Sunday, 1 July 2018

David Bottomley cricket memories

David Bottomley has this wonderful memory of a cricket match back in 1983...

click the photo to see it full size.

I can remember playing in this match very clearly.

It was nearing the end of the summer term in 1981 and Jewitt had somehow made its way to the final of the 4th year House cricket competition.

We had no right to be there. The team - largely made up of enthusiastic but talent-free playground sloggers – had stumbled its way through the first two rounds, pulling off miraculous victories against Birchall and Wight by defending ludicrously low scores of around 20 runs.

Although we gave ourselves no hope against Dorsett – the favourites, with their line-up of what seemed like half of the school team – we were determined to give it our best shot.

It was a glorious summer day. Exams were over, the long holiday was looming and the mood was carefree.

Mr Sutherland conducted the toss and Richard Orr, Jewitt’s captain, called it correctly. He elected to bat first, as we did for the first two matches. Why break a winning formula, especially against the likes of Dorsett? Better to give them something to chase rather than let their talented batsmen smack our journeymen bowlers all over the place to set an impossible target.

And so we started. Could we pull off another upset?
I loved playing in the House competitions.

I was an enthusiastic but not hugely talented sportsman. As far as representing the School was concerned, my skills allowed me to play for a woefully bad rugby Second XV– and that was it.

That was why the House competition was such a joy – there was so much more satisfaction to be had playing in matches that mattered rather than meaningless games lesson face-offs or playground kickabouts.

And having the chance to play competitively in sports which I had little experience of - such as hockey - was a thrill.

It was even a pleasure to take part and not do terribly well – which was what happened more often than not in the first two years of my school career.

Jewitt – led by the affable but not hugely inspiring Mr Mitchelmore – always seemed to finish in fourth place. We weren’t especially good or bad at anything, it seemed. Not blessed with many outstanding sportsmen, we tried hard, but never achieved much.

Which is why the occasional first place was so fantastic. What could be better than a group of fairly talentless lads pulling together to work as a team that was capable of more than the sum of their parts?

However, when I reached the Lower 6th, something miraculous happened: the also-rans of Jewitt became all-conquering juggernauts. For the next 2 years, we seemed to win everything.

I’m not sure what happened.

Some of it was undoubtedly down to Mr Thomson, who replaced Mr Mitchelmore as our House Master. Mr Thomson was an incredibly nice man, whose infectious enthusiasm generated a certain confidence among the Jewitt boys.

Part of it was also getting into the winning habit. Success breeds success, and the more we won, the greater our self-belief.

There were many highlights in those final two years, but the one I remember most clearly was the final of the 6th year rugby competition.

Jewitt had made its way imperiously to the final where we played Birchall, the other hot favourites. Both teams had their share of school players – we had the likes of Martin Bazley, Alex Montgomery, Allan Curtis and Gareth Oliver, while Birchall had Howard Jones, Brough Slatter, Gary Steele and more.

It was an incredibly tight, low-scoring match, with the decisive try coming very late on when (I think) Roy Shivmangel breached the Birchall line.

When the final whistle was blown, the satisfaction was huge. A moment of sporting ecstasy that lives long in the memory.
Back to the final of the 4th year cricket competition, and somehow Jewitt had amassed a decent total.

Our 62 runs was more than twice what we had managed to score in either of the previous rounds and gave our bowlers a chance.

Very early in the Dorsett innings, we got the wicket of school captain Mark (?) Porter. At that moment, we thought we were going to win. “We can do this,” was the collective cry.

But Stuart Kilpatrick stayed resolute, occupying the crease and quickly picking off the runs. He took Dorsett past our total with plenty of overs to spare.

Were we disappointed? A little, for sure.

But there was also great satisfaction to be had in knowing that we had done far, far better than we should have done.

Is there anything sweeter in life than the unexpected sporting success?

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