Picture the scene. A young family awakes one September Sunday to see the sun shining and quickly the realisation dawns on them that today is to be the day when they all get to play cricket together – for the men’s team – possibly for the first time ever. Excitement, anticipation, anxiety and high hopes all mingle into one with the thought that today they could be their teams hero, in front of extended family members who will be turning out en force to cheer on the young lads and dad together in the glorious setting of the Laurie Lee field, Sheepscombe. Breakfasting together there would be talk of where they would each bat, who would score the most runs and take most wickets. Banter would continue as they cobble together a shared tea to be eaten mid-game whilst reflecting on the highlights of the previous innings.
Yes, that first game where the whole family plays together is a never to be forgotten rite of passage …
We bowled first and West the Skipper-cum-stand-in stand-in keeper quickly captured the zeitgeist, if not always the ball, by performing an almost unprecedented act in these unprecedented times. Yes, Malcolm achieved a seemingly impossible (for BPCC) stumping as the Sheepscombe opener danced down the track early doors to a flighty and far from filthy off-break from Angol (the erstwhile stand-in keeper) and managed to not only stop the ball but break the wicket in a controlled manner to ensure the dismissal was complete and legitimate.
Meanwhile, at the other end Weedon kept it tight bowling 4 maidens in his first spell but was nevertheless un-penetrative at this point.
The Spearmen filled in the dull middle overs with 30 coming off the next 10 overs. It was 2nd change Spearman Snr who accounted for the opener to dispel (once again) vicious and unfounded rumours than he can only dispense with tail end rabbits. Hitherto that end had been shored up to such an extent that King Cnut himself would have been proud. He went on to snaffle a second and celebrated with some quality Dad dancing. Which was quite embarrassing. Apparently.
At 116-3 in 27th over the game was in the balance. Jake returned to the attack and finally found a way past the Sheepscombe no.3’s inside edge that had hindered us all afternoon. Bartlett was by now bowling at the top end with some impressive shape, and two further wickets fell to the tattooed trundler to turn the tide our way.
With Sheepscombe having slumped to 129-6 off 32, there was therefore no requirement for what then followed.
Weedon returned for a second spell from the Valley end and with his second ball broke through the young batsman’s defence for what seemed at that point like a well-deserved, if cheap, wicket.
But It wouldn’t be a Sheepscombe / Blenheim fixture without a no-ball / youngster controversy and so it was again this time around as Weedon then proceeded to bowl a neck high beamer to the even younger new batsman. Visions of 2018’s no-ball-gate flashed across our minds but fortunately the past is a foreign country and they do things differently there. Despite several Blenheim fielders signalling a no-ball the Sheepscombe umpires refused to enforce the law and an unrepentant Weedon followed up this generous gesture by clean bowling the by now fraught youngster next ball. During this passage of play the Blenheim entourage were rapidly scanning the lawbook to ascertain if an appeal could be revoked when the batsman has been clean bowled. But not content with 2 youngsters in 3 balls, Weedon then cleaned up dad too to leave him on a hat-trick against the incoming no.11. Suffice to say, whilst the rest of the team were hiding their embarrassment behind their hands, Weedon completed the over, his hat-trick, and the innings by again finding the stumps with a jaffa.
Awesome, unplayable and phenomenal.
These were all words left unspoken at this particular point in the game. Instead ‘bully’, ‘shameful’, & ‘resign’ are likely still ringing out across the Gloucestershire escarpment as I speak. Never in the long history of cricket has a hat trick been greeted with quite so many groans. This PE teacher who has chosen to make a career out of helping youngsters fulfil their potential through sport, ruthlessly tore the heart and soul out of a cosy Cotswold family unit as if in one of those formulaic Spielberg movies. The hopes of that morning had been abruptly dashed within the space of just a handful of deliveries and unlike Spielberg, there was no attempt towards the back end of the script to make amends as the family left the field – perhaps never to return – devastated at how their day had been ripped apart by the wolf in sheep’s clothing who by day masquerades as a mentor. We all now know his true colours.
Weedon will undoubtedly point to the saying in recreational cricket that it doesn’t say how old the batsmen were in the book. But let me make it very clear; two of these wickets were under 13 years old.
So anyway, after this despicable behaviour, we batted. After an uneventful first few overs we then lost Boardman, Cox and Parker in quick succession having all first found the boundary. At 39-3 after 14 the game was again back in equilibrium.
Vaughan-Fowler then joined West to rebuild the innings but it wouldn’t be a Sheepscombe / Blenheim fixture without a no-ball / youngster/ wicket controversy. Shades of 2018’s no-ball-gate flashed before us as the new bat lofted one straight to mid-off after the ball had pitched twice. But the past is a foreign country … with JVF half way back to the boundary, common sense prevailed and a no-ball was eventually called by the young umpire.
Meanwhile, Malcolm was accumulating rapidly at the other end, and Vaughan-Fowler began hitting hard and true, as you would expect for someone named after not one but two former England openers. As is also true of English openers though, his innings came to a premature end, playing across the line to be bowled for a quickfire 18. The two had however added 54 in a little under 9 overs to get the Blenheim boys back on track.
Bartlett joined his captain and with just handful required, Malcolm – not content with emulating Joss Buttler behind the stumps with the one moment of competence in amongst all the fumbles – felt the need to match his batting too. And so he did, bringing the game to an end with a massive 6 (like there’s any other type) to record his first Blenheim 50 in over 2 years.
David Hughes turned up and we all then retired to the Butchers (well those who could park anyway) where Weedon was made to face the wall and think about the consequences of his recent actions and Malcolm led by example by getting the beers in to celebrate his fine game.
Thanks to Nigel & Allan for agreeing to step down (and in Nigel’s case score) when we were over-subscribed this week.
A fist pump too to the Sheepscombe team for playing the game in the spirit it is meant to be played.
Sheepcombe 130 ao (33 overs)
Blenheim 135-5 (30 overs)