Nestling on the side of a hill overlooking the Five Valleys, Painswick’s narrow streets and traditional architecture make it one of the ‘go to’ places for tourists visiting this area of the beautiful Cotswolds. Today, it’s the ‘go to’ place for Cheltenham CC who, with a third of the season gone, find themselves with a won 3, lost 2 record that sees them nestling just below the top two in WEPL Premier 2 (Glos/Wilts), while, in a satisfyingly symmetrical league table, the hosts begin the day with a won two, lost three record that sees them nestling just above the bottom two.
Broadham Fields is a far nicer ground now than when the Smith-mobile last drove straight past the not-too-obvious entrance a number of years ago, when it had the appearance of a cricketing area plonked in the middle of a rugby-orientated piece of green. Now it’s a very nice cricket ground with a little bit of rugby at either side, the pavilion rising above the town end meaning most of the spectators who gather on the terrace or at the top of the grass bank immediately to its right get a semi-aerial view of the action, while just as importantly, always being within touching distance of the all-day bar.
Painswick take first use of a decent-looking track and despite Jarren Bacher falling early on, George MacDuff, Matthew Conolly and Luke Woolway all look in good touch as the run rate begins to ramp up. The first innings is watched by 34 sun-weary souls, most of whom are lounging in the sultry, Saturday-afternoon heat, while out in the middle the game is being ably officiated by a pair of Portsmouth supporters, the collective noun for which is anyone’s guess.
Doing the rounds is club chairman and former player & captain and current groundsman & committee member, Ian Hogg, who is arguably one of the most influential people in the club’s long history. Painswick is mentioned in the Domesday Book, a tome that was first drafted on the site of what is now Gloucester cathedral, and it would be no surprise if Hoggy’s name was actually mentioned in it.
Also in attendance is a man known locally as Wobbly, whose summer shirt designs are attractive to an extremely small proportion of the county’s female population and a tourist named Christopher who, by the look of his red-brown shawl and wooden staff might actually be the patron saint of travellers himself.
After Macduff becomes Sam Didcote’s second victim, Conolly and Woolway put together what turns out to be the match-winning partnership, the pair adding 160 for the third wicket before Connoly finally pops a catch to Pete Woodland at mid-on.
Local folklore relating to the nearby churchyard’s 99 yew trees prophesies that should a hundredth tree appear, the Devil himself will come forth and tear it asunder from the ground in which it’s rooted. Clearly feeling that the satanic intervention might also apply to cricket, Woolway engineers the faintest of nicks to a delivery from Stan Brown and departs for an excellent, better than a run-a-ball 96, thus staving off Lucifer’s terrible revenge and the local residents relax, for the time being at any rate.
Jonathan Conolly, one of three brothers in the home team’s line-up maintains the run rate, accumulating 35 off 19, courtesy of a flurry of boundaries that sees Painswick set Cheltenham a challenging victory target of 294. Within sixty seconds of the players trooping off to the pavilion for a cherry tomato and well-earned cuppa, Hoggy and his leaf-blower arrive in the middle to de-litter the creases and create a dust cloud that wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of the Kalahari.
When Cheltenham’s reply gets underway, Ben Pegler is first to go, caught off Tom Hayward for 22, with Gareth Roderick replacing him at the crease. Prior to a ten-year professional career, firstly with Gloucestershire and currently with Worcestershire, South African-born Roderick’s Cheltenham debut over a decade ago resulted in a first-ball duck against today’s opponents, but there is no repeat this afternoon as the visitor’s Number 3 looks assured from the outset. His team’s hugely experienced scorer, Geoff Trett, has a glint in his eye as he notches another Roderick reverse-hit boundary, though entering the ‘4’ into his lap top doesn’t have quite the same flourish that his back-in-the-day coloured pens used to make in his work-of-art, back-in-the-day scorebook.
Cheltenham’s shirt sponsors are Bakers, a fine jewellery store in Montpellier and after Woodland is bowled by Conolly (J), a sparkling partnership of 85 between Roderick and Will Hope sees the visitors make good progress towards their victory target. Painswick’s shirts, meanwhile, are straight from the local Tourist Information Centre – you visit the main sponsor (Rococo Gardens) before decamping to the sleeve sponsor (Edgemoor Inn) for an early-evening tipple.
Bacher, grandson of Ali Bacher, the South Africa test cricketer who played a major role in his country’s reintegration into international cricket following the collapse of apartheid in the early nineties, dismisses Hope for a hard-hit 45 before Jack Hobbis accounts for both Nick Evans and Alex Oliver to leave Cheltenham on 210-5 and the game finely balanced.
John and Kate from N-Viro Cycles Ltd are today’s matchday sponsors and they’re very pleased with the entertainment on offer here this afternoon. Roderick finally reaches a very well made hundred which causes more than a little consternation amongst the Painswick faithful, though whether it’s the thought of their team’s imposing target being chased down or the Prince of Darkness bounding down the pavilion steps to tear the batters apart is anyone’s guess. As it happens, neither event occurs, Roderick is finally bowled by Jonathan Conolly for 107, Alastair Conolly wraps up the Cheltenham innings for 272 and everyone leaves the ground with their various appendages pretty much intact.
Even before the umpires and scorers have finally agreed that the stats add up correctly, preparations for the evening barbecue are well underway, with trays of meat, bags of rolls and plates of salad appearing as the coals in the big, iron drum begin to glow. There’s a list of BBQ rules posted on the pavilion window next to the match sponsor’s ‘Thank-you’ declaration; these seem to largely involve one-handed drinking and getting into various military positions as decreed by ‘Shaun’, who by the sound of things may cause as many problems by the evening’s end as Lucifer himself.
Whether you turn left or right out of Broadham Fields, it’s a twisty-turny drive home, a journey that in many ways reflects the game we’ve just witnessed. Only three points now separate these two well-matched sides as they head towards the mid-point of the season, a campaign which will no doubt feature a good deal more ups and downs before all is resolved and the summer reaches its September end.
Painswick 293-6 (D.Woolway 96, M.Conolly 53, G.Macduff 45).
Cheltenham 272 (G.Roderick 107, W.Hope 45, J.Conolly 3-54).
Painswick won by 21 runs.