Frampton on Severn make use of a tiny corner of England's longest village green. A hit to the road which runs parallel to the pitch, and only about 25 yards away, is worth just two or four rather than four or six.
Captain Bob Murray discovered it 12 years ago. His previous team having folded, he was about to join the Bird's Eye Walls XI when he journeyed down from Gloucester to watch the giants of frozen food play at Frampton.
Bob was hooked, and now enthusiastically quotes Frampton lore and legend: the blue squiggle on the club's insignia, which is the elbow of the Severn where it loops around Frampton, a swan that represents one of the pair that inhabit the elbow, Fair Rosamunde, the serving maid whose ghost inhabits the Bower House. . Stinchcombe have a bit of history, too. Actually, their full name is Stinchcombe Stragglers, the droll appendix betokening an age when a gentleman with means would develop a ground and then invite his friends to play on it. It is not without significance that the colours of old gold and navy blue on the frayed cloth attached to the boundary pegs are also the colours of the nearby Berkeley Hunt.
Stung by mutterings that few of their side were residents of the village (a requirement which would fail most sides) Stinchcombe's entry in the The Cricketer's cup competition of 1977 was to be their last for many years. On their return they have twice suffered first-round defeats - last year to their mighty neighbours, Frocester, who went on to contest the Lord's final.
Now, Stinchcombe have a better draw. And in captain Billy Dawe, the Gloucester greengrocer, they have a feared opening bat. 'He's a good act,' Bob Murray had said. 'I hope I've got the right bowler to get him - if only he's bowling at the right time.'
Murray started well by winning the toss. But on a pitch soft from the overnight rain he elected to bat first. He had done the other thing the previous day, he explained, and it backfired.
An opener named Vick having gone down with flu, 57-year-old Ken Gleed was drafted in to accompany young John Dobbins, whose physique and pugnacious demeanour suggested a village football full- back rather than opening bat.
The odd pairing did not work. Young Dobbins hoisted a stylish front-foot stroke to midwicket but then ambitiously tried another and skied a catch behind the bowler. He returned in agitated mood. Though only three overs had been bowled, and the total 6, he complained that pressure had been put on him by his partner once again 'hitting everything back straight'.
Other batsmen, too, played strokes that seemed influenced by the ultra-short boundaries on their home ground. Captain Bob hit consecutive sixes with long, golf- like strokes, then ran himself out. On the bench, young Dobbins muttered: 'I wish I could bat again.'
Frampton never broke the grip applied at the outset by David Howe, whose measured medium pace is a classic of its kind. Albeit on a village ground, his high and rhythmic action brought to mind such as Glamorgan's Barwick, or Somerset's Cartwright. Off nine overs, Howe conceded nine runs, seven of them singles.
The application of Gleed, out in the penultimate over for 33, was exactly what Frampton needed, though they might not recognise it. Their 107 looks inadequate, especially with the wicket now reasonably dry.
To pull off an unlikely win, the bowler who can get Billy Dawe's wicket will have to be found quickly. Perhaps there is hope in the burden of expectation on the burly opener, who is photographed intensively as he prepares to go out. The kiss of death? Or water off a duck's back?
In the first over, from a young bowler quicker than any of Stinchcombe's, an unhurried cover drive from Dawe speeds to the boundary. It is the best stroke of the game, and he plays many more with a calm authority that surely depresses the fielding side. He and Howe - whose batting is almost as good as his bowling - cruise along at five an over. With almost half of the 40 overs remaining, Dawe finishes it with an easy, professional- looking glide to leg for a single.
Stinchcombe have lost only one wicket in two matches, and the greengrocer has made 100 and 62 without being dismissed. 'Getting boring, Billy,' calls a young team- mate amid the clapping. Billy's response is a long, dry smile.
FRAMPTON ON SEVERN
J Dobbins c Dawe b Kitchen 4
K Gleed c and b Kitchen 33
J Hudd c Eustace b Howe 14
P Franklin c Newman b Mann 9
R Murray run out 22
G Walden c Eustace b Kitchen 0
M Peacey c Greaves b Mann 4
D Halsey st Greaves b Kitchen 0
M Raines c Dawe b Mann 0
P Jones not out 3
J Clements c Dawe b Meakins 3
Extras (b6 lb4 w5) 15
Total (39.3 overs) 107
Fall: 1-6 2-32 3-42 4-83 5-83 6-87 7-88 8-95 9-104.
Bowling: Kitchen 9-4-10-4; Howe 9-3-9-1; Eustace 9-0-30-0; Mann 9-3-32-3; Meakins 3.3-0-16-1.
W Dawe not out 62
D Howe not out 44
Extras (lb1 w1) 2
Total (for no wicket, 21.1 overs) 108
Bowling: Halsey 4-0-23-0; Raines 4-0-18-0; Franklin 6-0-24-0; Clements 4-0-17-0; Jones 2.1-0-16-0; Hudd 1-0-9-0.Reuse content