“The biggest day in their clubs’ history.” Lord’s, September 17. Champions Sessay, big hitters, against Reed, also past winners, with their deadly accurate bowling attack: it promises to be a fine contest.
That both clubs have been there before makes no difference, representatives of both insist. And why should it? Alastair Cook feels a tingle every time he plays there still, one assumes.
“It’s still the greatest day for the club,” says Tom Greaves, captain of Hertfordshire League side Reed, who beat Woodhouse Grange in the 2012 final. “It’s a great reward for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
“There’s a great buzz around the club, with every man and their dog asking about it. From a personal point of view having played at Lord’s in the final five years ago and knowing what a fantastic day it was has only made myself and the other guys that made it that year even more excited, and, of course, the guys who weren’t in the team in 2012 have the opportunity to play at HQ! So they are buzzing too…
“We are fortunate to have a pretty powerful batting line-up. Everyone from Nos. 1–10 can hit the ball out the park. In particular the Tidey brothers (Sean and Jack), Stuart Smith, Mitch Cooper and I have been known to hit a few when needed! Mixed in with the big hitting we have classy stroke-makers, with Rich Wharton, 18-year-old Rob Lankester and opening bat Will Heslam and his brother James. Then we come to the bowling, our opening pair of Toby Fynn and Jack Tidey have kept it tight up front during the cup run. The spin of myself and Sean Tidey keep it tight in the middle and Mitch and Karl Ward offer medium-pace bowling that is good enough to mop up the tail.”
Although Yorkshire side Sessay won last year’s final, beating Kent’s Sibton Park, they also insist the prospect of Lord’s is as exciting as ever.
Secretary Keith Houlston played in the 1976 final defeat, and says he still feels the buzz about the trip to the home of cricket. “I go to the Test each year, and absolutely love the place,” he said. “That we were there last year hasn’t changed anything. The team and some spectators are coming down on the Saturday morning. Then more will follow by coach and train Sunday – we will have at least 150 in total.”
Houlston will never forget the 1976 final. Cornish side Troon made only 113, but Sessay failed to overhaul that, falling 18 runs short. He is confident his club can win their third title (they also triumphed in 2010), but they must do it without Simon Mason (138 in last year’s final, the highest score in all 45), who took a year out from the competition, along with other key men, Matthew Till and Nick Harrison.
New heroes have emerged, under the ongoing captaincy of Mark Wilkie. Sessay had a scare in the first round, though. They were 115 for 8 chasing 160 at Staithes, in Whitby. “They are tough nuts to crack on their own ground,” said Houlston. “We had Ben Scaling and Stephen Langstaff at the crease, and only Stuart Pierse to come, who had split webbing from the day before, but Scaling, with 30-odd not, and Langstaff, saw us home.
“We also had a memorable trip to Falkland in Scotland. They put on pipers for us, and had even planned for paragliders to come down into the ground, but the weather sadly put a halt to that and the match. When they came back to ours the following Sunday they drank the place dry. A great fixture!”
Scaling is a young off-spinner, and Houlston also says look out for batsmen Mark Jackson and Jacob Spencer, and allrounder Joe Watson (who hit two centuries on the way to the final). Sessay need to savour the afternoon, though. They have won the York and District Senior League, Premier Division, so next year will be entering the ECB Premier League North. Elite-level clubs cannot enter the Village Cup, although they might enter their 2nd XI.
There is an exoticism and romance to this competition, with past finalists coming from far and wide across the British Isles, including Troon of Cornwall (1972, 1973 and 1976), Ynysygerwn (usual spelling) of Glamorgan (1979 runners-up) and Freuchie (1985 winners). Recently, Yorkshire’s Woodhouse Grange dominated with four wins.
A third win for Sessay and they will draw level with Troon and St Fagans. Sessay will take some stopping, but Reed all about it, they are up for the challenge.