Sidbury edged out in cracking game with Geriatrics

Sidbury action

Sidbury action - Credit: Archant

The groundsmen of Sidbury Cricket Club (SCC) have a new item in their armoury, writes Simon Rowe.

Inside the heavily fortified shed, amongst the oily rags, half-full pots of congealed paint and decaying remnants of mowers past, sits a gleaming new grass-cutter that starts first time and growls with lethal intent to all things fescue and rye.

The collaborative atmosphere at SCC is such that many a fielder-come-groundsman paid tribute to its ruthless sheering. “You should see the blades: like fangs, they are,” said mid-off in wide-eyed awe.

The pitch was a green-top all the same, though rolled hard and true by the 1920s heavy roller that has flattened things hereabouts since ever there was a wicket. The outfield was fast, too. The thronged spectators demanded runs.

Sidelined by a wild Ben Pollard return throw a fortnight ago, club captain Simon Rowe passed the coin to stand-in Olly Paget who tossed, lost and pocketed. The Geriatrics skipper took first use and, alas, Sidbury’s catching wasn’t as sharp as its mowing. Luckless Dave Monro-Higgs saw three catches put down from his error-inducing seamers, two by Marcus Bennett and one by Alex Paget. The former completed his hat-trick, though more than atoned with a full length finger-tip boundary saver late in the innings.

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A cricket match is like a story, and each ball a line of nuanced prose. The narrative slowly unfolds and often it’s what is omitted from the scorebook that captivates those who play or watch. That late Bennett stop inspired another the very next ball, this time by Steve Crick.

Then the Geriatrics opener provided a comic turn: past fifty, his portly junior partner jabbered a delightful mix of contradictory running instructions to see the former well out of his ground with the throw on its way. The bails remained unsettled but the reprieved half-centurian hurled down his bat, helmet and gloves in a fit of pique rarely seen at Test level. Finding themselves in a game thrice more serious than they’d previously thought, Sidbury redoubled their efforts in restricting the flow of runs.

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Crick, Munro-Higgs and Chris Fitzhenry had all proved economical with the ball but had remained wicket-less.

So too, had Alfie Crick, who bowled beautifully from the first ball of his spell but somehow contrived not to take a wicket.

Such was his accuracy that the Geriatrics resorted to a series of suicidal singles to keep the run-rate ticking. One such saw three successive shies at the stumps for the sum total of one completed run, and two aborted. Roused to action by the lack of wickets, Olly Paget took hold of the ball and shattered the stumps with a swinging full-bunger.

Only two more wickets followed, though, and the Geriatrics completed their thirty overs with the score at a respectable but not intimidating 157-3.

Bennett and Archie Rowe opened up the home side’s reply. The latter played with elegance and poise, a back-foot drive through the covers for four the shot of the day before being adjudged caught behind. Debutant Tom Wright, batting under the scrutiny of his new sweetheart and her parents, shot lustily from the hip, one posturing six striking the innocent scorer on the chest.

Thankfully only a bruise was sacrificed at the altar of courtship, and Wright departed for his train chest puffed out and head held high. His dismissal brought Harvey Bennett to the crease and the scoring rate increased encouragingly amidst the steady fall of wickets. Bennett times the ball beautifully, especially on the front foot, and would surely have seen Sidbury well on the way to victory if he hadn’t wandered carelessly from his crease.

The remorseless ‘keeper whipped off the bails and Bennett had to go. A victory for the letter of the law, if not sportsmanship.

Anxious spectators eyed the pavilion door in trepidation as number 7 – already! – emerged. Thank goodness: a man for all occasion, Olly Paget, strode to the crease – and then back again after nicking a first-baller.

Plenty of overs to go but not batsmen. Fitzhenry was next out before the other Paget and then Rich Green kept up the rate but fell too softly.

Nine down, 35 needed, five overs to go; Steve Crick and son Alfie at the crease. Could father and son steer the ailing Sidbury ship home to harbour?

The former slashed and pulled, the latter defended loyally. The murmur of optimism returned to the boundary edge. A straight drive for four and then four byes! “Their ‘keeper’s costing ‘em!” shouted the gleeful Sidbury gloveman.

Only 17 needed and 15 balls to get them. Oh, but then tragedy. Alfie bowled by a jaffa, the bubble burst, no more men in the hutch.

All trooped off to handshakes and Branoc, father demonstrating to son a Boycott-esque defensive shot all the way back to the pavilion.

The boughs of the grand old trees at the boundary’s edge swayed in the summer breeze, the low evening sun shone down and players, friends and family lingered before sauntering off until the next time which happens to be this coming Sunday (August 7) versus Newton Poppleford 2pm start at home.

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