THE Archbishop of Canterbury’s cricket team gave their captain, Steve Gray, a memorable farewell with a decisive victory over the Vatican on the hottest day in Kent for more than a century.
No sooner had Gray left the scene of his Anglican team’s 63-run triumph in a Twenty20 contest at the Spitfire ground, St Lawrence, in Canterbury, than he announced his retirement.
Watched by an enthusiastic crowd in scorching conditions, with the temperature in Kent rising to 91F, the Archbishop’s X1 went 2-1 up in the series which began in 2014 when Anglicans and Roman Catholics competed at this level for the first time.
Gray, who has featured prominently in the contests, with a background of appearances also for MCC and the Sussex Martlets, gave a flawless exhibition of captaincy on Tuesday, before announcing his new position as senior chaplain at Eton College meant that he was leaving the team.
He was convinced that the quality and power of his side’s 157-run total had disarmed the team from St Peter’s, in Rome, who dropped catches and failed to find any rhythm to their batting. Only three Vatican players made it to double figures, as their run chase evaporated in the afternoon heat.
“The new job will require my full attention,” Gray said. “I will miss this immensely, but there are some fit, talented youngsters awaiting their opportunity and I don’t want to stay in their way.”
The Spitfire ground has seen some electrifying batting this season, and the Archbishop’s team, choosing to bat first, raised the temperature further to deliver their victory charge at just under eight runs an over.
Opener Chris Lion survived a confident appeal for lbw first ball but then struck three boundaries from the next nine deliveries. He and Jez Barnes set the standard from the off, with an opening salvo of 37 runs against an often wayward attack.
Lion’s departure changed the tempo, but only a little: Barnes dropped anchor to steady the side, and Chris Kennedy wielding some steam-hammer blows to send runs to all corners, 12 runs coming from the first six deliveries he faced.
Sam Rylands, son of the watching Bishop of Shrewsbury, carried on where Kennedy left off after scoring 31 from 22 deliveries. The Vatican used nine bowlers to stem the runflow, without success.
Over six feet tall with broad shoulders and long arms, Rylands wielded his bat like a broadsword in an absorbing half-hour with Barnes enriching the mid-afternoon scene with drives, cuts and pulls to make light of a pretty feeble attack. Their 50-run partnership was delivered in 17 minutes, not all plucked from the MCC coaching book.
The pressure to set a target above the Vatican’s capabilities cost the Anglican side cheap wickets in the finale, including that of Barnes, who fell one short of 50, the highest score of the day, produced from 22 balls, including five fours.
Rylands was still there at the end, with an unbeaten score of 42 from 23 deliveries, with four fours and two sixes. The innings closed at 157-7.
After a pacey couple of overs from Paulson Kochithara Antony and Kiran Markose in reply, the Vatican lost their first five wickets for 62. Only Elliot Wright displayed any defiance, to remain 25 not out. Batsmen showed promise, but gave their wickets away cheaply. Their last real hope, the captain Tony Currer, had to retire from the wicket after scoring only 8 runs, having hurt his hand earlier trying to take one of several catches offered by Barnes.
The tourists struggled to 94-7 from 20 overs, discountenanced by pace and accurate spin of Chris Lee, Pat Allerton, Jez Barnes, Robert Glenny, James Robinson, and Steve Gray.
The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, presented Gray with the winning trophy, the Ut Unum Sint Cup. The St Dunstan’s Cup went to his opponents.
Later, the Dean hosted a reception for the two teams, followed by a silent pilgrimage through the darkened cathedral, ending with prayers at the site of St Thomas’s tomb.
Next week: coverage of the three-way tournament at Edgbaston between the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, St Peter’s XI, and Mount Cricket Club, a Muslim team from Yorkshire.
Archbishop of Canterbury’s X1
1. C Lion c Mathew, b Majula 24
2. J Barnes c Markose, b Mathew 49
3. C Kennedy run out 31
4. S Rylands not out 42
5. P Allerton run out 1
6. C Lee run out 4
7. R Oram not out 0
Extras 1b, 2 lb, 3 w, 0 nb 6
Total for 5 157
J Mathew 18.104.22.168; J Ettolil 22.214.171.124; V Thomas 126.96.36.199; K Manjula 188.8.131.52; D Jestus 184.108.40.206; N Mulavarickal 220.127.116.11; A Bhatti 18.104.22.168; P Kochithara Anthony 22.214.171.124; E M Wright 126.96.36.199/
Fall of wickets: 1-37 (Lion); 2-84 (Kennedy); 3-152 (Barnes); 4-153 (Allerton); 5-157 (Lee).
Did not bat: W Foulger, R Glenny, S Gray, J Hughes.
St Peter’s XI
P Kochithara Antony b Lee 8
K Markose run out 11
A Bhatti b Allerton 6
K Manjula c Lion, b Barnes 7
E M Wright not out 25
A Currer retd hurt 8
N Mulavarickal c Lion, b Robinson 7
D Jestus b Gray 0
J Mathew b Robinson 0
V Thomas not out 12
Extras 0 b, 5 lb, 3 w, 2 nb 10
Total for 7 94
C Lee 188.8.131.52; P Allerton 184.108.40.206; J Barnes 220.127.116.11; R Glenny 18.104.22.168; J Robinson 22.214.171.124; S Gray 126.96.36.199.
Fall of wickets: 1-20 (Markose); 2-26 (Bhatti); 3-30 (Kochithara Antony); 4-43 (Manjula); 4-62 (Currer); 5-72 (Mulavarickal); 6-73 (Jestus); 7-74 ( Mathew).
Did not bat: A Davis, J Ettolil, P Kallarakkal Thomas, S Advani