EACH year, the clergy of the Church of England compete in an inter-diocesan cricket competition, the Church Times Cup; each year, hope springs up in the souls of participants; each year, for all of us except those in London diocese, the season ends in defeat.
If you can remember Surrey in the 1950s, or Yorkshire in the 1970s, you can imagine London in the 2010s. The other finalist changes, but London are always there, with a seemingly endless stream of virile curates.
I was ordained not in London, but in Southwark. We are a middling diocese, who win and lose in roughly equal measure, but what follows is the tale of our one great triumph. Some may think of 2012 as the year of the Olympics, but for those of us involved it will always be the year of Southwark’s glory.
IT STARTED with the arrival of Heston, a charming curate from Cape Town, who smote the ball through the off-side ring like Samson wielding the jawbone of an ass through the Philistines. St Albans did not know what had hit them when we chased down 270 in 40 overs.
On to a quarter-final against Exeter, which we won — though not before Heston top-edged a pull into his face, and ended up in casualty. With our Samson out, we were destined to lose the semi-final to a strong Lichfield side. But it was rained off: Southwark went through by a quirk of run-rate in the earlier rounds so obscure that even Duckworth, Lewis, or Stern’s algorithmic excellence would have been hard put to understand it.
And so to Southwark’s first Church Times final since 1975 — against our nemesis, London. Heston was fit again, though his wife insisted on his wearing a helmet. By happy chance, the Petertide ordinations also brought us Susikaran, brought up in Chennai, bowling the sort of nibbling medium-pace you associate more naturally with the Lancashire leagues. Armed with these two men from the remoter outposts of the Anglican Communion, we stood a chance.
London set us 232. In reply, we limped along; Heston, in his helmet for the first time, simply could not time the ball. We still needed 35 from four overs when the Revds [Steve] Coulson and [Jim] Jelley came together. They had a combined age of 118, but a determination displayed only by Shackleton in the Antarctic — or Southwark clergy beaten by London every year for the previous two decades. They ran like demented rabbits, and brought us home with two balls to spare.
richard wattThe Southwark side celebrate
THE victory has not been repeated. Heston and Susikaran have departed for Leeds and Portsmouth dioceses. Before we played London in 2017 (a 125-run defeat), I overheard one of their players say to another in the changing-rooms: “We don’t have to worry about this lot, do we? They hardly ever beat us.”
“No, but when they do,” said the other, “they go on about it for years.”
He was right: we do. And I have just done it again.
The Revd Robert Stanier is Vicar of St Andrew and St Mark, Surbiton, in the diocese of Southwark.
This article won the 2018 Wisden Writing Competition. It was first published in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2018 (edited by Lawrence Booth), and is reproduced with the permission of John Wisden & Co Ltd. Wisden 2018 is available from bookshops or from Bloomsbury: www.bloomsbury.com/special-interest/wisden.
The 2018 Church Times Cricket Cup is under way. The final will be held on Thursday 6 September at the Walker Cricket Ground, Southgate, London.