Sunday 25th August: Duncombe Park CC. at Helmsley.

Marcus Longbottom gives it his best shot for

Duncombe Park CC,

but The Casuals prevail.

Duncombe Park 186 for 8.

Casuals 190 for 4 off 34 overs and 1 ball.

Bowling: Crossland 0-38 (6); Davis 2-22 (5); Beal 0-27 (6); Umbers 1-12 (3);

Boughton 0-11 (6); Walker 0-10 (1); Burgess 0-29 (4); Ward 0-20 (3);

Smith 0-11 (1).

Batting:  Walker – 15; Umbers – 83; Smith – 13; Ward – N0 49; Beal – 0;

Davis – NO 7.

North Yorkshire’s busy roads and tacky village centres are best avoided.  Just five minutes from the middle of Helmsley is Duncombe Park Cricket Club, overlooked by the remains of the twelfth century keep that was once part of The Duke of Buckingham’s Helmsley estate.  Helmsley Castle, a royalist stronghold, was besieged along with Skipton, Pontefract and Scarborough during The Civil War, following which it fell into disrepair, as a banker from London, Sir Charles Duncombe and then his brother-in-law developed what is now mostly Ampleforth School.  It is here, on the Saturday prior to the cricket, that The Casuals’ golfing society has its yearly competition.

‘Why was Marcus Longbottom playing for them?’ is a good question.  The answer is simple enough – they turned up with 7 men.  So Marcus and Alan Priestley made up a nine-a-side, in a game reduced to 35 overs because of a late start.   This fixture has become the end-of-season tour match for The Casuals, and many players and supporters make an annual trek, camping out in tents and caravans or booking rooms in local hostelries.  Having made a large effort, they were understandably disappointed when they discovered that Duncombe Park had not.  To add insult to injury, Marcus apart, their bowling and fielding effort was woeful, and its was fitting that The Casuals won comfortably in the last over.  The Casuals cannot be too critical however.  At the beginning of the season there were several weeks when they had difficulty getting eleven players together.  It seems to be a Sunday cricket hazard, what with The Casuals’ other prized opposition, The Cryptics, cancelling at the last minute due to lack of players.  Nevertheless, it would be a shame if the tour fell into the same state of repair as the castle.

Duncombe Park had three lads in helmets, one veteran who couldn’t move more than a yard and seemed to be partially sighted, and three others, one of whom could bat pretty well.  Marcus and Alan were therefore crucially important recruits, especially as Marcus top scored with 59.  Richard Umbers was backbone of The Casuals’ batting, and once again Burgess supplied the required friendly cricket eccentricity, along with Walker in his minor deranged role of substitute wicket-keeper.

Burge fielded splendidly and it was when he came on to bowl that the fun began.  A return throw from the keeper had him retreating at the bowler’s end and he was close to impaling himself on middle stump.  This near miss was a great relief to the keeper, since he viewed the prospect of removing the aforesaid foreign object as modestly unappealing.  Burge’s second treat lead to the dismissal of Alan Priestley, out of his crease at the non-striker’s end.  It started as a harmless firm push from the batsman which Burge got a finger to.  The ball then somehow broke the wicket.  Burge walked away oblivious and the umpire raised his finger.  Walker made his contribution by overlooking Will’s, it has to be said, ferocious throw in from long on.  Trouble was, what the gloves missed the box didn’t, and he took a direct hit, right on the money.  There was a not an inconsiderable momentary incapacity, and, as he recalled later, little or no sympathy from his fellow players.  Burge’s last gift following his umpiring stint.  When Greg Smith and Walker took over as the officials, Greg found he had a certain difficulty keeping up with the number of balls being bowled per over.  Whilst Walker assisted with the maths from square leg, Greg inquired as to whether the umpire’s coat might once have contained six stones or counters.  The fielding side’s reply was as unenthusiastic as their umpire’s support for the LBW law.  It was a mystery.  Could it be solved by the previous incumbent of the white coat?  How had Burge managed?  Now most normal people administer the game from above the waist, keeping the stones in the umpire’s coat pockets.  For some strange reason only known to Burge, he had performed the arithmetic in his trouser pocket, still regularly coming up with the number six however.  He had then left the field with his mobile abacus still in his trousers and there it had remained.  Maybe it was a comfort thing.

Duncombe Park batted first and their competent opening partnership was eventually broken by a caught and bowled from Richard Umbers, who unashamedly admits to pitching the ball up and waiting to see what happens.  Greg Smith, fielding at midwicket, observed that the combined age of the two openers was probably less than one of the Casuals’ on side ring of three.  Marcus then came to the wicket and its fair to say their total would have been a poor do without him.  Sadly, 93 runs later, the keeper managed to keep hold the ball for once and Marcus had to go, run out.  Rob Boughton was the pick of bowling despite not taking a wicket and Marc Davis took the other two wickets to fall, both clean bowled.  Rob last played for The Casuals in this very fixture two years ago when Leroy Weekes took 4 for 3 off 4 overs and then shared in a partnership of 46 with Alan Priestley.

For The Casuals, Richard Umbers made a delightful 83 before becoming Marcus’s first victim.  What flavour is coated onto the back of his bat?  He keeps sampling it enough.  Is it a nicotine patch?  Richard is more supportive of his batting partners than the fielders are of their distraught wicket-keeper.  Walker was struggling a tad, as is his wont, and shared his pain between overs at the customary mid-wicket conference. “Just play cricket lad,” was Richard’s advice.  Ah, such a simple game.  Richard had a share in three partnerships before he was eventually dismissed when the score was 161:  43 with Dave Walker, 61 with Greg Smith and 57 with Will Ward, who just missed out on yet another fifty.  Guess who was the pick of their bowlers and fielders – Marcus Longbottom.  His second wicket came from a full toss that David Beal top edged to their keeper, a rather tired asthenic youth who looked bored a lot.  Duncombe’s batting effort would have been the worse for Marcus, but look at their bowling as well.  Three of their four wickets were taken by Casuals, the third from Alan Priestley who chipped in with a controversial LBW which Burge forgot to ignore.  It had been a heroic effort from Marcus.  What if he hadn’t played for them? The fixture may be in need of resuscitation, but there are plenty of memories for those Casuals with a healthy aversion for the twenty first century.  Maybe the low late evening sun lighting the closing overs or the decaying ivied pavilion twixt golf course and school.  For Greg its Rievaulx.  As the third abbot, The Blessed St. Aldred wrote,

‘Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world’; and that was back in the thirteenth century.

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