Sunday 21th July: The Retreat at The British Rail Sports Ground, York.

Dropped Catches Could have been Costly.

Casuals Saved by Superb Teamwork.

Casuals batted first.

Casuals 203 for 5 off 40 overs.

Retreat 158 for 9 off 40 overs.

Batting:  Walker – 14; Ward – NO 125; Frost – 2; Cooper – 4; Lockwood – 18; Cleave – 6; Beal – NO 19.

Bowling: Crossland 1-33 (8); Harris 0-22 (8); Smith 2-20 (4); Cooper 1-11 (6);

Davis 1-30 (6); Cleave 2-17 (4); Frost 2-8 (4) .

Your nomadic cricket team is a raggy baggy bunch at the best of times, but The Retreat is raggier than most.  The opening bat sported earings and his dark hair drooped languidly to his shoulders.  It was no surprise when, as the fourth of their uneffusive umpires, he donned a particularly offensive orange jacket.  Their chubby unshaven chipshop proprietor, who came in third wicket down, battered one or two deliveries before giving Duncan Cleave a return catch, gratefully pouched somewhere in the fleshy waistline – not cheek to cheek; more your chub to chub.  He was later heard to refer to a boundary as ‘a full portion’.

Stranger still, noone currently playing for The Retreat was aware its origins as a cricket team.  A York hospital of the same name would be a reasonable guess, but the suggestion was met with bohemian bewilderment.  This hospital was, and is, a psychiatric establishment, so maybe their team began life as recreation for tired staff; mad medics and nurses with neuroses.  Certainly such institutions were often endowed with quality sporting facilities in acres of superbly tended grass and woodland, albeit miles from civilisation.

Nomadic teams, by definition, have no home.  Recent games with The Retreat have included a rare tie in the cold and wet, next to Sam Smith’s brewery at Tadcaster and one of those lazy Sunday afternoons you dream about beside the Ouse – courting couples strolling along the riverbank, coxswains encouraging their crews, fresh mown grass and a cherished punchy seventy from Rod Kelly.  Rupert did a Burge here, arriving late on the wrong side of the boundary hedge, red-faced and cursing at his misfortune.

The latest venue was more prosaic; The British Rail Sports Ground, buried within a large housing estate and borne by the transport industry.  George Hudson (1800-1871), a York tradesman, was the first railway tychoon – he wasn’t  an engineer but he knew how to put a deal together.  An amalgamation of two rival companies to form the Midland in 1844 was his major achievement and York subsequently thrived as a rail centre.  British Rail appeared much later as part of the post-war Welfare State, disappearing, after some forty years, during the Thatcher era.

The tradition of ‘works’ teams goes back to mid-nineteenth century public schoolboys, who, after they left, continued playing in the newly formed ‘old boy’ soccer and rugby sides.  Around the 1880’s, ex-players and other establishment figures formed the relevant governing bodies, formalising rules and regulations.  A large number of pub, club, church, street corner and works teams subsequently joined in the fun, with work related leisure being especially popular.  You could   knock about with your workmates without necessarily losing money, enjoy good facilities and maybe even develop as a player.

The teams from British Rail, York, have always been known as York R.I. (Railway Institute) from their pre-nationalisation days – a rare bit of common sense and continuity in a 21st century largely characterised by mayhem.  So it was that The Casuals, a sort of ‘old boys’ team, came to play The Retreat, a sort of works team, on ground that was part of the Beveridge dream.

And, to use boxing parlance, The Casuals ‘did a number’ on them.  Their combination of two hundred plus runs, accurate bowling and tenacious fielding left the opposition punch drunk and on the ropes.  Whilst William Ward’s century was the foundation upon which victory was built, every single member of the team contributed:  some shared in substantial partnerships with Will; others took wickets and bowled economically; yet others chased willingly and effectively in the field.  And, at all times, Will, in his additional role of skipper, was in the thick of it.  It was a great team effort, well lead.

The pitch was rather odd; packed earth with no grass other than tussocks.  The fresh millimetre of two of rain that delayed the start by thirty minutes also slowed it up and made it play low, apart from the odd snorter that reared up off one of the tussocks.  The side that batted first would be at risk of playing too soon, and so it proved, especially when the slower bowlers came on.  Will soon learned to wait before playing the shorter pitched ball, either nudging it round his legs or cuffing it behind square on the off.  When it was pitched up, he cheerfully crashed it through mid off.  Because of thickish outfield grass, ground strokes only went for twos and threes and aerial shots were needed to score boundaries.

Three big partnerships secured the total: Ward and Walker – 51; Ward and Lockwood – 82; Ward and Beal – 48.  Apart from an LBW (Greg Smith umpiring), all the wickets came from catches.  Ian Cooper was caught down by the midwicket boundary and Duncan Cleave got a top edge back to the bowler.  Following his dismissal, Cooper was floored by the fielder’s return throw.  He limped back to the changing room in blood soaked trousers, and was soon seen wearing an arm sling that looped over his head and around his lower jaw, in the manner of a cartoon character with toothache.  According to Angela, the first aid box was only partially stocked.

A large total to bowl and field to is a wonderful thing.  After tea, it filled The Casuals with confidence, helped to a small degree by the pitch, which continued to play unpredictably despite two hours of sunshine.  Bill Crossland capitalised early as one of their openers got a sharp bounce which dollied to Duncan Cleave at mid-on for the first of his three catches.  His other two were events he couldn’t avoid; sharp and straight into the midriff.  Harris, at the other end from Bill, bowled economically without a wicket – after an expensive first over his next seven went for a miserly nine runs.  For the record, his hair colour is now Summer Sand.  Ian Cooper, who replaced Bill, was thoughtful and aggressive. Having beaten the other opening batsman every which way, a beamer finally got him, ending at slip off the splice.  So it went on.  The remaining wickets were shared between Greg Smith, Duncan Cleave, Marc Davis and Adam Frost, and The Retreat were never able to keep up with the required rate.

There were no LBW decisions.  Loud appeals to impressionable callow youth had no effect.  Even the ones that Bill or Rupert would have got right were turned down.  Dismissals had to be sufficiently unequivocal for batsmen to walk; either bowled or caught by fielders in positions where the umpire’s view was unobstructed.  When umpires are less than impartial, catches need to be taken, and whilst enough eventually were, several were missed, all relatively easy by The Casuals’ standards.

After the delays and disasters of Elvaston, it was a relief when The Casuals had ten men arrive on time.  One of the main strike batsmen came off and the excellent bowling and fielding performance did the rest.  It was a case of Will, the not so fat controller, keeping The Casuals on the right lines and then all that was needed was a steady nerve.

Dave Walker 1277



Returned from a dreary trip to The Fatherland to read your latest pot boiler.

The graphic description of Bugess’s antics cheered me up no end.

This week’s grammar tip:

‘whence’ means ‘from where’ . It is, therefore not correct to say ‘from

whence’. That would mean ‘from from where’.

Correct usage is, for example, ‘Walker was soon back in the pavillion, whence

he had come but 2 minutes earlier.’  (A highly unlikely scenario, but you get

my point, I hope).  Similarly, ‘thence ‘ means ‘from there’, as in ‘We went to London and thence to Dover’ Not ‘from thence’

CU Sunday?


(I spent most of that Sunday exploring the outskirts of Nottingham)


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