The week before the final, we travelled to Penkridge to take on a mixed team as a final practice match before the big day. Penkridge batted first and totalled 259-7 from their 40 overs with Zahid Hussain (2-40), Callum Rigby (2-27) and Penkridge’s Myles Davis guesting for us (2-27) our main wicket takers. In reply, despite the efforts of Eric Heath (18) in support of Kev Baker (105 not out against his own club), our innings finished on 225-9 and a 34-run defeat in what was a good workout for us. Thank you to Penkridge for hosting us, and hopefully we can play the fixture again next season.
So to the big day at the iconic Arundel Castle ground in Sussex, a quintessentially English setting for a game of cricket. With one of our players Paul Shrimpton suffering car trouble on the way to the ground, and the team coach being slightly delayed as a result we were able to complete a warm up and after winning the toss asked our opponents (and reigning champions) Hampshire to bat first.
After taking the field to the strains of Jerusalem and reducing Hampshire to 84-4, one more wicket would surely have proved crucial in restricting our opponents to a low score. But, Angus Brown batted beautifully before retiring on 100 and, despite no one else making a significant contribution with the bat, the 41 extras we conceded meant that Hampshire posted a challenging total of 207-7 from their 40 overs with Zahid Hussain (3-34) and Shaun Rigby (2-26) our chief wicket takers.
Time for lunch, and a full carvery served for us in the pavilion which was very tasty indeed. Our reply then started strongly as openers Kev Baker and James Wojda (27) put together an opening partnership of 96, and at 111-1 things were looking very promising for a victory against the odds before a middle order collapse left us on 136-5. Callum Rigby (19) joined Baker for a brief rally but when Rigby was dismissed and was quickly followed by Baker for an excellent 91, it looked to be a tall order with 15 runs required off the last over. This proved to be the case, and with only four more runs scored, it was heartbreak yet again at the final hurdle as we finished on 196-7 and were defeated by just 11 runs.
So near, yet so far – and despite a fine effort against a very strong Hampshire side the feeling of disappointment was overwhelming, and the thoughts of what might have been began… That said, we should be proud at how close we came to an historic victory and learn from this experience to hopefully help us to go one better next season.
Thank you to Richard Hill and everyone at the ECB for organising the day, which was a truly fantastic experience despite the result, and to Arundel Castle Cricket Club for the superb hospitality they displayed towards us and our supporters. Finally, congratulations to Hampshire – worthy winners of a superb game played in a competitive but good spirit and which was a great advertisement for disability cricket.
For us, thanks must go to manager Dave Hassall, coaches Johnathan Caldecott and Graham Furber as well as scorer Ellen Hassall for their efforts this season. We also wish JC the best of luck as he heads to Lords on October 9th for the NatWest OSCAs having been nominated in the Outstanding Contribution to Coaching category, and there would be no worthier winner should he be successful.
Hopefully we can go one better next season – and if anyone is interested in either sponsoring us, playing against us or joining the squad then please contact us via our Twitter page - @ShropDisCricket or via the Shropshire Cricket Board website – www.shropshirecricketboard.co.uk