In 1992, a London lawyer on a fact-finding mission to Ukraine found himself in the office of the British Commercial Attaché, Phylidda Charlton-Fitzpaine, being introduced to the commercial opportunities that could be unlocked by the British Embassy. The attaché noted how the lawyer seemed transfixed by the picture over her shoulder – a British Airways poster of as immutably English a scene as one might imagine – of cricket being played on a chocolate box pitch, a pub nestled alongside. “Do you like my poster?” She asked.“Not only can I tell you that is Tilford Green”, the lawyer replied, “but the bowler is Nigel Martyn, their opening quick”.
Last Sunday, you would have found that same lawyer enjoying the Woodpeckers annual match against Tilford, on that very ground amongst the rolling Surrey Hills, inexplicably sporting a screaming Hawaiian shirt and a pint of TEA. Could it be the sire of the old horse?
And there was much to enjoy: delightful local ales in the Barley Mow, a fine match tea, balmy summer heat, runs scored, wickets taken. Most importantly, a declaration cricket match played in the village spirit with a charming mix of modern and traditional, local and imported, young and old.
Skip POB shrewdly lost the toss and the Peckers were inserted onto a decent strip. Whilst the wicket itself is relatively flat, visitors to Tilford will have been struck by the pitch itself being actually one of the rolling Surrey hills, a chaotic and dangerous place to field or, indeed, park. The short boundaries and dry undulating outfield offer copious runs, but an equal number of dings, dents and bruises to the players, spectators and vehicles watching on.
Botty came and went early, the PoY curse in full early season form, leaving Cousin in his flailing Tyrwhitt to make the early running with a swift 37 including two 6s, one of which clattered into Horse’s oldest foal Freddie, who seemed none the worse or wiser for the incident. Potter briefly held an end up before bringing one of two debutants for the Peckers to the crease.
A splendid English chap with a splendid English name, Henry Walpole stole the show at this splendid English village. With his bristly beard and ability to catch the eye of the ladies, it was though Henry VIII had marched to the wicket. His hitting was precise and powerful, clattering into Bentleys or Beemers without fear or favour.
With Cousin’s dismissal, our next debutant, KP arrived at the crease. A crafty Kiwi with a heavy bat and a wonderful air of relaxed exuberance, he lent the side a look of professionalism – a lovely technique, full of high elbows and effortless flourishes he set about the role of Thomas Cromwell, a steadying and guiding hand on the shoulder of the wild and reckless monarch.
This was a partnership for the ages. The third highest tally for the 4th wicket in Peckers history, 157 runs were scored between the two, taking us from 55-3 to 212-4, Henners raising his bat on his ton, with 13 4s and 2 6s to his name. 109 wonderful runs all told, with only a brief Mankad runout from C Thomas (more later) nearly ruining his beaming enthusiasm for the game. KP was unlucky not to reach 50 having scored an immaculate 48, without a chance offered, until he was clean bowled by Austin. The arrival of KP meant our names were more confusing than ever with KP, SP and LP joined by Motty, Botty and Potty
In truth, we had scored our runs a little too quickly if such a thing is possible, giving POB a difficult declaration to judge from the middle. He worked impishly for his 27 – now in his very late 40s – POB has become something of a Moeen Ali figure in the Peckers set up, a difficult to dislodge middle order bat with a penchant for scampering between the wickets. A contribution from Meekers took the Peckers to a declaration just after 4:30 at 265-6.
Tea was taken in the charming Tilford clubhouse, served up by the delightful ladies of the village. Henners roving eye was tamed by the sandwiches and fine brownies before any beheadings could be served up. Many will remember much of the Russell Crowe vehicle Robin Hood was filmed locally; in part because of the quality of the oak trees are rather more like Sherwood Forest than anything that Nottingham now has to offer. The charming Tilfordians retired to their shade whilst their batsman crafted a reply.
But there, they had little joy. A blistering spell of opening swing from Puggy from one end and an electric SP from the other had them ducking and weaving like the French under longbow fire. SP bagged two quick wickets before a third coming through a catch of epic proportions. Gloveman Botty was his usual cantankerous self behind the sticks, by turns astonishing us with his cricketing prowess and grizzly chuntering. A solid nick from Lyon saw our Pecker of the Year take off to his right in a manner not often seen by people of his bone density. SP finally got reward for his excellent bowling with 3-25
A stunning take and a wonderful wicket that brought young Wellingtonian and +1 golfer Chris Thomas to the crease. Horse’s foursomes partner the previous day at Woking, their day suggested that we could clear all the straight fieldsmen out. However, he batted with great aggression and verve, offering ball striking that would have been more than welcome the day before.
With Tilford in trouble, Skip threw the ball to Horse to see if could snaffle his partner in crime. Horse served up an exciting array of balls, many of which astonished those watching with the speed of their dispatch to the boundary.
Tilford however were up against it despite this buffet of filth, with Walpole now turning his arm to some of the most spectacular spin the green has ever seen. By this time mopping a saturated brow, Henners still managed to pick his spot and took three magnificent wickets, full of guile, flight and spin. (3-22)
The ghost of Motty – oddly silent throughout the day – appeared at one end and took two breezy wickets before disappearing as magically as he had appeared. The only remaining challenge was Thomas, who had doggedly and determinedly reached his 50.
Unleashed with only pride to save for the villagers, he played some wonderful strokes off Meekers who was unfairly punished by his eye for the ball, and very unfortunate not to have the stumping he deserved to his name. The final ball was delivered by Cousin, with Thomas closer to the non-striker’s end, who hit when he missed, all out for 161, a brave 91 of those runs scored by Thomas.
The players retired with their wonderful hosts to the Barley Mow, where Man of the Match Walpole on debut regaled his court, with jugs of mead and Traditional English Ale, bringing the curtain down on a very traditional English day.