The 1994 Bath outing was held over the August bank holiday weekend with the team staying at a guest house in Pulteney Gardens which was to be used again for the May excursion the following year. The squad was plenty in number, with about 14 players available on this occasion. Thus, some chose to sit out matches with the Oldest Swinger in Town, who was not so old then, missing out on the Trowbridge game possibly to travel back earlier. Indeed, the match had been set up on the route back as players were returning to Sussex at the close.
I had arranged the tour fixtures and remember the call for this particular gig. To play at a ground that the West Indies had met the Minor Counties on in 1988 would be a great honour for the club. Assurances were given when discussing the strength of the sides and it was said that the opposition would feature a mixture of players, the impression being that considerations had been taken on board. Trowbridge were happy to play.
Two matches had gone prior over the weekend. A narrow 13 run defeat on the Saturday and a Sunday tie in which a Wanderers score of just over 100 had proved more than enough for the Coombe Down side up on the windy hill.
There is a legend told of a visit to the Footlights restaurant in the centre of the city on the Sunday night, a meal that would be memorable if anyone could really have the faculties to do so. A story is told of the ordering of a bottle of Frascati which has never seemed to have a proper punch line, although Jacko eating two huge T-bone steaks was worthy of a footnote. It’s fair to say that much wine was consumed and sore heads were the order of the day the following morning.
Having checked out of the guest house Wanderers arrived at Trowbridge on a pleasant and calmer day and immediately wowed at the splendid pavilion. A picture cannot be re-produced here for copyright reasons but take a look online and you will see its current features. The dressing room, which the West Indies may well have used six years earlier, was more hutch than Headingley. One wonders how Ambrose and Walsh would have fitted in before the great Sir Viv even contemplated his pew.
Trowbridge won the toss and sent Wanderers into bat on a wicket of even bounce and tender loving care.
The bowling attack was very capable. Tony and Brokesey opened and made an accomplished opening stand of 48. I distinctly recall the arm of the mid-wicket fielder being the best I had seen at this level and the expression of Nathan when he first saw it. After both Tony and Alan had fallen in quick succession things got troublesome for the remaining group. Nick Clarke dug in at six for a dogged 15 but the attack, and the accomplished fielding, had proved too much. Wanderers had fought their way admirably to 97 all out but it was clearly, given what we had seen, going to be short of the mark.
Resuming the BBOBS partnership of those summers, Paul and I opened the bowling with Paul taking the cherry first and me, as ever, preferring the most easterly end.
The first over yielded a run taken to Nathan in the gully. I remember the shock at such haughtiness, and given that Nathan was no mug in the field it became clear that Trowbridge had already reached a disdainful conclusion on our fielding acumen. That over produced six further runs with a four off the final ball. Any lingering hangover was soon driven out the system as I marked out my longest run up of 16 paces and began to limber up knowing that, to avoid embarrassment, it would require everything to fall into place. Certainly, with the wicket as it was, a decent length was required. The overwhelming drive was to see one of the opening duo hit the pavilion early.
The first wicket fell in the fifth ball of the spell. Opener Wilson being castled by a straight delivery. At least it wasn’t going to be a ten wicket affair. But the second wicket partnership began to build until Paul had the other opener, Gingell, caught by the safe hands of Iain Jackson. Jacko was the best fielder in the club throughout those years and you always had money on the hands even when the sharpest of chances went in his direction.
Maplesden, at four, was a class above. And on this occasion Paul, unusually, was struggling with a boundary an over. I had contained at my end but gained no further breakthrough. Nick Clarke replaced Paul but continued to leak. At 49-2 in the tenth over we were looking at being home for the nine ‘o’ clock news.
In the tenth over another player was castled in a similar way as before. Evans, who had been blocking in support, was on his way. But Maplesden needed to fall if a rout wasn’t to ensue. With the score at 58 and 59, in the twelfth over, the legend reaches its zenith.
First Oatley, wandering across his stumps to a ball speared across him, steals too much territory and is bowled behind his legs. A single is taken by the new batsman, and Maplesden goes back on strike. The ball which sent waves of worry to the balcony was the next one. Maplesden is met with a full length delivery on or just outside leg stump, goes to flick, gets a thin edge and appeals are heard in Bristol. Teflon has taken the catch and Wanderers are into the lower order. It’s 59-5 and a shock could be in the offing.
The coach was then parked against me as runs were flowing from the west end. Trowbridge clearly batted down the order and, despite another wicket falling to a lofty full toss (perhaps we had got our strategy wrong !), came home by 4 wickets after 22 overs.
I’ve often wondered why this match has been so enshrined in folklore, and perhaps the story has grown taller with the telling, but certainly it was an absorbing clash. Perhaps, if the location had not been as it was, it would have sailed into a sub-note in despatches. Nonetheless, the tour itself was a success and a return made for the following year. It would be nice to think that, given 1997 was our last visit, we may return again. Hopefully I’ll get to score an equally remarkable affair.
Another bottle of Frascati, please love…