It always surprises me that you would not find Blackheath CC on any list comprising top village cricket grounds in the UK. Whereas local rivals Tilford regularly draw deserved nods for their picture postcard ground, with the Barley Mow on one boundary and the River Wey on another, Blackheath never features. This, despite its stunning heathland setting, permanently-open bar (with offerings from the local Hogs Back Brewery) and a superbly-run and supported cricket section for all ages. The main reason for this must be the fact it is up a single lane track in the arse-end of nowhere, despite being a mere 15 minutes from Guildford town centre, and has no passing traffic other than the occasional dog walker. The wider world’s loss is very much our gain.
The ‘Peckers fielded a blend of experienced hands and first timers for this prestigious fixture. Dr Ed Behn (aka Edwin, or the Dutchman, and one-time teammate of Andrew Strauss at Radley) came into the side for his full debut (having featured at last year’s Peckers v Peckers debacle and almost being put off for life in the process) as did fellow local lad and friend of the Gowars, Jack Riddy (aka the Riddler), fresh from winning the club championship at Hankley Common earlier in the week. Riddler manfully took the gloves for the first time in countless years. Horse brought his foals along for a local outing, and Meakers made a welcome return after back problems (we’re all falling to pieces, its OK). In fact Spinach was the only one of us being sub-30. We had a strong group of supporters with Pugs, Behns, Riddlers and Foals aplenty.
Meanwhile, in their must-win game versus India at Edgbaston, England were tucking into India’s bowlers just as eagerly as POB was tucking into other people’s picnics at our pre-match gathering. Having big-screen Sky coverage in the bar just adds to the allure of this tucked-away clubhouse, and updates were fed onto the outfield on a regular basis.
POB won the toss and we chose to bowl on a dry wicket with Chug filling in for Henners who had erroneously made his way to Blackheath, Kent (muppet, there’s always one) Actually Ella Pugh -The Princess Pugletta now 12 who is now playing a lot of cricket fielded for the 1st 4 balls and proved a lucky charm for her daddy -She becomes the 2nd Puglet to make debut at Blackheath, and we look forward to Sampy making it a hat-trick and maybe all four on the pitch one day. Blackheath were perhaps not as strong as in previous years (they had permitted their Kiwi off-spinner a weekend away from ripping through local league opposition) but still had a good smattering of 1st teamers and strong youngsters. Pug took the new nut alongside Horse and claimed the first wicket with only the second delivery, a horrid ball that would have otherwise been a wide if the young opener hadn’t kindly nicked off to Riddler for his debut take. Horse also quickly accounted for the other opener with a scuttler. Thereafter, Pug (trying to be modest here) kept up an unusually consistent line and length for his 7 over spell, taking 4-19 in the process, including the ominous-looking Ronny Harrison with a leg-cutter. Botty eventually held one at first slip having shelled others (as did the freshly-arrived Henners – again, muppet) and Riddler took a second nick. Horse bowled well without further reward, although was gleefully deposited over the pavilion at one point by Ronny.
Coming in at 6 for Blackheath was Stephen Holden, head coach of the Blackheath U10 team who include in their ranks Chug, Behn Jnr and his own son. He batted very solidly for a patient and well-earned 55, almost exclusively with a straight bat, and I think his young watching charges were quietly impressed (as they were by Pug and Edwin by all accounts). He batted without a lid, even when Edwin, replacing Pug downhill, was generating some notable pace and bounce. Ed is a consultant in the A&E dept at Frimley Park, so at least Stephen would have been in good hands had he caught one on the beak. Ed claimed 3-27 off his 6, including Stephen pinned lbw to reclaim local bragging rights. Ed, like Horse, expressed surprise at being given guidance as to how to bowl by POB from mid-on, something he will unfortunately need to get used to, as well all have, if he fancies an extended Peckers career.
Henners flighted the ball beautifully while taking a bit of tap from Danny Harrison before trapping him in front for an entertaining 40 (courtesy of a LP trigger that went up so quickly he almost knocked himself off balance), whilst Spinach bowled energetically uphill without taking a deserved wicket. Big Merve enjoyed a rare couple of overs, allowing the home team to give their total a much-needed boost, whilst Fish only got an over of twirl. POB showed good judgment in giving each Harrison brother the benefit of the doubt when each could have been potentially caught early in their respective innings (including an otherwise super take by POB himself).
Meakers finished off matters with a full straight one to the 14-year old No.11. Not that you would know it from the way Meakers peeled off towards the covers, both arms pumping above his head à la Imran Tahir. Anyone who saw him celebrate the wicket of a 13-year old tailender at Headley a few years ago with a full Brett Lee-chainsaw would have been equally embarrassed this time. Naturally we asked Meakers to lead us off the field for this match-defining contribution. Blackheath were 175 all out off 35 overs.
Tea was a generous medley of hot and cold offerings, including some onion bhajis, perhaps in a nod to events unfolding up at Edgbaston. Much of the food was hoovered up by our younger supporters. By now India were well behind in their run chase and Woakes had taken a stunner on the boundary to remove Pant. One feared that Blackheath would also need to be on their mettle in the field to prevent a decent ‘Peckers batting line up from chasing down their sub-par total.
Meakers and Fish opened the order, very much an alternative opening combo, with others busy tucking into the Hazy Hog organic cider (mmm) and/or glued to India’s faltering run chase. Meakers flattered to deceive with a well-timed cut but was soon bowled by Blackheath’s pacey opener (it was a surprise that Meakers didn’t raise his bat to all sides of the ground after his 4, given his fondness for exuberant celebrations). Botty, in at 3, also quickly fell in similar fashion. Fish, meanwhile, enjoyed the challenge presented by the opening attack and the Harrisons’ liquorice allsorts. He ran well on a hot day, with less than half his runs coming in boundaries. He was eventually out for an excellent 48 to another LP trigger.
Riddler brushed off the cobwebs and entertained his fan club with a patient 18, displaying a high elbow that his watching son would do well to replicate. Patient is not the word I would use to describe Henner’s knock. Coming in at 5, suffice to say he hit a rapid 70*, with exactly 50 coming in boundaries including some of the longest 6s seen at the ground for some time. It was a brutal, chanceless knock that entertained the late-afternoon spectators and helped soon bring the ‘Peckers towards their 4th win of the season. Ably supported by Horse, who also played fluidly for his 21*, we wrapped up the win with plenty of time to devote to the bar and all things glorious in the post-match sunshine (including an admiration of Big Merve’s heel tats). Beers and cider were taken with supporters and the oppo (those of drinking age anyway) to conclude another Pecker outing to this finest of village grounds.
Peckers 178-4 beat Blackheath 175 by 6 wickets.