CRICKET: Village prayer fails to deliver

Methey 238-3; Apperley 177 Methley win by 61 runs
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Methey 238-3; Apperley 177 Methley win by 61 runs

THEY EVACUATED a village to watch their heroes; seven coach loads, which accounted for a sizeable proportion of the population of 600, set off for the capital. The police were so worried about the potential for housebreaking that they assigned extra officers to patrol the Gloucestershire village - even the Vicar of Apperley, the Rev David Bowers, could not get out of the pulpit quickly enough and into his car for the historic trek to Lord's.

He had watched all their matches in the National Village Cricket Championship and was something of a talisman for them. Unfortunately, an efficient Methley side proved devilish difficult to stop in their tracks and the result was a comprehensive victory.

The opening pair of Alec Gilston and Steve Rowse got Methley, the champions and leaders of the Central Yorkshire League, off to the best possible start with a stand of 152 - a record for the final. Apperley had no answer to the proficient, professional almost, approach of the North Countrymen, who lost in the 1992 final.

At least it was not a one-sided affair and carpenter Hugh Leeke cannot have regretted being flown in from Kazakhstan, where he has been working on the construction of an airport. They gave a good account of themselves and did not leave Lord's in disgrace.

Gilston, who hit the only six of the match, and Rowse batted beautifully, pacing their innings perfectly. Gilston's 62 came off 75 balls, Rowse went on to reach 94 from 113 deliveries with 10 boundaries, and a place in the record books with the third highest individual score in a final. It has to be said that the odd dropped catch and occasional misfield did not help the Apperley cause.

When it came to their turn to bat, the early departures of Leeke and James Macpherson saw any realistic hopes disappearing as well. Methley seamer Lee Mills' decision to give up the captaincy midway through the season in order to concentrate on his bowling, paid off as he finished with four for 34.

It was a shame that Methley's all-rounder Paul Rickers had to miss the event. He would have played but for the fact that he is also a professional footballer with Oldham and they were hauled in for extra training after losing 2-0 at Stoke. His brother John probably celebrated for the two of them.