First Class Cricket is now well underway, and in the Forest serious cricket begins this weekend. My cricket bag (or coffin, as experienced cricket players call it) is fully stocked with my cricket gear, as it has been for many years. I await the call from one of my former Forest teams to fill in any late vacancy that might have occurred. I don’t think that I could keep wicket again or bowl, but I would be an enthusiastic fielder.  As a bowler, I don’t think that my slow left arm full tosses would create much panic among our opponents, but I could be relied upon to score the odd single batting at number 10 or 11.    

One more match would probably be enough. I do have lots of experience playing around the Forest, for St Briavels, Parkend and Newnham Cricket teams. St Briavels and Parkend seem to be managing quite well without me, and Newnham Cricket Club collapsed soon after I joined them, purely coincidentally, I hope.

Newnham is not the only cricket team in the Forest that has not survived. Around the Forest were the Forest Teachers, Primrose Hill, Ruardean, Speech House, Blakeney, St Johns (Tutshill), Beachley Apprentices, Berry Hill and Coleford, all of which are no more. There was a pub team at the Nags Head Coleford, and it caused great embarrassment when this scratch team of novice cricketers beat Parkend at Parkend’s home ground. In his definitive history of Cinderford St Johns Cricket Club Alec Kear shows that there were 15 cricket clubs in Cinderford around the turn of the 20th Century. The late Robert Wilkins, a Parkend cricket stalwart, told me of a long abandoned club at Lydbrook, which played its matches on the other side of the River Wye from Lydbrook, accessible only by boat. The demise of the Speech House Cricket club, which played its home matches at the scenic woodland venue,  was a particular loss.   

And just on the other side of the River Wye there were cricket teams at Llandogo and Tintern, which haven’t survived. I remember an extraordinary away match for St Briavels against Tintern many years ago. Tintern Cricket Club shared its ground with Tintern Football Club. It was in a wonderful setting by the abbey but the wicket was appalling. The football club had played a match there just a couple of days earlier. The pitch has not been prepared for a cricket match. No rolling or grass cutting. The ball would either slither along the ground or hit a lump of clay and bounce alarmingly at head height. It was impossible for batters to play proper cricket shots. Bats were used for self-defence rather that for scoring runs. We batted first and scored 28 all out, which took the record for the lowest score by a team in all the matches I have ever played. This record didn’t last very long, in fact only an hour and a quarter. Tintern replied with 21. The match was over by 4pm, scheduled to finish 7.30pm. 21 remains the unchallenged lowest team score in any match I have ever played in. I’m not surprised to hear that Tintern Cricket Club has subsequently folded.