SIGNS

We’re off to the GCCL Division One encounter between Westbury-on-Severn and Lydney today, a game dubbed by romanticists as the A48 derby, with only ten miles of tarmac separating the two grounds. With a third of the season completed, both sides occupy mid-table positions, though a win for either team today could signal the start of a push towards the higher echelons of the league table.

The ground is located just off Rodley Road at the foot of Wintle’s Hill, five minutes beyond The Severn Bore pub when approaching from Gloucester. This popular riverside venue has stood the test of time despite other such establishments along the estuary-hugging road closing their doors through lack of custom, though opinion is divided as to whether its name is derived from a world-famous tidal wave or the old fisherman who used to live just around the corner.

A row of advertising signage sits either side of a pair of ornate benches at the top end of the ground, while the machinery hostel in the south-east corner has recently acquired a wooden veranda from which both players and spectators can either look down on cricketing proceedings or gaze out over the Parish Hall to where the impressive spire of the 700-year-old St Mary, St Peter & St Paul church punctuates the skyline with the sharpness of a winter morning. The overhanging roof of the machinery store also makes it a sought-after haven for both watchers and circumnavigating players marooned on this side of the ground if and when a sudden downpour attacks Six Bells, as is the case on more than one occasion this afternoon.

On the popular side of the arena, a quintet of colourful planters sits attentively along the front edge of the large, picnic-tabled patio area. The changing rooms and bar are located behind the extensive paving, while there’s a white shelter at each end of the urbanised section that not only provides ample cover for those who’ve ventured down to watch the game but also gives the area a proper ‘cricket ground’ feel.

The teams’ obligatory warm-up routines vary somewhat in content, with the visitors undertaking a gentle jog around the outfield, while Westbury indulge in a demonstration clearly intended to display the futility of the FA’s long-term development plan to make England a major footballing force. Interestingly, the moment umpires Hume and Brown stride to the middle in preparation for the pre-toss meeting, the respective captains extricate themselves from the early afternoon rituals with a gusto rarely seen in this usually relaxed corner of the shire.

With rain in the air, Lydney’s Callum Miller calls correctly and immediately invites Westbury to bat first, a decision that yields immediate dividends as Jack O’Connell castles Will Hargreaves before skipper Alex Wyman falls to Tom Hayward, courtesy of a terrific catch from Ed Jones.

Following the first rain break of the day, Devin Rogers and Francis Stirrup set about restoring order to the hosts’ innings, adding 44 before Stirrup is pinned in front by Jones’s inswinging delivery.

Considering the unseasonal weather, there’s a decent following from Lydney inhabiting the sidelines, including former first-team stalwarts Rob ‘Basher’ Brain and wicketkeeper-cum-off spinner Andy Kear, who’s enjoying his current involvement with the Gloucestershire Over-60s team just as much as he’s enjoyed every cricketing decade for the last half a century. It won’t be too long before he nudges up another age group, but his enthusiasm is unlikely to be diminished, even if his recovery time spirals somewhat.

Following Dan Anderson’s dismissal, bowled by Jordan Stone and a second rain stoppage meaning the innings is reduced to 34 overs, Rogers and wicketkeeper Jake Bonser, a former Lydney player, make slow but steady progress against an accurate visiting attack. Both fall within a couple of runs of each other though, Bonser bowled by Stone and Rogers exiting following an excellent return catch by Matt Dallow for 52, his measured knock yielding the only half-century of the game.

Westbury need some quick runs from their remaining overs and these are duly provided by Number 8 Greg Artus, who clubs 26 from 14 balls, one of his boundaries thudding straight into the advertising signage that bears his company’s details. As it turns out, several of the boundary-edge hoardings are provided by the Westbury players and it’s good to see that sponsoring oneself has not, like high-waisted jeans and oversized sunglasses, gone out of fashion just yet. Mirroring Artus’s largesse is Lydney’s Ed Jones, whose ‘Plastering Services’ are signposted on some of the visitors’ cricket shirts, though it’s interesting to note that Jones himself isn’t wearing one.

Thanks to Artus and Dan Jarvis having added 40 quick runs, Westbury eventually total 157-7, though Lydney’s target is reduced to 140 as a combination of a third rain delay and scorers’ Lewis and Rogers’ DLS calculation shears six more overs off their allocation.

Darius Govender and Jon Kear waste no time at all in getting the visitors’ pursuit of victory off to a flyer, though Westbury do their bit to get things moving too, the fifth over of the innings seeing no fewer than eleven wides added to the Lydney total. The advertising boards continue to halt as many balls as the Westbury fielders, with The Silver Fox Café (‘Intrigue is our Intention’) making three fine interceptions, while ‘Go West’ (financial planning) provides a long barrier on two separate occasions.

When Govender is taken at slip by Dan Hockaday off Rogers for 25, Lydney are 67-1 and with Kear in impressive form, the hundred comes up before Ross Lindsay is caught by Artus at long on. An over later, two dogs bound past the ‘No Dogs’ sign on the eastern edge of the ground just as Kear dabs Spencer Bluntish neatly to the third man

boundary. With there being little sign of a late collapse, Westbury’s only Ultra, a man with ‘Ratty 17’ emblazoned across the back of his hoodie, plonks down his Madri glass and makes unceremoniously for the car park. His so-say reason for leaving before the final rites are delivered is that he has a party to go to, but the knowing nods amongst the Lydney faithful on the Western Terrace suggest they suspect otherwise.

The place is starting to fill with well-dressed people sporting pressed shirts and black & yellow ties. Despite the ‘Forthcoming Events’ signage on the main road suggesting nothing at all is forthcoming, a Parish Hall advert stuck on the bar window tells us that Dan Budd is performing a musical tribute to some bloke from Burslem in an event called simply: ‘Robbie’ next Friday evening. At £9 a go if you buy your ticket in advance (and if he’s any good), it’s a steal, but the dapper newcomers will be a tad disappointed if they’ve turned up at the right venue but on the wrong weekend.

Kear falls to Hockaday for a well-made 47, but Stone and Dafydd Nicholas have few problems in navigating their side to victory with twenty balls remaining. Lifelong Lydney stalwart and long-time Thatchers’ shareholder, Andrew ‘Chunk’ Davis, suggests that his team could make a push for the top in the second half of the season. And if today’s performance is anything to go by, the signs of Chunk’s Nostradamian prophecy coming to pass seem pretty good.

Westbury: 157-7; 34 overs (Rogers 52, Artus 26; Stone 2-25).

Lydney: 140-3; 24.4 overs (Kear 47, Govender 25; Rogers 2-19).

Lydney win by 7 wickets (target 140 from 28).