English village cricket – Stansted Park CC v Langstone CC: Eye-smiling

“I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips.”
– Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World

This is a glorious summer’s day in Portsmouth. And Hampshire, the United Kingdom, is fifty shades of green. It’s Thursday. Teachers are striking. A Test match (largely forgotten) continues in Nottingham, and we holiday with family. The sister of Nothafagus cunninghammii married an Englishman years ago. They have two kids and live in Portsmouth. We’re here with them now. It’s brilliant.
We pick up baguettes from Bob (“I won’t be working in five years”) and head down to the water. We’re aboard HMS Victory, most famously Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
It’s humbling.
And Ian, my brother-in-law, as well as tour guide and cyclist, is chief rouseabout for Stansted Park cricket club.  Tonight there’s a Twenty20 game and I’ve been selected to play.
Brilliant.
And now here we are at Stansted House, dressed in creams, taking the field for Stansted Park CC. One of those “look where life has taken you” moments. The stately manor house (clock tower, one million or so rooms) sits grandly overlooking this verdant playing field set among a forest. This is Danny the Champion of the World country. It’s as though I’m on the estate of Mr Victor Hazell. Pheasant shooting must be going on somewhere near here.

Village cricket underway at Stansted Park

Playing village cricket at Stansted Park

==
Web entry: Stansted Park CC was formed in 2008 when old friends realized that it made sense to merge Old Eldonians CC and Rowlands Castle CC to form a single stronger club and to continue the tradition of this great game which has been played at Stansted Park on the lawn in front of the stately home since 1741 when Slindon beat Portsmouth.

We play friendly village cricket, usually on a Sunday (occasional matches on a Saturday)  and also enjoy Twenty20 games of an evening at the height of summer.  Our squad includes players from five decades and we welcome interest from any like minded players.

As well as local cricket we also enjoy the hospitality of the West Country while on tour, sampling the odd cream tea, quaffing an ale or two and bowling our fair share of pasties.   

==

This is very close to the home of cricket. It’s easy to feel cricketers of the past lurking among stately shadows.

We’re a bit stretched for time on arrival and I’m rapidly into borrowed kit. Stylish manor house image embroidered on the chest. Captain Gary (“what can you do, Dave?”) marshals us onto the field. We’re bowling.

The pitch is low and slow. I’m given the ball first change from the northern end; manor home to the off side, lush green vegetation all around. The ball comes out alright, though it’s more effective to bowl slowly with accuracy on this deck. N. cunninghammii arrives with Justine and the kids just as I nip one back to take the openers’ off stump. Boom. 1 fa in England.
It’s grand. Pete (“Let me be the first to congratulate you”) Clutterbuck happily shakes my hand. We met yesterday. Portsmouth’s only blacksmith.

Happy moments. Happy to have contributed to the collective. Happy to have done something worthy of a continuing family story. I’m fielding in the extra cover boundary, in front of the manor, when the Buds (“Dad, did YOU get someone out?”) race over for high fives. At the end of 20 overs Landscombe CC has collected 113 runs.

Captain Gary (“Now let’s see you bat”) asks me to open the batting with my nephew Ted. Superb. Unfortunately, after a thrumming cover drive of note (“oooh Ash, I suggest you drop the length a bit shorter there, lad”) I’m bowled by a wiley old spinner for 4. Defence thrown out the door in this affecting environment.
It’s a chirpy game of colour and humour. Captain Gary flays the bowling. Their ‘keeper (“ooh I’ll retrieve that ball from the lounge, lads”) offers good commentary. The match ebbs and flows. With 12 balls left, and three wickets in hand, we need only four to win. Bill (“this game is harder than it looks”) swishes out a maiden 19th over. And so, largely through impatience, we contrive to lose the game.

The full moon now rises over the Manor. The Stansted Park gents are a bit deflated, but we all, opposition too, retire to the pub in neighbouring village Rowlands Castle for sausages, chips and pints. To the pub we take meandering, winding, narrow lanes (“watch out: deer on the road”) through woodland and farm land. Overhanging tree branches. Sitting in the most picturesque beer garden of “The Castle,” Ian (“are you boys right for Sunday?”) rouses a team for the 40 over Sunday competition. Stansted Park CC have an arrangement here whereby this pub here provides match day sandwiches, and the cricketers provide post-match custom. Pints of Seafarer’s Ale and HSB Horndean Special Brew (made locally) take the votes.

