The semi-finals of the Cricketer Village Cup. One could argue that up to this point, this is the biggest day for any club who has not scaled the heights of the 46-year-old competition. The two fixtures were pitting the two best teams from the north and the south against one another. Mayfield of Sussex hosted Liphook & Rispley of Hampshire in the south; and Fillongley of Warwickshire were hosting Folkton & Flixton of Yorkshire. The Cricketer was lucky enough to be on ground in Fillongley, near Coventry, at a venue which is tucked away down a dirt track, with nothing but fields and trees in the background.

Fillongley v Folkton & Flixton
It was a beautiful day in Warwickshire. The Yorkshire contingent had brought down a sizeable following and home fans were aplenty. There were marquees around the ground and sponsors of the Village Cup with Bola bowling machines and Gunn & Moore displaying their latest toys for spectators. A hog roast and ice-cream van were soon to be set-up – it had a wonderful feel of a village fayre. The pitch looked hard and dry, as one may expect in this weather, but green. There were pre-existing cracks around the foothole areas. Folkton & Flixton won the toss and inserted the home side.

Flixton started brightly with the ball, their opening bowlers Connor Stephenson and Jamie Nesfield keeping it tight, often testing the batsmen, while their ground fielding was exceptional throughout the innings. After an early scalp with 4 on the board Fillongley steadied and were 54 for 2, prompting their top run-scorer (and wicket-taker) Ahsan Sayed to come to the crease. Sayed was playing freely and helped to accelerate the run-rate above four an over. Perhaps crucially his innings was halted when he went down to sweep a delivery and hit the ball into his face. This caused him to leave the field with the score having nudged past 110 for 3, and with him, so did Fillongley’s momentum. He returned to the crease after the fall of the sixth wicket with the score on 136. His blow had seemingly not affected his performance, and he was able to build a partnership with No.8 Harry Tregonning, who was unbeaten at the end on 32. Sayed departed with the score on 178 having scored 56 and left the lower order to close the innings. A last-over biff from No.10 Brendan Morgan helped things along, taking Fillongley to 206 for 8. The murmurings during the interval was that it was perhaps a touch light.

Fillongley knew they had to bowl and field well to stay in the contest. They caught an early break, Duad Sayed dismissing Stuart Stocks third ball of the innings for 4. After that things did not go Fillongley’s way however. Ground fielding was not to the levels of Flixton’s and too often Sayed overpitched to Richard Malthouse and Tom Norman, both of whom looked highly competent batsmen. After eight overs the score had reached 80 for 1, and it felt that even at this point, the match may be beyond the home side. They did claw back the run-rate, Ahsan Sayed and Sajjad Ali both went at 4.5 runs per over from their eight and the pair took one wicket apiece with the score on 150. This dismissed both set batsmen (Malthouse 80, Norman 47). Any thoughts of a fightback were soon quashed however by the two Wills: Hutchinson and Norman. The pair scored 24 and 26 respectively to see the target of 207 reached three wickets down in the 34th over.

It was the third time Fillongley had reached the semi-final, and sadly it was their third loss. Though being such consistent performers, one cannot rule out a return for them in years to come, hopefully with more success.

Mayfield v Liphook & Ripsley
Liphook & Ripsley won the toss in Sussex and elected to bat. They had in their line-up Ryan Covey, who was their top run-scorer and top wicket-taker, along with Harry Munt, Suman Ganguly and George Neave, all regular contributors to a side which has shown its consistency with both bat and ball.

Mayfield are perhaps more renowned for their bowling. Bowler James Allen is regularly at the top of the wicket-taking charts and indeed is this year, coming into the game three wickets clear at the top with 16 at 9.68 apiece. Mayfield continued this vein at the start of the innings, reducing Liphook to 56 for 3 with Munt and Ganguly both back in shed. This paired Covey, a surviving opener, and Neave. They were allowed to build a partnership and reach 126 before Neave perished for 51 from 48 balls. Liphook had also managed to nullify Allen, his eight overs costing 49 runs, taking one wicket. Covey later received support from No.7 Jonathan Pryce before he was run out by Joynal Ahmed on 68. Pryce helped keep the innings alive with a 37-ball 32 as he shepherded the tail, last man out after Ahmed cleaned up the lower order on his way to taking 4 for 28. Liphook finished on a competitive 218.

Mayfield were 40 overs from Lord’s. They too lost early wickets and were 56 for 3, the same as Liphook & Rispley. Things went south for Mayfield after this however. Captain Robert Sharma departed for 22 with the score still on 56, and Mayfield were soon 67 for 6. Nos.7 and 8 Toby Wallace and Callum Saker made a bit of a fight but once they had both perished to Sean Burton (4 for 32) there was little in the tank left and Mayfield were dismissed for 125, losing by 93 runs.

The final between Folkton & Flixton and Liphook & Ripsley at Lord’s is on September 16. Tickets can be bought on the day.