Sudbury cricket match.
Heads and tail-enders in the Sudbury showers.
Author and Yellow Advertiser sports correspondent Brian Jeeves offers his thoughts on a damp day in East Anglia.
The quaint Suffolk market town of Sudbury, famed for a mention in the Doomsday book (then again, isn’t everywhere) while the local church, St Gregory’s, is the final resting place (if that is the correct description) of Simon Theobald’s bonce (the rest of him is buried at Canterbury Cathedral). Simon served as Bishop of London as well as Archbishop of Canterbury, and at the time of his death, by beheading during the Peasants Revolt of 1381, he had bagged himself another eye-catching gig as Lord Chancellor of England.
Anyway, I’m waffling. 231,598 days on from Simon’s somewhat unpleasant demise (it took eight blows to knock his block off), the Lords Taverners are in town. Unfortunately whereas Simon was regarded by the insurgent peasant’s as one of the principal authors of their woes, today the foremost adversary of the Tav’s and Sudbury Cricket Club is an uninvited burst of summer showers. Nevertheless, we need not have worried. The distinct lack of a cricket match was more than made up for by our tremendously hospitable hosts, meanwhile several of the visiting XI adhered that wonderful British expression ‘to make do and mend’ to make sure the day descended into a crescendo of memories and laughs. Personally, the damp abandonment brought forth mixed emotions. To be denied a debut alongside the likes of Andy Caddick and Paul Nixon was slightly disappointing. On the other hand, in view that my pre-match preparation consisted of a sterling 1 not out for Venthams Works XI in 1984 and a couple of scratch matches in Germany with the touring Kings Field Casuals football team some thirty-years later, clearly it was not the ideal groundwork to face the likes of Sudbury’s James Poulson, who had performed amicably with both bat and ball for Oxford MCCU in a first class encounter with Warwickshire last season. Indeed, I am indeed the tailest (is that even a word?) of tail-enders and only bat at number eleven simply because there isn’t a number twelve! Still, as a diehard Essex fan who has watched the likes of Graham Gooch and Keith Fletcher as well as listened to my dad’s tales of the Great Trevor Bailey, I think my wild imagination might have enough to see me through…well ok, perhaps not!
But it doesn’t matter; the inclement weather has both deprived and spared me, so what next? Step forward our compere for the afternoon Ryan Philpott, ‘Eastender’ (He might have killed Lucy Beale you know) and good friend of mine. Ryan’s relishes his involvement as a team manager with the Taverners, and I must say, I was incredibly honoured when he invited me to be a part of this wonderful team and organisation. An honest, and entertaining Q and A session with Messer’s Caddick and Nixon covers the Ashes, cricketing greats and Kevin Pietersen (well, he’d be disappointed if we hadn’t spoke about him), is followed by an auction. Ryan takes it all in his stride as valuable funds are raised. His interaction with the microphone makes the tender process of handing over cash seem like a pleasurable experience. Note to former headless, and indeed current, Chancellor’s!
Both players commitment to the Lords Taverners has been demonstrated today. Caddick has made a four-hour journey from his home in Somerset, while Nixon has travelled across country from Leicester. “It is vital that we allow everyone in life to experience the camaraderie, fun and spirit of Cricket whatever their background or ability” the former Leicestershire and England wicket keeper told me.
But you can see that Paul openly enjoys these meets “I've played for and attended Tav's events for 25 years now, great people to be involved with who genuinely want to make a real difference” he told me.
Ryan invites comedian/satirist Andy Zaltzman to the stage. Kent fan Andy emerged to the fore as a finalist in the talent contest ‘So you think you’re funny’ and hasn’t looked back. To date he has played once for the Taverners. His main contribution was doing a set at their Christmas lunch. “It’s hugely important, both as a cricketing organisation and in its broader fundraising aspect. Hugely admirable all round” he exclaims.
Andy keeps the laughs coming, and noticeably has his audience forgetting that they should be watching him donned in his whites. “Great pity there was no cricket, but, on the plus side, a lot of windows remained intact that I would otherwise inevitably have smashed in an absolute deluge of sixes, of course” he tells me.
Soon after, I caught up with Lloyd Scott, former Dagenham goalkeeper and fireman. After being diagnosed with leukaemia, he underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Since then Lloyd has raised more than £5 million for a number of charities, performing events such as completing the London Marathon in a deep-sea diver’s suit and riding a Penny Farthing across Australia. Back in the day I stood behind his goal as my beloved Southend United faced his Daggers side in the Essex Senior Cup. Now, some 30-years later I am completely in awe in his company.
“It had always been an ambition of mine to play for the Lord's Taverners” Lloyd tells me. “Ever since my Dad took me to Lord’s for the first time to watch a game. I think the Taverners played a Rest of the World XI in 1970. After I completed the 2002 London Marathon in a deep-sea diving suit, I asked if it were possible to become a member and play some games. Fortunately I was accepted and have played for them ever since”
Lloyd speaks enthusiastically about the Taverners. “The work done is incredibly special. The fact that it assists youngsters that are not fortunate enough to be able to take their health and mobility for granted. It provides them with the opportunity to be involved in sport, which is an aspect of life, that I feel is massively understated. When I was undergoing treatment for leukaemia, all I wanted to do was to regain my health and get back to playing sport - I did a charity fun run just 3 days after being in hospital for 10 weeks; I missed the ability to participate in sport that much! “
By now any minute chance of play has well and truly evaporated, which might work out well for me. Remember our friend Simon? Well, in 2011 a CT scan of his mummified skull was performed to create a facial reconstruction. But let’s be honest, the good people of Sudbury will never quite know what the decapitated Lord Chancellor looked like, just as now they’ll never know just how bad a cricketer I am.
The rain continues to fall, making the short stroll from the marquee to the pavilion bar almost as treacherous as the sodden outfield. Nonetheless, friendships in this picturesque Suffolk cricket ground have been forged and plans are forged for another try in 2016. I’ll leave the final words to my wife Victoria who has a hard time understanding this game that we all know and love, but who thoroughly enjoyed her day in the company of so many good people. - “I could get used to not watching cricket like this”.
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