Photographer Mark Doherty shares his thoughts on an absorbing day’s play at Bilton-in-Ainsty for their pavilion opening and Hunters Yorkshire League North Division Two Ebor league game against Londesborough Park.
Saturday morning would normally be a case of a final check on my schedule for the day before heading out to various agency photoshoots or working out which sports event I was attending and where I needed to park.
Not this Saturday. This Saturday involved a return to a cricket club I haven’t been to since 2018 and a place that I used to live not far from.
I hadn’t managed to cover any game below county or international level during the summer of 2019, but had planned to visit a few clubs, such as Whixley, Rufforth and Bilton-in-Ainsty during the 2020 season. Well, we all know what happened next!
So, it has been a four-year absence and as I drove the 30-minute journey, I dragged the memories I had of the ground in the foggy recesses of my mind to the fore and contemplated how I was going to cover the game.
Pulling into the car park was a pleasant shock. This wasn’t the club I remembered!
Simply put the club has been transformed with a new pavilion, scoreboard and even the car park had been upgraded!
Now one thing I have omitted to say so far, was that I had been invited some time back as this was the club’s 90th anniversary and they were unveiling the new facilities at the same time.
There was a big day of celebrations planned around the visit of Londesborough Park Cricket Club in the Hunters Yorkshire League North Division Two Ebor league game.
I had cast a glance at the league table and noted that both teams were sat in just behind Fairburn CC and hoped that this would be an entertaining match-up. I wasn’t wrong!
What followed was a rain-affected 500-plus run game that swung one way and then the other, ultimately coming down to a tight finish…showcasing the very best of grassroots sport.
Yes, there were dropped catches; run outs when there simply wasn’t the chance of a run available and misfielding that led to extra runs being scored.
However, there was some brilliant batting on display, with the cars in the car park at the mercy of a few huge sixes; diving catches in the outfield that threatened to swing the game in the direction of either team; and plenty of passion shown.
More than once, nervous spectators looked on as a batsman hefted the ball high into the air with a trajectory that threatened the pristine painted metal of the assembled cars next to the pavilion. Unfortunately for one owner, the traditional sound of leather on metal was heard at least once!
Londesborough went into bat first and the undoubted highlight of the innings was Steve Dawson’s total 136 from 98 balls, which included 16 fours and eight sixes. His innings only coming to an end with a wonderful catch by Jamie Perkins off Robert Hildreth’s bowling.
It was also great to see a debut for Thomas Rook who took his place in the Londesborough team alongside his brother and dad.
Londesborough posted a challenging total of 274 for eight in their 45 overs. It would take something special for the home side to overhaul that and claim the win.
Attention turned to the between innings tea and official opening of the new pavilion.
It is hard to overstate how wonderful the facility is, that has been built at the club, transforming what was a quaint-but-ageing clubhouse and ground, into something that can genuinely be described as one of the best in the county.
The generosity of the club’s new landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd in financing the rebuild of the club is amazing and something that everyone involved should be very proud of.
Mrs. Lloyd cut the ribbon and tea was served. The pavilion was buzzing with chat and excitement.
The club had arranged for Caleb, the youngest member to bowl to one of the oldest members and president of the club, Dennis Lambert who is 86 years young!
I was also lucky to get chatting to a former chairman of the club, John Barker who talked enthusiastically about the history surrounding Bilton In Ainsty.
The only downer was the weather…rain was forecast on and off for the day; and right on cue the wet-stuff appeared, delaying the start of the home team’s response.
It didn’t take long for the rain to stop and there was a new revised total of 232 to reach. It still looked a tall order and by the seventh over Bilton in Ainsty were struggling a little, having lost two wickets and the runs weren’t really flowing.
By over 18 the revised total seemed out of reach, but they had only lost two more wickets.
I took another walk around the boundary. It was a warm day, the air felt heavy, and the grey cloud cover continued to threaten more rain.
Looking across the ground, the new pavilion was a hive of activity, the spectators chatting happily and there was the wonderful sound of children playing and enjoying the bouncy castle the club had provided.
One of those moments that you want to bottle up and revisit again and again.
Back to the game – Will Bartlett and Philip Schofield stepped things up a notch and decided to go on a boundary spree.
I had been asked by a few of the home team players as they paced the rope ‘who do you think will win this?’ I grimaced and said it didn’t look good for them and they smiled and agreed it didn’t.
In the next few balls, the batsmen warmed up with three fours, to loud appreciation from the watching crowd. But better was to come.
Suddenly it was raining sixes…five huge hits left, right and down the ground into the car park…the supporters went wild, and the landscape of the game had changed considerably as 50 runs were put on in just under three overs.
Over the next eight overs, the runs kept coming but wickets fell on a regular basis…four batsmen dismissed, but crucially Philip Schofield remained at the crease adding fours and sixes to his total.
It was reaching crunch time, Londesborough needed wickets and Bilton-in-Ainsty only needed a few more runs. The rivalry was intense, the bowling fired up and each dot ball cheered on by the visiting team.
But as the light was fading, rain threatened once more and the 33rd over was reached, a flurry of runs including a six, moved the home team to within a couple of runs of victory.
It was fitting that it was Philip Schofield who faced the bowler in the 34th over but uncharacteristically, failed to score any runs from the first three balls.
However, he wasn’t to be denied and the fourth ball was a little short and he whipped it away towards the outfield and ran the two that were needed.
The whole ground seemed to erupt with loud shouts of joy!
The home team had won by two wickets on their 90th anniversary, reaching what at one point had seemed an impossible score. Phillip Schofield ended on 81 not out and was given a rapturous reception as he walked into the Pavilion.
Well done to both teams for a superb game of cricket!
We stayed for a few drinks, a little bit of food and the raffle…much to the disappointment of my nine-year-old daughter, we didn’t win a prize…she had her eyes on the wooden spoons!
But I must admit, it had been one of the best days out covering grassroots cricket in a long time and it won’t be another four years before I am back.
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