Northchurch v Berkhamsted Cricket Club 1st XI on Sat 25 Apr 2020 at 1pm
Berkhamsted Cricket Club Won

Match report After a long winter the much anticipated day had arrived, the first game of the season and what a game to start us off. An away friendly against our own old enemy, Northchurch. Pre-season games typically involve multiple layers, pocket warmers, lively wickets and rain but this year Mother Nature was looking out for club cricketers across the country. The lead up to the match was nothing but wall to wall sunshine, perfect conditions for the groundsmen to get work in curating the weekends battlegrounds. It was the perfect way to start at cricket season.

The team arrived at the ground and got settled in to the cosy changing rooms. Once everyone had arrived Luke got the team together to give his first match day address as 1st XI Captain. He focused on taking responsibility for your own game and taking responsibility for the team and not leaving it to someone else. The message was to be focused, disciplined and to enjoy the season as a team. James and Goffy added their thoughts and the team was ready to go. As not to let a tradition die out a rousing YouTube sports montage was pumped out featuring clips and sound bites from iconic sports moments, Rocky films and course Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday.

After the encouraging montage the team got ready and headed out for the warm up, but something was noticeably different. To ten of the players surprise there was not a NERF ball in sight, only a small grid designed for a cricket ball ‘Rondo’, the training method used perhaps most famously by Pep Guardiloa’s dominate Barcelona side. The players promptly downed tools and returned to the dressing room in protest like Pakistani side against England in 2006. Perplexed, our new coach dug out a NERF ball and via the captain negotiate a shortened game of NERF football following an initial Rondo, with the added incentive that the players soft winter hands would be spared from any helicopter endangering high catches.

The warm up went smoothly from there with Guy doing his best Odell Beckham Junior impersonation to hang onto a stunning one handed catch to win the first Nerf football game of the season. The captain was called away from the final fielding for his first coin toss. Luke had big shoes to fill in this department as last season Goffy had lost only 1 toss during his games in charge. The pitch looked a beauty after the great spell of weather leading up to the game. As the opposition captain tossed the coin Luke called correctly for tails. Luke gave the pitch a final look, the team watching on hoped not to hear a repeat of Nasser Hussains “we’re gonna have a bowl” on what looked a track built for batting. Thankfully the skipper chose to bat first, the first game of the season was about to get underway.

The opening pair of Guy and Goffy strode out the crease and were treated to some typically loud but poor standard chat from the opposition. Despite the pitch looking like a road the early start, new ball and fresh pitch presented some challenges to the opening pair. They played watchfully, late and cashed in when the bowlers missed their areas. They saw off the opening bowlers and had set a good platform when Guy fell for 33 to a ball that just nipped back off the seam. Though disappointing, the openers had negated the largest threat and had set up the innings for the rest of the team.

Mark Costin was the new man in at 3, having seen the ball that accounted for Guy he knew he was in for an initial battle, thankfully Mark loves a challenge. Over the last few weeks Mark has taken part in the *deep breath* RSF26 Challenge, Two point six challenge, 5k run for Heroes’,Tennis at home challenge, County Champ at home challenge, Cricket keepy uppy challenge, Speed bounce challenge and the impossible challenge. With these all taking place in his garden we’ve yet to determine if Mark just loves a challenge or if he’s forced to spend large periods of time out of the house by his wife.

Goffy and Mark got their heads down through a tricky period and made good progress, seeing off the seamers, Goffy looking as untroubled as ever on his way to his first 50 of the season. Spin was introduced for the first time this season. Despite the warm weather leading up to the game there wasn’t much assistance and the experienced pair accumulated runs with ease. Feeling in good touch Mark unleashed a brutal reverse sweep, the connection was pure and he sent the ball sailing over the rope. Mark has a love / hate relationship with the reverse sweep and sensing that his afternoon had probably peaked he retired, though the official party line was that it was to ensure that others got a bat.

Berkhamsted’s current and former 1st XI captains were now together at the crease. From the off the scoring was fast, the Northchurch bowlers, slow to adapt to the different lengths required for each batsman, gifted each easy scoring opportunities which they both put away with ease.

On the cusp of a quick fire and well deserved century Goffy was called off the field for an urgent Zoom call. It transpired that Saudi backed consortium which had expressed interest in a Sail GP spot had to withdraw its offer after the arse fell out of oil. With Goffy tied up it left the team in the precarious position of having just two unallocated lawyers in the team. It wasn’t the first time that Goffy had not been able to complete a well deserved century. In his first game for the club in another pre-season friendly against Leverstock Green, Goffy was left short of his century as Toby Gribben instead chose to finish the match himself instead. Toby’s form with the bat has never reached the levels of that day since, perhaps there is some cricketing karma at work.

