Midweek cricket’s major role

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Geoff Noble leading Ibis to victory

Rye v Ibis on Tuesday, June 14, 1983

Midweek cricket has always played a major role in Rye’s season. For many years Rye played a midweek game every week, mostly on a Tuesday afternoon to tie in with early  closing in the town. Half-day closing had been introduced in England in 1911, as part of the Liberal welfare reforms, to allow a weekly half day holiday for shop workers.

But “early closing” gradually disappeared in larger towns and cities as bigger shops managed their staff holidays without closing, but the practice took longer to disappear in country towns, perhaps because of the number of smaller shops there.

Well into the nineteen eighties, the Ibis tourists arrived for their Tuesday game and found the majority of shops closing at lunch time. However, nowadays Rye is much like the rest of the country and few shops continue to close on Tuesday afternoons.

Mike Balcomb was Rye midweek captain for more than ten years, and such was the popularity of midweek cricket at that time that were even weeks with a second game, on Thursday afternoon. He was also Saturday First XI captain throughout the eighties. Nigel Hacking succeeded him as midweek captain in 1993 and went on to look after the side for almost as long as Balcomb.

Getting off to a good start

Rye’s midweek ploy of suggesting that they should bat first because three or four of their side would be late arriving from work proved unnecessary in 1983, as Stuart Turner called wrongly and the home team were able to elect to bat in a more traditional fashion.

They got off to a good start when Balcomb and Timbrell put on 73 for the first wicket before the latter was bowled by Ron Glands. He was replaced by Rolls who was content to play a supporting role as Balcomb looked to accelerate.

Rolls had contributed 19 to their partnership when the introduction of John Josiah’s leg spin induced him to launch a ferocious drive. At long off, Stuart Turner stuck out his hand and fortunately the ball stayed in rather than taking the hand along with it to the boundary! 142 for 2 and suddenly there was a flurry of wickets. From the first ball of the next over Mike Balcomb was bowled by Andy Loveday for 85.

The Rye captain was a big man, a left hander who hit the ball hard with a straight swing of the bat and enjoyed a number of good innings against Ibis including 107 not out in 1980.
From that stage Loveday kept things quiet at one end while at the other it was as if the batsmen were going for four or out.

Declaring on 174

The declaration came at a quarter to five with Rye on 174 for 7 leaving George Brann undefeated on 6. (Brann played his weekend cricket at Ashford and organised his own very high standard midweek side, the Circus Cavaliers). Josiah finished with 5 for 22 from 4.1 overs, the first of six five-fours he took against Rye – a record no doubt helped by the long boundaries at the Salts.

Rye began with Mike Chambers from the road end and regular Saturday opening bowler Martin Curd from the other. Chambers played against Ibis between 1974 and 1992 and took nearly fifty Ibis wickets, including twice taking seven in an innings (7 for 53 in 1978 and 7 for 21 in 1988).

He had a rhythmic, almost skipping run up followed by a slingy delivery action and bowled at a lively pace. However, neither bowler met with any success as Geoff Noble picked off the singles and Dave Finnis kept out everything, thanks to a sound forward defence and a very solid pad.

Switching the bowlers around

A double bowling change brought on Balcomb’s slow left arm together with medium pace from Timbrell at the other end, but just as runs began to come a little quicker, Finnis was bowled for 15, with the total on 55. He was replaced by Paul Benneyworth, who moved quickly to 16, including three typical boundaries, but was then bowled by Phil White, who had replaced Balcomb in the attack. White, who played for Sidley in the Sussex League on a Saturday, bowled at a sharp medium pace and could be a hard-hitting middle order batsman.

Rye switched the bowlers around and, returning for a second spell, Balcomb had Colin Batchelor stumped by Robert Wheeler for a hard-grafted 4, scored from twenty four deliveries. 92 for 3 and Geoff Noble had just reached his fifty. Ibis needed 83 more from just under twelve overs. It looked an unlikely target, given the scoring rate until then had been under three an over.

