Watching and listening to leather on willow
It’s a cold overcast Saturday on one of the highest village cricket grounds in the country. The sun is trying to break through but without success, unlike the previous Saturday when we had a scorching hot day for the village Mayday Fair. The opposition, Haresfield Gladiators, have set a target of 172 for the home team, Sheepscombe and Bisley, have made a good start with at least 10 off the first over with the bowler warming up with a wide and more than 6 off the second. Before the new bowler commences the scorer calls out ‘bowlers name’ in a loud authoratative voice from his seat on the pavilion veranda and the answer is ‘Whity’, who is appropriately dressed.
The fielding team keep up a continuous cacophony of encouraging shouts to each other: ‘well fielded’; ‘come on Stevie’; ‘drop this way a bit’, says the captain to a fielder; ‘come on lads, too quiet in the field’; ‘ohh yes, good ball’; sporadic clapping; ‘come on lads let’s keep up our winning streak’ as the batsman strikes a full ball to the mid-wicket boundary; ‘better shape Tim’ calls out the wicket keeper to the bowler; ‘come on lads keep it going’ as the opening batsman drives another to the mid-on boundary; ‘come on Tim, keep it straight’ as a crowd of young walkers pass by on the footpath and head down the hill.
A quick run is taken as the ball slips by the keeper, and the next is driven forceably to point and the fielder is applauded for a good stop. A very load cry of ‘howzat’ follows ball on pad, but the umpire, drafted in at the last moment by the home side is unmoved. However, an over later the opening batsman attempts to drive through the covers but he is late to it and is beautifully caught by outstretched large hands. The first wicket has gone for 37.
It’s getting colder as the afternoon moves on towards 5pm; even the birds seem to have stopped chirping. Fielders put their hands in their pockets between balls to keep warm. It is unlikely they have pocket hand warmers as do test cricketers; these are hardened village players. Tim is told to take off his hat as he prepares to bowl with a ‘show some respect lad’. Two more boundaries in quick succession are driven, one through mid-off and the other through the covers into the long grass; ‘come on boys we need wickets’ is ordered by the captain.
There is a constant hubbub from the pavilion where tea has been served and appreciated. The audience of 2, unconnected to the teams are offered a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Another fine shot makes its way into the covers and takes a bit of finding in the long grass past the boundary. A family supporting the visitors arrive with the driver somewhat worried by the long steep climb winding along an unmade track to this high cricket ground.
Another drive through mid-on runs speedily down the hill towards the village and a long retrieval takes a minute or so, but the next ball is driven through the covers with tall young batsman getting his eye in. ‘It’s all about making up your up your mind Tim, let’s make this their Waterloo’ comes from the ever positive captain in the field. However, three balls later the ball is driven hard over the boundary through mid-on again, this time towards the pavilion and the fielder is coached from the pavilion as to its whereabouts in the long grass. The pavilion looks across the village to the beautiful grey Cotswolds stone houses and down the Painswick valley; undoubtedly one of the most attractive pavilion verandas in village cricket.
The home side are now 68 for 1 but the fielders keep up their encouraging exhortations but to no avail as the young batsman hits a six down the hill into the village. It looks a home village win is on the cards as three fielders at last appear on the horizon having found the ball which has taken three minutes. Chris then hits another 6 over mid-wicket and four fielders along with two spectators help locate the ball.
It’s a unique cricket ground on top of the Cotswolds and village cricket is alive and well here in 2018, thanks to a determined President, Chairperson and village support. It wasn’t always so here in Sheepscombe but thanks to the work done by the Chair, Elisabeth Skinner and supporters all is going well. The away team, were in the words of one of their team ‘hammered’ by the home side with a final score of 179 for 1 off 25 overs and Chris scoring 92 not out but nevertheless they looked as though they were enjoying a pint together outside the village pub after the game.