Yesterday we had a day out in the bit of Oxfordshire that was, until, 1974, part of the Royal County of Berkshire. Our main destination was Wallingford and a trip on the heritage railway to Cholsey. Looking for a venue for a pub lunch I saw the name North Moreton in the Good Beer Guide and was taken back to the summer of 1982.
One of the delights of being at Balliol College Oxford in the summer was and is playing cricket for the College Second Eleven, the Erratics. The Erratics are a more of a social eleven than a true second eleven and the emphasis is very much on the Social. We used to play a number of away fixtures against village teams in the Oxford area and North Moreton was one of the regular fixtures. .
Memory sometimes plays tricks so it was reassuring to find that the cricket ground and the adjacent pub were pretty much as I remembered them. The score board, though, looked new and incongruously electronic. Back in 1982 its predecessor stood inside the boundary and the local rule was that you could be caught off the roof. We were told the tale of how, a few years earlier, Chris Tavare, playing for St John’s College, was caught off the roof but refused to walk evidently thinking that getting out to a village green trundler was too great an indignity for an Oxford Blue. As this was the time when Tavare was at the peak such as it was, of his Test career, boring the nation rigid in the process we enjoyed the story, that is we enjoyed it once we had got over our shock at the idea of him playing an attacking stroke. My memory has erased most traces of the game itself but I have an idea I scored a battling 2 which would have been my top score for the Erratics I doubt that I was asked to bowl. The evening in the pub was most enjoyable.
The great thing about social cricket is that the result is really unimportant. You do your best, you try to win, respect for your opponents demands it, but the setting and the occasion are more important, and the camaraderie more important still. Above all Erratics cricket was and is about us and not about me. That surely applied to the North Moreton team that day who had a whip round and put money behind the bar so that their student guests could enjoy the hospitality.
They were playing cricket at North Moreton yesterday, a mixed children’s game. It is days like this that stick in the memory as you get older and I am sure that long after the fine detail of the day has slipped away they will remember sun and mown grass, and , forgive the cliché, the thwack of bat on ball. They will remember too what a wonderful thing it is to play cricket, however good you are.