Steve Berry Memorial Game Warborough 2023
We are at the Warborough ‘Park Hotel’, a field kindly lent by Alan and Pippa Lamb, for some campers, others residing with Mark Searle or in hotels and we are about to play the Steve Berry memorial game on Warborough’s ground. The ground sits alongside the Six Bells pub, dramatically seen in some Midsomer Murder episodes, surely the Erratics could be part of a future murder scene. Scriptwriters onto the case? This is the final game of four played on the Oxford tour, generously the Erratics performed well enough in each game to allow the opposition to take the honours.
This afternoon we're going to many different places. We're finding out cricket's connection, to singing(?), to literature, to Rio de Janeiro, to ennui, or the key to a dramatic mix that doesn’t get boring and where everything is always perfectly intelligible.
‘Garyaoke’, the occasion where Gary the new landlord of the Six Bells, celebrates his birthday with a singing session in the pub, apparently supported by Mark Hailwood. Fortunately, I wasn’t there so can’t really comment. Which Erratic is most like a Tolkien character, I’m far too polite to reveal any results. This game particularly remembers Steve Berry seen in Sam Cook’s remarkable wooden carved design for this final tour match that takes me back every time to a previous Gloucestershire tour and a story of a lovely grumpy man. Imagine a game on Copacabana beach when a long blond-haired man dressed in an umpire's coat signals a cricket wide, and you begin to understand the pose. The full story is much better relayed in the pub if you don’t know it, I’m happy to tell it even if you do. These discussions, comparisons, demonstrations, and some of the history of the Erratics raise the question: put simply, why cricket? There is always a level of competence for you in cricket. You can play cricket badly, for longer, than any other sport under the sun. Would cricket be invented now? It involves a wide range of very different skills, and it has incredibly complicated laws that make no concession for the uninitiated. It's uninventable today, but it's always been there. Not unlike Steve Berry.
The Erratic’s bat first, it was only Martin Wright, Jon Perkin and Sam Cook who got into double figures, all batted well apparently setting us up to make this a hard game to lose. As the cumulative total achieved by Duncan, Chris, Peter, Fraser, Anuj, me, and Mark was 16, with Matt remaining 4 not out, the total of 145 looked like at least another 20 runs too little. Warborough’s bowlers shared the wickets, de Winter bringing the umpire and Warboough’s president firmly into the game and giving Chris Cook out LBW not playing a shot. We needed something else, maybe watching a balloon being inflated and taking off would have helped, but that was in the game before against the Mandarins. Would tea help? Frankly yes (and no) it must be rated as one of the best teas. Sitting on long tables alongside the boundary, we were given a menu of locally sourced ingredients. The intention is to win Warborough’s most prized award, the Tea Cup. I can't imagine it being bettered. ‘Berryman’ would have been in his element, even with Cornish scones. So yes, tea was a success, but we just couldn’t get Warbourgh out. Mark faced up to the first ball, delivered by Captain Cook, the ball had been given to Chris by Dave Berry who discovered it on his brother's boat. The ball is patted back and then packed away for next year, and we begin the game in earnest. Anuj and Fraser set us up well with seven maidens between them. Mark Searle using hard-earned local knowledge paced himself before lofting a catch from Chris’s bowling. Warborough’s other opener battled the whole game and looked exhausted at the end. Chris had taken another wicket to give us some hope but an aggressive 50 from Warborough’s number 4 sealed the game. One memory and my nomination for the champagne moment(s) is Sam’s fielding where we ended up with at least four players backing up as Sam hurls the ball in from the deep.
Now to the award and Warborugh getting to keep the trophy for this year. It’s always moving and memorable when Dave, Steve’s brother comes to present the prize. Steve's Gloucester story is relayed once again, and we move to the Six Bells to another shorter (for some of us) ‘sesh’. Warborough like the Erratics play an eclectic mix of teams, and the games are edgy but fun, just not as great when you lose. It is the company that is important. Although it helps if a player can walk unaided to the crease, if they aren't good company you don’t want to spend a day with them. We often discuss how to get better, usually in the pub after the game, so how to prepare for next year's tour? Cricket is a “simple” game complicated by a myriad of variables: physical, technical, emotional, tactical, and natural. In cricket, every ball, wicket, match, day, situation, opposition, conditions, and personal experience can vary tremendously. So how can we prepare for something that can be so unpredictable?
Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers – The Story of Success - tells us that practice and grooving alone will not be sufficient to make you a great but it will increase your ability to perform those skills when required to do so.
So, you do need to hone your cricketing skills through repetition and grooving but you should also learn to control your emotional responses and reactions to perceived pressure situations by practicing and performing at the same intensity as much as possible.
At this point, another pint of Brakspears arrives and my thoughts return to Steve Berry, which to me at least explains why this report on the game is late, but I will send it out on the anniversary of his passing.
Special thanks as always to Dave Berry and the other half of a legendary opening bowling partnership, Mark Searle and Warborough for another wonderful tour.