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The long innings of my 2011 vintage Volkswagen Polo is over.
With 146,222 miles (note the Double Nelson element!) on the clock, the reliable old campaigner expired last week – albeit only a month before I’d planned to scrap it.
No way, without major expense, would it get through a mid-July full service and MOT.
Whilst replacement wheels are sought, and it is a bad time to be buying, I am in the unfamiliar position – since 1989, at least – of having to rely on public transport.
A Saturday cricket conundrum: to find a game from which I could get home, despite its likely finish falling between seven and eight in the evening.
The fixture fitted the bill: I’d been informed the Parish’s ground is attractive; I discovered the Aquafix Oval is 200 yards from a railway station, East Garforth; and a Northern Trains website search indicated the service between Leeds and York runs hourly until 22.42.
My sole concern: would Fenwick, newly promoted to the league’s second-tier this season, positioned ninth in the table, be capable of challenging the Parish, who lay second behind leaders Old Sharlston?
Those fears proved groundless. What a game it turned out to be. The best of my 2022 season. Fenwick won a real nailbiter by four runs with four balls to spare.
Chasing 268 to win, the Parish’s chance seemed to have gone when, having recovered from 27-2, they found themselves 161-7.
Enter Abdul, one of four Afghans in the Parish XI. Primarily a T20 specialist, he was making his debut.
Earlier, he took 3-67 as Fenwick posted a formidable 267-7 – 25 wides! – from their 46 overs.
Abdul was batting at number nine because, a Parish regular informed, although he’d “looked good in the nets”, he was something of an unknown quantity.
Crash, bang, wallop! Assisted by captain Terry Lyons (29) then Andy Conboy (15), he struck 66 in 41 balls. His whirlwind, game-changing knock featured seven sixes and four fours.
A tense final hour, during which I spotted a red kite banking gracefully above the clubhouse, boiled down to the Parish needing six runs off the last over.
Aiming to hit the second delivery out of the ground, Abdul top-edged the ball high into the air, and Mark White, at deep gully, pouched the catch.
Opening bat White’s relief was obvious. Twice, out on the boundary, he had narrowly failed to dismiss Abdul from a skier.
The first opportunity was dropped, the second taken – after a bout of juggling – but, agonisingly, a foot strayed the wrong side of the rope.
Other eye-catching performances were led by Fenwick captain Brad Hunter, a 21-year-old who scored 104 – a first senior century – off 103 balls then took 3-65 from his 14 overs.
Having elected to bat, in a very strong wind, the remnants of Tropical Storm Alex, which caused flooding in Cuba and Florida, the visitors laid firm foundations.
White (25) and Matthew Harrison (73) added 73 for the first wicket then Harrison teamed up with Hunter to put on 67 for the second. At 140-2, Fenwick were in a strong position.
There was a dropped catch, in the slips, during the ninth over, with Fenwick 55-0.
Will Brayson, called up to the Parish First XI recently after impressing consistently in the Seconds this season, finished with 3-73 from 13.
The Parish had a few players missing, including three influential batters. Going some way to balancing the scales, Fenwick were without a useful bowler.
It meant much rested on the shoulders of Jamie Stockton, one of the Parish’s openers. The prolific Stockton has scored 52 centuries during his time at the club.
Against Fenwick, Stockton had to settle for 53 in 64 balls. He hit nine fours and a six.
Fenwick’s Ben Randall took 3-79 from his full allocation of 14 overs.
A good day’s work, then, for Fenwick, who the previous Saturday had pipped visitors Whitley Bridge by six runs.
Sixteen points to the visitors, who no longer play in Fenwick, but share the ground of Sykehouse Cricket Club, five to the Parish. Neither team’s table position altered.
Pre-match, the Aquafix Oval wicket was described to me as a “batter’s paradise”.
In their last home game, on May 28, for example, the Parish chased down Knottingley Town’s 280 with three balls to spare.
Mystery surrounds Garforth Parish Church Cricket Club’s early years.
