Lashings of Fun in the Sun for Taunton CC!
by Taunton CC Chairman and wicket-keeper Jon Kerslake
Taunton Cricket Club brought down the curtain on a memorable season last Sunday, when they welcomed the famous Lashings World XI to Gipsy Lane.
Under a clear blue sky and glorious late summer sunshine, a crowd of around 500 had gathered to watch the local ‘likely lads’ take on a star-studded Lashings line-up, full of former internationals drawn from around the globe. Those watching were also treated to a running commentary over the PA system from the ‘National Treasure’ that is Henry Blofeld
The visitors were captained by Phil DeFreitas, who won the Ashes ‘Down Under’ back in 1986, and numbered one or two legends of the game amongst their ranks, none more so than the great Gordon Greenidge, who was part of the all-conquering West Indies side of the 1980s.
Meanwhile, the home side’s groundsman, Rob Hake, had just discovered that he’d achieved the highest average pitch marks this year, throughout the entire West of England Premier League pyramid. So it was no surprise when DeFreitas opted to make first use of another absolute belter of a batting track.
Australia’s Ian Harvey opened up with India’s Wasim Jaffer, to face two 20 year-olds with the new ball, in the form of Harry Popplewell and George Cook, both of whom had played significant roles in Taunton’s recent march to the Bristol & Somerset League title.
For once, Cook struggled to find a consistent line and length, but Popplewell settled quickly, impressing Harvey with his pace and the bounce he extracted from a good length. Harvey, himself, had enjoyed batting on the same ground earlier in the year, when he’d racked up 130 in a league game for Bedminster CC, albeit in a losing cause.
It didn’t take long for both openers to display a rich array of attacking shots all around the ground, with Jaffer, in particular, seemingly possessing a ridiculous amount of time to play every ball, as befits a player with three Test Match double tons to his name.
Nevertheless, the introduction of off-spinner, Chris Greenwood, into the attack led to the dismissal of both batsmen in quick succession. Harvey (24) was first to go when he picked-out Popplewell at long-off, followed soon afterwards by Jaffer, who was beaten outside his off-stump and smartly stumped by ‘keeper (and Club Chairman), Jon Kerslake, for 26.
Thus, after 10 overs and with the score on 65 for 2, it was fair to say that the host’s had more than held their own against the legends. That, however, was pretty much as good as it got for the Gipsy Laners! As what followed was a breath-taking assault by the returning Somerset hero, Ian Blackwell, and current Glamorgan pro, Murray Goodwin.
The pair put on 176 for the third wicket in a little more than 12 overs, thrilling the massed banks of spectators, and leaving Taunton’s bowlers and fielders as little more than innocent bystanders. Goodwin’s quick hands, steely wrists and ability to manoeuvre the ball were something to behold, as he moved to 86 (12 x 4s & 2 x 6s) from 50 balls, while Blackwell’s bludgeoning blade saw him race to 95 (10 x 4s & 6 x 6s) from just 42 balls.
The blitzkrieg was finally ended when Hake took a brilliant diving catch at deep mid-wicket to see the back of his mate, Blackwell, off the bowling of Popplewell, who also accounted for Goodwin and Azhar Mahmood, to finish with the highly creditable figures of 3 for 30 from his 5 overs, and, ultimately, the ‘Man of the Match’ award, to boot.
A final total of 276 for 5 from 25 overs was an imposing one, indeed! The one down side of the Lashings’ innings (and the day, itself) being a nasty injury sustained in the outfield by Taunton’s George Webber. With his left leg going one way and the rest of his body going another, the popular Webber was carted-off to hospital in an ambulance with what turned out to be a bad break in that left leg; with everyone associated with the game wishing him a speedy recovery.
In response, Taunton had their own prolific opening pair of Tom Abell and Chris Davenport to call upon. Somerset starlet, Abell, and Aussie, Davenport, have batted magnificently in tandem all season, amassing over 1400 league runs between them. A feat that saw Davenport awarded with the Club’s Harry Burden ‘Young Player of the Year’ trophy during the interval.
