Sunday August 20th 2017- Middleton sports club vs Horley Cricket Club in the final of the Sussex U13 Festival.
On the green they watched their sons
Playing till too dark to see,
As my father once watched me;
While the bat and beetle flew
On the warm air webbed with dew’
(‘Forefathers’ by Edmund Blunden)
The above extract was taken from one of Cricket’s most famous journalists and TMS commentators, Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ) . I heard him proclaim Arundel Castle Cricket ground as England’s most picturesque, he was a regular here. I love it because it captures the way that I and so many parents felt as they drove into this most glorious of grounds today. Pride in their son’s ability and endurance for the week and hoping, perhaps praying for a credible performance. It is also relevant as this very week Middleton won their momentous game against Horsham cricket club, and who should be playing in that team but one Sam Martin-Jenkins, grandson of the great man.
Around 10.15 I arrived at the ground, sunshine blazing and already met by a smiling and courteous gentleman at the gate. The drive from gate to parking on the far side allowed us to breathe in the view, clubhouse to our left, castle peaking above the trees to the right and the famous gap in the trees straight ahead. The Middleton supporters had already taken up residence, colourful and loud and expectant. So many other cricket lovers had joined us, as though here to watch an International. This was all so in keeping with this occasion, truly beautiful. Paul had already dashed up to me and the scorers were already insisting on the batting line up, it seemed that Arundel officials demanded it early. Gulp! Serious stuff.
10.30 was time for the toss, Christian out in the middle with the two umpires, white coats, hats, and serious looks. Paul and I had opted to bat, we wanted to post a score. Christian called and lost the toss but in a twist of good fortune Horley had opted to bowl! ‘Lucky’ Bellamy winning even when he lost, brilliant.
11.00 Harry and Ozzy opened for us. Steve and I were throwing down for our boys just ahead of them heading out. I can assure you that the boys were far calmer than us both. Aryun Patel opening for Horley, tall and upright and with a run up that almost reached the boundary, Harry taking first ball (way braver than his father). Four runs over mid wickets head, some dots and a single, Harry up the other end and Ozzy yet to face. ‘Big Red’ bowling from the other end, a muscular character with a shock of carrot coloured hair, the type normally reserved just for cartoons. Four runs…another four runs. Had anyone told the boys that this was a 35 over game?! Harry nicked one reaching outside of off stump, the keeper caught it, then lost it but blasted slip fielder took control before touching the ground. First wicket down at 13 after 2 overs. Christian arrived, dot ball, then an impressive four, Ozzy still looking resolute at the other end, impressive as one of the youngest here.
Christian’s wicket fell, caught for just 4. Murray in and after the week he’s had then we looked and hoped he could deliver again for us. Score had reached 34 when he was clean bowled for 4 by Patel. A good fast delivery. 34 for 3 off 5 overs. No issue with the run rate but wickets falling. Phoenix in next, a local who knew this ground well. Ozzy and Phoenix put on 18 for the next wicket and Ozzy had struck 9. Change of bowling did for him, having bravely managed the two quick openers, clean bowled.
Rocco next out there. He loves a battle and we hoped he wouldn’t disappoint. He certainly did not. Phoenix and Rocco taking the score from 52 to 107 and hitting 5 4’s for a fine 22 before trapped lbw.107 for 5 off 19 overs. Would we see out our overs? Could we keep scoring at this rate? Sam Green and his heavy bat next, another local Arundel boy. Very well played that man…! 5 4’s and another lovely partnership of 48 with Ashworth. Sam finally run out for 26 as they pushed on. Score now 155 off 26 overs and the belief was very much returning. Alex Morley in next and wow did he rise to this occasion. He may only have scored 6 runs in another partnership of 46 with Ashworth but in cricket that’s not the point at all, it’s about these partnerships being built.
Ben Mackley next in and you would not believe the cheer that greeted him as he headed down those illustrious steps. Three overs of ‘Mack-Attack’ were what the crowd had come to see! He’d had such rotten luck this week with the bat and here he could just play his game. Single off the middle of his bat for 1 and he was away. He ended on 7 not out and with a smile as wide as the clubhouse. When Phoenix had finished he had hit an innings binding 88 runs,taken the battle to the Horley attack and cashed in fully on the bad balls. Another phenomenal innings of great maturity.
Middleton 217 for 7 off 35 overs. Better than we could have dreamt.
The boys took full advantage of a wonderful spread courtesy of Arundel, the families still outside opened some wine, munched on crisps and dared to dream.
14.20 and out to the field for a highly excitable Middleton team. Harry’s first two overs were carted for 22, mostly by ‘Big Red’. Phoenix bowled nicely from the other end but was still getting clumped to the boundary. By over 9 Horley had reached 76 and ‘Big Red’ already had 50 damned runs! At this rate it would be all over in 20 overs. Over 10…Ashworth to bowl to ‘Big Red’. Another thumped delivery towards the boundary but we watched in pure delight as the ball returned to earth and another excellent, match winning catch from Christian Bellamy. Huge celebrations ensued and there was beer, wine,crisps,sandwiches and even small children and dogs being thrown skywards as the Middleton ‘throng’ made themselves heard. Cathy Cogger had maintained the ‘Statto’ tradition by studying Horley’s form “they don’t bat deep Richard you know, it’s three batsman maximum and then we are into the lower order..” This level of analysis usually reserved for Sky commentary,I half expected her to have a pop up projector with video footage! Good insight though. Patel next in.
Bellamy was now pumped up and steaming in from the castle end,looked menacing. Wicket! Two down,but the danger man Patel still in. After 13 overs they were 2 wickets for 92,at this run rate they would reach our score. A further agonising 5 overs and 23 runs before a change of bowling and Rocco sidled in. A quite brilliant stumping from Murray, they were quick hands. Quicker than Mourinho to blame any referee, quicker than Usain Bolt to the bar after his retirement 3 down. They remained that way for 8 overs and another 40 runs. Cathy’s prediction looked in doubt as they were still scoring. 27 overs and they were 171 for 3, run rate slowing but still in sight for Horley.
Over 28, Wicket for Ashowrth,clean bowled!
Over 29, Wicket for an extremely well bowled period of pace and accuracy from Monty Hawkins. LBW their most dangerous player on 50. Not easy.
Over 30, Wicket for Bellamy,clean bowled!
Over 31, Horley resistance. Their No.6 batter,Hartman was playing like a baseball player. Scarlet red helmet, quick eyes and Thump,whack,Whallop. He was 4,1,6,4,4. You can imagine the horror from the pavilion.
Over 33, Sam P to bowl. 200 was up for Horley and danger loomed. Two wickets!! Both run outs, one for Gamblin and one for Hawkins. Amazing defiance from the boys.
Over 34, Gamblin up. Wicket! Stumped Carter with those lightning hands of his. Dot ball, Dot ball then Wicket! Run out for 0. WE WERE VICTORIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What was truly excellent was that parents,children and grandparents who were involved in the U16 match at Middleton had all rushed across to witness the climax of this great week. We were a vocal,colourful,tearful and wondrous Middleton group who couldn’t have been prouder. This should represent a wonderful event in the boys lives, I am sure that it will. We missed Dill Howell and at the end Will Fountain (QF) but we know they played their part.
And finally to Mr Paul Gamblin. My partner in too many beers this last week or so. He insisted on his ‘lucky’ t shirt being washed daily, he never underestimated the importance of playing every member of the team and together we finally did it. Stand tall that man.
Thanks of course to Steve, Steve M, Simon, Lisa and our wonderful ‘ladies who do tea’, ground staff and of course Mr Brian Towner and Mr Will Burrows.
Until next year……