Coalpit Heath CC

Coalpit Heath CC’s Serridge Lane home is a far nicer cricket ground than its name might suggest. It’s tucked away up a leafy lane, just beyond The Kendleshire Golf Club and a house with a garden so big, the hired labour is using an industrial mower to keep the far-reaching lawns in check.

Today’s contest sees eighth-placed Coalpit Heath hosting ninth-placed Timsbury in the Bristol & District Senior Division and with only Clevedon II lying beneath the pair, the game looks to be a significant one for both sides, despite it being only the second week of June.

Before removing his tongue from his cheek, Coalpit’s affable captain, Pete Lamb suggests that the ground is considerably better than much of the cricket played on it, and when the host’s David Hilton is bowled without a run on the board, his proclamation seems as if it may well be justified.

Chris Cooke and Dan Hunt add 41 for the second wicket before Hunt is dismissed, with Mike Perham following just two balls later courtesy of a fine diving catch by Mark Sage at short cover. The bowler on each occasion is Joe Kinnear, who presumably is not the ex-Newcastle United & Luton Town football manager and the fact we have no Level 2 offences for repeated foul and abusive language confirms this theory.

Unlike as at most other grounds, there is no sign of a gathering of ultras (a group of home supporters, usually male, often sun-tanned and almost always hat-wearing, who have occupied the same boundary-hugging location for at least a hundred years), unless you count the couple lounging beneath the yellow picnic umbrella to the right of the pavilion or the lady with the black retriever who’s sitting next to the heavy roller in the ground’s south-west corner.

When opener Cooke is fifth out for 38 and with Paul Giddings following him back to the hutch soon after, the hosts are floundering at 94-6 and Timsbury’s two supporters emit a semblance of excitement from their position beneath the big, grass bank on the pavilion side of the ground. Both are easily identified by the cross-bats on their navy polos, but their leisurewear is their only shared feature. The shorter of the two displays a healthy lifestyle and a limited amount of bare leg between the bottom of his long shorts and the top of his long, white ankle socks, his bottle of Buxton Spring being imbibed beneath a very fine boater. The taller of the pair is sockless and wears a pair of sliders at one end and a hatless, suntanned head at the other, while preferring a can of coke and a packet of salt & vinegar to any sort of liquid therapy from a spa town in Derbyshire.

Kyle Rose and Khalid Ali add a useful 31 for the seventh wicket before Graeme Webb quickly closes down the Coalpit innings at what looks to be a somewhat below par total of 147. As the players depart towards the clubhouse, the man beneath the yellow umbrella suddenly emerges on to the playing area brandishing two brushes, one for sweeping and one for painting, revealing himself to be an incognito groundsman of the highest order. He’s quickly joined by two other men who’ve seemingly emerged from nowhere at all to give the wicket a bit of mid-match TLC while the players and officials break open their Tesco Meal Deals in the shadow of the pavilion, CHCC being one of many clubs still on a no-tea, Covid hangover.

Timsbury’s reply gets off to an even worse start than their hosts and after wickets for Aaron Jones, Aaron Neal and Sage, they’re up against it at 22-3. There’s a bit of head-shaking from the Timsbury faithful, but number three Webb, firstly alongside Sol Thompson and latterly in partnership with captain Kevin Sibley puts together a well-crafted half-century to easily record the highest total in a low-scoring game.

With only seven people in attendance during the first innings, the gateman is called into decisive action as three adults and six concessions pass through the Coalpit Heath turnstile. The party’s youngsters indulge in a cricket game of their own, using bright orange bats which stand out spectacularly against the limited-over sightscreen that is the jet black retriever. Sixty yards away, there’s a protracted appeal and euphoric celebration as Webb departs having been adjudged leg before off one of Neal’s inswinging left arm deliveries. The batter trudges off the ground and climbs up to the pavilion terrace via a flight of steps that are painted so brilliantly white that you can hardly make him out from the other side of the ground. This has to be one of the most impressive stairways in the entire cricketing world, so good in fact that you half expect to see Rocky Balboa punching his way up them as ‘Gonna Fly Now’ blasts out from the clubhouse speakers.

When Sibley is well stumped down the leg side off Lamb, Timsbury have lost two big wickets for just six runs and from looking to be in the ascendancy at 94-4, they’re on the back foot at the second drinks interval at 100-6.

The Von Trapp’s have now moved corners and their number has grown to six + seven, with their initial game of orange-batted cricket having been superseded by a mixture of football, bank rolling and Poretti drinking. Taking the children into account, the Von Trapp’s now constitute exactly half the crowd of twenty-six, who watch on as an assured-looking Jonathan Strand quickly runs out of partners, Jones finishing with 4-20 as Timsbury, who have struggled for runs during the first third of the season, are all out for just 120, still 27 runs shy of Coalpit’s 147.

The majority of players and spectators have disappeared within thirty minutes of the last rites being pronounced, the lure of this evening’s Champions League Final being too great to resist. The pavilion terrace apart, Serridge Lane returns to its natural state, the near-silence being occasionally punctuated by the tweet of a nesting bird, the clip-clopping of a passing horse or the growling of a distant tractor being put to bed for the evening. We’re barely a kilometre from Yate to the east and even less from the M4 to the south, but no-one would be aware of the hustle and bustle that lies just beyond the immediate neighbourhood. Our region is very fortunate to be home to some extremely pleasant cricket grounds and Coalpit Heath is certainly one of them.

Coalpit Heath CC: 147 (C.Cooke 38; J.Kinnear 3-17, G.Webb 3-32).

Timsbury CC: 120 (G.Webb 59; A.Jones 4-20, A.Neal 2-15).

Coalpit Heath CC won by 27 runs.