The skipper playing beautifully in his first match as captain was joined at the crease by Smithy who unfurled a number of trademark flowing drives which had the team purring from the sidelines. Frey sailed smoothly past 50 when the games first controversial moment arrived. It was surprising that it had taken this long given some of the incidents in recent ‘friendlies’.

The partnership was building well and a commanding total was in the offing. Smithy worked off his pads into space on the leg side, an easy two, until, Smithy’s notoriously temperamental hamstring tightened. The thrown came in from the outfield at high speed and right on target. In a desperate attempt to make his ground and continue his fine start to the season Smithy dived for crease. Airborne with his arms outstretched he was racing the ball to the stumps, hoping not to hear the soul crushing rattle of leather smashing into whatever wood stumps are made from. But the rattle didn’t come, instead it was the sweet sound of leather on willow. The ball had struck the back of Smithy’s bat and deflected away from the stumps down to the fine leg boundary. It was reminiscent of a similar incident that happened in a game last year between England and New Zealand, you might have seen it, worth a look if you haven’t. As Smithy got to his feet a cry of ‘HOWZAT’ came in from the boundary, the sporting spirit shown by New Zealand in NW8 was not to be seen here. Now I won’t say which Northchurch player made the appeal, but if you have played against them it’s exactly who you’re thinking of.

As is always the case when we play Northchurch it is a family affair, with the father of Northchurch’s premier strike bowler standing at one end. As soon as the call came in he had no hesitation in raising a finger and giving Smithy out ‘obstructing the field’ despite Smithy’s return run being straighter than one of OC’s ‘off breaks’ and him not turning to see where the ball was. Incensed by the farcical decision Smithy confronted Northchurch’s own Shakoor Rana and did well not to go full Gatting. The captains and umpires conferred, Frey, not wanting a full on riot in his first match as 1st XI captain had to concede a premature end to Smithy’s innings. Acting with an admirable calmness of thought and maturity it was like watching slightly smaller Kane Williamson at work, certainly a good sign for the future.

The fall of the wicket bought Gareth to the crease for the last few overs of the game. What would follow was an even more unbelievable period of action which no one in a sane frame of mind would ever have seen coming. Those who have seen Gareth bat will know him typically as a slow starter, but in winter nets he had adopted Jos Buttler’s “f***k it” mindset which was about to pay off. What followed was a brutal and almost make believe innings. After a trademark waft outside the off stump the next 5 balls were all dispatched beyond the rope, it was reminiscent of Dimitri Mascarenhas against India in 2007, aided by some ordinary bowling and his stupidly large, now possibly illegal bat. He and Frey built a quick partnership before the later was bowled charging the bowler on the last ball of the penultimate over for a quick fire 73, a fine first knock as Captain. Gareth completed his 50 off just 15 balls thanks to some sharp running from the non-facing Chris Hope and a large six into the tennis courts off the last ball of the innings. Berkhamsted ended on a commanding 322-5 from their 50 overs.

As the team settled on the benches outside the clubhouse the lunch interval entertainment was about to start. James had organised a winner takes all 2k challenge for the inaugural Veterans Cup. The field was made up of Tim Buckley (Chairman), Peter Dudley (Membership secretary *please pay your subs if you can and thanks to those legends who are able to*) and Peter Drury (Legendary Sports Commentator). The race around the outfield started at a fast pace comfortably under the veterans class record of 9 minutes 56 seconds. With 1 lap to go the high pace was starting show, Peter Drury was sweating like a Russian athlete at a drugs test, Tim had turned the shade of his favourite red and Peter Dudley had started to look like OC after his famous all run 6. It was still neck and neck when Peter Drury lost his footing after some jostling in the pack. As Peter regained his footing his title challenge was crumbling around him with just ¾’s of the final lap remaining.

As he started his pursuit of the leading pack he thought back to some of the inspiring sporting moments he had witnessed and used them as motivation. Peter dug deep and caught up to his rivals halfway down the final straight. So here it was 3 club legends, 3 gladiators locked in an battle for glory and immortality cheered on by a crowd at fever pitch. Time slow like a scene from Chariots of Fire as all 3 men dipped for the line, it was a photo finish and new record of 9 minutes 32 seconds for veterans class. James checked the tape and he’d got it, Peter Drury had won the Veterans Cup by the barest of margins, by the barest of all margins, absolute ecstasy for Peter Drury, agony, agony for Tim and Peter Dudley.

Peter had risen from the ruins, Peter the Greek God in Northchurch! The unthinkable unfolded before our eyes. This was not meant to happen, this could not happen…this did happen! After congratulations and commiserations were offered the 3 warriors departed immediately together for the bar where they stayed till late in the night.

