Cricket: Jack the lad gives Werrington final fling: Semi-final day in the National Village Cup sees a fruitful journey to Botany Bay for a band of Cornishmen. Norman Harris reports

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THE FIRST miracle is that a ground two miles inside the M25, with Enfield a mile down the road, could seem so far removed from the world. It even has a mighty conker tree, its trunk newly whitewashed, in the path of a straight drive and, at the other end, a big elm at mid-off.

Botany Bay was so named, it is said, because of its isolation, and even now it is a foreign land for the 11 Cornishmen whose minibus brings them 220 miles from the hamlet of Werrington. They know nothing of the north Middlesex side but expect them to be good.

The visitors are led by Nigel Dennis, a builder, the home side by a sales and marketing man, 47- year-old John Jarvis. 'J J' is the sort of captain every team should have. In the preceding week he had phoned every player for an encouraging word, and the night before had brought them all together for dinner - and finished with his usual port.

Had he won the toss, Jarvis would have fielded first, and got his spinners on early. Losing it, he is in action as opening batsman, keeping the board ticking with resourceful placements and deflections.

The youngsters who open Werrington's bowling go wicketless. Then comes 'Bodmin' Moore. No doubt the young gamekeeper's rabbit-like hop, and the flapping shirt and bare midriff, make batsmen think they are going to cash in - only to be bowled by straight, full-length balls of no great pace.

Straight away the bails fly. 'Bod' punches the air, slaps hands; and among the Cornish supporters cries of 'Oggie Mar]' are directed at Marilyn, Bod's girlfriend.

A second wicket follows. By comparison, the veteran off-spinner 'Boy Roy' Cobbledick remains his inscrutable self when he wraps deft fingers around a skimming straight drive. The victim, young Jim Watt, is studying the Gothic novel at Cambridge. Out first ball, he retires to lie in the dressing-room with a towel over his head. Later he says: 'Everything I'd waited for so long was over so quickly.'

Botany Bay are revived by another old head: Colin Walker, a 45-year-old teacher and the hero of a quarter-final won on the last ball. But even when two sixes make the score leap past 200 in the last over the visitors seem content. They trust their attacking openers to set up victory once again.

Not this time, they don't. Their fall rattles those who follow. So, perhaps, do the rapid bowling changes, as 'J J' employs six bowlers in just 14 overs.

Botany Bay have plenty of support, and their football section is here too, bringing more than an echo Chelsea's Shed. Indeed, the bank at the southern end is almost awash with cans. Each wickets brings much dancing and chants of 'Bay Army'. The visitors have slid to 114 for 5. For Werrington folk, the euphoria after their quarter-

final, and excited talk of 'getting the polo shirts ordered', must now seem painfully premature. None of the top four batsmen remain. It would appear that we are down among the dead men. While people speak well of Steve Martin, no one seems to be depending on him.

A character with a Jack-the-lad appearance, two rings in his left ear, body tattooed with 'Mother', 'Tottenham Hotspur' and much else, Steve was once a squaddie in Ulster, then a nightclub bouncer. Critically, his batting character is that of a one-time slogger who has been persuaded to 'go straight'.

The sense of Martin's inner turmoil is almost palpable - as is the apprehension of his team-mates - as a string of dot balls are followed by a couple of half-shots that go in the air, and two lives. He certainly isn't playing like a bouncer.

His partner is Nick Shopland, a young chef whose appearances are irregular, but who starts well. At last, Martin sheds care with a real shot, as sweet as any in the game, off his toes to the midwicket boundary. This isn't the stroke of a bouncer, either.

Half an hour later the 150 rolls up, and the two are still together. Steve's drives have started to ripple, and a steady five an over keep going in the bag. The Bay Army have all but given up their amusing shouts of 'Oo-arrr'.

Later, Martin will describe how he was determined not to let down Roy Cobbledick, who is not only his brother-in-law but - having brought up Steve as an orphan of 13 - a virtual step-father. Roy is a man of few words, and even less emotion, but at tea he had again drummed into young Steve: 'Don't throw away your wicket, just play cricket.'

With victory 27 runs away, Shopland is lost. But Martin is racing; and the game is fast running beyond 'J J's' bowling changes. Dramatically, the conker and the elm come into play for the first time: drives which hit each of them, bringing a signal of four and a huge cheer, are the final hammer blows for the home side.

At the end, the Botany Bay players wearily climb their pavilion steps and stand at the balcony rail looking numbly on the emotional melee below. Several of the visitors admit to a bit of 'scritching'. Crying, that is. And Steve, who will not lose his beatific smile all evening, gets a quite unprecedented hug from Roy.

Now it is Lord's for the former bouncer, Lord's for the gamekeeper with the rabbit-like hop, Lord's for old 'Boy Roy' Cobbledick and all. It really is a miracle.

BOTANY BAY

* J Jarvis b Shopland 64

J Sherring b Moore 14

B Carnaby b Moore 2

D Wilkinson c Bailey b Cobbledick 12

C Walker b Johns 44

A Hammett b Johns 31

J Merrell not out 16

N Williams not out 0

Extras (b3 lb11 w5 nb3) 22

Total (for 7, 40 overs) 205

Fall: 1-52 2-53 3-64 4-96 5-125 6-173 7-196.

Did not bat: B Rose, D Duggan.

Bowling: Johns 9-0-52-2; Stanbury 5-1-20-0; Cobbledick 9-0-30-2; Moore 9-0-32-2; Shopland 6-0-42-1; Parish 2-0-15-0.

WERRINGTON

* N Dennis b Rose 19

L Bailey b Rose 0

C Walters st Hammett b Merrell 49

G Hutchings c Carnaby b Jarvis 20

S Martin not out 66

R Parish lbw b Jarvis 0

N Shopland c Jarvis b Wilkinson 20

G Stanbury not out 16

Extras (lb11 w7) 18

Total (for 6, 37.3 overs) 208

Fall: 1-11 2-26 3-71 4-113 5-114 6-179.

Did not bat: R Cobbledick, D Johns, K Moore.

Bowling: Rose 8-3-31-2; Carnaby 3-0-20-0; Williams 3-0-10-0; Duggan 2-0-12-0; Wilkinson

6.3-0-46-1; Jarvis 9-0-43-2; Merrell 6-0-35-1.

Result of other semi-final: Elvaston (Derbys) 193-9 beat Bardsey (West Yorks) 147-9. Final at Lord's, 28 August.

(Photograph omitted)

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