Sunday, and we travelled to Kidderminster Cricket Club to take on Essex in the semi-final of the ECB National D40 competition. On arrival, it became apparent that the other semi-final (due to be played at the same location) wasn’t going to be taking place as Lancashire were unable to field a team, meaning that Hampshire awaited the winners of our game in the final.
A good warm up, full of energy and plenty of banter between us suggested that everyone was focused for the game, and couldn’t wait to get started. After losing the toss, we were asked to bowl first against an Essex side stronger than the one we had beaten in last year’s semi-final, this one containing four England players.
One of these England men - Ronnie Jackson - survived a very confident appeal for leg before wicket off the first ball of the game before going on to make an excellent 110. When drinks were taken at the halfway point, and us only having taken one wicket we were perhaps looking at chasing a target well in excess of 250. However, Callum Rigby (1-26) and Charlie Vickers (1-16) bowled well in support of captain Shaun Rigby who returned the excellent figures of 5-49, all of which meant that the Essex innings closed on 229-8.
The feeling amongst us at tea was that the total was challenging, but not impossible given the true nature of the wicket and a very fast outfield.
Opening the innings, runs were not easy to come by against some disciplined bowling of no little skill (and pace from one end). However, a steady start from Danny Percy and myself took us to around 40 without loss, before we lost wickets all too regularly and slumped to 92-5. Callum Rigby joined me at the crease and proceeded to make batting look far easier than any of us had managed previously as we put on 84 in pretty quick time – largely thanks to Callum as he hit the gaps in the field, whilst I continued to hit the ball straight at fielders with alarming regularity.
Getting to the last six overs needing around 50 for victory, and with some momentum behind us we felt we were in with a chance, but unfortunately I nicked one behind to the wicket keeper to be dismissed for 72, and when Callum was run out shortly afterwards for an excellent 49 any realistic hope we had of winning disappeared. In the end, we were bowled out for 199 with an over of our innings left and a 30 run defeat.
From a personal point of view, I felt I kept wicket well and batted decently – even if my inability to find the gaps in the field perhaps meant I should have made more than I did, which in turn may have got us closer to victory. The innings was certainly replayed a number of times in my head during the evening as I wondered what might have been! A hugely disappointing end to what has been a very enjoyable first season in disability cricket, where I’ve made some good friends, all of whom are very talented cricketers. Our aim will be to come back again next season and reach the final at the very least.
Afterwards, an understandably deflated dressing room reflected on the game and felt that we hadn’t perhaps had the few slices of luck we would have needed to win the game, and that the wicket had become a little more difficult to bat on as the day went on whilst the outfield also seemed to slow up as the temperature dropped. Small margins, but all vital in the final outcome. However, full credit to Essex who were the better team on the day and deserved their victory – and we wish them all the best in the final at Arundel Castle in September. Thanks must also go to Kidderminster Cricket Club for hosting us with their superb facilities.
Finally, congratulations to Callum Rigby who recently played for the England Learning Disability squad in the recent tri-series against Australia and South Africa, and to Shaun Rigby who has been selected for the England Physical Disability squad – showing us all what is possible. Thank you to team manager Dave Hassall, scorer Ellen Hassall as well as coaches Johnathan Caldecott and Graham Furber for their help and support for us all throughout the season. A couple of fixtures remain – against Wales and Cheshire on 20th August and Penkridge CC on 3rd September before the end of the season.