boundaries however I sent his stumps flying the very next ball. We chased down the target of 83 for the loss of two wickets with skipper David Horton finishing 52 not out. In truth the quality of the North Stainley batting line-up was extremely poor and whilst these figures remain my best bowling performance statistically, I have bowled better only to end up with worse figures. Having said that, in my only other bowling spell at North Stainley in a cup match in 2009, I recorded figures of 3-6 giving me a ground bowling analyses of 9-31 so maybe I should play there every week!
4-20, Birstwith CC 2rd XI vs. Knaresborough Forest CC 2nd XI, The Union Pub, Knaresborough, September 2006, Nidderdale League Division 5
Opening bowlers Ken Marshal and Ivan Bess each took two top order wickets to put the hosts on the back foot in this encounter, the final match of the 2006 season. I came on first change, bowling towards the pub end and soon took my first wicket. I went on to dismiss another three Forest batsman, all of them for ducks. Never an easy place to bat, we lost wickets at regular intervals in pursuit of our target of 89 before the opening bowling duo of Marshal (29 not out) and Bess (5 not out) saw us over the line. My bowling figures of 4-20 represent career best figures for the 2nd XI.
4-40, Birstwith CC 2rd XI vs. Ripley CC 2nd XI, Ripley, April 2007, Nidderdale League Division 5
This was the opening match of the 2007 campaign, which means that following the Forest match, I actually took back-to-back four wicket hauls in the dizzy heights of Division Five. One of very few if not the only occasion that I bowled my full allotment of overs for the 2nd XI, my figures of 4-40 helped restrict the hosts to a total of 145. At 107-4, we looked comfortable in pursuit of our target before stumbling to 143 when the 9th wicket fell. I strode to the crease in near darkness with just three deliveries of the match remaining but with the batsman having crossed, I found myself at the non-striker’s end. Donny Jepson scored two runs off the next ball to level the scores but the bowler followed that up with a dot ball. As the bowler ran in to bowl the final delivery, I braced myself to scamper to the other end for a quick single. I needn’t have bothered as Donny creamed a glorious cover drive through the covers to the boundary. We embraced as the light fell in scenes reminiscent of England’s win against Pakistan in Karachi in 2000. My contribution with the bat, 0 not out off zero deliveries faced, yet one of my most enjoyable innings!
3-23, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Newby Hall CC 3rd XI, Bishop Monkton, August 2005, Nidderdale League Division 8
Picking up where we left off following my at the time career best with the bat (34), Newby Hall made a half-hearted attempt at chasing down our imposing total of 193. After quickly losing their first five wickets, a sixth wicket partnership gave Newby Hall a glimmer of hope before I sent the innings top scorer back to the pavilion having knocked over his stumps. I soon followed that up by inviting a top edge from the right-handed number eight batsman as he tried to cut towards point. Wicketkeeper Drew Lamb smartly caught the deflection and we both let out a ferocious appeal as we closed in on promotion and the inaugural Division Eight title. To our dismay, the umpire failed to raise his finger. I let out a cry of “Come on” prompting Captain David Horton to tell us all to calm down. As I stood hands on knees and with my back turned to the batsman, he eventually elected to walk of his own accord. It was an extremely proud moment when we walked off the field knowing that we would be playing Division Seven cricket the following year. We finished the season a massive eighteen points clear of our nearest rivals Ouseburn.
3-29, Birstwith CC 3rd XI vs. Middleham CC 2nd XI, Middleham, July 2013, Nidderdale League Division 7
Middleham joins Ripon Grammar School as a ground that I think is ‘made’ for playing cricket. Certainly on a sun-baked summer’s day as it was when we played there in 2013. The playing area is within throwing distance of Middleham Castle and has spectacular views of the Wensleydale countryside though from time to time play may be interrupted when the tractor-driving farmer traverses his field. Prior to this match I hadn’t bowled a ball in competitive cricket in over four years, not since the early part of the 2009 campaign. I started with a wide but after a wait of over four years it took me only four deliveries to claim a wicket. The batsman danced down the track, intent on smashing me out of Wensleydale, however he missed the straight ball completely. It sent his stumps flying and I was quickly off celebrating, arms spread-eagled. Teammate Sandy Johnson told me that I was celebrating before the ball had even reached the stumps. I finished with figures of 3-29 from eight overs and also put in what was without doubt my best ever fielding performance. Middleham would finish as runners-up in the division that season, so to bowl them out on their home ground and claim a point was an excellent effort. When it came our turn to bat, we soon lost opener Dick Shearer for six, prompting me to make my way out to the middle. When I creamed a full toss through the covers for four to get off the mark, I really thought that it was going to be our day. Unfortunately I soon received a delivery from the quick bowler that stayed low and sent my stumps tumbling. Despite an excellent partnership between Sandy Johnson (34) and Lewis Rogerson who struck a career best (Since bettered) 32, we fell 24 runs short of what would have been a stunning victory. However this was without question one of the most enjoyable games of cricket that I have ever played.
Disclaimer: This article only refers to 45-over matches and not T20 matches, just incase you’re wondering why my match winning 40 not out against Ripley in 2016 didn’t get a mention. Maybe that’s an article in itself for another time!