Years from now, when the history of the Authors CC is written, this second week of the 2019 season will seem somehow pivotal, transitional, significant. When the team left Wiltshire, it did not have a Health and Safety officer. When it arrived at Tilford, it did. What distance was travelled in those seven days, a journey from the early, carefree seasons of reunion to a full and hard-bitten semi-pro-dom – with a Health And Safety Officer… Some steps can never be retraced.
The individual issued with this symbolic clipboard was Tony McGowan, who marked his appointment by reassuring the club that he had not just set fire to his kitchen, despite evidence to the contrary posted on Twitter. Was this McGowan’s ‘Botham moment’, albeit with the damning dick pic replaced by an image of a badly charred Linda McCartney pulled pork veggie burger? Thankfully not, and the closest the Authors came to harm during his first match was when McGowan’s car almost mounted the kerb as he jocularly pretended to run over a couple of his team-mates after the game.
Tilford is a special place, beautiful and deeply idiosyncratic as many very old grounds are. The green itself is an island surrounded by river and road, and tilts dramatically from the pavilion side towards the pub. It has a unique split square, the Saturday pitches lying end to end and at an angle to the Sunday ones, offering two types of game. Sundays feature a sharp upslope to one side of the wicket and a drop to the other, plus a short straight hit towards a branch of the river and its 13th century bridge. Here, local knowledge has all kinds of value.
The day had an extra buzz to it, too. With the Cricket World Cup three weeks away, the trophy was touring England and due to alight on the green at 4pm. If only Silver Billy could have wandered out of his cottage next to the pub to see what has happened to the game he helped shape.
The hosts batted first in a timed match, and so ‘Silver’ Tom Holland opened up from the near end, leaving Campbell to deal with the river, the Tilford openers watchful as Campbell found some sharp lift from the ridge and Holland banged out length like a young Glenn McGrath. He struck first, inducing Wilson to loft a drive to Falk at cover. The classy Hall-Hall built partnerships with first Wilson (senior) and then Thursby, gradually becoming more expansive until his hitting of the river end spin from the darting Falk and the twirl of Chris Hemmings took on real authority.
Authors fought hard, Hogg parsimonious, his combination of swing and cut proving suitably timeless; old skills that have prospered down the centuries. Campbell brought himself back to counter an onslaught from Cook, neither willing to back down, Campbell ending an explosive knock with a fine quicker one to win an LBW. Hall-Hall went on to an excellent hundred, timing his departure perfectly: he walked off just as the World Cup arrived, and was called over for a once-in-a-lifetime picture.
After a couple of shorter matches to open the season, the Authors could be pleased with a 45-over stint in the field, the five bowlers used standing up admirably to some strong hitting. The declaration at 224-6 from Tilford skipper Mark Bussell was challenging but well set.
Once the trophy had seized its opportunity to have its picture taken with Tom Holland, Authors set out in pursuit. McGowan, perhaps newly cognisant of his responsibilities, built an opening stand of 35 from the first nine, his departure to the brisk left arm of Town-Jones coming after a couple of well-struck boundaries. Beard, watchful, accumulated as Thacker exploited some potent early season form, launching one sumptuous drive over extra cover for a maximum, the ball ringing from his bat. They added almost fifty to leave Authors well in the chase, the Tilford bowlers fighting hard to contain Beard as he grew in confidence.
The match swung on Beard’s fifty plus Hemmings’ belligerent 40, and then, in dipping sun and lengthening shadows, a decisive seventh wicket stand of 42 between Falk, at his Thorpe-like best in deepest Surrey, and the cool-headed Hogg. Authors were home from the final ball of the penultimate over in a contest fit for one of cricket’s grand settings.
Tilford CC 224-6 dec. (Hall-Hall 103, Cook 31, Town-Jones 28*; Campbell 2-69), Authors CC 225-6 (R Beard 67, Hemmings 40, Falk 34*; Stones 2-49). Authors won by four wickets.
Rathbones moment: Matt Thacker for his six over extra cover.