THE flame of clergy cricket burnt brightly again on Thursday of last week at Hampton Wick Cricket Club in Bushy Park, West London.
The London team captain, the Revd Chris Kennedy, a pioneer sports minister in Teddington, had done his bit throughout a season that had been like no other to ensure that the smoking flax was not quenched. He conceived of a match between the London side and star players from other dioceses before the season closed (News, 11 September).
London, the current holders of the Church Times Cricket Cup, have dominated the competition in recent years, just as Liverpool prevailed in the 1980s and Oxford in the 1990s.
Kennedy, who also captains the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, drew on his network of contacts to pull together an invited side from seven dioceses. He arranged the ground and even offered accommodation to the furthest-flung players.
HOW did they show their gratitude? Mark Rylands, the former Lichfield stalwart, now serving in a parish in Exeter diocese, captained the Diocesan All Stars (for want of a better name). He won the toss and elected to bat.
Richard WattLondon apply hand-sanitiser, fast becoming a pandemic ritual
It seemed a poor decision when his side stood at 40 for 4. Chris Lee and Ed Kendall tore through the top order. Sam Rylands, one of the most dangerous batsmen on his day, was clean bowled for 14 runs, Phil Wills went lbw, and John Bavington was caught by Joe Moffatt without scoring — all falling to Lee. Kendall joined in, dismissing Rylands Snr for two runs, caught by Jez Barnes.
London, at this point, thought that it might be a short day, but this proved to be another case of premature chicken-counting. Up to the crease walked Pete James, a rural-church-planting pioneer from Exeter diocese. He joined Chris Lion, one-time captain of the Archbishop’s XI. Together, with a combination of deftness and bludgeoning, they enjoyed a 200-plus-run partnership, each scoring what Kennedy later described as among the finest centuries seen in clergy cricket.
By the time Barnes broke up the partnership by clean-bowling James, the damage was done, and the All Stars completed their 40 overs on 292 for five, a score seldom seen in a normal September Church Times Cup final.
London, with such a mountain to climb, set about their task hesitantly. Pat Allerton was almost run out second ball. Just three balls later came the key moment of the game, when Rob Glenny took a catch at mid-off which was described as a “other-worldly” — flying through the air, Superman-style, to pluck the ball from behind him with one hand, to dispatch Allerton. The game stopped as both teams cheered. (Allerton’s reaction was not recorded).
Things went from bad to worse for London. Cama was trapped lbw, and miscommunication with Barnes, exploited by a top piece of fielding by James, found Kennedy out of his crease, dismissed for 22. Barnes made amends with a fine stand of 85, but tight bowling from the All Stars kept London in check. Sam Rylands, Parkinson, Marshall, and Glenny all bowled maiden overs, and they gave away 16 extras to London’s generous 37.
Richard WattSam Rylands bowls to Chris Lee, who was eventually out lbw to Dan Parkinson for 13 runs
Marshall and Stillwell cleaned up the tail, and London were all out for 209 in 36 overs.
All agreed that it had been a fantastic day, justifying the four-hour journeys made by some of the players. Kennedy described it as “a day of sporting prowess and gracious fellowship”.