Hursley Park vs Wield, Sunday 31st August

Match Summary - Hursley Park’s 234-5 couldn’t better Wield’s 172-8, who claimed the well-earned draw

The Hursley Park ground south of Winchester is a very special place. It sits in the broadest sweep of a gently curving west to east valley surrounded by ancient oaks and poplar trees with cows at the eastern end and buzzards wheeling and keening to the west. The ground itself is criss-crossed with meandering rivulets of light green grass, presumably signs of drainage or tracks of ancient streams that possibly overflow in the wet winter months. There was no noise as there’s no traffic anywhere close. Occasionally we heard a complaining chicken or grumpy guinea fowl squawking out their protests on a nearby farmstead, but that was all and the sun shone brightly with barely a cloud in the sky.

Shaking us out of our post-lunch reverie Yorkey lost the toss and we were put into the field – 10 men of Wield, gallant and strong to have made the road-trip south, but ready for the fight. Scott and Wade opened the bowling and had a torrid time of it. A peacock butterfly jigged across the grass looking in vain for clover in the closely cropped sward while an emperor dragonfly quartered the outfield. The score ticked over quickly until the first bowling change.

Simon arrived at one end and Toby caught on the boundary only to have a no ball called. But the very next ball Steve pouched one at deep gully and we had our first wicket. Robin came on at the other end and Max took a neat caught behind – we were on the attack with two new batsmen. But then Simon and Robin too were subjected to a torrid time. A small blue dashed across the wicket and a pied wagtail tentatively explored the boundary at fine leg. Yorkey put himself on, another caught behind and Hursley were temporarily slowed down. Robin arranged a third caught behind at the other end and Max reminisced how he had last caught three behind in 1932 against the Lords Taverners. We all looked forward to the Jug.

Steve replaced Robin and a screaming straight full toss (which could so easily have been a yorker) knocked back the off stump for the fifth wicket. We might have had them on the ropes, but more than 200 was in their sights. Michael took over from Yorkey and as the heat took its toll a flurry of misfields and dropped catches (fine star-jumps, football-like dribbling and flicking of the ball, not in the coaching manual) swept them to 234-5.We gratefully returned to the pavilion for tea.

And what a tea it was, Hursley Park had clearly read and properly digested Wield’s Cricket Teas recipe book! There were triangle sandwiches including all the favourites, heated mini-Cornish pasties, cakes to die for, each delicate in their way but taken together in quantity added up to a significant impact on the post-tea energy levels: thank heavens we needed a long stay at the crease batting prospect. We rested out of the heat while Yorkey considered our response.

Toby and Michael opened and Appleby shuffled himself down in the shade for a long wait. Hursley started appealing loudly for almost anything. Sadly they didn’t have long to wait as Toby slashed a few to the boundary and was then caught behind. Steve made his way in and Wield settled down again for the long haul. After steady progress Hursley changed the bowling and Mahash Kajendran, their not-so-secret weapon arrived. Steve was bowled, Rupert went out and returned again two balls later as his off stump cart-wheeled past the wicket-keeper.

Simon pushed back his shoulders and mumbled something about a man’s job dispatching a six over the long-on boundary. Then he was bowled too and Wade joined Michael who had been holding down the other end. Michael also departed to Mahash’s unplayable quicks and Scott joined Wade. Hursley’s chirpy wicket-keeper took one on the knee and left injured while Wade and Scott combined to carve out a mid-innings partnership of substance, currently an England speciality, calming Wield down to a steady run-chase. The heat rose - quick singles and twos were taken before deciding to go for boundaries. Sixes and fours followed then Wade fell on 31 with only 3 overs left. Yorkey arrived to do his captain’s duty and four balls later as Mahash struck again, Robin took his place.

Scott meanwhile executed a beautifully balletic stroke, wafting a non-existent ball back over the bowler and perhaps stung by the ungrateful hoots of derision from the boundary swatted a flat six over midwicket the following ball. We were into the final over and Scott was out LBW - Max realised he had four to face to claim the draw. As the shadows lengthened and the tension rose, the buzzards were heard no more as we held our breath and Hursley appealed for every ball...but to no avail. Max held off Mahash (whose figures were 9-4-17-6) and plucky Wield claimed a fine draw at 172-8.

The crucial mid-innings partnership of Wade’s 31 and Scott’s 66, alongside Max’s three catches were Wield’s stand-outs for the day on this beautiful ground, a road-trip well worth taking and a draw to remember. We left Hursley Park to a family of wagtails and a sole flycatcher, bathed gold in the setting sun and the peace at the end of the day.

Rupert Cazalet
Head of cartwheeling stumps (his own!!!) and other nonsense