Under the watchful eye of our Patron, the Bluemantle Pursuivant himself and gratefully liberated from the shackles of lockdown, a young and vibrant gathering of keen cricketers assembled at the Nevill Ground to lock horns with familiar opponents from across the land.
The evils of Coronavirus may have been thwarted by the needles of the NHS, but the weather gods were not so kind as treacherous rain clouds hovered above Tunbridge Wells for much of the week, their contents accounting for the first day’s play, scuppering the match against the Band of Brothers.
The redoubtable Old Amplefordians arrived at the ground on the Tuesday to play the first game of the week. Chairman Ogden added to the excitement by announcing that this was the 70th anniversary of the fixture as the players were about to take the field. Pleasingly the game itself resulted in a victory for the home side, the most notable batting performance coming from Richard Calver (84) in setting the OAs 204 to win. Some disciplined bowling from the BMs ensured the target was not reached, with a brace of wickets each for Rothery, Pullen, Jackson and Ogden T, the latter having mutated into an off spinner over lockdown.
Emeriti were next to make the pilgrimage, thankfully with no overnight rain to delay proceedings. Batting first, the visitors plodded along, assiduously sticking to their task for 54.3 overs, tested in the main by Sam Huggett and Nico Chu who took 3-35 and 3-40 respectively. Chasing 181 for a second consecutive win of the week, the BMs lost their first game in four years, bowled out for 146 in just under 36 overs. Bailey Wightman, who had appeared for Kent earlier in the season as a medium pacer from Adelaide, held Emeriti at bay with a dogged 41 from 61 balls, with only Toby Pullen and the young Chu providing further resistance with 42 and 23. Nevertheless, we were grateful for an uninterrupted day and the company of three generations of the Pullen family. Bar takings were up on the day.
For those Bluemantles with a knowledge of the club’s history, the Thursday was the day to look forward to when a commemorative plaque was to be unveiled on the wall of the Bluemantle Stand, honouring our lifelong friends, Bob and Rupert Bairamian. Fittingly, Chairman Ogden had chosen the match against the Stragglers of Asia for the ceremony, Bob and Rupert being such distinguished servants of both clubs. Dozens of friends and family gathered for the day, bringing picnics, memories and laughter as the grey and receding watched the young and hopeful take the field for a 40 over match with the BMs batting first.
Nothing could have been more encouraging for the future of BM cricket than the performances of Finn Tomlinson (77), Ted Paice (27 in 27 balls) and Will Daniels (1-25 and a massive six to greet the arrival of his Grandfather, Carl Openshaw!). All three played with a maturity beyond their tender years, with batsmen Tomlinson and Paice showing patience and aggression when required, and Daniels, aged 15, bowling with pace and control. Off the field, touching speeches by Club President Nigel Wheeler and Justin Bairamian, son and brother of Bob and Rupie, brought a downpour of both rain and Pol Roger as the day’s cricket was brought to an early close.
Sadly, more overnight precipitation meant the ground was unfit for play and the final game of the week against the Moose CC was abandoned.
This week of cricket, after so much disruption to our daily lives, reminds us of what we have to look forward to and enjoy. This wonderful ground, club and game allow us the privilege of friendship, competitive sport and humour. Bibulous lunches, our tummies stoked by Charlotte Burrough’s wholesome fodder, the reassuring presence of the Bluemantle and his Politburo of Wheeler, Ogden, Butler, Burrough and Atkinson and the knowledge that whatever Wuhan may throw at us, Bluemantle Week is to be cherished.
Ed Atkinson August ’21