Fired up from watching one of the greatest ever sporting spectacles Berkhamsted took to the field, ready to run through walls for victory having seen club royalty push themselves to the limit. James was to take the new ball, from his impressive showings in nets the team knew if anyone was going to get anything from the pitch it would be him. With plenty on the board the captain set an aggressive field, 3 slips, a gully and a short mid wicket. James sent down a tidy over, making the Northchurch play and miss conceding just a single through the gully region.

Joe Atkins took the new ball from the other end. Over the winter he had been working on a new even shorter run up, he got through his first over in record time. The opening bowlers started well and restricted Northchurch to only a few scoring opportunities. The first wicket of the season came for Joe who dismissed the Northchurch opener with a true doom seed. The ball angled in, seamed away and took the outside edge to be comfortably pouched by Mark behind the stumps. Berkhamsted were already firmly in control.

James took his first wicket for the club with a nip backer from a full length that pinned the other Northchurch opener plumb in front. James wheeled away in a Stuart Broad like celebrappeal as the team rushed to congratulate him on what we expected to be the first of many wickets for the club.

Wrighty came on for his first bowl of the season and was once again sporting the full beard. It didn’t take long for references to Gary Barlow and Take That lyrics to fill the air. He settled on an immaculate length outside the off stump and got his first wicket when the Northchurch batsman overextended after a missed drive, overbalanced and was calmly stumped by Mark.

Hopey was the next man into the attack, the clubs resident Yorkshireman (or scouser depending who you talk to) was on the money straight away forcing the Northchurch batsman to play at every ball. The slips were giving the batsman some good chat as he failed to connect with some aggressive shots. A classic call of mind the windows sent the batsman charging down the pitch the next delivery. Seeing the advancing batsman he dug the ball in short, the batsman ran straight past and was comfortably stumped. On his way through Hopey had some choice northern words for the departing batsman which won’t be repeated here.

Northchurch then had their best spell in the game with the number 3 & 6 putting on a 50 partnership and frustrating the fielding side with some sketchy hitting over the top. Toby Gribben came in for the most punishment, with the founder of the New Berko movement struggling to hold an offside line.

The captain turned to his premier bowler and James delivered immediately, trapping the number 3 in front with a surprise Yorker denying him a first 50 of the season. Another small partnership developed until Wrighty returned to send the other set batsman ‘back for good’, all it took was a little ‘shine’ on the ball and some ‘patience’ outside the off stump to set the trap for the inswinger.

Gareth threw down some frugal but unthreatening left arm seam while Joe retuned to remove the other set batsman with another in swinging delivery that went through bat and pad. Luke cycled through his bowlers and James picked up a well deserved 3rd wicket, another LBW, to round off a fine first outing for the club.

Toby bowled with good control in his second spell, building pressure and trapping the batsman on the crease for the 5th LBW of the innings. The bowlers pushed hard for the 10th wicket, attacking and inventive fields were set with numerous slips, people on drive, 4 fielders under helmets, trying anything to pry the final wicket. But with the bowlers tiring during their first outing of the season and the ball and pitch offering little assistance the Northchurch batsman were just able to see out the final few overs.

We had won by a huge 111 runs and had dominated one of our biggest rivals at their own ground, what a way start the season. The sides shook hands and Berkhamsted left the field to warm applause from the travelling fans. Bragging right in the bag we had a very positive and happy debrief with everyone excited about what the team might be able to do this year. Everyone was already looking forward to getting back out there next weekend…

Berkhamsted Cricket Club 1st XI Batting
Player Name RunsMB4s6sSRCtStRo
for 5 wickets

(50.0 overs)
Alan Gofton Retired Out  95 77 123.38
Guy Acott-smith Bowled  33 53 62.26
Mark Costin Retired Out  38 59 64.41
Luke Frey Bowled  73 50 146.00
James Smith Obstructing Field  33 46 71.74
Gareth Preedy Not Out  50 15 333.33
Chris Hope Not Out  0
James Bell  
Joseph Atkins  
Toby Gribbin  
James Wright  

Northchurch Bowling

Player nameOversMaidensRunsWicketsAverageEconomy
No records to display.

Northchurch Batting
Player name RMB4s6sSR
for 9 wickets
212 (50.0 overs)
  lbw Bell 26
  ct Atkins 13
  lbw  Bell 48
  st Wright 2
  st Hope 10
  lbw Wright 49
  b Atkins 44
  lbw Bell 0
  lbw Gribbin 5
  Not Out  1
  Not Out  14

Berkhamsted Cricket Club 1st XI Bowling

Player NameOversMaidensRunsWicketsAverageEconomy
James Bell9.002739.003.00
Joseph Atkins9.0052226.005.78
James Wright8.0025212.503.12
Chris Hope10.0031131.003.10
Toby Gribbin9.0070170.007.78
Gareth Preedy5.00700.001.40