Postcard from Windsor: A former Essex and England all-rounder braves heat and dust for an unusual game in One's back garden .BL.- DEREK PRINGLE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Dear All

In spite of the onset of creaking joints and some rather grubby kit, off to Windsor Castle for a game of cricket in aid of the Prince Philip Trust Fund. A match that pitted the might of the Lord's Taverners celebrity sporting charity (my team) against the world champions, cunningly billed as the Twelfth Man's Eleven.

If it all sounds a little grandiose, then the setting - a tented arena on the green swathe below the castle - did not flatter to deceive. Nor did the opposition, who were smartly turned out in a uniform of striped blouses and knee-length skirts. No, they weren't the Tongan national side, but the England women's team, winners of last year's World Cup. Since then the poor things have had to be content with the odd exhibition match just to keep their eye in and their strokes oiled.

As you would expect - with people playing in One's back garden - the Duke of Edinburgh (the Twelfth Man) and HRH Prince Edward (the Taverners' president) toddled down the hill after lunch to cast an eye over their respective sides. Although he was impeccably groomed, I couldn't help noticing that the Duke was wearing a favourite pair of shoes, the high sheen just failing to conceal the dessicated and cracked leather. Many bowlers become similarly attached to their old bespoke boots, favouring renovation over the latest fad in sports footwear.

As well as the many sponsors, the event also attracted many spectators. Apart from enjoying the sunny weather and cloudy beer, their curiosity was perhaps whetted by the prospect of discovering what kind of protective gear a skirt-wearing batsperson might use. Apart from the obvious things like pads for thighs, there were, alas, no clues as to what, if anything, is used to protect the nether regions.

With the game under way, and despite his side being given an early run around by Helen Plimmer and Jo Chamberlain, Prince Edward - or 'Fast Eddy', as he was known when he played rugby for his Cambridge college - was full of good cheer. His ruddy, cherubic looks may recall the medieval knaves that people the market scenes of Breughel paintings, but his manner is casually regal and he was clearly relaxed among various stars of stage and screen who enabled his team to steal an unexpected last-minute victory.

In spite of a pitch whose surface was so loose and dusty - poor for cricket but convenient for scooping up handfuls of dust to keep the ball dry - the ladies batted and bowled with good humour. They are a well-drilled and talented side and as the game came to a head, each of them seemed to relish the pressure.

In particular the off-spinner Debbie Stock bowled with skill and cunning, while the seamers, led by Clare Taylor, blocked up the other end with unerring accuracy. These were not damsels in distress and they did not laugh off their defeat lightly. Who can blame them? When you get to play once in a blue moon, winning is that much more important.

Derek Pringle

(Photograph omitted)