An Academic Roses Match, a Grinning Cheshire Cat and a Pot of Basil

Arriving back in the C21st yesterday , Third Man made his way back a few hundreds years more to Grappenhall, a village in Cheshire, and the venue for the Lancashire and Yorkshire’s Academies to meet for a ‘friendly’ two day match with a minimum of 110 overs in the day and no side to bat longer than 120 overs.

It was hot and dry, but a quick scan and ‘feel’ of a worn track close to the wicket foretold a good time for spinners on what should turn out to be an unstable track.

Lancashire won the toss and the captain was eager to bat.

S. Oldfield (Esso), the Yorkshire Academy chaperonne, set up camp in his usual place by the sight screen and scowled throughout the day.

A couple of scores of seventy from numbers 3 and 4 helped Lancashire to make their way towards 300 in 90 overs by tea time, three left arm spinners gaining big turn across the face of the bat and getting the odd ball to rise steeply.  Yorkshire took the new ball after tea and Lancashire pushed on to 320 all out.  Yorkshire had scored 39 without damage when play ended at 6.30 with over 120 overs bowled in the day.

Grappenhall is on the Bridgewater Canal.  You have to cross it by bridge to reach the village cricket ground.  At lunch time TM and a companion from near Middleton made their way along a shaded path into the village with its two fine pubs, The Ram’s Head and the Parr Arms.  Next to the latter is St Wilfred’s church, the stone of which looks as if it must have been towed up the Mersey from the quarries at Woolton, Liverpool which also lines the deep cutting outside of Lime Street Station and matches the Anglican Cathedral.

Wikipedia says that this carving of a cat on the west face of the tower may have been the inspiration for the grinning Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

TM’s companion recounted how severe was the culture shock for Basil D’Oliviera when he arrived in the Central Lancashire League in the early Sixties. 

He found it very difficult to accept Arlott’s directions to the lavatories, “But those are for the Whites”.  It took him some time to accept that he could and would change in the same dressing rooms as the rest of the team, that white men were offering to buy him drinks in their bar after the match,  (D’Oliviera did not drink alcohol when he arrived) and that the white  elderly couple who he lodged with treated him as if he were their own son.

As a result he apparently failed to score or take a wicket in his first few games, but nevertheless soon made up for this and ended up top scorer and top wicket taker by the end of the season.

“I faced him and I bowled against him,” said TM’s companion, “But he was too good for me.”

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