Sunday 2nd August 2020
Whilst the cricket season finally kicked off some four weeks ago, much to the relief and delight of Macclesfield Cricket Club’s players, members and supporters, the same can not be said for Rugby. Rugby remains at phase two of seven phases that, at best, will lead to a start on the 10th October. The Rugby Club coaching team has shown tremendous initiative and determination in planning and conducting the training of players which has largely been restricted to fitness and non-contact skills and drills. Field training has been supported by on-line programmes and assessments that will ensure the players are well prepared as the lockdown eases and the new season starts. It has been exciting and encouraging to see the signings for next seasons 1st/2nd team squads and we look forward to a number of new faces at the Club. New next season will be the introduction of Girls Rugby at U13 for the first time. The Club is determined to build on the girl’s game and develop a pathway for girls in to the ladies’ team which, we hope, will be in a position to move from a development league to a full league in the next season or two.
So, the annual 20/20 cricket match, hosted by our friends at Macclesfield Cricket Club, was the first opportunity the Rugby Club 1st team, had to engage as a team in competition since the rugby season ended abruptly in March 2020. The boys were really excited and the buzz of anticipation before the game was palpable. There has always been a strong relationship between the cricket club and the rugby club in Macclesfield. Two great sports with shared values….and shared players!! James Cross, the Cricket team captain, also represents the Rugby Club in the forwards. A number of players represent both clubs and a good number of those watching the game have a foot in both camps. The two sports do not compete for the same space in the calendar and sports people can enjoy playing cricket during the summer months and rugby from September through to April. The fact that so many players and spectators have a shared interest in both clubs was a recipe for a fabulous afternoon where the game was played in the best spirit of both sports. The weather gods were on side and the stage was set for an afternoon of fun and frolics as far as social distancing and the guidelines would allow.
The cricket team had lost this fixture for the last two years and with grit and determination decided to bat first and give the rugby club a high score to chase. James Cross demonstrated his leadership by putting himself up high in the batting order to score big and inspire his ream. The crowd was anticipating something impressive as the Rugby team captain for the day and Israeli international rugby player Tom Burden stepped up to bowl. The tension, the silence as the ball drifted down the wicket and was struck by James. Everyone’s eyes followed the trajectory of the ball as it sped back towards the bowler. The surprise on Tom’s face as he looked at the ball in his hands. The devastation on the batsman’s face as his dreams were shattered and he began to realise the ribbing he was about to receive. The crowd erupted and the scene was set for the match. After nine overs the score was 71 for 4 and the rugby club team was feeling comfortable, 6 more wickets to get from the remaining 11 overs and the score being kept down by tight fielding and disciplined, and sometimes extraordinary bowling. James and his team had other ideas and it became clear that the cricket team had been keeping their powder dry by placing their best batsmen further down the order. The rugby team was rocked by the skill, strength and determination of 11-year-old Jo who stabilized the cricket clubs’ position before having his wicket taken. By the end of the final over the rugby club team had been given 176 to chase.
There was a 30min break in proceedings for rest, recuperation and refreshment and for the teams to reassess their approach. Cross began to realize that batting first might have been a mistake in a socially competitive match. The point was that the team fielding first can not drink because they are in the field, although that did not stop those close to the boundary from the odd sip. The batting side, however, have plenty of time, socially distanced, to enjoy a glass of port or two. The other thing that Cross had not accounted for was the presence of Macclesfield Rugby Club veteran of many sports and guest batsman, 76-year-old Terry Robson. Terry is a highly accomplished marathon runner, cyclist and swimmer and has watched a lot of cricket on the television! The last of these making him the obvious choice with the bat.
The second innings began. The cricket team brought out the big guns and some fast-paced bowling took a couple of very quick wickets. Some determination at the crease, which for the most part meant closing your eyes and getting the bat in front of the ball and letting the pace send it over the boundary, helped stabilize the batting and the score line began to creep up. The ever-present Sam Moss dug in. Caught behind the wicket by a magnificent piece of fielding he was declared not out by the third umpire. the next ball took his middle stump clean out of the ground and he was again declared not out because it had been a ‘free shot’. As if to rub it in Sam then hit some big shots before he finally caved under the pressure. In the last over Macclesfield were 165 for 8 and needed 11 runs to win when suddenly the scoreboard changed! The cricket club score had changed from 176 to 206! The umpires had decided that there was time for an extra 5 overs and had adjusted the score giving Macclesfield rugby Club 42 to win with two wickets left. Terry Robson marched confidently on to the wicket and took up his stance and much to everyone’s surprise scored two singles before having his wicket cruelly taken, however, those two runs made all the difference when, after the final ball of the day the scores were tied at 206 apiece and the match would be decided by a super over. The rugby club went in to bat first and struck 11 balls in the over, a challenging score to chase. Cometh the hour-cometh the man. James Cross, Macclesfield Cricket Club 1st team captain and Macclesfield Rugby Club 1st team forward steps up to the crease. The final ball of the match floated towards him and he needed a six to win the match by one run. His world went in to slow motion, his eyes were focused on the flight of the ball, he shut out the noise from the crowd and the memory of his wicket being taken in the first innings. Crossey struck the ball dead centre with a mighty blow that took it over the boundary to end the match. The cricket club had won the day by just one run and it had been their first win in three years.
The crowd were amazing and everybody celebrated a match that was played in the true spirit of sport in general and of cricket and rugby in particular. Watch this space for the rematch.