We all believe in Unicorns

I once played cricket at Sir Richard Branson’s house.  Honestly guv.  He has a cricket pitch on his estate in Kidlington complete with a pavilion styled like a Hawaiian beach cottage.  I even smacked the ball around a bit too, scoring 33 before I was clean bowled.  It was probably the best cricket ground I have ever been to.  That was until I pitched up at Wormsley.  Never heard of it?  Nor had I until a few weeks ago.

Wormsley is the home of the Getty family, sitting just off the M40 in Buckinghamshire.  Sir John Paul Getty was cricket mad until his death in 2003 and he built a replica of the Oval ground in his back garden for him and his chums to have a game in.  Some say it is the most beautiful cricket ground in England, others say the world.  Whatever the debate it is clear that money does buy happiness to an extent.

As we drove into the manicured grounds down a road that seemed to go on forever, past a set being build for Midsomer Murder’s and towards the real village of Dibley of course it started to rain.  We’ve gone 743 days without a drop and as soon as we arrive at the cricket it starts.

We parked up and set up camp on the boundary rope, finding every emergency blanket known to man in CMF’s little car.  Of course I was being all masculine in my t-shirt and shorts and flatly refused any garments to warm me up.  Despite the cold, and rain, the setting was unbelievable.  It could not get anymore English unless someone put a red phone box up and thatched the roof of the scorebox.  Oh, they have.

Somehow the ECB Unicorns had managed to wangle a deal to play a couple of their games here this season in the Clydesdale tournament.  Last season we had seen them record a record breaking victory at Arundel against Sussex, chasing down 325 in less than 40 overs.  So hopes were high for a repeat performance against Nottinghamshire, last season’s County Champions.

This season the Unicorns haven’t started so well.  Played 4, lost 4 isn’t ideal, although the visitors were actually bottom of the league coming into this game on net run rate.  But are they expected to win?  After all they are a “development” side and all of their best players will be picked off by the counties.  But what do I know.  What I need is the opinion of a cricket expert.  “Who’s that coming over the hill….” None other than the belle of Test Match Sofa and  SPIN magazine’s own Lizzy Ammon, who as you know also writes for the legsidelizzy.com as well as the GTC Media stable.  So tempting her with one of CMF’s Melton Mowbray Pork Pies she gave me her take on the situation.

ECB Unicorns lost to Nottinghamshire by 7 wickets- Wormsley – Sunday 18th May 2011
This was a game of missed chances.  After a short break for rain early in the Unicorns innings they failed to capitalise on a decent base laid down by openers Campbell and Thornley who put on a steady 64 before Campbell was plumb LBW to Franks.  Knappett joined Thornely in the middle and whilst they never accelerated the scoring, they did keep the rate ticking at 5 per over.

By this stage we were into course 3 and 4 of our 12 prepared especially for the occasion.  Fiery Hot pickled onions were indeed just that, and probably that nice when put in Pimms along with the other bits of fruit and veg but CMF didn’t mind or care.

Thornely was the star of the show for the Unicorns looking steady and poised for his hundred.  But he fell just three short.  Or did he?  Confusion reigns supreme on this one.  Conspiracy theorists amongst you will love this.

– According to the announcer, Thornely carried his bat through the innings, scoring 97 not out in what must have been a frustrating last over not to get the strike or his hundred;

– According to the BBC website, Thornely was bowled by Pattison off the last ball of the innings for 97 having faced 122 balls and hitting 9 four.  CricInfo’s scorecard also concurs with this but has him scoring 9 fours and a six;

– According to CricInfo’s match report Thornely scored 97 before being bowled by Pattison with two overs to go when the score was on 187 having faced just 95 balls.  Lett was then bowled by Franks off the final ball;

Confused?  Yep so are we.

The interval was short and sweet but still enough time to find out that West Ham were 2-0 up and cruising to victory that would leave them to fight another day.  It was also amusing to see some of the wide variety of spectators at the ground.  A Leslie Philips double was wandering around with red trousers on, cravat and a “hellooo” for all the ladies.  A strange looking woman who simply “refused to use the portaloo” and said to her husband she would go up to the “house” to find one.  We were sitting amongst the cast of Keeping Up Appearances meets Green Green Grass Of Home with a bit of To The Manor Born thrown in.

Anyway, Nottinghamshire had some simple maths to do.  They needed exactly 5 an over plus one run and if truth be told they never looked in trouble.  The two openers, Akil Patel and Mark Wagh (Waghie to his mates on the boundary ropes) put on 72 for the first wicket before they both went within an over and a run.  But that brought Australian Adam Voges and Samit Patel to the crease who both plumdered run-a-ball fifties to put Notts on the verge of victory by the 30th over.

If only the same were true of the Hammers.  After finally getting a data network I looked onto BBC minute by minute just in time to see Wigan score a winner and thus relegate the mighty Irons.  Boy, that must have been some team talk at half time.

Ali Brown struck the winning runs with 6 overs still remaining and we trooped back to the car to warm up.  A full 10/10 for the setting, 6/10 for the game but a massive 11/10 for the spread.  Top marks CMF and not a tub of low-fat Humus and carrot sticks in sight.

For Lizzy’s professional view click here.

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