Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Tough day in the sun for Bilton at Pool Cricket Club

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In the past two weeks, my concerns with how much rain is going to fall each day and how I’m going to dry my waterproofs for the next pitch-side visit have abated.

Being honest, after around seven months of atrocious weather, I am still leaving it late in the week to make a final decision about the weekend’s travels…just in case.

My main criteria for getting to cricket games this year is to try and get to either new grounds or ones that I haven’t been to in at least five years, or cover teams that I haven’t seen play before.

Looking at the fixtures in the Play-Cricket app, I mentally ticked off the grounds I’ve visited this season already and the ones I managed to get to in 2023, and immediately saw that Pool CC 1st XI were playing at home against Bilton in the Airedale and Wharfedale Senior Cricket Premier League.

Packing my cameras on the morning, I discounted taking my drone as the ground is only a stone’s throw from Leeds/Bradford Airport and probably well within the flight restriction zone (FRZ). Not wanting to get an eye-wateringly large fine and an all-expenses paid stay at His Majesty’s pleasure…I resolved to leave it where it lay.

But as the time for me to leave approached, a thought niggled in the back of my mind (yes it was lonely) and I picked up the flight restrictions map and was really surprised to find that the club lay a few meters outside the FRZ.

A quick call to Leeds Bradford Air Traffic Control and I registered that I would be flying over the ground for a few minutes, just enough time to capture a few photos and maybe a bit of video.

The guy who answered the phone was really helpful and within ten minutes I had permission to fly. So, with that last-minute arrangement made, I headed off to Pool.

I haven’t been to the cricket club in Pool for something like eight years, but I seemed to remember that finding it was very easy.

Most people in Yorkshire who have flown from Leeds Bradford have probably driven through Pool, climbing up Pool Bank to England’s highest airport [at an elevation of 681 feet] – but I wonder how many have actually stopped in the village for more than petrol?

Coming from the Harrogate side, I drove around the roundabout in the centre of the village, heading straight on and was keeping an eye out for the school on my left…pulling into the Village Hall car park immediately before it.

The last time I was there, it had been a rather quiet venue, but as I got out of the car there was a birthday party going on in the hall with lights and loud music – everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. It all seemed rather surreal for just after 11am on a hot and sunny Saturday morning!

Walking down the side of the village hall, I negotiated the path around a wall and emerged at the post and rail fence that encloses the ground. The bright green grass looked marvellous in the blazing sun and both teams were already out warming up.

This is one of the larger grounds in the area and part of a large community area – with the primary school to the right of the pavilion and village hall, Pool AFC’s pitch behind the school, a warm-up pitch at the far side with the football club’s changing rooms also there, and a few houses separated by a row of trees and path running down the left side of the ground.

For the first time this season, I was actually looking around for potential shade to sit in and take photos, but with the sun almost overhead, there was precious little – oh well! I was probably going to get my first lobster look of the summer!

Chatting briefly to the players, both teams seemed to be in high spirits and looking forward to the game, I know I certainly was.

Bilton won the toss and decided to bat, with the opening batsmen striding out to the middle looking serious. I settled on the boundary rope by the school with my back to the sun and started to look around to take in the view and see who else was dotted around the ground watching.

The first ball was a lively one, beating the bat and eliciting a loud chorus of compliments and “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from the fielding team. Second ball and disaster for Bilton as Will Pallister bowled Cameron Martin, with the home team players shouting in delight.

The end of the over came quickly, Bilton were one wicket down and hadn’t managed to get a run on the board. The second over wasn’t much better for the visitors; they did manage to pick up a single, earned a run from a wide and get a four…but at the cost of their second wicket as Mohammed Sudase was caught by Logan Duval.

Bilton needed to settle and weather the storm, and the third over was thankfully quiet as they picked up a boundary, but crucially, hadn’t lost another wicket. Unfortunately, the storm hadn’t dissipated but was about to gather pace.

Over the next two overs, Bilton lost two more wickets and found themselves with just 19 runs for four. They were struggling with the pace of Pool’s bowling and desperately needed to blunt the attack.