There’s been not one reference to the England v India Test match presently underway in Nottingham, though plenty to the World Cup (“I could have scored through that Brazilian defence”) and to Le Tour (“Yorkshire was heaving, John”).
Test Cricket coverage is limited to Pay TV. No one seems that bothered. Village cricket, though, was wonderful. Well done all.

Shadows grow slowly. It’s 10pm before darkness arrives and we’re off back to Portsmouth. All of these around me are eye-smiles.

Langstone CC 113/5 from 20 overs
Stansted Park CC 110/7 from 20 overs

Australian at Stansted Park

An Australian at Stansted Park

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    E.r let me be the first to congratulate you in these pages.

    You are living the dream.

    How were the sausages?

    Let us know how you go on Sunday if you play.

  2. Well done David. Keep enjoying every moment.
    L.M.

  3. Lovely Dave! Glad you guys are having such a great time over there. Carly x

  4. Great work David. We spoke of this at the lunch, and it unfolded perfectly! Gentlemanly cricket, fetching setting, and then a beer garden. You might as well jump on the plane and return now. Next you’ll tell us that Seafarer’s Ale is better than VB!

    Looking forward to more of your English adventure!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    What an impressive venue Stansted Park looks. Great yarn Dave. Look forward to reading more from your trip.

  6. Brilliant, e.r.
    Another item crossed off the bucket list.

  7. Phil Hill says

    What beer were they serving?

  8. Sounds like a brilliant day all round. Venue looks a treat.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic OBP ( must admit a tad jealous ) love the old school of both teams having a beer together thank you OBP

  10. I am very jealous. Was the out swinger working nicely? Nice one!

  11. E.regnans says

    G’day all. Cheers.
    Swish- sausages were flavoursome in a way foreign to me. But then, anything would have tasted grand in that setting. Didn’t play the Sunday fixture (critiquing the Romans’ bath architecture).
    Ush- think I’ve (finally) found my preferred bowling conditions. Only half a world away from Banyule CC.
    Rulebook – we all sat at the same table in the beer garden. A friendly & positive scene, once match payments were sorted.
    All the best.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    OBP Once the match payments were sorted ??? Anything you need to confess about the result ? A new way of paying for a OS trip ?

  13. E.regnans says

    Ahh, no Lou Vincent activity, Rulebook.
    Though I had some difficulty with the currency. We were to all chip in £2.50 and somehow, after an exchange of £5 notes and odd little coins, I ended up “gaining” £2.50.
    A short-lived profit, soon uncovered and repaid.
    Reputation of Australians as thieves and swindlers intact.

  14. Malcolm Ashwood says

    V good OBP I couldn’t resist the line carry on ! ( interesting re Lou Vincent before being offered a contract in NZ he had been picked out and was a chance to make it as a AFL umpire )

  15. Julian Brown says

    Read this July 2021. I’m Captain of Langstone cc and we continue to play the fixture as we did on 8 th July this year. Stansted took revenge but it was back to the Castle for beer ,food and friendship as usual.Long may the fixture continue.

  16. Colin Ritchie says

    What a cracking read ER. I enjoyed watching matches on the village green when living in London early 70s. Regret not taking up the offer of a workmate to join the local team.

  17. E.regnans says

    Well – the marvel of www.
    Thanks very much Julian for leaving your comment here, seven years after the article’s publication.
    I dare say that Ian played for Stansted Park CC recently, also.
    Magnificent to read of your ongoing fixture.
    And of its ongoing spirit.
    Thanks again.

    ==

    Thanks Col.
    That innings above in 2014 was my second innings on English soil.
    Grateful to have earlier played one game for a friends club in 2003 (Old Actonians – in the London borough of Ealing – District or Piccadilly lines, I think). I was only in London for a few days.
    Took a skied catch directly under the incredibly busy Heathrow flight path.
    And scored exactly the same as DG Bradman in his last Test innings in England.

  18. Colin Ritchie says

    When I was living in London I lived in Acton, close to the Acton Central station. I remember watching some cricket on fields around the town, could have watched the Old Actonians for all I know. Small world sometimes!

  19. Warren Tapner says

    Wonderful, whimsical read ER.
    Only in England. Thank you.

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