LEEDS received a sharp lesson in the vicissitudes of fortune at the Church Times Cricket Cup Final at Southgate on 8 September.
At lunch, Leeds were 127 for 1 in 30 overs, after the opening partnership had put on more than 100 runs. The London team was contemplating having to score a total of well over 200 if they were to win the Cup for the fourth year in a row. There seemed to be a chance that the dominance of the South might be broken at last; it is 33 years, since a Northern team, Liverpool, won the Cup.
But by tea, that challenge had disintegrated, and London were proceeding serenely towards a crushing victory.
The reason was a remarkable collapse by the Leeds middle-order and tail-end batsmen. Seven wickets were lost for a paltry 10 runs, leaving London 168 to win. They eased to a nine-wicket win in a fine team performance, spearheaded by the batting and bowling of two players, a mature Jez Barnes and a youthful Sam Rylands.
The Yorkshire challengers to London’s recent dominance of the competition had first to overcome the problem that their players had been called to a diocesan conference in Liverpool, not due to finish till later that day. But the Bishop granted a dispensation, they received a send-off the night before, and left early for north London. Not early enough as it turned out. Their late arrival prompted the umpires to reduce the match from 50 overs for each side to 45.
The morning was sunny and warm, but the wind was gusting fiercely at the Walker Ground when Leeds went in to bat. Dan Tyler nurdled the ball behind the wicket, and Heston Groenewald drove hard through the covers. They saw off London’s opening bowlers, and the score moved along to 75 off 15 overs.
At that point Pat Allerton and Chris Lee curbed the run rate with eight overs of tidy bowling, before Jez Barnes came on to bowl, with the score on 98. Tyler brought up the team’s 100 and his own 50 in Barnes’s first over. Then, swiping at the last ball in it, he was bowled.
Barnes is a spin bowler who concentrates on accuracy and length rather than flight: pitch it up and bowl it straight is his policy, allied to careful field placing which puts fielders where the batsmen is going to hit the ball. But after lunch, it was Sam Rylands, a church community worker in north London who becomes an ordinand next year, who came on as London’s seventh bowler, and broke the Leeds innings. He bowled John Bavington, who had scored heavily in earlier rounds, for 13, playing across a straight ball. Then he dismissed Groenewald on 73 with the best ball in the innings, on full length and clipping the top of the off stump. That was 147 for 3.
No one else reached double figures, as Barnes and Rylands feasted on anxious batsmen, all of whom were clean bowled — except for Philip Arnold, who gave Barnes a return catch, and Simon Moor who was stumped. The third best score was the extras. Barnes and Rylands had taken 10 wickets in 16.5 overs at a cost of just 62 runs.
The pair inflicted further pain when they batted. Rylands, opening with the reliable Matt Beeby, scored 29 before displeasing himself by being bowled by Mark Bradford. Barnes, who missed last year’s final because of an operation on his back, did as his colleagues have come to expect: he knew when to leave the ball and when to hit it hard, high, and straight. Beeby continued to accumulate steady runs, and had reached 69 when a wide brought the score to 168 and the nine-wicket win.
Barnes, who, at the time of the back injury, thought he might never play again, was awarded the Man of the Match award for, he thought, the fourth or fifth time. Rylands has the ability and the years in hand to compete for the award.