The 2019 cricket season was a very hard one to follow. In my 2019 report, I described it as a “most memorable one for English cricket, with England sensationally winning the World Cup Final at Lord’s, after the scores finished level, both after the teams’ 50 overs and at the conclusion of the ‘Super Over’”. One of the most exciting passages of play in Test history caused the CRG and Almeley teams to take an extended tea-break, while Ben Stokes and Jack Leach made 76 in an unbeaten 10th wicket stand to defeat Australia at Headingley.
In 2020 the fact that CRG played any cricket at all in a summer of lockdown was highly creditable. All cricket was banned before 11 July and then no paying spectators for the first-class game were permitted. One casualty was the early season CRG net at Lord’s.
The season began and ended with the August Bank holiday tour to Herefordshire. The Saturday game against Jeremy Helme’s Vagabonds was played at a most attractive ground, close to a lake at the Mynde, Much Dewchurch. We were kindly hosted by Richard and Sarah Burt.
Captains James Powell and Jeremy Helme agreed on a 30 over match, with wides counting as 2 with no extra ball. This may have been a rather over-cautious precaution as the match started soon after 1.30, and including tea, finished at 5.30. The combination of tight bowling, cautious batting, a bowlers’ pitch and a slow outfield meant that CRG had made only 32 after 16 overs, with no scoring stroke producing more than two. Harry Wise came in at the fall of the 4th wicket and ran three twice, Charles Gallagher keeping up well. William Butterworth was the last man to arrive at the wicket; he made 23, with 3 fours and one six. CRG’s 89 included 36 extras. Ferguson was the pick of the Vagabonds’ bowlers, dismissing Magnus Eriksson and Edmund Krarup with consecutive balls, and conceding only 7 runs in 5 overs.
Richard Burt, who had made 30 for the Vagabonds in 2018, opened with Oliver Rande. Harry Wise got Rande out LBW in his first over and bowled Mike Hacking for 12. Wise’s 2 for 13 was the pick of the CRG bowling. 5 penalty runs were conceded when the ball struck a helmet placed behind the wicket-keeper. The Vagabonds made fairly easy work of the low total; passing the CRG score after 20.3 overs. At the end Burt had 33 not out and William Helme 18 not out.
The Almeley match was as usual a 40 over game. CRG batted first. Significant contributions were made in the first half of the innings by Krarup (34) and Preston (29). Eriksson, batting at 3, was looking assured. He hit a firm stroke to extra cover, and set off for a fairly easy single. However, he failed to call and Gibson sent him back. Eriksson faced the next ball and was bowled. Eriksson had an unsuccessful weekend with the bat, but, as usual, he was a consistent asset for his enthusiasm and sportsmanship.
Coming in 5 wickets down, James Powell hit out magnificently. After one of his several charges down the wicket, Powell missed; he thought he would be stumped and did not attempt to regain his ground; but he had forgotten that the Almeley wicket-keeper was standing back, and he was not dismissed. 17 runs came from Powell’s bat in the final over, and in all he hit 2 sixes and 6 fours in his 47 not out. CRG finished with 166 for 8 in the 40 overs.
The “champagne moment” was a low diving catch by Powell to dismiss Cardwell in Gallagher’s first over, the second of the innings. Almeley were steady at the approximate run rate, but CRG were kept in the game by steady bowling from Harry Wise, Philip Gallagher, Preston, Dua and Powell; Dua impressing particularly with his accurate spin bowling, taking 1 for 18 off his 8 overs. Matt Jones and Richard Williams both made 50s, and a late flurry by Duggan (16 not out) brought Almeley victory with two overs to spare.
Both matches were lost, but the undimmed enthusiasm of all and the achievements of the younger players give hope for the future of CRG cricket.