On Sunday 16 September, The Cricketer National Village Cup Final 2018 takes place at Lord’s between Folkton & Flixton Cricket Club and Liphook & Ripsley Cricket Club.
Here, The Cricketer takes a closer look at Yorkshire based Folkton & Flixton.

Flixton, like Liphook, have played the maximum eight games to get to this stage, compared to the five which some teams could potentially sneak in with. Flixton have chased in every match, surely something they would like to do again if given the chance. But will their minds change when presented with a belter of a pitch at Lord’s – one of the last to be curated by Mick Hunt, groundsman at The Home of Cricket for 49 years who is retiring at the end of the season.

It has been Flixton’s ability to peg back their opposition which has helped them prosper. Only twice have they conceded a score greater than 200, the highest being the one-wicket win against Broadbottom where they were asked to chase 267 to win.

The road to Lord’s
Yorkshire clubs are becoming a bit of a fixture at Lord’s. Folkton & Flixton started this season knowing that a Yorkshire side had been in every Village Cup final since 2014. Their path had been cleared somewhat by the promotions of previous winners Woodhouse Grange and Sessay into Yorkshire Premier Leagues, meaning their 1st XIs could not compete in the competition.

Flixton easily dispatched with Staithes by 10 wickets in their opening tie. In the second round, the Yorkshire club were defeated by Moorsholm after being dismissed for just 125. This was not to be the end of their stay in the competition however as a committee decision after the match awarded Flixton the tie when Moorsholm were deemed to have fielded ineligible players. Reprieved, Flixton marched on with victory in the third round sending them through to the regional final.

It was a big one for Flixton: they were facing Sessay. Flixton won comfortably, chasing down 165 in the 30th over for the loss of just three wickets. The national rounds started off in similarly peaceful fashion. Set 150, Flixton completed the chase with seven wickets to spare.

The first test for either finalist in the national rounds came when Flixton hosted Cheshire & Clwyd’s Broadbottom. The away side batted first and set an imposing 266 for 9 from their 40 overs. It took them all but three of their allotted deliveries but Flixton chased it, nine down to secure a place in the last 16. Next up, Flixton travelled to Scotland to be hosted by Falkland. They chased down 188 with seven wickets down, ending Falkland’s hope of a first Scottish finalist since Freuchie won the competition in 1985.

In the semi-finals, Flixton travelled down to Fillongley near Coventry on a baking-hot day. They fielded brilliantly and restricted the home side to 206 for 8. The Fillongley bowling was wayward and Flixton secured their place in the Lord’s final in the 30th over after a partnership of nearly 150 between Richard Malthouse and Tom Norman.

Line-up
Richard Malthouse
Elegant left-handed batsman, hard-working seam bowler
Stu Stocks
Fearsome fast bowler, hard-hitting batsman
Tom Norman
Right-handed top-order batsman, right-arm off-spin bowler
Will Hutchinson
Classical top-order batsman
Will Norman (c)
Right-handed middle-order batsman
Matthew Nesfield
Aggressive right-handed middle-order batsman
Harry Walmsley
Right-arm spin bowler, aggressive middle-order batsman
Jake Hatton
Stylish left-handed batsman, right-arm seamer
Connor Stephenson
Right-arm opening bowler, stylish left-handed batsman
Jamie Nesfield
Right-arm opening bowler, destructive lower-order batsman
Marley Ward (wk)
Wicketkeeper and nuggety batsman

Ones to watch
Will Norman
Captain and number five batsman Will Norman has had a sensational year with the bat for the Yorkshire side. In his second season in the team, Norman has hit 316 runs at an average of 79 in the National Village Cup with four not outs.
Norman’s solidity and grace has bolstered his side’s totals on several occasions with his best innings of 66 coming against Broadbottom. Norman’s captaincy has also been inspired and he will be a big factor in deciding Flixton’s fate during the final.

Richard Malthouse
Opening batsman Malthouse has also been his side’s best bowler with his seam deliveries taking 15 wickets at 16.33 with his best figures of 5-15 coming against Moorsholm.
Malthouse is his side’s second top scorer in the cup, too, with 255 runs at an average of 31, making him a threat with both bat and ball and a key man that Liphook will need to look out for in the final.

What the camp is saying
Captain Will Norman has said ahead of the game: “We can’t wait. We want to get there as soon as possible and take all our fans with us.
“Some of our supporters are famously called Benidorm corner. They’re really passionate and they’ll be there.”
On their route to the final, Norman said: “The key has been that whenever we’ve needed somebody to stand up, somebody has. Everyone is capable of winning a game on any given day.”
Can they win the big one? Norman said: “Hopefully we can do as well as what other Yorkshire teams have done in the past. If we play to our capability we’ll stand a really good chance and that’s all I hope for, that we play to our ability.”