Bilton’s Jamie Bryant and Sam Dale were now facing the onslaught and over the next ten overs, seemed to be getting the visitors back into the game as they picked up the odd run here and there, putting on about half a century to make the score look a little bit more respectable.

Then in the 15th and 16th overs, two further wickets fell, and it looked like Bilton might struggle to get over a hundred at 79-6.

A new partnership between Jamie Bryant and Ben Mackrill over the next 20 overs added about another 70 runs to the total to reach 147, before there was a flurry of wickets and Bilton were all out for 149, just shy of the 40th over.

Sam Dale had managed to reach 33, Jamie Bryant scored 61, the best total of any player on the day, and Ben Mackrill had contributed 27 runs in Bilton’s innings. Will Pallister picked up four wickets for just 23 runs, with Krutik Patel getting three wickets for 43 runs for the home team.

The ground was buzzing at that point, as the cricket and football seasons collided; Pool AFC were playing Beeston St. Anthony’s in the West Yorkshire Football League on the pitch next to the cricket and they had a reasonably large number of fans watching.

During the first innings, I had worked my way around the boundary to try and get under the trees that just about cast a shadow on the grass near the pavilion, but as the two teams walked back in to get tea, I had to give up the welcome relief of the shade to go and get a cold drink.

The total posted by Bilton was probably difficult to defend given the size of this ground and the conditions. Their best chance was to get wickets early, putting pressure on the home team, and trying to stifle runs being scored.

The football teams took to the pitch as the cricket teams emerged from the pavilion, with a number of fans standing between the two games trying to watch both.

Pool came out and put down a real statement of intent in the first over, scoring 13 runs effortlessly. The second over was quieter with just four scored, but then the third and fourth overs saw 12 and 11 runs put on respectively.

The home team seemed to score at will, and at the run rate they were posting, I mused if they could reach the total set before the second half of the football game ended.

By the completion of the fifth, Pool were just shy of 50 runs scored and unless there was a huge turnaround, it was clear how this game was going to end. Bilton managed to pick up the wicket of Logan Duval in the sixth over, but the home team responded by scoring steadily for the next ten overs to get them to the brink.

Halfway through the second innings, Bilton received another blow as one of their players pulled up while running for a ball heading to the boundary, appearing to tweak his hamstring and was forced to retire from the game.

If that hadn’t been bad enough, shortly after that Russell Robshaw was unable to complete his over after three deliveries and David Cummings had to complete it.

Just goes to show that when things aren’t going for you…

Pool’s Charlie Bell was caught in the 16th over with the home team around 20 runs shy of victory, but the wicket was too late to make a difference and within two overs Pool had reached the total needed for victory.

Barely two minutes after the final runs were scored, and with the cricket teams still shaking hands, the referee blew his whistle and Beeston had beaten Pool AFC 4-2 with a loud roar from the travelling fans.

Logan Duval had scored 35 runs from 20 balls, Krutik Patel 45 from 50, Charlie Bell 33 from 29, and Sydney Wood ended with 10 runs from 10 balls for Pool. Meanwhile, Nicholas Walker and Mohammed Sudase picked up a wicket each for Bilton.

The game had finished early, the home team dominating with both bat and ball; and to be honest, this wasn’t the usual Bilton performance I have come to know over the last decade – perhaps this was just one of those bad days at the office.

Unfortunately, it had been a rather brief visit to Pool Cricket Club, with the game itself being a rather one-sided affair from the off. 

However, I will head back to the ground this season to catch another game to see if this form continues and can take them to near the top of the table – or maybe I could go and watch them in one of the cups.

Thanks to Mark for his snapshot of Aire-Wharfe cricket at Pool in Wharfedale, as well as the calibre of his sports photography that we’re all fortunate to see. It’s a rarity to see images this good of grassroots cricket.

To check out more of his photography, you can visit caughtlight.com or he’s @caughtlight on Twitter/X.
There’s also the Caught Light Photography Facebook page.

I also highly recommend his blog called Leica Moments that include days out at grounds around North Yorkshire.

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