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Following in the footsteps of Sir Don and WG Grace

Posted in ECB ACO

The penultimate month of the season began conspicuously with the weather forcing a cancellation before a very tight ELCCL match was followed by a game in which Bourne Town, who are beginning to flex their muscles at the top of the Rutland & District Cricket League, completed a comfortable double over Nassington.

One of the Lincolnshire-based club’s players was called ‘Bentley’ and I noticed he was wearing a Bentleigh CC cap. He explained that they are a Melbourne-based club and he had spent some time there during the last Southern Hemisphere summer.

A late appointment gave me the opportunity to sample the excellent facilities at Leicester Grammar School where the cricket coach is the ex-Kent and Leicestershire all-rounder Laurie Potter, before a late switch sent me, for only the second time, to the picturesque and, perhaps, unique Barkby United CC ground where five trees stand tall and proud in the outfield.

Just 14 hours or so later I was delighted to stand in a county under-11 ‘Incrediball’ semi-final which went down to the last ball and it was a pleasure to watch young cricketers giving everything in front of a sizable crowd of mums, dads, brothers and sisters, etc.

A 20-minute journey then took me to Medbourne where a fourth wicket stand of 130-plus laid the foundations for a comprehensive Rutland League victory. One of the home batsmen, who coaches my nine year old grandson, Jacob, completed his maiden century having missed the landmark by just three runs some weeks earlier.

I was then very pleased to accept an invitation to stand in a tournament featuring a young side from Bangalore who were visiting these shores for the first time.

A 40-overs per side match was followed by two Twenty20 games the following day. These matches were my first experience of coloured clothing and white balls and these fine young cricketers from the sub-continent were able, seemingly, to swing the ball at will and turn it prodigiously at times.

My next appointment will be remembered for the fact that the host’s skipper glorified in the name of Rex Harrison and included under his charge a young bowler by the name of Henry Wood. Add to that the excellent tea, the fact that the threatened rain stayed away and Northants’ superb performances at Twenty20 Finals Day at Edgbaston and the ‘middle’ Saturday in August 2013 will live long in the memory.

A journey to one of my favourite grounds, Oundle, ensued but with both teams under strength, the game itself was a fairly tame affair with the visitors, Peterborough Town prevailing.

The scorer for Oundle turned out to be a local freelance journalist and radio presenter who, in his time, has contributed to Wisden and other leading sports publications.

Elsewhere in the Rutland League the former England cricketer, Alex Tudor, made his debut for Eaton Socon who thrashed title favourites Wisbech Town thanks to a 49 ball ton by Alex’s brother, Ray, the second 50 coming off just 14 balls.

Two appointments involving those eternal rivals Northants and Leicestershire followed, the first of which was a 60+ Plate Competition game in which, not for the first time, Ray Swann and Steve Edwards carried their team to victory. Leicestershire’s hopes disappeared when Swann was put down behind and he responded with a salvo of sixes.

This was followed by an under-13 fixture which gave me the opportunity to stand, for the very first time, at the Electricity Sports Ground in the heart of the city of Leicester.

In days gone by, the ground was home to Leicestershire and cricketers of the ilk of Sir Don Bradman and WG Grace, to name but two, played there. The ground also hosted touring sides from Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and India.

In the interim period the ground has had something of a neglected look about it but the efforts of a determined committee and wise investment have turned things around and there will come a time when the ground can, once more, be one to be proud of.

A first trip to Wisbech in three years involved a 45 minute diversion thanks to the closing of the A47 just west of Peterborough and resulted in my colleague and I arriving at the ground just minutes before the scheduled start time.

The game itself was competitive and played in an excellent spirit. The first and last wickets to fall both resulted from comical run-outs, the second of which saw both batsmen running to the same end, turning and then running to the same end again.

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