Andrew Shields (My greatest day at a cricket match. Over 30)
MERVYN KITCHEN TESTIMONIAL MATCH: NAILSEA v SOMERSET, 5 JUNE 1973
It was a warm, bright, early summer evening – the sort that always features in cricket stories.
There was a match programme, printed on custard-yellow card.
There was a young lad – me – thrilled to pen the names of TW Cartwright, GI Burgess and HR Moseley into the same scoresheet as the more prosaic Nailsea stalwarts.
And there was a rumour in the breeze about a batsman.
It didn’t take long for him to make an entrance. He eased his slender frame from the splinter-benched pavilion first wicket down, after the man for whom the whole event was organised had been caught behind with only a single to his name.
The early dismissal set the scene. With guesting man of Gloucestershire David Green bolstering the other end, shy young Vivian – not yet brash, bejewelled Vivvy – quickly got the measure of the village attack.
He caressed the opening pace pair – so threatening in weekend league cricket – to the straight boundary, where hundreds of locals soon realised they were watching a genius in the making.
He strolled down the pitch to wily Welsh schoolmaster Clive Leach – economy personified every Saturday afternoon – and the ball soared over the hockey club pavilion and halfway down the next field.
He brought up his 50, Somerset’s ton. Then, recognising this was a benefit game – and who was he but a lad from far away when there were stout yeomen from Glastonbury and Frome waiting for a knock? – he lashed a delivery from my father into a fielder’s grateful grasp and turned proudly from the crease.
The Somerset stalwart Bill Andrews entitled his memoirs ‘The Hand that Bowled Bradman’. If dad had ever put pen to paper, it would have been called ‘The Hand that Got Viv Richards Caught at Deep Extra Cover’.
Read Viv’s autobiography and there’s no mention of his 65 against Nailsea in Merv’s testimonial match. Of course there isn’t: he scored more than 2,000 runs for Lansdown that summer, what was a run-out against the village boys worth?
Dad took his anecdote to the grave, the catch growing more spectacular with each telling. And in Nailsea? Older folk still talk about the day that Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards hit Clive Leach over the hockey club for the biggest six they’d ever seen. In their memories, the ball is travelling still.
Steve Menary (My greatest day at a cricket match)
‘Do they play cricket in Morocco, Steve?’ That was the first question, Dear Reader, when I suggested that Burley replace a tour to Portugal that didn’t happen with visit to North Africa. The next question was ‘Can we get a beer?’.
Both answers were ‘yes’ but as we sat in a Rabat hotel waiting for our lift to the Sale cricket ground, players smoked, paced and played on their phones, all surely thinking the trip was a hoax. We’d found a restaurant with live music, great food and booze, but cricket looked to be off the menu. Minutes turned into an hour. No Moroccan cricketers appeared.
Eventually, a beaming Mohammed Ennaoi – Morocco’s former captain – showed up outside followed by a minibus looking for a parking spot. No explanation was offered, only apologies. As everyone threw their gear into the back, the prospect of actually playing edged closer but only when we drove past the King’s Palace and arrived at the Sale Oval, did everyone finally believe we were going to play cricket in Africa.
The ground had been built 15 years ago at a cost of $500,000 by Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, the Emirati who brought cricket to Sharjah, but was now falling apart. The pool needed a clean, and the changing room doors were falling off. A solitary chicken ducked beneath the scoring desk.
Before flying out, the godfather of Moroccan cricket, Kishor Kirpalani, told us their mat was useless. So, we crowdfunded a new one. The concrete wicket was playable, but the outfield was so long that just three boundaries were struck across two games. The long grass did all the hard work for unfit non-cricketers like me. Stooping down to collect one ball, I found a pair of pants.
Led by Kishor, a team of younger Moroccans edged home with 10 balls to spare – but only one wicket in hand – to win the first game, aided by a large pile of couscous at tea that proved hard to shake off in the field.
In the second match, Morocco’s senior players, who had all played in ICC games, like Mohammed, his brother Abdelghani and Zaki Zakaria, threatened a rout. Instead, Burley skittled out Morocco’s finest for 150 in 27 overs, Mark Wheeler taking 4-19. Burley were all out for 112 but one of the New Forest’s oldest clubs had bowled out the best an entire African country could manage.