Address: Lapworth CC – Melson Memorial Ground, Old Warwick Rd, Solihull B94 6AZ
Even on a cold bank holiday weekend, Lapworth cricket club was as beautiful as ever. The hint of moisture in the air did nothing to dampen the spirit in the Unicorns camp as they searched for a first win against their Broxbourne based opposition. The picturesque south Warwickshire ground was hosting its first ‘Spirit of Inclusivity in cricket’ Trophy match, and the humpbacked bridge over Stratford canal, perfect scenery and attractive barman offered the ideal setting as Matt Earl and Michael McCann strode out to open the batting for the travelling side.
Graces’ classy opener Earl was removed by Ezra Stock with the score on ten as fellow opening bowler Tom Verow took an excellent catch inside the circle to lift Unicorns spirits further still. The Leicestershire based opening duo toiled hard in what was becoming a muggy Sunday, but Graces second wicket partnership reached 50 in no time before Stock struck once again to remove his second Graces opener. This time, however, it was with a run out. Even the quickest of sprinters would be brave to take on Ezra’s arm but McCann’s bravery was not rewarded as a direct hit sent the stumps to all parts. A timely wicket.
Leo Skyner, Graces’ chair, joined Mendis in the middle, and they kept the rate above five-per over, reaching the ton in the 19th. A score in excess of their 227 in the first all LGBTQ+ match two short years ago was looking possible until an extraordinary middle-order collapse the England side of the 90s would have been proud of.
Sam Long, fresh from a five-fer, for today’s hosts, Lapworth, on Saturday, struck on the verge of drinks, bowling the dangerous Mendis for 35, meaning the sides took on some much-needed liquids with the scoreboard reading exactly one hundred. The gleaming red lights, sharply puncturing the dangerously dark sky behind, still read 100 when Chris Marshall had Leo Skyner caught in the first over after drinks, and there followed three more wickets for just seven runs as the visitors limped to 107 for 7. Marshall and Long had both struck again; the latter removing Unicorn loanee Hattie Wright, and there was another run out for the ever-alert Stock.
Unicorns sniffed blood. Tim Pedlar was having none of it. The wily antipodean put on 57 with Dominic Scott and a further 23 with captain Stuart “Ryan” Anthony. His run-a-ball 46 took Graces within range of 200 before Verow finally claimed his wicket in the last over to complete the innings. 187 the score. Higher than had been hoped after the glut of wickets, but within range of this improving Unicorns side.
The run chase started solidly, Buckle and Stock, Unicorns reliable openers, set a solid base for the innings before Buckle chipped a return catch to fellow opener Matt Earl with the score on 46. Stock followed shortly after, top-edging to keeper McCann and there followed regular wickets to leave the hosts’ innings in an even more perilous position than Graces’ earlier in the day. Earl had added two more wickets, that of Chair Lachan Smith and Steve Hallam, either side of Tom Zerow’s golden-duck after the tall opening bowler’s eyes lit up at Dominic Scott’s bowling.
82 for 5 became 91 for 8 after drinks when Abdul Kasim became McCann’s second victim with the gloves and Dean Chilton Davies played over the top of one from another loanee, Simon Satchwell-Giles. Long followed straight afterwards and with 97 still required for victory hope seemed to be extinguished. The barbeque was fired up, the bar was opened, and the engines started.
However, Chris Marshall and Ryan Catnipp would give Unicorns hope. The latter, living off his famous first ball six for Unicorns, came out all guns blazing to find the rope five times in a swashbuckling innings alongside the calm and collected Marshall. The pair added 43 in quick time before disaster struck! Marshall, the non-striker, called through for a tight bye. Whether it was the lure of a refreshing Proud LGBTQIPA; the whiff of the grilled meat or the thought of sharing a shower with James Buckle that distracted him is a question for the ages, but he had not spotted the ball lying at the keeper’s feet. McCann, like lighting whipped off the bails and the faint hope of a miracle was snuffed out once more. Cudlipp and Alex Smith put on another 20 to get the Unicorns to within 30 but with 5 overs still in the tank it felt like a case of what could have been……