Newman proves a calming influence: Norman Harris follows driving ambition as he continues his journey in the National Village Cup

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The Independent Online
IN FRONT of the pavilion, a small boy sits on a bench looking out at the play. He wears a cap and he sits upright. Clearly, it is a photograph from a bygone age.

Other fading pictures reveal more of this age. Among many faces, those of Hammond, Constantine, and a young Graveney. A scorecard tells of Mr P G H Fender captaining Stinchcombe Stragglers CC against Sir Julian Cahn's XI. Black automobiles encircle the ground, giving it the look of some Bonnie and Clyde convention . . .

Now, a Range Rover which decants a Dumbleton family and their picnic lunch announces that the Gloucestershire semi-final will have what today passes for a crowd. No small boy will sit attentively: instead, he will brandish a short-tennis bat and wear a Texas Rangers cap. But the present echoes the past in its own way, as the village game keeps revealing a depth of cricketing experience. Remember the public-school fast bowler who had trials at Lord's and The Oval? And the 63-year- old spinner who was once a team- mate of Dickie Bird? Even our ceramic artist turned out to have played in the Sussex Seconds with Paul Parker. 'Give him a bat and he was like a boxer,' said the passionate artist, face and arms tightening at the memory of it.

And now we discover that a bearded nursery manager who is currently very busy with bedding plants - a call on his car phone stopping play in the last match - was wicketkeeper at Stroud before the arrival of a young Jack Russell in 1980 sent him in Stinchcombe's direction.

Martin Greaves loves to stand up to all but his quickest bowler - to the frustration of his team- mates when four byes are conceded; to their joy when a blur of glovework brings a leg-side stumping. There were two in the previous tie and there will be one today.

But not against the Dumbleton opener Dave Mutteen, whose instinct - befitting a man who once played with Warwickshire Seconds in the Birmingham League - is to keep his back foot grounded as the bails fly.

Partnering Mutteen, as Dumbleton's second-wicket pair race along at six an over, is the 18- year-old David Lawrence, captain of Cheltenham College. Off the field, he looks a very modern young man in his Oakley M- Frame sunglasses. But addressing the bowler, classically side-on with his chin pressed into his left shoulder, he brings to mind a youthful P B H May.

Lawrence has 49 from 30 balls when a medium-pacer bowls him consecutive wides, followed by something short and outside off stump which he cracks at cover - but at ankle-height, and the catch sticks. The shout of his team-mates is explosive, and through the shout the word 'superb]' can just be made out. They race to the catcher.

Dumbleton, 114 for 3 at half-way, are pinned back at the return of Kitchen, the opening bowler. Still, their 196 looks good. No doubt it will all depend on Billy Dawe who, in spite of his 176 runs in three cup innings (twice not out) is almost unknown to Dumbleton. Ominously, the Gloucester greengrocer plays his trademark stroke - a backfoot cover drive - to take four from the opening delivery. It releases quite a cheer from fearful team-mates.

Dawe continues to play his strokes along the ground, other than when he steps back to his stumps and, with a full revolution of arms, pulls to midwicket. Les Roberts, 44, a stand-in from the seconds, contributes deft deflections and spirited running to a first-wicket stand of 121.

Still, anxieties remain until young Newman, at No 4 and now rediscovering his strokes, drives a six that almost pins long-off against the sightscreen. As fears subside, the Stinchcombe huddle become as much agitated by thoughts of the area final, for the news from Radio Gloucester is that Frocester are thrashing Bredon. 'Damn and blast,' murmurs a padded tail-ender.

Near-neighbours Frocester have built a mighty reputation on their appearance in the last Lord's final. But captain Dawe, having survived today with a limited attack, has some cause for hope. At the start of the day, he was much vexed that a young bowler - who in a recent league match stopped Usk in their tracks with 8 for 30 - was yet again unavailable on a Sunday. 'Football-mad,' Dawe said. Now he believes he can count on the young man. And Dave Howe, opening bowler as well as opening bat, is back from holiday in Ibiza.

DUMBLETON

D Mutteen c Mann b Holroyd 36

C Sharp b Kitchen 16

D Lawrence c Eustace b Holroyd 49

P Boorman st Greaves b Eustace 0

J Buckley lbw b Kitchen 31

S Smith b Kitchen 16

A Powell run out 16

D Smith b Kitchen 0

A Percy not out 4

A Edge not out 1

Extras (b9 lb6 w12) 27

Total (for 8, 40 overs) 196

Fall: 1-41 2-109 3-114 4-144 5-162 6-175 7-175 8-195.

Bowling: Kitchen 9-2-25-4; Salter 9-0-34-0; Mann 4-0-28-0; Terrett 3-0-22-0; Eustace 8-1-37-1; Holroyd 7-0-27-2.

STINCHCOMBE STRAGGLERS

W Dawe b Smith 84

L Roberts c and b Smith 32

P Kitchen b Smith 12

G Newman not out 27

J Pullen run out 9

R Mann c Boorman b Edge 7

N Salter not out 5

Extras (b6 lb9 nb2 w5) 22

Total (for 5, 38.3 overs) 198

Fall: 1-121 2-143 3-156 4-175 5-192.

Bowling: Edge 8.3-0-46-1; Percy 6-1-33-0; Smith 9-1-31-3; Boorman 5-1-27-0; Rushin 4-0-18-0; Lawrence 6-0-27-0.

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