Cricket: Cobbledick's containment ensures contentment: Cornishmen celebrate as veteran spinner puts brake on Frocester's big-hitters. Norman Harris on the National Village Cup trail

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NATIONAL VILLAGE CUP SEMI-FINALS

Botany Bay (Herts) v Werrington (Cornwall)

Bardon Hill (Leics) or Elvaston (Derby) v Bardsey (West Yorks)

(Matches to be played 14 August)

SAID the Werrington scorer to the Frocester scorer: 'The new bowler is Cobbledick. And before you say anything, he's my husband.' 'People do,' she added, 'tend to say things.'

In fact, the Cornishman's name had gone before him: an off-spinner of close to 50 years who ties down batsmen with flight and accuracy. The flinty Cobbledick is evidently a legend in his own team. They call him 'Boy Roy'.

The scorebook shows that, against fellow Cornish clubs Tintagel, Boconnoc and Bradninch the spinner's nine overs had cost, respectively, 19, 23 and 24, with always at least one wicket. And in the Village Cup the previous Sunday, against Shipton-under- Wychwood in leafy Oxfordshire, Cobbledick's figures were a stunning 9-4-14-3.

That spell set up victory over an impressive club (against whom Frocester had been expecting a quarter-final challenge as tough as last year's) and the task was completed when Werrington's aggressive openers hammered a path towards 206 and a seven-wicket victory.

Now they backed themselves against anyone, and against any target. Only heavy rain, on another long mini-bus journey up the M5, could lower their spirits. At Frocester, the covers were just going on; a long delay would mean a 35-over match starting at 3.30. A coach had also brought some 50 spectators: the 'free-thinking Methodists' it was said, from a small community served by two chapels and a church, along with pub and post office.

In a team dominated by builders and farmers, the exceptions are the two schoolboys who open the bowling. They have won representative honours, but one of them now goes for 23 in two overs, hence the rapid introduction of Cobbledick.

The veteran quietens Frocester's Dave Whincup, who is playing gloriously. But the opener still uses his feet to pick off singles and twos. Admiring the footwork, a visiting supporter murmurs: 'He's just walking into him.'

Another compelling character is first-change at the other end. 'Bodmin' Moore is a gamekeeper with a rabbit-like hop and scissors kick at the start of his run, but for all that a renowned competitor who they say 'would die for Werrington out there'.

He must surely be disconcerted when, in his first over, Whincup lifts him for a straight six. Of his comical hop, a team-mate says: 'You should see his brother.'

To the gamekeeper's relief, Whincup holes out to Cobbledick and soon 'Bod', shirt flapping loose from his ample midriff, bowls Frocester's staunchest batsman, the captain John Evans.

'Yes Bod]' An explosion of shouting contains many other terms of endearment and approval. 'Pie man] Fat man] Ideal]'

He gets a second wicket, too, but in the last 10 overs the experience and penetrating strokes of Ian Smith, who saved his side at Usk, send Frocester surging to a formidable total.

Werrington's start is as good as Frocester's. Two builders - the captain Nigel Dennis, and Lester Bailey - do much more than lay the foundations. They keep attacking, as will those who follow.

Frocester finally regain control with a catch on the midwicket boundary and two more quick wickets. Seven overs hereabouts produce just 14 runs. With thunder clouds intensifying, it has got very dark. It seems certain the game will be cut short and decided by Werrington's run-rate at the 20- over mark. That clearly will not be enough. Frocester hurry to complete the 20.

When Dennis gets three fours in the 20th over it does not seem important. Perhaps Frocester have relaxed a fraction. The captain is also dropped at midwicket, by the man who pouched the earlier catch, though in truth the light is appalling.

Miraculously, the murkiest clouds pass to left and right, and the No 5 batsman begins to assert himself. The powerfully built Glyn Hutchins is the open-side flanker for Launceston, Cornish rugby's cup-holders. He is using a replacement for a bat that recently snapped in half. The new one proves to be a beauty.

After his captain has pulled Frocester's veteran off-spinner for six, Hutchins thumps the same bowler wide of extra cover for another, and the over yields 18. The off-spinner is not removed, and in his next over Hutchins plays the game's decisive shot. He goes on the charge and although the ball is bowled quicker it is the right length. It sails, gloriously straight, over the road and deep into an orchard. 'Shot, big guy]' shout the motley.

The end comes stunningly fast. It seems no time at all since a Cornish supporter was saying quietly: 'While these two are there I suppose we can still hope.' Now, he still seems bemused. 'You can't believe it. It had to rain.'

Bemused is not how you would describe the winning team, who have again beaten top opposition by seven wickets. From an animated huddle outside their dressing-room, something like a celtic chant rattles the air. With much repetition the words 'Boy Roy' become discernible, and a melody vaguely akin to the song 'Grandad'.

Shouts of 'Prop'r Job]' are also heard. These boys shout and laugh a lot, and they hit hard. They could go all the way to Lord's - which in the first place means another long journey, to Potters Bar in Hertfordshire and a club named Botany Bay.

FROCESTER

C Lamden c Bailey b Parish 49

D Whincup c Stanbury b Cobbledick 50

*J Evans b Moore 7

S Reed c Dennis b Moore 3

I Smith not out 65

I Collins not out 13

Extras (b3 lb4 w2 nb2) 11

Total (for 4, 35 overs) 198

Fall: 1-76 2-88 3-91 4-139.

Did not bat: S Little, M Camm, G Hudd, B Norbury, E Woodmason.

Bowling: Johns 8-1-45-0; Stanbury 4-0-40-0; Cobbledick 8-1-27-1; Moore 8-0-39-2; Parish 7-1- 40-1.

WERRINGTON

*N Dennis not out 85

C Bailey c Little b Norbury 35

C Walters b Camm 1

D Taylor run out 0

G Hutchins not out 67

Extras (b1 lb5 w8) 14

Total (for 3, 32.5 overs) 202

Fall: 1-63 2-70 3-70.

Did not bat: S Martin, R Parish, G Stanbury, D Johns, K Moore, R Cobbledick.

Bowling: Norbury 8-1-34-1; Woodmason 4-0-27- 0; Camm 6-1-22-1; Hudd 7-0-53-0; Little 4.5-0-36- 0; Smith 3-0-24-0.

(Photograph omitted)

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