LONDON won. Again; for the fifth time in succession (a cup record); and in three of those victories Lichfield have been the losers. This latest one — with 10 overs to go and Lichfield still needing 104 to win — looked like a foregone conclusion. But improbable shifts of fortune are the charm of cricket, and one of these was a compelling third-wicket partnership of 120 by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Rylands, and Simon Taylor, which brought Lichfield tantalisingly close to London’s impressive score of 239.
London had their break in the penultimate over, when Chris Lee bowled Taylor for 53. Lichfield were then just 17 runs short. Ed Kendall, London’s captain, would bowl the last over. Rylands hit a six to the leg-side boundary off his third ball; two more Ryland sixes off the last three balls, and Lichfield would have won an unforgettable victory.
Another great heave from Rylands on the leg side sent the ball so high in the air that it was hard to judge how far it would travel. It might have been one of those two vital sixes, but Rylands knew he had top-edged his shot, and he was not surprised when it dropped into the safe hands of Jamie Child.
Rylands’s 86, with three sixes and four fours, was surely the best-ever innings by a 56-year-old Bishop in the 67 finals that have been contested for the Church Times Cricket Cup. A brilliant recovery had finally expired, but the opposition had been sterner than London expected, and the game had a satisfying climax that took spectators, as well as London, by surprise.
BATSMEN had scored freely in a game reduced to 40 overs each from the traditional 50, which did not appear to inhibit the players; and the match finished before 6 p.m., in playable light. Wearing smart new blue caps, London’s batsmen were contained by defensive field settings and some unusually athletic fielding, especially at extra cover and mid off, by Doug Heming and Taylor; Paul Darlington, on patrol, on the mid-wicket boundary, regularly stopped singles becoming two runs.
But the eighth over, bowled by Heming, which went for 14 runs, signalled an increase in the scoring rate, which was propelled by good running between the wickets before it was rudely uninterrupted by Peter Hart. He must have wondered whether bowling badly was not the better option: when he bowled straight and on a good length, he was hit for four; when he almost lobbed slow, over-pitched deliveries, he clean-bowled Matt Beeby and Pat Allerton, two of London’s stalwarts.
By lunch, the scoring rate had risen to five an over. Lee and Child played some handsome strokes through the covers, but neither lingered with Chris Kennedy. Another spurt began in the 36th over, when Kennedy was joined by Andy Watkins, his spectacles glinting beneath the peak of his cap, who hit so hard and straight that Lichfield posted a fielder directly in front of the sight screen. Watkins, at 46 not out, had almost caught up with Kennedy on 58 by the 40th over, which went for 13 runs. The final score of 239 for 5 required Lichfield to score at precisely six an over.
As London’s bowlers bowled steadily, Lichfield’s batsmen began cautiously. At tea, they had lost two wickets for 59 runs off 18 overs, and the principal objective of both Andy Cranston and Rylands, before Cranston was out for 22, seemed to be to stay put. It was then 101 for 3. A spectator remarked that the innings had lost its momentum; his neighbour suggested that it had never had any. Lichfield’s making a game of it seemed out of the question.
Fortune shifted slowly in their direction, however. Rylands found open spaces on the leg side, and the score rose just quickly enough to induce Kendall to protect the boundary with seven men. As the score neared 200, Rylands was saved by a couple of botched efforts at running him out, and, at 199 for 3, only 40 runs were required off the last three overs. It looked almost possible, but it did not happen. The better side — just — edged it.
When the editor of the Church Times, Paul Handley, presented the cup, he also announced the Man of the Match. The last ten overs of the game meant that there was no contest: Mark Rylands, a loser, was the winner.
P.S: The reporter for The Church Times Podcast asked me what had changed during the 15 or so years that I have written the match report. My reply was not a long list of crises, schisms, and doctrinal disputes: I said that, except for the weather, nothing changes. I meant that as a compliment.
Listen to a special edition of the Church Times Podcast recorded at the final: www.churchtimes.co.uk/podcast
Richard WattRichard Watt
Church Times cup final scorecard
Litchfield v London
7 September; Walker Cricket Ground, Southgate, London
London won by 11 runs
1. Matt Beeby, b Hart 47
2. Joe Moffat, b Gregory 11
3. Pat Allerton, lbw b Hart 25
4. Chris Kennedy, not out 58
5. Chris Lee, b Cranston 27
6. Jamie Child, b Taylor 15
7. Andy Watkins, not out 46
Tim Rose Did not bat
James Knowles Did not bat
Andrew Downes Did not bat
Ed Kendall Did not bat
Extras Byes 1, Leg Byes 4, Wides 4, No balls 3 12
Total 239 for 5
Taylor 126.96.36.199; Reeve 188.8.131.52; Heming 184.108.40.206; Gregory 220.127.116.11; Hart 18.104.22.168; Cranston 22.214.171.124; Rylands 126.96.36.199
1. Andy Cranston, c. Lee b. Watkins 48
2. Andy Ackroyd, c Kendall b. Knowles 11
3. Paul Darlington, c Downes b. Knowles 0
4. Mark Rylands c. Child b. Kendall 83
5. Simon Taylor b. Lee 53
6. Stephen Morgan not out 0
7. Peter Hart not out 0
8. Clive Gregory
9. Doug Heming Did not bat
10. Richard Reeve
11. Phil Searle
Extras b 11, lb 6, w14, nb 2 33
Total 228 for 5
Kendall 188.8.131.52; Lee 184.108.40.206; Knowles 220.127.116.11; Allerton 18.104.22.168; Child 22.214.171.124; Watkins 126.96.36.199; Kennedy 188.8.131.52
London won by 11 runs
Umpires: Robert Cole and Andrew Perkins
Scorer: Mike Pigden