Tingley feeling as Kent newcomers defeat 2016 finalists Sibton Park

The word Borstal will conjure grisly images for our older readers, but the cricket club with that name has taken The Cricketer Village Cup by storm this summer.

Their maiden campaign began with victory over Castle Hill in the historically strong Kent region, and then they defeated 2016 finalists Sibton Park in the second round.

A borstal was a type of youth detention centre that was abolished in 1982. Borstal Cricket Club enjoy a lovely setting, however, at Brambletrees, their home since 1882, down by the River Medway just outside the Dickensian city of Rochester.

They were nervous going into the Sibton Park tie. The visitors’ history in the competition and the Kent League probably had them as slight favourites – despite being a couple of players short.

Borstal had managed to finish their Saturday league fixture against Dartford despite heavy rain across the county throughout the day. More water coming down overnight put the encounter in doubt, but some stellar work from the grounds team of Dave Tingley, Chris Davies and Steve Burns – as well as some helping hands to shift the water-logged covers – meant a playable pitch was produced, although one which was a little kinder to the bowlers.

With the sun poking through, Sibton Park won the toss and batted. Borstal’s opening bowlers, 16-year-old Billy Tutt and 17-year-old Max Bullock, bowled with good pace, but the experience of the Sibton Park opening pair told. Anything short of a length for the first 10 overs was put away. Steve Hickmott, in particular, timed the ball well off both the front and back foot as he and Henry Roberts put on 71 for the first wicket.

The introduction of first-change bowlers Josh Wassef and Luke Butcher brought a change of fortune for the bowling side. Wassef varied his pace well, with Hickmott putting a well-disguised slower ball straight up in the air to be well held at midwicket. With Roberts run out after a horrible mix-up soon after, Sibton Park set about rebuilding after their fine start.

Ben Allon and Joshua White looked in control, as they took the score up to 122 and looked set to press on after the drinks break. In an effort to mix it up, Borstal turned to their spin options. The club’s leading wicket-taker, Alex Porter, offered control and turn from one end, and offie Tom Gibbs zipped down some flat darts from the other. These two created a bit of pressure as they rushed through the overs and the need to accelerate lead to the departure of Allon, who was unfortunate to play on to his stumps from Gibbs, while trying to pull out of a reverse sweep.

With Gibbs trapping Harry Wren lbw not long after, slow left-armer Porter then dragged White out of the crease with a lovely, flighted delivery, turning it past the edge to have him stumped by Francis O’Neill. The loss of both set batsmen proved to be too much for the Sibton Park lower order. Wickets fell at regular intervals, as they added just 17 for the last five wickets to finish on 149. Gibbs finished with 5 for 26.

Colts graduates James Whitnell and David Round opened up for Borstal, as they have done for the last two years. The Sibton Park openers were immediately into their stride, and it was evident runs would be hard to come by. Trevor Lewis was unerringly accurate with his skiddy left-arm over – accounting for both Whitnell and Round in his eight-over spell. Wren from the Pavilion End offered an extra yard or two of pace to complement Lewis’ accuracy. The fall of Whitnell – a mis-hit pull well held at midwicket – brought the arrival of skipper Danny Tingley to the crease. He has scored more than 7,000 runs for the club at an average of 57 and has been crucial to the club’s progress up the Kent League over recent seasons.

Joined by Gibbs, they scratched around to take the score to 64, before a bizarre over led to the partnership being broken. Opening bat Roberts, bowling medium pace, started the over off with seven consecutive wides, all fired down the legside to the left-handed Gibbs. Under the insistence of the skipper he then switched to off-spin only to bowl a full-toss which was given as a no-ball. The first regular delivery of the over was a dragged-down long-hop that Gibbs duly slapped to the astonished mid-on who easily held the catch. With Roberts sitting on figures of 0.1 -0-8-1, Tingley was joined by Andy Routledge, who lasted three balls before going after Roberts and hitting one straight up in the air and making it two wickets in the 13-ball over.

With Borstal four down, and still needing 80 to win, a lot rested on the shoulders of Tingley and Butcher at No.6. With Allon backing up his confident batting, with some tidy, swinging deliveries, runs were proving hard to come by for the fifth wicket and the required rate crept up to more than five an over.

With Sibton Park having to shuffle their bowlers around, there was always going to be an opportunity to up the scoring, and with 12 overs remaining and Borstal requiring 58 to win, both batsmen made a noticeable decision to put some pressure on the fielders. Despite some excellent groundfielding from Sibton Park, the large playing area at Borstal became more difficult to defend with only nine men. With ones being turned into twos and Tingley and Butcher dropping and running the quick singles well, the rate gradually started to move down.

Despite a few late scares, Borstal knocked the runs off in the penultimate over, Tingley finishing on 76 not out, dreaming of a potential HS1 train ride into the capital for the Lord’s final on September 16.

Captain Tingley reflected on the work Borstal have done over the last few years. “We have put a lot of effort into sorting out the junior section over the last decade or so,” he said. “It has really started to pay off. Last weekend we had 27 players playing across three senior teams, and 19 of them had come through the colts section at the club.”
With participation a key driver for the ECB over recent years, it is good to see that kind of investment paying off.

Elsewhere in the competition there was a win for Worlington against Bentley in the Essex and Suffolk group, thanks to a club-record stand of 308 between opening pair Jimmy Watson (189) and Graham Ford (111). The latter won the performance of the round award, as chosen by Village Cup sponsor Gunn & Moore.

Last year’s semi-finalists Bledlow ensured themselves a spot in the Village Cup annals with a 299-run victory over Mursley in Buckinghamshire. Bledlow posted 413 for 4. Four batsmen passed fifty, with Matt Bolton finishing on 130 not out. Mursley mustered 114 in reply.

In Worcestershire, Matt McCann and Paul Thomas were the first to celebrate three figures while batting for Cookley on their home ground. The pair scored 119 and 109 not out respectively on the way to helping their side post a daunting 270 for 7. Their efforts were all in vain by the end of Hagley’s innings, however, with Michael Stead and Paul Morgan throwing the counter-punches on their way to scores of 112 and 106.