Intrepid Saxlingham Gents beat the floods
Saxlingham Gents refused to be weather beaten even though prospects looked pretty grim up north on their latest tour of duty.
While others all around them lost their fixtures, the Gents kept theirs – or at least one of them – when their recent annual adventure took them into the heart of Yorkshire.
Having seen a scheduled Friday evening 20/20 match against Pocklington rained off, the Gents were determined that their tour – the 19th since 1991 – should not become a cricket-free zone.
Despite floods in the area, negotiations secured a 30-overs-a-side showdown on the all-weather strip of Long Marston CC, five miles west of York.
It was a match that saw the Gents give a good account of themselves as they fell 20 runs short after the hosts had posted 152. Howard Royse had a game to remember for the Gents bagging five for 22, while Kevin Stickney, Tim Sheppard, Mark Riches and Steve Brownlow were the chief contributors to the Gents' reply.
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The bad weather did have a silver lining as it meant the Gents could sample more of the local hospitality as well as attractions including the National Railway Museum and York Minster, adding to a vast back catalogue of previous cultural exploits compiled over 18 previous tours to places such as Oxford, Winchester, Bristol, Waterloo (Belgium), Ireland and Jersey to name a few.
Two of the Gents from yesteryear joined the party as Kim Parkinson linked up from relatively nearby Doncaster, and Stuart Bradley made the epic trek from Cornwall to be reunited with his old pals.
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Other hardy annuals who answered the call to arms from tour organiser and commander-in- chief Richard Pearson were Nick Phelan, Bob Turner, David Pointer, Howard Royse, Kevin Stickney, Rick Mantin, Sean Morgan, Steve Brownlow, Mark Riches and Tim Sheppard. The evergreen Gents, who play a programme of friendlies throughout the summer, have also been in charity action in their annual game against a Sheppard's Flock who won the game by 20 runs, with proceeds going to the Alzheimers Association and East Anglian Children's Hospice.
The Gents will be in action next Thursday (5.45) in a 20/20 game with sponsors Alan Boswell Group. 'They have helped to provide us with new covers which have helped to save a few matches which might otherwise have been lost to the weather,' said club president Tim Sheppard.
At the other end of the club's cricketing spectrum youth coaching run by Richard Pearson, Mark Jenner and Anthony Pearson, has been proving popular with up to 50 youngsters attending the Monday evening sessions.
'Hopefully they will grow to love the game of cricket and contribute to Saxlingham's efforts in the future,' said Sheppard. Some potential stars of the future can be seen at the club when Norfolk's Under 13 girls play their Nottinghamshire counterparts on July 22 (1pm).
Saxlingham's two Saturday league sides both enjoyed a winning weekend in Norfolk Alliance action. The Division Two outfit skippered by Anthony Pearson is enjoying mid-table security after beating table-toppers Swardeston B thanks to Nick Pearce's five for 19 burst which helped to dismiss the visitors for 111, before Alex Browne (35), Pearson (29 not out) and Oliver Browne helped to secure a five-wicket success.
In Division Six the A team, skippered by Craig Neave, boosted prospects of pulling clear of the relegation zone by beating Diss A by 24 runs.
One familiar face at the club is former Norwich City captain and Lowestoft Town FC director of football Craig Fleming – a useful all-rounder, who has tasted first, second and Sunday team action, sometimes in tandem with his son Will, 16. 'Craig is a good cricketer but I don't want to praise him too much as he is a Yorkshireman,' laughed former Canary physio Sheppard.
• SEVEN UP AS SUNDAY CURSE STRKES AGAIN
Spare a thought for Saxlingham's action-starved Sunday cricketers, who suffered their seventh cancellation at the weekend.
The side captained by Mark Creasey is a useful arena for nurturing young talent, when the weather allows! Sunday's Mid Norfolk League trip to Caister was the latest blow to the players in this most frustrating of seasons – and extra friendlies have been added to the schedule in a bid to make up for the severe shortfall.
• KING HOPING FOR AN END TO SUMMER NIGHTMARE
Mid Norfolk Sunday League chief Colin King is praying that the weather gods give him some respite as a key weekend looms during what has become a nightmare season.
This Sunday the semi-finals of the league's prestigious Challenge Cup are scheduled to take place and King is hoping that they can go ahead in the traditional manner.
As well as wreaking havoc with fixtures in the league's eight divisions a series of sodden Sundays have wiped out most of the scheduled 40-over cup games, which have had to be played on weekday evenings as 20/20 matches to obtain a result.
'Although one or two matches have been played in the 40-over format, the Challenge Cup and Broke Cup have effectively become 20/20 competitions this year,' said King.
Cromer conceded their Challenge Cup quarter-final to Thetford because of the logistics of getting a midweek 20/20 game played, while Swardeston turned up at Narborough to play 20/20 only to be foiled by a sharp downpour. The game had to be settled by a bowl-out which Narborough won.
The semi-final (2pm) line-up sees Thetford play Sprowston and Narborough play Anglians.
In the Broke Cup plate competition Swaffham or Stow, who are set to play a 20/20 quarter-final on Friday, will host Mundford, while Terrington St Clement will entertain Lowestoft.
King, who has been running the league since 1999, said he had never known a season like it.
'At the start of the season we had about a month before any games got played. It was awful, dreadful.
'In the cups one or two matches have been played in the 40-over format but most have been played in midweek as 20/20s. I have never known a season like it – it's been a nightmare.'