This Saturday just gone was the annual Clapton v Wayford long grass cricket match. As you can see from the picture on the right, the pitch was a little...ahem...rough, and helpful to all the bowlers. Now you have to remember that Clapton is a small village just outside Crewkerne in Somerset, and Wayford is a tiny hamlet attached to Clapton. So who had the most players who turned up? Yup! Wayford. I played for my village, Clapton, for the fourth year running. I hadn't intended to play, being somewhat hampered by being the size of the R101 and also having had a dodgy ankle for the past year, but David Lockyer came round and after showing me a photo of W.G. Grace and sobbing into a copy of Wisden's Almanack he convinced me to turn out.
For the first time in many years it was a beautiful day - if anything, it was too hot. But a splended match was played and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Wayford won the toss and inexplicably decided to bat. Clapton took regular wickets, but a couple of their players made big scores. Playing in the match reminded me just what it is I love about cricket - it is such a contest on so many levels, cerebral as well as physical. Now I haven't played regularly since I left Essex over 10 years ago, and when I was first brought on to bowl by my captain, David, the incumbent Wayford batsman was a young strapping lad of about 18, covered in muscles and obviously someone who had played a lot of village cricket and he seemed determined to smote me to all corners of the ground. So I took him on, firing in deliveries to his toes, or if he charged down the pitch to me, I would drop the ball in short and make him worry about where the hell it was going to go. And if you had seen the pitch, trust me you'd know it was a mind bender. Just a strip of grass mown short and then with a Land Rover driven over it a few times. My first over to him, despite some huge heaves he took at my slow trundling deliveries, was a maiden - perfect. He finally got me away for a four in my second over, but that was the only scoring shot he got off me. I was very happy! I snaffled a couple of late wickets to give me figures of 4-1-15-2. I was pleased with my work. We contained Wayford to 134 from their 30 overs.
After a lovely tea interval it was our turn to bat, and after a sparkling start from David and sundry others, we got a bit bogged down in the middle order, with poor old Charlie Swaffield unable to connect his swishing bat to any ball, time after time! By the time I came in, quick runs were the order of the day and I scampered through (OK, waddled) to get to three before being caught in the deep off a desperate heave. Clapton succumbed to 116 all out. So Wayford won for the first time in three years, but it was just a complete joy to play in such a lovely atmosphere.
In the evening I wandered over to Barrington Court and watched an hilarious comedy history show about all of England's monarchs down the years. Obviously their impersonation of Henry VIIIth was not a patch on mine (I wish!) but the rest of the show was brilliant.
A visit to Cobbatton Combat Museum with Matthew Applegate of Barrington is the order of the day this Wednesday. I shall report back then!