WHO will take the wickets? That is the crucial question as the Brewin Dolphin cricket festival gets underway.
The weather forecast is fine, all the batsmen are in form but can we bowl the opposition out? England prospect Craig Miles is not quite ready; last year’s hat-trick hero James Fuller is some way off playing; Matt Taylor has shin splint problems and, of course, Ian Saxelby has retired.
Will Gidman will bowl splendidly; David Payne and Liam Norwell will be as willing as ever, but our spin attack has yet to butter many parsnips this season. Miles Hammond is now available as the school term has ended, while fellow off-spinner Tom Shrewsbury has taken few wickets in the 2nd XI. You need to take 20 wickets to win a championship game. Have we the bowlers to take them?
There is no doubt about the batting. Runs will certainly come. Captain Klinger is back, Will Tavare and Ian Cockbain are scoring good runs and with wicketkeeper Adam Rouse in good form we bat well and deep. So well in fact that out of form Chris Dent may not make the side. His day will come again.
Cheltenham is much more than cricket, however, and this year is no different. Coffee and Danish pastries on Tuesday; the Exiles Day on Wednesday; a Friday evening T20 Blast and on Sunday Mrs Light is wearing her clerical collar and leading a service in the College Chapter (11.30am).
Everyone is welcome and the theme this year will be memories. Frank Keating, David Allen and John Mortimore who have left us this year have all given us so many.
Frank used to catch the bus outside Stroud’s Woolworths at the same time as I caught the Cheltenham bus in Gosditch Street, Cirencester, outside Mr Rowe ‘the oilman’s shop. The same service still runs and armed with my bus pass I shall be aboard. Sixty-five festivals and still counting!
Director of cricket John Bracewell sometimes stays in the Cotswolds during the Festival. One morning he waved me over in a state of great excitement. An early morning walker he had discovered ‘the most wonderful cricket ground – from it you cannot see another building, it is not far from the River Coln’. He meant Bibury, of course, and with a square lovingly prepared by ‘Mr Bibury’ Terry Day it is a delight to play there.
On Saturday a bench was unveiled in memory of Robbie Hopkins who took many wickets bowling for Bibury.
Robbie was much more than a cricketer, being also a footballer and a canoeist. There was so much in his life that many readers will have their own memories of this fine man. His charming, talented family will surely be his finest memorial. The village of Bibury did everyone proud. There were some exotic beers available, a fine barbecue, good music and events for everyone.
The current Bibury team played a 20-over cricket match against a previous XI of Bibury players, not all slender or in the first flush of youth. With advancing years too many of the veterans had forgotten the basic rule of batting – keep your bat straight! I should have given a pre-match coaching session, or better still played myself.
The true joy of the day made me wonder whether I had made the right decision about leaving the Cotswolds in search of a career. It was so easy to see what I missed. Mrs Light put things in perspective. “Had you stayed you would never have met me,” she said. Perhaps I made the right decision after all.
Two Tour de France visitors returned this week. Veteran Tom McLean whose writings grace the ‘Good Pub Guide' was camping over there and watching the event, while the Rev Howard Gilbert took his young family and were magically captured on TV. All raved about Le Tour.
Perhaps the most exciting trip was made by the Poulton posse. In a converted Norwegian bus they made the Newhaven-Dieppe crossing, heading for a classic car rally at Le Mans. The bus was more than 60 years old, but performed splendidly (just one push start).
The travellers returned triumphant to my Monday night watering hole, where Canon Leonard Doolan, now a proud grandparent, joined in the welcome.