From Stinchcombe to Lords / Village Cricket Final: Ruthless Elvaston bring back the Birch: Cornishmen given a pasting as Norman Harris concludes his trail from rural green to Lord's

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'SPEECH]' cried the Elvaston supporters after the presentations. But there was now nothing their smiling skipper needed to say. He had made his speeches. The 1994 Lord's final had shown that village cricket was alive and well, and so was the village cricket captain.

The Cornishmen from Werrington had elected to bat second because that is how they have recently succeeded. For Elvaston, being asked to bat first was exactly what they had wished to do, and from that moment their captain took charge.

Though Simon Thompson would be opening the innings, his customary 'few words' are expected, and he stands on a chair to exhort his players to do nothing more, and nothing less, than to enjoy their day.

Thompson and his fellow opener, Russell Bostock, would later admit to much nervousness as they walked out, an anxiety that is soon relieved by equally nervous bowlers. It was also nearly too much for the near-silent spectators.

The Werrington dressing-room - the 'home' dressing-room of England and Middlesex - is empty when an elderly Cornishman arrives to sit on the balcony for a few minutes. He fingers the tie he has just borrowed. 'This tie,' he says, 'and this jacket and this ticket are doing the rounds. I must savour these moments.'

The Cornish side's inexperienced seam bowlers are soon rested. No one can know that when they return at the end the the toll will be terrible. Now, in between, the well-tried containing bowlers do not let Werrington down.

The 49-year-old off-spinner, 'Boy Roy' Cobbledick (so named because he is as fit as a boy) does his nagging best. For the third match in succession he does not bowl a bad ball. But he does not get a wicket, either, and neither does the deceptive medium-pace of the gamekeeper with the rabbit-like hop, Keith 'Bodmin' Moore.

Though Elvaston's score at 30 overs is no more than a moderate 119, they have lost only three wickets. And 22-year-old Paul Birch, who has gone past 50, is ready to respond to his captain's call to 'push it]' He lifts a second and a third six to the short midwicket boundary. And then, at the fall of the fourth wicket, a thickset hitter, Sean 'Ruby' Murray, joins in with a vengeance.

Fifty-one runs come off the last three overs as sixes rain among jubilant Elvaston supporters. Murray makes 31 off 10 balls. Birch cover drives a six, then scampers the two that gives him his century - only the second in the history of these village finals.

Playing county under-21 cricket has not prepared him for this. His words, to a Derby Radio microphone, come in a rush: 'When you go to bed you never dream that anything like this is possible - this is the best day of my life . . . I'm a bit overcome . . . Unbelieveable. Amazing.'

Birch returns early from a lunch he can hardly eat, to pace around the dressing room where his captain - who has determined not to break a superstition by eating betwen innings - is preparing his final address.

There is clearly more to Thompson than a 32-year-old BT engineer with a generally sunny countenance. Teammates speak with reverence of the skipper's interest in war history, of his having visited Ypres and Passchendaele, of his listening for hours to the tales of an old US airman.

'Two minutes]' Thompson claps his hands while a teammate points a video camera at him. 'Right, obviously they're going to go for it hell for leather. We've got to concentrate on every ball. Bowlers - if you're in trouble bowl in the blockhole. Anyone who needs to, come and see me. We're 40 overs away from immortality.'

There is hardly a moment out there when things aren't going Elvaston's way. Three of the wickets fall to the captain's off-spin, each celebrated with piston-like punches at an imaginary midriff.

In the Cornishmen's dressing- room it is not long before each dismissal is greeted with a helpless silence. The runs that eventually come are essentially face-saving, including a mature unbeaten 40 by 17-year-old Geoff Stanbury.

At the very end Cobbledick brings a cheer as he smacks one through the covers and then drives the last ball to the mid-off boundary. In the Werrington dressing room the immediate pain has gone. It is time to joke. 'Roy and Bod both outscored me,' says an upper-order batsman. 'What a horrible day.'

(Werrington won toss)

ELVASTON

* S M Thompson c Dennis b Stanbury. . . . . . . . . . . . .17

R Bostock c Cobbledick b Johns. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

P E Birch not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .101

S Chester run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

R A Torry lbw b Parish. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

S R Murray b Stanbury. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31

S J Schofield not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Extras (lb7 w3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Total (for 5, 40 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .227

Fall: 1-30 2-51 3-97 4-176 5-217.

Did not bat: S Plant, M White, P J Dolman, P D Thomason.

Bowling: Johns 9-0-45-1; Parish 8-0-54-1; Moore 9-0- 40-0; Stanbury 5-0-47-2; Cobbledick 9-0-34-0.

WERRINGTON

* N J Dennis c Bostock b Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

L P Bailey b Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

C J Walters c and b Birch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

D A J Taylor b Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

G S Hutchings b Birch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

S S Martin lbw b Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

R J Parish b Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

G C Stanbury not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

D A Johns b Murray. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

K R Moore b Murray. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

C R Cobbledick not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Extras (b1 lb4 w4 nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Total (for 9, 40 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .172

Fall: 1-16 2-30 3-69 4-77 5-77 6-83 7-131 8-133 9-149.

Bowling: Murray 9-2-34-2; Thomason 6-1-28-2; Plant 4-0-20-0; Birch 9-1-36-2; Thompson 9-0-33-3; White 3-0-15-0.

Umpires: B Wilson and T H Duckett.

(Photograph omitted)

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