Faced with an all-Pakistan new ball attack of Mahmood and Yasir Arafat, and with the likes of Devon Malcolm, Corey Collymore and Alex Tudor waiting in the wings, the two youngsters certainly didn’t disappoint, as they compiled yet another fifty partnership for the first wicket, with some delightful cover drives and mid-wicket flicks.
As was the case earlier in the day, it was the introduction of spin that saw the downfall of both openers. Mind, this was not just any old spinner. It was none other than the magician that is Saqlain Mushtaq – 208 Test Match wickets and inventor of the ‘doosra’!
Both Abell (33) and Davenport (30) chipped catches to Harvey and Mahmood respectively, but had the game been reduced to a 10 0vers-per-side affair, Taunton, on 66 for 2 at that sage, would have triumphed!
However, with the sun still beating down, and the ice-cream van doing a roaring trade, that was never going to be the case. And so it was left to a typically belligerent knock from Jack Cooper to keep the crowd entertained. The home side’s skipper smashed 47, including 4 x 4s and 2 x 6s, from just 33 balls, before he was stumped by Greenidge off Goodwin’s very useful leg-spin.
There was also a great moment for 14-year-old left-hander, Charles Clist, a member of Somerset’s ‘Emerging Player Programme,’ who batted at four, and was therefore able to rub shoulders with these elite international cricketers, giving him a taste of what might lie ahead if he continues his impressive development.
Thereafter, the remainder of the Taunton batting line-up played bright and breezy cameos, enabling left-arm spinner and Club stalwart, Ben Orr, to enjoy a rare outing to the middle with bat in hand, to see out the final few balls, with his side closing on 157 for 9.
As a consequence, Lashings ended their season unbeaten with 34 wins out of 34 (although with their opponents on the day cheekily trying to claim a ‘losing draw’ by virtue of still having one wicket intact!). In truth, the result was never in doubt from the outset, but for Taunton CC the day was about much more than just the cricket, and Chairman Kerslake was in buoyant mood shortly afterwards:
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic day for the Club, and testimony to what can be achieved when everyone pulls together. I can’t speak highly enough of the incredible work of Jack Cooper and Hugh Kelly in driving the ‘Lashings Project’ from the germ of an idea back in March, to the event we’ve been able to host this afternoon. And so many other people came forward to help us out on the day.
“I really would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of those helpers and everyone else who came down to watch and support. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves and has gone home happy, knowing they’ve seem some legends of the game. Lashings weren’t bad, either!
“I must also add that our thoughts are with George Webber, who we now know has broken his leg. It was a horrible moment, and we’re very grateful to the medics who were on the ground and got to George so quickly. Webbsy is a top lad and everyone at the Club will be hoping that he’s back on his feet as quickly as possible.”
Looking ahead, Kerslake is optimistic of what he sees:
“I believe the Club, as a whole, is on an upward curve. One of our U11 teams were unbeaten in winning their league, our U13s got to the County Cup Final, and most of our U15 squad are playing regular senior cricket for us on a Saturday. So the future seems bright in that regard. In addition, our West Somerset League side gained promotion, and our team in the Somerset League finished third, and may also go up, depending on one or two things.
“Of course, every Club’s ‘flag ship’ is its First Eleven, so for our First Team to have won the league and gained promotion to (WEPL) Prem 2 is the best possible news for us all. Again, Jack (Cooper) has led from the front superbly, but there’s a collective desire amongst the lads to want to improve as a team, which can only stand us in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead.
“I’m not going to make any rash predictions about next season just yet, though. Come back to me in a year’s time and tell you how well we did in 2015!”
With that, Kerslake was off to take in the last few rays of the setting sun, and to dream of more days like this day, on what was a fitting end to a fine summer for Taunton CC.