It takes more than a little thing like a global pandemic to stop Blackheath Cricket Week, which has been a tradition in the first full week of August ever since our centenary year in 1978. In recent years we've often had to cope with mixed weather conditions, but in 2020 the sun shone almost all the time, spectators came in considerable numbers, and even without the normal evening social events that make the Week so special it was still one of the most successful we've ever had.
Before play started on Monday there was a small ceremony to mark the well-earned retirement of one of the club's most ever-present and loyal servants. Robbie Burns has been scoring for us since the 1970s, and has been the regular 1st XI scorer since the early 1980s. Having been made a club vice-president a couple of years ago, Robbie was presented with a framed picture showing the ground where he has spent so much time along with some of his more memorable moments. He will be much missed "behind the pencil", but we hope to see him for many more off duty visits in future.
And so to the traditional opener against Cricket Society, our Monday opponents ever since the inception of the Week. Blackheath won the toss and batted but found it hard to make progress against an experienced attack, and despite some middle-order runs from Tommy Dann (29), Harry Poil (27) and Ben Stefanik (20), our total of 142 all out looked well short of what was required.
However, early wickets from Ben Taylor (seen above, in full incantation to the god Ellbeedubellyoo) put pressure on, and some very tight late bowling from Ben Stefanik and Danny Harrison enabled us to escape with a dramatic draw, as Cricket Society finished with the scores level at 142-6!
Tuesday, and the Grasshoppers brought what was probably the strongest opposition of the week to face a much less experienced Blackheath side. Batting first the visitors made maximum use of a good pitch and a lightning fast outfield to amass 266-4 from just 36 overs, with only Simon Mansell's late burst of 3-53 preventing worse damage.
In reply, once senior batsmen Bobby Lowe, Ronny Harrison and Ben Stefanik had all departed without scoring there was no way back. Despite a typically cultured 24 from youngster James Fortescue, we subsided to 64 all out.
Pictured left are the club's oldest, and youngest, players of the week discussing tactics. Bobby Lowe played Surrey 2s cricket in the 1970s, while James Fortescue is the current Surrey Under 13s 'keeper. Meanwhile the village's oldest resident Billie Hockley watches on from the Cope stand.
Fortunately, better things were to come as the week progressed...
On Wednesday we were once again delighted to welcome the Kenya Kongonis who brought their usual strong side, but this time better matched by several of the Blackheath 1st XI. Inserted on another good but dry track, the Blackheath innings was dominated by a magnificent 120 from opener Rob Parrott as we mustered 240-9.
A strong reply from the Kongonis was pegged back by the spin of Tommy Dann (3-36) and although they remained in the hunt for some time, once Archie Freeth had bowled Wright (see above) the innings lost momentum and the visitors were left hanging on for a draw at 215-9.
As usual the Kongonis had brought plenty of supporters and after the game we were pleased to hear an update on the work of the East Africa Character Development Trust, and an impromptu order of takeaway fish & chips for all by the Chairman led to donations that raised about £400 for what has become our favourite charity.
Thursday, and we welcomed Jack Frost, who included our own members Mike Chase and Nigel Fox among their ranks, along with Mike's talented cricketing daughter Lydia.
Despite two early wickets for young Will Nash (above), Frost got into their stride and on a hot day the Blackheath fielding wilted as Jackson (105) and Billington (71no) set about the bowling. To come off at 225-5 after only 35 overs seemed a very sporting declaration by the visitors, and so it proved...
Paul Nash may no longer be quite as quick across the ground as his son Will, but he lacks nothing in experience. After Tom Hufton (73) had given us a firm platform, Nash's careful 83 not out supported by returning "old boy" Dominic Ingram (23) guided us to our first victory of the week in quick time.
...and it's always nice to play against your old mates. Seen here being "welcomed" to the crease by sledge-meister general Mike Chase - "Abuse is not what it was in our day, old boy".
And so to Friday. A Blackheath team that included four past and present Cranleighans (Graham Webb, Alan Cope, Archie Freeth and Ben Arengo-Jones) took on an Old Cranleighan side containing past and a present Blackheathens David Bugge and Tom Hufton.
Winning the toss and batting on one of the hottest days of the year Blackheath scored 70 from their first 7 overs, with Will Melhuish (74) once again in imperious form, and at 182-3 from 28 overs the home side were threatening to put the game out of sight. What followed was bizarre in the extreme...
The introduction of Bugge, England Schools opening bowler 1975, now slower but just as straight, and off spinner Max Subba Row, saw us lose our last 7 wickets for just 7 runs!! At tea it seemed all was lost with a strong OC top five waiting in the wings... but that was just the start...
20 minutes and just three overs later Old Cranleighans were 12 for 5! 12 wickets had fallen for 19 runs. Archie Freeth, a recent arrival at Cranleigh School on a cricket scholarship and keen to prove a point, had demolished the top order with a fine display of aggressive fast bowling, finishing with 4-23. His first ball removed the middle stump of a batsman offering no shot, his third was edged to the 'keeper, and that was followed by two wickets for Danny Harrison in his first over from the bottom end.
Despite a cavalier 53 from Sam Langmead the visitors never recovered and it was left to superannuated spinner Graham Webb to administer the coup de grace (below), bowling Subba Row to finish the innings at 110 all out and end the Week on a winning note.
Played 5, Won 2, Drawn 2, Lost 1 - our best set of Cricket Week results for some years!
To make a successful Cricket Week requires the time and effort of many people, of course. Bar Manager Terry Marter and his team, captains and team managers including Simon Mansell, Welfare Officer Alex Jones with a particularly difficult job this year... and many others. But in particular, here are one or two who are all too easy to take for granted...
Cricket Week couldn't happen without these two, umpires Andy and Alan. Always willing, despite the heat, and always somehow managing to be popular despite their job...
And as the final, but most important thought of all, where would we be without the efforts of Head Groundsman Terry Brockman?
He produce great wickets for nine days in a row, in a huge heatwave...
With additional junior pitches to prepare every Saturday and Sunday morning...
...and junior practice sessions on his ground every day of the previous week
...and the following week
...all while recovering from serious illness.
Thanks to them all.