Monmouth School 180/8 (38.5 overs) beat Old Monmothians 176/9d (48 overs) by two wickets.
A grand spectacle unfolded at Monmouth Cricket Ground yesterday as the school’s first XI — unfamiliar with the concept of a sporting draw — opted for the winning runs with the scores level and only two balls remaining. For the neutral, it was a fitting end to an encounter played in the finest of spirits.
Tom Bevan had dipped into the cellar and produced a range of vintages for his OMs, from 2011 to 2020 leavers, entrusting the captaincy to me by dint of the alphabet. It was revealed that a member of the first XI had not yet learnt to crawl or talk in time for the 2005 Ashes, whereas when I arrived at the old Grange in 2000, they still had blackboards.
Once the OMs had gone through their pre-match routine of standing on the pitch wearing a blazer, it was agreed we would bat first and set a target or be bowled out so that people would be free by 5pm. Angus McIntyre (2018) and I sashayed out to the crease and much to our dismay the opening bowlers had undergone the performance-enhancing technique of regular practice, one of them a back-rower in the Worcester Warriors academy.
The openers nurdled and drove the score up to 19 before the captain permitted a swift inswinger to bisect bat and pad. The challenge never relented as the school brought on two county spinners in Swingwood and Harris. McIntyre batted neatly and Ben Lander (2017) looked to accelerate but both emulated the captain in succumbing to Mayell, who finished with five for 43. When Ali Hay (2013) was bowled by Harris we were four down with fewer than 50 on the board.
Salvation came from the 2013 partnership of John Parker and Matt Aldridge. Aldridge’s tactic was to shatter the confidence of the cordon, twice edging to first slip and once to the wicketkeeper, all shelled. They ran hard, even managing a three — then again, the boundary rope was somewhere in Mitchel Troy and the outfield as sluggish as a sixth-former at assembly.
Parker and Aldridge took us through to the BYO Lunchbreak, but the latter fell almost immediately for 30 — at least now with three figures in the team’s score column. Parker went for 23 but the OM tail wagged, first through Andy Thomas (2011), who hit two sumptuous drives down the ground and smacked a pull towards the square-leg boundary, which was dropped over the rope for six of them. Lewis Devonald (2016) and Alastair McIntosh (2020) added an unbeaten 30-odd for the final wicket. Devonald dabbed, flicked, and glided with abandon, finishing on 34 not out off 42 balls. The plan had been to allow them two more overs of insouciance, but rain briefly intervened, and a declaration was made. Who was to know how important that inclement weather would prove?
The OMs resumed perfectly. Thomas was on the money straight away and McIntosh even more so: the youngster’s first ball was on a good length, dragging Caldicott forward for a tentative prod, the ball flying to Parker at first slip. Straight out of the coaching manual’s appendices. Remarkably it almost happened the next ball too, Middlecote flashing to Hay at gully, a sharp chance put down. McIntosh was cooking on gas.
There were two further drops in the early overs, neither easy: Hay tumbled and fumbled for one that got away, while Lander leapt brilliantly to stop four at point. Luke Fleming-Jones (2018), who could not quite track back quickly enough for a steepler at mid-on, bowled seam at first change and was the most miserly performer, taking one for 17 off six overs, the wicket courtesy of a catch by Jake Sharpe (2016) at mid-off.
Devonald joined the party with his leg spin, whiling away for nine overs and snaffling the dangerous Middlecote caught and bowled. The OMs were taking regular wickets and the catching was, well, catching as Hay took one on the leg side, Lander gave Thomas a deserved wicket and the captain held on to a low blinder at square leg. It all meant that with about ten overs to go, the school needed seven an over, the OMs four wickets.
Sharpe’s leg spin brought him three for 33 in 6.5 overs, bowling Nos 8 and 9 as they pushed for runs, but Mayell at the other end was using long levers that would make Budgie blush, cracking two sixes and four fours in the area of cow corner. The target was whittled down to 20 off two, then seven off the last, and eventually one off two balls. Dreams were crushed, heroes were made, Mayell finishing unbeaten on 44.
And then the pavilion had a fire test and we all had to leave.
A great day and a great game. Until next year
Elgan Alderman OM (04-11)