At the ninth attempt the League’s representative XI finally emerged victorious from the annual fixture against the MCC, on an emotional day at Ashton-on-Mersey that was hugely enjoyable – this fixture always is – but was also by turns frustrating and nervous as the match ebbed and flowed one way and then the other.
The achievement is all the more praiseworthy as this was the youngest team the League has fielded in this fixture to date, but Cheshire’s three 15 year old bowlers – Molly Price, Liv Bell and Emma Capper – all bowled superbly. However, the real matchwinning performance came from Carys White, herself only 18 years of age, on what was certainly the highlight of her brief career to date. Whatever else she may achieve in her career, this really was a day on which she can be hugely proud of her efforts.
The League was privileged to welcome England legend Claire Taylor as part of the MCC eleven for the first time, and the crowd were indeed truly fortunate to witness her innings, which can only be described as a masterclass. Her innings of 62 from 67 deliveries, that included 12 fours, really was a veritable feast of textbook shots.
However, for most of the rest of the innings, the League bowlers kept a tight rein on the scoring rate. Danni Warren and Sarah Sutcliffe did add 33 for the final wicket – a contribution which threatened to have a crucial impact on the game – but bowling out the MCC for only the second time in the decade-long history of this fixture is an achievement in itself.
Only two League XI bowlers had taken three wickets in an innings in this fixture previously, but here two more managed to add their names to this list. Annie Rashid returned a superb 3-21 from ten overs, with even Taylor unable to score significantly off her bowling. Rashid – and Holly McCurrie, who took the slip catch – will be able to dine out for a long time on the fact that they claimed Taylor’s wicket, but there was an even more spectacular contribution off the next ball when Katie Bennett took a superb catch behind the stumps. Rashid’s hat-trick ball then missed the stumps by no more than a coat of varnish!
After starting with five overs for five runs, Rashid’s new ball partner Price returned at the end of the innings to take three deserved wickets. Bell with two and Lauren O’Reilly with one completed the wicket taking.
The loss of captain Emma Barlow in the second over of the reply could have been a major blow to Cheshire’s hopes, but the top order responded, and after rapid scores of 20 odd by both Ali Cutler and Roshini Prince-Navaratnam, the League side were sitting pretty at 108-3 after 23 overs, needing only 71 more from the remaining 27 overs, and well ahead of both the required rate and what the MCC were on at the same stage.
However, the introduction of spinners Jo Foster and Bev Nicholson threatened to turn the match. The pair claimed figures of 3-34 and 2-14 respectively as they bowled 20 overs in tandem and dramatically changed the scoreboard at 123-7. To many observers, it was looking as if another ‘near miss’ defeat in this fixture was on the cards.
Carys White remained steadfast though and looked increasingly dominant as she completed her unbeaten 86 from 103 deliveries, featuring 14 fours. Rashid, Bell and Price all provided vital support in the final stages of the run chase.
So here’s to the 11 (and the wider squad of 13) who finally broke the league team’s duck in this fixture:
Emma Barlow (Appleton, c), Katie Bennett (Wistaston Village, wk), Holly McCurrie, Annie Rashid (both Appleton), Liv Bell (Stockport Georgians), Molly Price (Oxton), Ali Cutler, Lauren O’Reilly (both Chester Boughton Hall), Carys White (Stockport Trinity), Emma Capper (Leigh), Roshini Prince-Navaratnam (Didsbury)
Fielding reserves: Natalie Bell, Georgie Gill (both Stockport Georgians)
The League thanks everyone who made this day possible, including Ashton-on-Mersey CC for their hospitality; the MCC team, many of whom once again travelled a significant distance; scorers Ray Bell of Stockport Georgians and Rosie Davis of Didsbury, and umpires Allan Axon and Andy Marsland. The League also extends best wishes to Geoff Young, who was due to umpire this match until he was unfortunately taken ill shortly beforehand.