THERE have been some low points in the history of the Church Times Cricket Cup. My first final as editor, in 1995, was spent sitting in the pavilion at Southgate, watching the rain teeming solidly through the day. (A page in the paper had been allocated, none the less, and Betty Saunders, the Church Times reporter of blessed memory, duly filed a story of the match that did not happen.)
This year’s quarter-finals, however, hit a new depth. For the first time in my memory, not one of the four games could be played. Semi-final places, then, were allocated in a most unsatisfactory manner: the toss of a coin, or the non-availability of players on the alternative days. We even bent the rules, to no avail.
It is a relief, therefore, to report that both semi-finals were played on Monday in fine conditions. The cup-holders, London, return to the final in Southgate on 8 September, but they have a new opponent: Leeds, who dispatched Lincoln in what was, for a long time, a close match — certainly closer than the score suggests.
Leeds batted first, and Bavington came near to a century on 97. He was supported by Tyler, Bradford, and Groenewald, who all scored in the 30s and pushed the final tally to 242. Dean was the most fruitful Lincoln bowler, taking 2 wickets but for an expensive 38 runs. In reply, Lincoln batted with character. Taylor made 24, Radcliffe 28, but the Leeds total proved unassailable, and Lincoln were all out for 90.
Further south, the match between Guildford and London was a repeat of last year's final. Guildford won the toss and put London into bat on a damp and tired pitch. This seemed an inspired decision, as excellent bowling from Guildford’s openers, Newton and Prior, kept London’s scoring rate to an absolute minimum.
At the 20-over mark of this 40-over contest, London had scored only 60 — but perhaps crucially had lost only one wicket. Two quick wickets followed soon after, and London were 82 for 3. Then came a partnership that swung the game: Allerton and Lee put on 101 in 10 overs with some big hitting. Allerton was out for 77, and Lee finished unbeaten on 57 as London closed on 221 for 4.
In reply, Guildford started well, as Owen, Newton and Prior batted sensibly and kept the game alive. After 20 overs, Guildford were 74-2, and anything was possible.
But after the drinks break came an over that changed everything. Barnes had the dangerous Martin caught superbly by Lee for 16, and Watson was caught behind first ball. After that, the Guildford innings lost momentum, and they were all out for 100 despite some fine batting from Prior. Barnes took 4 wickets, and Rylands and Child took two apiece.
Leeds 242 for 2 (Bavington 97, Groenewald 39, Tyler 36, Bradford 31; Dean 2 for 38). Lincoln 90 all out (Radcliffe 28, Taylor 24; Arnold 4 for 17, Gray, 3 for 1, Harlow 2 for 17). Leeds won by 152 runs.
London 221 for 4 (Allerton 77, Lee 57 not out; Martin 2 for 49, Prior 0 for 18). Guildford 100 all out (Prior 38, Owen 17; Barnes 4 for 11, Rylands 2 for 8). London won by 121 runs.