The club’s formation date is not known, although their name appears in records from the late 1800s then surfaces again in the 1920s.
The ‘Parish Church’, incidentally, a soot-blackened Gothic edifice, dedicated to St Mary, is a quarter-of-a-mile away. Only trees in full leaf hide its spire from the Aquafix Oval.
A cricket-loving farmer, Dougie Atkinson, invited the Parish to move grounds in 1958 and occupy land he owned.
In a far-sighted move, the Parish purchased the site, for £2,000, three years later.
Given Garforth, a former pit village, is a mushrooming commuter town, where land for new housing is in great demand, one wonders how much the ground is worth in 2022.
The Parish are relative newcomers to the Pontefract & District Cricket League, which they joined from the Wetherby Cricket League.
Earlier in their story, the Parish were members of cricket leagues including the Barkston Ash and the West Riding, each defunct.
The Parish take pride in the quality of their wicket. “Only West Bretton is as good,” a home player advised.
The “only thing [about the facilities] that lets us down”, the same player told me, is the clubhouse and changing rooms, both of which, like my crocked VW, are showing their age.
There are nice touches, mind; notably, a clock, outside the clubhouse, with a ‘Welcome to the Parish’ surround.
The Parish are busy raising £300,000 – some of it through grant aid – to replace clubhouse and changing rooms, about 40 years old. The new structure will be eco-friendly.
One Parish player quipped: “I’ll have retired by the time it’s up.”
I did my bit – every little helps – by buying a pin badge (a club cricket rarity) and a mug of tea before having a punt on the cricket card.
Clubhouse and changing rooms occupy the northwest corner of the Aquafix Oval. Picnic tables are laid out in front.
The west side of the ground is lined by mature trees, which must be 60 feet tall. “I remember when they were saplings,” a spectator remarked, drily.
The high wind roared through the trees, which groaned and swayed ceaselessly. Reflecting the prevailing wind, their uppermost boughs overhang the boundary.
Come autumn, it will take the Parish’s groundstaff a month to clear the fallen leaves.
New housing surrounds the ground on three sides. The newest arrivals, a year or two old, are behind the trees.
They have been built on the site of a breeze block factory. A Parish player told me how, in the sort of winds that blew during the Fenwick game, the players would get covered in dust.
High catch netting on the west side, and opposite, protects the windows and roofs of neighbouring homes.
Pleasingly, a row of three-storey town houses, at the north end, on the far side of Green Lane, is named Cricketers View.
Also at this end, a wooden garden shed acts as the scorebox. A corrugated sheeting shed, adjacent, is all that remains of the original changing rooms.
To the south, fenced off by the club a while ago, to deter vandals, is an area of waste ground, which seems to be ‘rewilding’ at a rate of knots.
Permission for houses, on what used to be land accessed by ginnels, has been refused. At least, in one part of the Aquafix Oval, the Parish aren’t hemmed in!
Dennis and Joyce Stockton, parents of batting mainstay Jamie (and of his brother David, a former player forced into retirement by arthritis), were described to me as the “heart and soul of this club for 30 years”.
Dennis is the club chairman, whilst Joyce says she is an “ex-tea lady and cricket groupie”.
Joyce provided teas at the Parish for 25 years. “Nobody to help me,” she added.
The Parish are a small club, with between 30 and 40 members. Players pay to play.
They no longer enter cup competitions because of the difficulty fielding a Sunday XI.
Cross-town rivals Garforth Cricket Club, whose Church Lane ground is closer to Garforth railway station, play in the third tier of the Pontefract & District Cricket League.
Historically, Garforth were stronger than the Parish. In recent years, though, the tables have been turned.
As I quickstepped back to East Garforth station, the moment the last wicket fell, making the 19.31 York train with four minutes in hand, I remembered an amusing tale I’d been told, earlier in the day, about an umpire, who stood regularly at Garforth Parish Church.
The umpire didn’t drive and was always, it appears, keen to catch the 6.30pm train, from East Garforth, into Leeds.
As that hour drew near, the umpire was likely to raise a finger to any appeal!