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Liphook have been a team united and performing well providing contributions across the board with a scan down the top-10 run-scorer and wicket-taker lists finding several Liphook players among them. Four batsmen average over 40 for Liphook with a stellar cast providing plenty of runs.

On the bowling front Sean Burton has 12 wickets, including a late burst in the semi-final victory over Mayfield while Dave Elliott has picked up 11 wickets at 15.64. These performances have been supplemented by the all-round contribution of Suman Ganguly who has scored 179 runs at 44.75 and taken 10 wickets at an average of 10.50 in four matches.

The road to Lord’s
Liphook & Ripsley have followed up their strong opening year in the competition where they were knocked out in round five to Rockhampton.

In 2018, Liphook had a stiff task in the opening round of the Hampshire region. Playing Sparsholt, who they beat in the 2017 regional final, Liphook contested a tight match, prevailing by a mere seven runs after bowling out the chasing Sparsholt for 179 in 38 overs.

The second round proved much easier for Liphook while victory in round 3 sent the club through to the regional finals. Liphook chased 167 in just the 26th over, anchored by a century from Ryan Covey, who was quickly establishing himself as a force with both bat and ball, to advance.

The national rounds started off in similarly peaceful fashion. Liphook were too strong for Berkshire’s Cookham Dean as 110 was chased down inside 20 overs. Liphook then faced a big run chase of 244 in the quarter-finals in Somerset against North Perrott. Solid contributions from the top order meant this was achieved after 38 overs despite a rare failure for Covey. George Neave’s 70 not out proved the difference between the sides.

Semi-finals time and Liphook faced a stern test at Mayfield of Sussex who had in their side James Allen, the competition’s leading wicket-taker. Liphook batted first and scored a competitive 218. This proved to be too much for a Mayfield side who kept losing wickets, eventually falling for 125. In just their second Village Cup, Liphook & Ripsley were off to Lord’s.

Line-up
Ryan Covey
Top-order batsman, accurate seam bowler
Rob Nicklin
Top-order batsman, off-spin bowler
Harry Munt
Batsman, off-spin bowler
Suman Ganguly
Opening bowler, batsman
George Neave
Fast bowler, batsman
Grant Rouse (wk)
Wicketkeeper batsman
Richard Williams
Experienced batsman
Jonny Pryce
Batsman, brilliant fielder
Sean Burton
Accurate swing bowler, lower-order batsman
Charles Janczur (c)
Controlled bowler
Dave Elliot
Left-arm spinner

Ones to watch
Ryan Covey
Covey, who was on Hampshire’s books in his early days, has been his side’s outstanding player in the National Village Cup with a stack of runs and host of wickets to his name.
The top-order batsman has excelled with 422 runs at an average of 60, including scoring a superb 104 not out against Easton & Martyr Worthy CC. Covey has also scored four fifties in the competition this season, serving as Liphook’s most consistent performer and the man that Folkton need to look out for most.

It leaves him in a situation coming into the match where a strong all-round performance could see him as the competition’s leading run-scorer and wicket-taker. For strong all-round performance, read a 79 and six-wicket haul. Now there’s a carrot…
Covey has also taken 12 wickets at a remarkable average of 13.67 highlighting that he will be a threat in both innings and the man that Liphook look to to make the difference.

Harry Munt
Number three batsman Harry Munt has scored 266 runs at an average of 53.20 as well as picking up a useful five wickets.
Munt, a former 1st XI captain, is a very tactically astute cricketer and he has been a dangerous batsman for Liphook in a sensational season on a personal level. Munt’s runs will be pivotal for Liphook if they are to win their first National Village Cup at only the second attempt.

What the camp is saying
Captain Charles Janczur has said ahead of the game: “We’re incredibly excited. I don’t think at the start of the season that any of us thought that we’d be playing at Lord’s at the end of the season. Everyone is counting down the days.
“It’s been a topsy turvy season, but we’ve been saving our best performances for the Village Cup which is frustrating and exciting.”
Janczur added: “We have great batting depth, we keep coming. Everyone has stepped up at an individual time in the top seven. This means come the final we know that even if our top three fail we can rebuild.
Speaking about the final Janczur said: “Hopefully it’ll be a close game. I think we’ve got a really good chance. I think teams have underestimated, they have all expected to beat us. We’ve steamrollered all of the opposition. Ironically, our first match was the closest we’ve had.”