By NICHOLAS UTECHIN
Sunday 21st June 2015
Some argue, with justification, that the success of one-day cricket around the world can be dated to 21st June 1975 – exactly four decades before this year’s confrontation at West Wycombe with the ardent P.G.Wodehouse Society team. Your correspondent was at that Lord’s match, sitting at the Nursery End and watching such greats (Australia v West Indies) as Clive Lloyd, Lillee and Thomson, Rohan Kanhai, Viv Richards and the Chappell brothers – and seeing the W.I team win in explosive circumstances at 8.40pm.
I have the scorecard still, and took it along to impress at West Wycombe. Turned out at least three others from our teams had been present also on that amazing occasion.
Now it would be over-egging the proverbial to suggest that this year’s fixture was quite as important as that 40 years ago: but by God it kept us all on our toes from 11.30 until 6.15. The Gold Bats batted first, as is customary, and although two of their players retired with unbeaten 50s under their belts, a solid bowling performance by the Society (under captain Peter Horrocks) meant they never disappeared from sight as they have on previous occasions: they declared some 45 minutes after the luncheon break, setting the Society 217 to win.
Timing in these matters is always important: for the cognoscenti, these are not limited over games (40 overs a side, for example), but matches that usually conclude at 6 pm. Thus there are always discussions about how long lunch, tea and other such matters should take, to ensure that both sides have a vaguely even amount of time batting.
Thus it was rather important that the umpires (I was one of them) and the captains, agreed that play should end 15 minutes later than usual. Important in that it meant the Society won, by one run, with the last ball of the match. Sterling batsmanship was shown by George Gross and John Poxon especially, with everyone else who came in to bat contributing at all the right moments. The Society chased down the Gold Bats’ total with four wickets still in hand, on the stroke of 6.15. I shall remember with delight the sight of Ben Levinson (who had come in to bat with three balls to go!) backing up and hurtling down the pitch to gain his ground before the wicket keeper had even received that last ball.
One is therefore happy to record that, of the 11 matches played since the 2001 inaugural, the Society has won 4, the Gold Bats 2 and there have been 5 draws.
This summer event remains at the heart of what the Society tries to offer. You don’t have to like cricket. You merely need to enjoy the English countryside, a relaxing picnic and highly enjoyable companionship, together with the merest tinge of a competitive spirit.