29.6.2003 Romany

Casuals: 185 all out

Romany: 191 for 2

Saxton is a village for those who require ‘desirable’ to be prominently displayed in the estate agent’s property guide. Located amid the country lanes south of Tadcaster, it is convenient for business in all the major towns of West and North Yorkshire. It neighbours Saxton C.C., a green oval that was ignored when the trappings of commuter heaven were dispensed. The cutters on the outfield mower were positioned a good inch too high and the hallowed turf needed digging up, levelling, replanting with standard grass seed and several years of heavy rolling. A hut, upon which a fresh shade of paint would not have gone amiss, was admittedly serviceable for changing and making tea. The ladies’ toilet, however, came in for no such accolade. Angela awarded it 2 out of 10 – it was open and it flushed. It was here, via Saxton village that The Casuals pitched up to meet Romany.

After ten years, it was a pleasure to meet W. Newbold on the boundary. He retired to Saxton to be near his family after a lifetime of frying fish for the jolly late night revellers of Huddersfield’s appropriately named “Beast Market”. He was christened Wellesley by a cricketing family with a sense of humour. Thus gradually, and affectionately, his name transmuted to Wellbold. He was attended by his son-inlaw, a Saxton resident by the name of Dikton N. Brindless, whose parents must have had chuckle failure. And ‘N’ was for Nigel, not Nige.

The Casuals batted first and promptly embarked on another disaster. For the second week running the top order was dismissed cheaply. 22 for 5 against The Police, 50 for 5 here at Saxton. The recovery was lead by a pugnacious knock from Greg Smith. Apparently he has never acquired the necessary skills for defence so it’s a bit of a lottery whether he comes off or stays in. Then Duncan smote a fifty, much to the disgust of Oliver, Nick and others who were enviously observing the bowling – a mixture of wides, long hops and full tosses from a willing but hopeless youth.

Wellbold was moved to observe, ‘He can’t bowl for toffee, but ‘e is only a lad, what, about thirteen?’

During the early overs Nigel had chosen to circumnavigate the boundary, as one does on clement days, and was indignant upon his return, ‘I say, did you see the opening bat. Kicked the ball away. Damned rude when he returned to the clubhouse. Then threw his kit about. Its just not done.’

This was corroborated later by those on the boundary and by William Ward who was padding up at the time, ‘Good job I was bent over, two batting gloves came whistling over my head, and then one pad and then the other thrown into the corner.’ Nigel was not done, ‘And then the chappie with the goatee threw his bat across the changing room.’

This was where Wellbold’s calm assessment was invaluable, ‘Now then, Nige, what would you rather they did? Walk off laughing?’

Nigel adjusted his well-connected tie, connected to whom no one was quite sure, ‘It is social cricket, father-in-law.’

Wellbold kept his attention on the game as Duncan got into full flow. Then he sat up suddenly and his cap fell over his eyes, ‘Now look, yon’s batted well so they’ve taken the young lads off and brought opening bowlers back on. What do you make of that?’

Nigel was stumped for words, as Crossland was stumped at the wicket, last man out. 185 was a miraculous total and reason for hope, until Harrison came to the  crease. Dropped twice, the first time when he was 41, he rode his luck and went on to make 158. Wellbold woke after an ample tea at the fall of their second wicket when Harrison was joined by Kemp, ‘Nar then who’s this that’s just come in. Weren’t he the bloke that arrived late, and did a right dance at off-spin bowling? Looked as though he were going round the wicket but he weren’t.’ Wellbold laughed, ‘And he got hammered.’

‘Its my nephew,’ said Nigel, ’just up from Cocksford. Last weekend of his lease. Had a devil of a time packing. I expect he’s tired.’

Now Wellbold had worked since he was fourteen and talk of weary posh university life was a little provocative, ‘Look at ‘im, digging a pit, tapping the wicket down and making a scene over checking all the field positions. This ‘ad better be good. Now what’s he doing? Forward defensive . . . and he’s still looking at his shot. Forward defensive again, get the bloody thing hit, it’s hardly a crisis. He can’t be after his average . . . T’other lad’s decent. Nice address. Clean hitter.’

Nigel then displayed all the tact that becomes the upper classes, ‘Harrison’s the first team captain. My nephew also plays when he’s home.’

There was a stunned silence as Wellbold tried to make sense of this information. He was still in a semi-confused state when an appeal for a catch behind was turned down. Kemp elegantly demonstrated his version of the course of the ball along the top of his thigh.

‘Bloody klikometer would’ve been positive,’ said Wellbold, ‘Aren’t you supposed to walk in these social sides.’

‘Would you have, father-in-law?’

Romany had won it by this time. Alan Priestley finished off the bowling formalities along with Duncan whose deliveries strongly resembled those that he himself had received earlier in the day.

The day’s heat had cooled as Wellbold and I enjoyed a pint or two and listened to the after match banter, just near enough to overhear Nigel’s nephew talking to the chairman of The Casuals, ‘Harrison and myself are on the first team. We like to play a little social cricket and make up the numbers with three or four of the youth players so  they can get some experience.’

Wellbold turned, glanced at me and winked, ‘Batted well didn’t they, the youth?’

‘You never change,’ my childbride joined us and sat proudly behind a half of mild.

‘The White Rose if I ever, Sheila you look wonderful.’

‘Wellbold, you’re wicked.’

Wellbold doffed his cap, ‘That’s a compliment these days.’

Sheila half turned to Rita Priestley, ‘I was just telling Rita, Alan played well. He’s my man of the match.’ Now the childbride made teas for years at Thorpe Perrow, near a N. Yorkshire village called Snape. It was the venue for some fine country house cricket and people came for miles to play there. So she knows a thing or two about cricket.

Wellbold agreed with her, ‘Aye, not bad for an old bloke who enjoys a pie, but, by look on yer most are the same . . . Tha’ll need a ringer or two next year.’

Do visit “The Greyhound” public house in Saxton. Small, with lots of nooks and crannies, an outside toilet, and Sam Smith’s at £1.15 a pint.

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