In fact, Hursley Park's route to their 44-over altercation with South Yorkshire's finest included a decidedly unsentimental, not to say unneighbourly, win over Hambledon in the Hampshire preliminaries, the largest regional group. With the field reduced from its original 631 entrants, the 663rd match in this, the competition's 21st year, nevertheless retained a few vestiges of tradition.
Each of the protagonists contained their fair share of wobbly bellies and both included a pair of brothers, Methley celebrating their 125th anniversary with a nod to the past in the ample shape of Graham and Allan Boothroyd, the former a 51-year-old farmer and the team captain, the latter a 54- year-old tanker driver.
There were no ringers that we knew of, although gambits of this nature are not unknown. On one occasion, an outsider was found out by dint of the fact that he was referred to by one name in the scorebook, another on the field, and yet another in the bar.
'C'mon You Whites,' chanted the 20 or so Yorkshiremen in the Edrich Stand in mid-afternoon. Either they were hedging their bets or, since Methley is eight miles from Leeds, they had come hotfoot from Elland Road. There was certainly plenty for them to shout about when Frank Thow drove Boothroyd major to Boothroyd minor at mid-on with 42 needed in under five overs, no simple matter and given that Hursley Park had been struggling to exceed three an over. Boothroyd major eventually stepped up to deliver the final six balls, the target having been whittled down to 15, or 14 provided the southern cissies lost no more than one further wicket. Call for the blacksmith.
Instead, we got the insurance broker. Simon Arnold, who had been 12th man when Hursley Park lost the 1984 final, nudged a single, whereupon Clive Surry, enjoying a day off from pushing policies, opened his slim shoulders and drilled the ball on to the uppermost tier of the Tavern. Come the penultimate ball, with four wanted to tie, Surry picked out the Tavern once again.
This time Boothroyd minor, resplendent in a puce pink cap, steadied himself under the towering drive three yards inside the boundary. Methley hearts leapt - and so did the ball, from the captain's grasp as Boothroyd minor toppled back banging his head on the grass. Kevin Rich raced in behind him, only to push the rebound over the rope.
Now, barring a run-out off a no- ball, Hursley, where bat first confronted ball in 1785, were home. Surry, though, was not about to settle for anything less than a grandstand finish and duly stroked a four through mid-off. Ten minutes later, within seconds of the post-match ceremony, the heavens opened.
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