Seeing March Town in May

Posted in ECB ACO

May started with a visit to Peterborough Town, the Rutland and District Cricket League champions, who predictably overcame March Town, one of the promoted clubs.

The date of this match clashed with that of Northampton Saints' Heineken Cup Semi-Final against Perpignan and whilst, at one point, I was sorely tempted to opt for Stadium:mk, I quickly reminded myself that,
once the cricket season starts, my sole focus is on the summer game.

It was during this particular weekend that Northampton Town Football Club - The Cobblers - secured their Football League status with their first win in 19 matches. I still vividly remember their one and only season in the top flight during the mid-60s, a decade during which they went from the fourth Division to the first and back down again in nine seasons.

Add to this the fact that Northants have started the cricket season very impressively and, for once, it is good to be a Northamptonian.

A lovely little ground just outside Fakenham was my next port of call for a 60+ County Championship match in which Leicestershire just failed to overhaul their target of 271, despite the efforts of their opening batsman who carried his bat for an unbeaten ton after being recalled to the wicket when the home 'keeper realised he had fumbled the ball when attempting a stumping.

Three days later I was back on home soil when a rain affected wicket - water had seeped under the covers - very much influenced the outcome of a match which will be long remembered for a quite extraordinary incident.

A furious row developed in the car park between two women, who were making so much noise that, at one point, the striker retreated from the crease and made it clear that he did not wish to continue until order had been restored.

This incident very nearly overshadowed a superb spell of leg-spin - albeit on a helpful track - which resulted in figures of 9-37. Apparently the bowler in question had been plucked from the relative obscurity of Leicester parks cricket.

A journey into Lincolnshire followed where Bourne Town, perhaps surprisingly, were soundly beaten by their near neighbours, Market Deeping, who flirted with relegation for much of last season.

Leicestershire 60+ suffered a second narrow defeat when hosting their Essex counterparts. The turning point of the match was, arguably, a stunning, diving, one-handed catch by the visiting skipper, of which a person half his age would have been proud.

There followed an appointment at Ratcliffe College, who strolled to victory in their annual fixture against The Forty Club. The school captain looks a very fine player and has, I understand, already attracted the attention of a number of First-Class counties.

It was, however, a visiting batsman who hit the biggest six seen at the school in living memory, the ball clearing not only the pavilion but also the building behind it.

An extremely busy period continued with three appointments in consecutive days.

Firstly, Market Deeping, after their win at Bourne, proved no match for Barnack who rattled up a score of 300 on their way to a comprehensive win.

Then Leicester University saw off their Bedfordshire opponents before Leicestershire 60+, in a game in which over 550 runs were scored but only four wickets fell, slumped to their third consecutive defeat after the long trip to Suffolk.

Star of the show was the home side's opening batsman who was unbeaten with 170-odd. Apparently he did, at one time, captain Buckinghamshire and led them to a famous Gillette Cup victory over Somerset.

Incidentally, a regular in the Leicestershire squad is a 68 year old opening bowler who got an England cap last season and still bowls 20 overs on a Saturday afternoon.

Despite all this activity, I still found time to take two of my grandchildren, Daniel, aged eight, and his brother Jacob, aged six, to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford - what a fascinating place. The boys absolutely loved it and did not want to leave.

I have always been a light-blue when it comes to the Varsity Match at Twickenham or the Boat Race, but I have to say that I prefer Oxford as a city. My wife very much wants to return so that we can experience the Morse guided walk.

An apppointment at Billesdon took me back to the scene of my very last innings as a genuine number 11 and I was able to fondly recall two sumptuous cover drives which both hurtled for four, or were they snicks
through the slips?

I reminded the visiting captain that we had met before. Some six to seven years ago he had driven into the back of my car at the A5/M69 junction, although he said he could not recall the incident.

The following day involved a visit to the picturesque Oundle ground where the hosts had no problem dispatching March Town.

Two days later Leicestershire 60+ finally broke their duck when restricting visitors Hertfordshire to just 146 for six, in pursuit of what appeared to be a below par 215. They repeated this performance seven days later, in Middlesex, at a ground very close to Wembley Stadium after a difficult journey down the M1.

All in all, a busy month with the promise of much cricket to come including an appointment at Grace Road - but more of that in my next blog.