Summer wouldn't really be summer without a clash between Blackheath and Rowledge in the Cricketer National Village Cup, so in this strangest of years it was very reassuring to welcome our visitors on Sunday, supported as ever by their loyal band of spectators giving the first real sense of occasion to a match on the 'heath this year.
In this, the first round, the prize of a national final at Lord's in September is still seven wins away, but Blackheath have been to the quarter-finals in the not too distant past, and Rowledge went all the way to the final in the 1980s.
Winning the toss, Blackheath asked the visitors to bat first. Despite being well covered overnight the pitch had seen a fair amount of rain in the previous days and offered more assistance than the usual Blackheath "road".
Sharing the bowling duties among seven players, and with their usual tight display of fielding, Blackheath were able to maintain pressure on the batsmen throughout the innings, limiting Rowledge to 154-8 from their 40 overs. Pick of the bowlers were Ollie Arengo-Jones with 3-23 from 8 overs, Tom Richardson with 2-25 from 7, and Danny Harrison with 1-23 from 8 overs.
Often in the recent past Rowledge have set a modest total like this, only to prove all too adept at defending it against a less experienced Blackheath batting side, but this year was a little different with Rowledge blooding a number of talented teenagers while the Blackheath "youngsters" have grown into seasoned players.
Foremost of these was Will Melhuish, having played cricket at Blackheath since he was a toddler and now leading our 1st XI batting line-up. He was looking to build on his 130 in the league last week and he never really looked in trouble, working the good balls around for 1s and 2s and punishing the bad ones as he cruised to 78 not out.
He was ably assisted by Alan Cope who made a typically dashing 33 before misjudging a pull and being caught on the boundary. Despite growing up only a few feet from the boundary at Blackheath, and being a frequent member of our league side in recent years, this was Alan's debut in the Village Cup. Competition rules had previously banned this former captain of Loughborough MCCU with List A cricket on his CV from the competition for 25 years, but the ban has now been reduced to 5 years allowing the most "Blackheath" of Blackheath players to finally take part.
After Cope's departure a short flurry of wickets momentarily threatened to allow Rowledge back into the game before Ollie Arengo-Jones (16 not out) arrived to help Melhuish to steady the ship, enabling Blackheath to cruise to a 5-wicket victory with more than 7 overs to spare.
Round 2 in the Surrey Group stages takes place next Sunday 2nd August and is likely to mean a trip to either Oakwood Hill or Churt.
Scorecard - https://teamtamer.com/tt/ttevent?id=1768