Cricket: Frocester suffer from dearth in the afternoon: Rob Steen, at Lord's, sees combatants in the National Village final adhere to the script

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The Independent Online
'IF this don't end pretty soon,' Old Francis, the Tillingfold scorer, warned his Ravely counterpart at the climax of Hugh de Selincourt's The Cricket Match, 'I shall charge the cricket club with a new pair of trousies.' How Francis would have coped with yesterday's final, breathless act here one shudders to think.

Ever since the first National Village final was held here in 1972, this has been the day of the unlikely lads, exponents young and old whose skill is not up to professional scratch yet whose enthusiasm can be found bubbling over every weekend, all summer long, on the sepia- tinted fields throughout the land. In many ways the identity of the finalists is irrelevant. What matters here is the perpetuation of history.

The dramatis personae were their usual selves, interchangeable down the years. Kington, of Herefordshire, sent in two left-handed openers, Clive Scott, a draughtsman who once played in the same England under-15 side as Alan Wells, and Michael Porteous. If the name conjured up a hybrid of Shakespeare and Dumas, the muscular strokeplay owed more to Hemingway.

For their part, Frocester - from Gloucester - entrusted the new ball to Basil Norbury, a 40-something South African maths lecturer, and Eric Woodmason, who sadly turned out to be nothing more romantic than a Cheltenham detective.

Not the least remarkable aspect of all this was that, from an original entry of 648, the protagonists should have come from the same league. Kington, for whom S F Barnes took 8 for 37 on a guest appearance in 1936, lie second in the Three Counties League, Frocester 11th, though this disparity was far from evident when the latter began the 39th over requiring 13 runs with five wickets intact to complete the highest successful chase in a Lord's village final.

Mesmerised by Scott's gravity-defying leg-breaks, Mike Camm, however, was stumped by the dextrous Porteous off the first ball, and when Geoff Hudd, making his record 95th appearance in the competition, skied a catch off the last, 11 were still wanted.

Ian Smith flexed his shoulders to send the next ball soaring into the Mound Stand and so reach 50. A klaxon wailed in triumphant expectation but now it was the turn of Rob Johnston, son of the landlord of the Swan Hotel and 0 for 58 to that point, to tilt the balance.

First he defeated Smith's heave to pluck out middle stump. Woodmason snicked a single before being run out when summoned for a hasty leg-bye. With four to get off the last ball and the final pair together, Norbury was bowled aiming to deposit Johnston in the vicinity of Baker Street.

'There were no losers today,' Dennis Silk, the MCC president, exulted. De Selincourt could hardly have scripted it better.

(Photograph omitted)

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