Report by James Houlder:
Disclaimer: Much like the Homeric Epics of old, this summary of events is being recorded some time after the fact, and as such may be similarly liable to gross exaggeration, embellishment, and outright fabrication. This is, of course, no different to the game being discussed in the bar not 30 minutes following the close of play, so I'll press on regardless.
It's an obvious point to make that 2020 has been a difficult year for amateur cricket. With many clubs facing pandemic-led oblivion, unable to find grounds, sponsors, players or opposition, an air of uncertainty hung heavy through the FAS ranks through much of the early summer, with many of us unsure when we would next be donning our treasured maroon-and-grey-and-brown-and-white-and-green-and-blue-and-maroon-again caps.
The FAS Duumvirate, however, had other ideas. Echoing the words of former US President (and leading Massachusetts Premier League wicket-taker - 482 wickets @21.72) Benjamin Franklin, out of adversity comes opportunity, and the Board of Directors saw this as the perfect moment to execute a plan of aggressive geographic expansion. A forward operating base was quickly established 143 miles away in rural Kent and a short tour planned for early September, to supplement the traditional Cotswolds tour, which had since received the green light. In the face of the pandemic, FASCC was going global.
It is against this backdrop that the FAS rambled into Newenden* at lunchtime on Saturday 5th September, the sun on our backs and a fire in our bellies (though this was admittedly more likely a gastro-intestinal hangover from the preceding Blockley leg of the tour a week earlier). A new opposition, the Grannies CC, beckoned, and with several tourists making their first FAS appearance of the summer, excitement was palpable.
Having won the toss, and considering the hot sun, flat pitch and short boundaries, FAS eschewed convention and elected to bowl first. Jamie Dare, fresh from his first year playing cricket for Oxford University, was the natural choice to take the new ball, and soon stood at the top of his mark, dazzling cherry in hand. We were underway.
Our excitement, however, proved to be shortlived, as it quickly became apparent that the pitch was unlikely to offer any assistance to our one-pronged pace attack. The Grannies' opening pair took advantage, and quickly raced to 50 without loss inside 7 overs. Left scratching our heads, captain Joss Dare turned to his talismanic brother Cliff to attempt to break the partnership.
Cliff was quickly into his work, rolling back the years with an exhibition of left-arm sledging. After a couple of looseners, he found a lovely channel probing the teenage batsman's possible bisexuality**, before really testing him with a couple of short ones into his apparent choice of luxury women's footwear, Cliff's own knowledge of which surprising even the most enlightened FAS tourist. The effect was near immediate, with the young batsman's resultant existential crisis leading to the straightforward run out of his partner and a much-needed breakthrough for FAS.
Despite this breakthrough, however, runs were still proving somewhat easy i for the batsmen to come by, with the Grannies reaching a rather worrying 100/1 in the 19th over, the platform set for a potentially monstrous score. It was at this point that Joss introduced himself into the attack and, apparently having spent the majority of lockdown watching YouTube videos of Saqlain Mustaq and Muttiah Murilatharan, produced one of the great FAS spells, bowling with a maturity and experience belying his youthful 49 years. He immediately dismissed the dangerous opening batsman for 57, leaving him to reflect on whether red-soled cricket spikes were indeed the right option, and quickly stemmed the flow of runs whilst taking regular wickets with beautifully flighted, gripping off-spin. The late, great Baz would have been proud, and he finished with figures of 4/30 off 9 overs, swinging some momentum back towards FAS. The Grannies' innings closed on 182/7, still an extremely competitive score, however one FAS would have gladly accepted earlier in the afternoon.
In response, FAS were similarly quick out of the blocks, racing to 45/0 in 5 overs, Nigel Reynolds and son Toby ruthlessly dispatching anything wayward. Toby was unlucky to be well caught in the gully for 14, and after brief period of watchfulness Reynolds Sr and new batsman James Houlder set about relocating the game to the adjacent pub as soon as possible. Taking advantage of the short boundaries and a tiring bowling attack, they moved quickly through the gears and chased down the 183 required for victory with few alarms inside 28 overs. A resounding 9 wicket victory was achieved, with Reynolds and Houlder finishing 75 not out and 74 not out respectively.
*Interestingly, Newenden claims to be site of the earliest recorded game of cricket, played in 1301 and involving a 15 year-old Prince Edward, later King Edward II. i The annals confirm he was only able to bowl 5 overs in a spell, on account of his age, and that he had a letter from his father King Edward I confirming that he did not have to wear a helmet. On a further side note, King Edward I was posthumously known as "the Hammer of the Scots", largely due to his brutal 182* in the final of the 1296 B&H Cup, against Edinburgh CC.
**Anyone who knows anything about King Edward II and his relationship with squire Piers Gaveston will note that the sledging was probably similar on that aforementioned afternoon in 1301. Gaveston of course went on to establish a popular range of remedies for indigestion, much loved by FAS tourists for many years.
Report by The Grannies:
We were thumped by 9 wickets by the FAS Ramblers. Five Grannies were in the opposition but it was two Hopes, whose family have a long association with the club, who starred for the club. Ben Hope made an excellent 57 and his younger brother Charlie struck a stunning 60 including two huge sixes off our own James Scott. 182/7 off 36 overs seemed competitive but it wasn't to be, but at least father Hope, Jason, was playing as well to see his boys' fantastic efforts!
When there is no Hope . . .
This was a new game for the club, hastily arranged as we came out of (the first?) lockdown. FAS Ramblers normally host touring sides out of an idyllic mill in the Cotswolds but with Covid preventing that they moved south to host a small tour in Kent/Sussex. The game was played in the beautiful village of Newenden, which very thoughtfully made sure that the local hostelry was a Jim Streeter smite away from the ground. Indeed the aforementioned player was one of five Grannies who played for FAS on the day (Streeter, Scott, Stone, Dare J. and Dare C.).
The Grannies were put in on a slightly two-paced deck and started very encouragingly with candidate Ben Hope and Jonny Morris quickly getting into their stride. Sadly it was Jonny's "stride" that finally did for the partnership as he was run out for a well crafted 30. Ben went on to score an excellent 57. However, his effort was eclipsed by Hope the younger. Charlie struck a stunning 60 including a couple of huge maximums off Scottie, the second of which is still floating down the river Rother. Sadly the innings was not quite able to accelerate further from there and the Grannies declared at 182/7 after 36 overs.
The reply started with the Grannies in full attack mode. Indeed, at one point this even manifested itself in some proper cricket with Morris taking a smart catch at third slip off Ben Hope. Sadly that was as good as it got. On a drying pitch and outfield the generosity of the declaration became all too clear and despite valiant efforts by both Hopes, Will Siebert and Stanners the game was up. Reynolds and Houlder batted well and saw FAS home with time to spare.
The result was particularly cruel on the Hope family (father Jason played too) whose batting, bowling and fielding was a class above. If only there were another five or six Hopes for us to select from!