|18 Jan 2021|
Cricketer Cup 1996 – 25 years on
There had been much veiled chuntering amongst Old Bradfieldians for years leading into the 1996 Cricketer Cup campaign. Almost 30 years had passed since the competition’s inception and the Bradfield Waifs were still “knocking on heaven’s door” … of course, there had been several hard luck stories.
With each year the pressure would only intensify and the fabled Waif cricketing luminaries and supporters grew increasingly impatient. My late Father’s love of all things Bradfield was unbridled and he nurtured mine, and all young Waifs, to win gold. There were unquestionably many others – some slightly rowdy deckchair watchers, some moody, pessimistic head-down boundary strollers and the ardent, somewhat hardy wives and girlfriends.
There was one occasion – some years earlier, when my Father pulled stripes and made me feign injury so I could miss a Hampshire Sunday League Match to play a Cricketer Cup Match. “You will only be 12th man, so play for the Waifs,” he opined - I was caught down the leg side first ball of the match!
The omens did seem good for 1996. Our Churchillian leader, Mark (MCJ) Nicholas was retired from first-class cricket and had been indoctrinated into this “Waif Mission”. There was the crafty and pugnacious all-rounder Peter (PRC) Came at the peak of his powers and some wonderfully underrated players in Stuart Seymour, James Kendall, Will Oscroft, Nigel Ward and Richard Graham … I think we all had three initials too?! I could name more. There was also Greg Nice, a third X1 player in his school days, who defied logic and illustrated forcefully the value of hard work and determination.
It was intoxicating cricket, with wonderful allies stood beside you and many more on the boundary. Quite simply it was the best of cricket. A voyage of friendship and endeavour from a millpond, to ripples and ultimately there were tidal surges of cascading white water …
In addition, when Hampshire permitted, we had the consummately gifted and genteel Will Kendall to bolster both our spirits and the team. There were runs aplenty for MCJ who made an elegant 160 against Repton Pilgrims, and I swear there was not a hair out of place at the end of it. Oscroft bowled with good pace and skill - manifestly he could have played at a higher level. The Waifs made comfortable progress to the semi-finals and then the hard graft began.
With Will Kendall on county duty the Waifs were fortunate to glean home advantage in our semi-final on Pit against the Harrow Wanderers. Our bowlers did not let us down, they were all tidy and disciplined and our wicketkeeper, Hugo Norman, complemented them dexterously. Nonetheless, we knew 236 was a dangerous target and so it proved.
From 108 for one we declined to 174 for six and were indebted to a man of the match performance from Norman. His impish 38, and James Kendall’s steadying influence, saw us home with 5-balls to spare late, and in gloomy light, after a glorious day in a heavenly setting. It was a commendable performance against a strong Harrow team bolstered by Tony “Lester” Pigott who had played Test Cricket only 12 years earlier. He was still lively and commendably unyielding.
For that one early August day the Bank of England Ground, Roehampton became our Lord’s final. A cherished pilgrimage for our supporters and the team, having won the toss we lost momentum and wickets too regularly against a resolute Uppingham Rovers outfit. A total of 226 was, we felt, just below par and four run outs cost us sorely with only Came (41) and Stephen Bridgman (40) striking some rhythm.
Our bowlers and fielders saved us! They all chipped in and the team unit proved strong. Duncan Kennedy, a talented striker of the ball, held us up with his customary robust stroke play, but once MCJ conjured up an unorthodox plan which lured Kennedy into a catch at deep mid-wicket the game was all but up. A 23-run victory ensued and suddenly “heaven was a place on earth” and the Waifs had removed the monkey off their back.
The celebrations were long and chaotic mainly at the Winchester House Club with the late Nick Syrett grinning readily. It was a heady moment for our proud supporters and even today it makes me smile broadly and think of them all … Fullers, Wyatts, Gardiners, Workmans, Seymours, Sills, Harvey, Taylors, Perry, Gents, Coxs, Mencey, Stallard, Williams and many, many more … happy, happy days!
Rupert Cox (F 81-86)
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