Rain-hit Cheltenham had much to offer
NO CRICKET for three days, only 100 overs bowled, but the Cheltenham Festival has still had much to offer.
“If you are still above ground you have got to be there,” said veteran supporter Eric Vick. Never has there been better advice.
The cricket was outstanding. On the slowest Cheltenham wicket I have seen and with the ball not running over the sodden outfield, runs had to be worked for. These were foreign conditions to Ed Cowan, our overseas locum but he adapted.
Dan Housego showed what a good signing he is and Hamish Marshall is back to his quick-footed best. Our 284-4 would have become 400. Essex could have been beaten.
But it rained! Mrs Light’s monsoon outfit proved invaluable, while chief executive Tom Richardson visited Swindon Outlet Centre for appropriate footwear.
Special arrangements were in place for the CB40 game against Essex. The lower half of the ground was to be closed. All corporate entertainment and hospitality was cancelled and entry was to be limited to members and ticket holders.
The pavilion side of the ground dries more quickly, being sandy soil, but below the square, where the marquees are sited, clay dominates and that was the area that caused all the problems. I walked there all three days. The umpire’s decision was right.
There is much more to the Festival than the actual cricket. There are so many interesting people to talk to ¬– David and Joyce Allen, for example. President David played 39 Tests for England – his captains were May, Dexter, MJK Smith and Colin Cowdrey. His Gloucestershire captains were Crapp, Emett, Tom Graveney, Pugh, Ken Graveney, Mortimore, Milton and Tony Brown.
When Colin Cowdrey came to the wicket with a broken arm he never had to face a ball. A West Indies victory was prevented by David’s defence at the other end, thwarting Wes Hall.
Fred Trueman was a bowling colleague. “None of this Gloucestershire 24-overs-an-hour,” said Fred. “I like a rest between overs – slow it down.”
When Richie Benaud bowed out of Test cricket it was D A Allen who took his wicket. Joyce Allen is so much more than a cricket wife and her insights into the game and its characters are both pertinent and perceptive. ‘Mr and Mrs President’ are serving us so well.
With no play on Sunday, it was back to Sheepscombe. It was Vice President’s Day and the hilltop ground was playable, just. There was a scrumptious tea, a welcoming smile from Chairman Elizabeth and the best view in England to enjoy. Cricketers of all ages and abilities were enjoying themselves.
It all seemed so far from the profuse profanities of Westminster Magistrates Court. Remembering John Arlott, I was able to realise what cricket means to so many of us. Other games get under your skin. Cricket gets to the heart. Go to Cheltenham, go to Sheepscombe. You will know what I mean.
Incidentally, our Cheltenham Festival centurion Ed Cowan is currently living locally. Two things are about to happen to Ed. He is to captain Australia ‘A’ on their imminent tour of England and he is about to become a dad.
Ed wants to be about at the birth of his first child and in order to do this he has moved, with his wife, into a house in Bibury. Easy access to cricket grounds via the M4/M5 means he can fulfil both his paternal duties and his cricketing ones.
He has fallen in love with the Cotswolds, especially the pubs, and there is a pint waiting for him at The Red Lion, which, of course, is much older than colonised Australia.
Cotswold cricket has, for the last 15 years, been splendidly served by John King. In a manner that is both gracious and firm, Secretary John (and for much of the time treasurer as well) has caused the CDCA to be an example to the other associations in the county.
John is now stepping down. This to all Cotswold clubs is a shock and a challenge. His departure is the shock; finding a replacement is the challenge. There are many good people involved in the association who will be a pleasure to work with. If you feel you can replace John, get in touch with your local club.
Football is now upon us and I have already watched one game at Brimscombe, where there was splendid organisation and a lovely tea and ham roll.
After cricket at Cheltenham on Tuesday, it is my plan to watch Cirencester Town play Forest Green Rovers.
Pre-season friendlies do not usually attract me, but I have a foot in both camps with this one.
Gloucestershire cricketers will just have beaten Worcestershire and Forest Green should be the day’s other victors, perhaps by four goals. You will all know by now!