THE Guildford captain, George Newton, forgot his dignity and charged on to the outfield from the spectator benches to acclaim a one-wicket victory over the holders, Lichfield, in the tensest Church Times Cricket Cup final for many, many years.
Anything that could have happened did happen, it seemed, under glowering skies at the Walker Ground in Southgate, home to the Church Times Cup Final since the competition began in 1951. Both sides suffered collapses and nerve-shredding ups and downs in a streetfight of a match. Guild-
ford were hit by two injuries — a pulled hamstring for Matthew Prior and a gashed forehead for John Marrow — and their run-chase looked spent, until victory leapt out of the shambles, to everyone’s surprise.
Newton, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Aldershot, went through the whole range of emotions as Guildford somehow reclaimed the trophy that they won for the first and only time in 2007. “The heart is still beating,” he croaked afterwards.
THE final was shortened from 50 to 40 overs to allow for possible rain that never arrived. Lichfield won the toss and elected to bat. Their total of 104 looked inadequate, even on a soft sluggish pitch and lush outfield. Yet Guildford struggled in reply, fading to 80 for eight wickets with overs running out. But then Patrick Samuels, at number 10, ended Lichfield’s hopes.
Samuels, a Church Army outreach worker at Walton-on-Thames, looked like a number 10 at the crease, and batted like a number 10 with a swish technique that meant the bat and ball were often strangers. Yet number 10s the world over should be proud of him, because he stood up to be counted when it mattered. He won the Man of Match award for a modest, yet golden, 15 not out.
Pakistan-born Samuels said: “I am usually here to make up the numbers. This was a lifetime moment for me.”
Newton, still shaking after the match, said: “I must say I thought we had lost it with two or three overs to go. So for Patrick to come in and swipe a few fours right at the end was absolutely amazing.
“Everybody had a game. It was a real team effort, and there was no one outstanding individual who won it for us. I’m proud of the boys.”
Jeff Reynolds, the Lichfield captain, agreed. “Last year there was disbelief we had won; this year there was disbelief we had lost.”
Lichfield had enjoyed last year’s triumph. The Telford brewers Brough’s had produced a special bitter, and the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, used the result as a sermon illustration. “It was just to say that if Lichfield could win the Church Times Cup, anything could happen. If a local church, say, was worried about surviving, this was encouragement.”
Bishop Gledhill came to watch the match, in which two of his suffragan bishops, Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, were playing.
If Lichfield had won the game, Paul Darlington might have taken the Man of the Match honours, after hitting 40 on a tricky day for batting. Yet his team’s 74 for three became 74 for six in a couple of overs. Arthur Hack was brilliantly caught by the diving Prior in the covers, Darlington holed out at long-on next over, and Peter Hart, a former Walsall footballer, sliced a catch grimly to gully next ball, his innings lasting not much longer than it takes to say “Vicar of Cannock and Huntington, and of Hatherton”.
Andy Ackroyd, due to start a new job the following day, spruced up the fading Lichfield innings, pushing it over the 100 mark. This, for a change, was not the Bishop of Shrewsbury’s day, as Mark Rylands, so often a match-winner, fell lbw to Moray Thomas when he missed a gently curving ball.
Thomas, one of a cluster of effective cricketers on view, bowled seamers that were described as “never quite there”. Dismissing Darlington, Rylands, and Hart for peanuts had a significant effect on the game. Steve Gray took off his wicketkeeping pads and bowled testing medium-pacers for three cheap wickets, as to be expected of a Cambridge Blue (though it was for hockey).
Having seen off Lichfield, Guildford, despite their success with the ball, always seemed a fingertip short of a full grip on the game. Both Gray and Moray Thomas had scored centuries in the semi-final against Manchester, but here Gray, gloved by a good ball for 9; and Thomas, who edged to the keeper while still on 0, spoilt a promising start. Gary Simmons looked to bat through, until he was bowled playing no stroke to a Hart off-break. The score slipped to 40 for four wickets.
Prior, having pulled his hamstring in Lichfield’s final over, emerged with Gray as his runner (though he tended to forget), and 22 precious runs were added with Giles Carpenter. A little comedy, a couple of run-out scares, and more tension, then both batsmen departed in two balls.
Could anything else happen? Yes, it could. Marrow clouted two confident boundaries, before top-edging Darlington’s left-arm spin into his face and retiring for repairs to a gash above his right eye. Fielder Ian Poole, a former GP, helped stem the flow of Marrow’s blood. (“There were never any injuries in our games before Ian started playing for us,” murmured the Lichfield scorer, Phil Searle.) Marrow lasted only two balls when he returned later: bowled by one bishop and caught by another — a pretty unique experience, even in the Church Times Cup.
A threatened collapse was stemmed by a lively, intelligent innings from Jonathan Thomas, until he missed a full-toss. Though the Guildford bowlers Richard Reeve, Matthew Lefroy, Hart, and Ackroyd expertly kept the lid on the scoring, the other eight Lichfield overs were shared by two left-arm spinners who proved not quite steady enough or lucky enough.
And there was “Paddy” Samuels among the tailenders to take the glory, with a four past square-leg, before running to hug the ecstatic Newton. Amazing game.
1 Jeff Reynolds lbw Prior 11
2 Clive Gregory b Newton 2
3 Paul Darlington c Gray b M Thomas 40
4 Mark Rylands lbw M Thomas 5
5 Arthur Hack c Prior b Gray 5
6 Peter Hart c Scammell b M Thomas 0
7 Matthew Lefroy b Gray 2
8 Andy Ackroyd not out 26
9 Richard Reeve c Simmons b Gray 1
10 Andy Morgan run out 1
Total (40 overs, 9 wkts) 104
Ian Poole did not bat
Fall of wickets: 1/13 2/15 3/47 4/74 5/74 6/74 7/89 8/95 9/104
Bowling: Newton 220.127.116.11; Prior 18.104.22.168; Carpenter 22.214.171.124; M Thomas 126.96.36.199; Gray 188.8.131.52
1 Steve Gray c Reynolds b Lefroy 9
2 Gary Simmons b Hart 14
3 Moray Thomas c Reynolds b Lefroy 0
4 Frank Scammell b Ackroyd 11
5 Giles Carpenter c Reynolds b Reeve 19
6 Matthew Prior b Lefroy 2
7 George Newton b Rylands 3
8 John Marrow c Gregory b Rylands 8
9 Jonathan Thomas lbw Ackroyd 17
10 Patrick Samuels not out 15
11 Nick Williams not out 0
Total (39 overs; 9 wkts) 106
Fall of wickets: 1/18 2/18 3/36 4/40 5/62 6/62 7/80 8/80 9/94
Bowling: Reeve 184.108.40.206; Lefroy 8.2-18.3; Hart 220.127.116.11; Ackroyd 18.104.22.168; Darlington 22.214.171.124; Rylands 126.96.36.199.
Umpires: Robert Cole and Andrew Parkin
Scorers: Phil Searle and Ron Balcombe
Guildford won by one wicket