However, as so often in Ibis history, it was a partnership between Noble and Dave Bealey that turned things around. In particular, their understanding and running between the wickets helped pick up the pace and ensured that Noble kept the lion’s share of the strike.
The score began to tick over and thirteen runs from a Balcomb over and then ten from an over by Rolls saw Rye go back to their two opening bowlers.

However, Curd went for ten from his single over and Chambers went for eighteen from two, and a further change was badly needed. For once Mike Chambers went wicket-less, something that didn’t happen very often against Ibis. The total had reached 158, leaving only seventeen needed from four overs, and Balcomb brought back White and Timbrall for one final effort.

A chance to save the game

It looked as if White had given Rye a chance of saving the game when from his third ball back he had Bealey caught behind and then Stuart Turner was caught from the next delivery. The hat trick was averted and the last couple of balls of the over were played out. 161 for 5 and fourteen needed from three overs. Noble took a single from the first ball of the next over but, with the field brought in, new batsman Josiah couldn’t find a gap and five “dot balls” followed. Thirteen needed from two overs.

White began the next over bowling to Noble, who square cut the first ball for four and followed it up with a single played into the off side. Josiah managed to work the next two balls through the third man area for two and then three. Noble was then facing and pushed towards mid-wicket.

The batsmen went for a quick single and sensing a run out chance the fielder threw at the stumps. Missed, and overthrows. Five runs and the tourists had won with seven balls to spare. Noble finished on 113 not out in a total of 177, and from the fall of the third wicket Ibis had scored 85 runs from ten and a half overs.

Finding gaps in the outfield

Geoff Noble’s first fifty had taken a watchful 110 minutes but his second fifty came up in only thirty-five minutes and from the time Bealey joined him at the crease Noble scored 62 runs from 35 deliveries. It was calculated acceleration rather than sudden big hitting. Noble hit twelve fours but more significant was his confident placement that allowed him to find the gaps in the big Rye outfield.

1983 was a five match tour for Ibis and, on the field, proved one of the more successful. In addition to Rye, Winchelsea (Sunday), Lewes Priory (Wednesday) and Bexhill (Thursday) were also all beaten, whilst the only defeat came at Northiam on the Monday. Ibis first played Rye in 1938, when the other games on tour were Lewes Priory, Eastbourne, South Saxons (at Hastings), Sussex Club & Ground (at Hove) and Ditchling.

They played again in 1939 when the only change was no game against South Saxons. After the war the Ibis tour re-started in 1948, with Rye part of that year’s opponents. Save for the occasional rained-off game, the two clubs continued to play until 1999. Of 49 matches played Ibis won 12 and Rye 21, with 16 drawn.

Cricket at Rye dates back to 1754 and home games have been played on the Rye Salts since 1844. The cricket ground is just a couple of minutes walk from the High Street, whilst opposite the pavilion the road stretches away from the ground out towards Romney Marsh.

Playing league cricket

Rye first played league cricket in 1977 when they joined the East Sussex Cricket League and were Division Two champions in their first season. They were First Division champions four times, in 1987, 1993, 1995 and 2013, the last of which saw them promoted to the Sussex Premier Cricket League. The SPCL was made up of the top forty clubs in the county and Rye consolidated their position in the new league in 2014.

Traditionally, the leagues below the Sussex Premier League were organised on a regional basis, but 2018 saw the trial integration of four leagues, the East Sussex Cricket League, Mid Sussex Cricket League, West Sussex Invitation Cricket League and the Sussex Premier Cricket League. Rye First XI found themselves in Division Four East, and duly won their division.

They followed it up in 2019 by finishing third in Division Three East, the highest placing in the club’s history. The integration was confirmed at the League’s AGM in October 2018 and Sussex became the home of the world’s largest adult cricket league, with 335 teams due to take part in 2019 across 34 divisions.

Image Credits: Rye Cricket Club .

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