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Coming into the home straight

Posted in ECB ACO

It seems barely possible that, as we move into July with the longest day already behind us, we are beyond the halfway point of what has been a frustrating season thanks to the wonderful British climate.

Hinckley was the venue for my first appointment of a new month, where the hosts comfortably dispatched near neighbours, Ibstock Town, in a Challenge Cup tie.

Leicestershire Over-50s' improved form continued as they won a tight game against Lincolnshire in a game which featured two excellent tons.

More cancellations followed, including one on my birthday. In fact, my next five appointments yielded just 11.2 overs of cricket. This period did give me the opportunity of watching Andy Murray’s valiant attempt to be the first Brit to win the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title for 76 years.

However, with the greatest respect to the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, I would much rather have been calling 'play' somewhere or tucking into a cricket tea.

A belated return to Rutland & District Cricket League (R&DCL) action saw me return to Nassington for the first time in more than two years where the hosts, bolstered by two new signings, recorded an emphatic seven-wicket victory as they seek to firmly establish themselves following promotion.

It was then back to the history-steeped ground at Old Buckenham where Leicestershire 60-plus, not for the first time this season, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as Norfolk secured a highly unlikely victory.

The much-heralded improvement in the weather failed to save either the scheduled rematch two days later at Oakham or a much-anticipated match against a touring New South Wales 55+ side at Lutterworth where a downpour in mid-morning scuppered any prospects of play despite the sterling efforts of the groundstaff.

A glorious weekend ensued and following an Everards Leicestershire County Cricket League appointment on Saturday, a game full of incident kept me occupied 24 hours later. The very first over of the match yielded two no-balls, two wides, two wickets, one run off the bat and an injured batsman.

This game included a high-class seven-for, five catches - two quite brilliant by the keeper - and two spectacular run-outs. All this happened after the visitors arrived late and with only ten players.

An equally incident-packed game followed as Leicestershire 50+ kept their discipline to record the narrowest of victories over visiting Buckinghamshire, who must still be wondering how they allowed the game to slip from their grasp.

At one point I found myself poorly positioned to adjudicate on a very tight run-out and made it clear that I had no option but to give the batsman the benefit of the doubt. I must say the fielding side, Leicestershire, took the decision very well.

More good cricket followed when I visited the picturesque Newtown Linford ground which overlooks Bradgate Park, which is one of a number of parks surrounding Charnwood Forest.

Since medieval times it has been part of the Manor of Groby. The name Bradgate is thought to derive from Norse or Anglo-Saxon, meaning 'broad road' or 'broad gate' respectively and the first mention of Bradgate Park is from 1241.

Just 24 hours later I was able to put the disappointment of the cancelled New South Wales match to one side as Leicestershire 60+ entertained the full Australian 60+ touring side whose fixtures include three matches against England 60+ who had toured Down Under last winter.

In a rain-affected match, on a slow wicket of variable bounce, the Aussies struggled to come to terms with the conditions and were shot out for just 114, after having been 65 for eight at one point.

During the course of a sumptuous tea my colleague and I began to wonder if the notoriously brittle home batting could rise to the occasion in front of a sizable crowd which grew in numbers as the weather improved and word got out.

For most of their innings the hosts were well placed until a succession of rash shots and some suicidal running caused a mid-innings collapse and it seemed that a famous victory had slipped from their grasp.

However, the oldest player in the side steadied the ship and a number of lusty blows from the tail ensured victory off the penultimate ball – a notable victory in a difficult season for the midlanders.

It was well into the late evening before the Aussies dragged themselves away, following a splendid meal, a series of presentations and any number of photographs.

I found myself sitting next to the captain-for-the-day, Ross, who was great company. The tour party, he advised, comprised 18 players, which I thought was a little on the light side, but one player was forced to return home after just two matches and a further two had joined the ranks of the walking wounded leaving just a threadbare 15 to battle on.

What will the month of August yield, I wonder?

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