There are no lovelier experiences around our village than to sit under the trees at the College or Alleyn’s and watch young cricketers, ideally on a sunny day. When the Editor asked me to write about this I blanched at the prospect of pouring over countless volumes of Wisden to check on the statistics. And then I reflected that the schools have books that tell of the shot that cleared the Clump, of the wily bowling of P G Wodehouse, of the defiant resistance of Trevor Bailey and the dazzling centuries of Mickey Stewart, of James Thornton’s record total in the Cricketer Cup, and a thousand other triumphs or disasters. So instead I’ll ponder a few memories over sixty years or so.
I was always proud that the honours boards in the pavilion of the College list more cricket Blues than any other school, including eight future captains: Arthur Gilligan for instance became president of the MCC and selected a team of Old Alleynians to play against Billy Griffith’s international team, when he, also an O.A., was secretary of the MCC, The tradition continues, for soon Eoin Morgan will lead England to the Champions Trophy. An Irishman, he only came to the College for a month or two, so I asked the Master, Dr Joseph Spence, if that really made him an Old Alleynian. In perfect headmasterspeak, a language I know well, he replied solemnly, “If England win, then he is one, or if we lose he isn’t.”.
After eight years in the nets, or under the chestnut trees, or playing on the glorious pitches, I spent my last day at school in Bell House, and walked home with the housemaster’s son, an exceptional athlete, and wished him well in his cricketing career. He was Roger Knight, the current president of the MCC.
But men like Roger can never know the joy of approaching double figures in a House Match for the first time in many innings. Similarly, John Pretlove, the Alleyn Old Boy who captained Cambridge at football and was British Rugby Fives champion, cannot have shared the pride of the first-former who at last hangs onto a catch, to his and everyone’s amazed delight. I went back with John to Cauis College, Cambridge, where the Master showed us a vast collection of trophies in his study. “But”, he said, putting down the Head of the River Cup, “nothing compares with the fact that one of our students topped the national batting averages, something no other undergraduate has achieved”. I pointed to John as the Master gasped, ”Are you John Pretlove?”. “ I was”, replied John with a grin.
At Alleyn’s too, hordes of boys - and now girls as well, rush around cheerfully, and often elegantly, piling up runs at cricket in another heavenly setting. Again one can only admire with gratitude the intense commitment of adults who devote so many hours to encourage a love of cricket. They may be Bill Athey, who opened for England, or more likely a mere mortal who hopes the ball will miss his stumps when he tries to demonstrate an off drive in the nets, but all of them, and their pupils, are glad to be part of something that makes Dulwich a lifelong enchantment.
It is Cricket!
Two major cricketing events take place in Dulwich this year. 2017 is the Dulwich Cricket Club’s 150th anniversary. The club started playing in the cricket field at the rear of the Greyhound Inn in the Village in 1867.
Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club have been chosen as the national showcase club to launch the 2017 NatWest event CricketForce, the biggest annual volunteer initiative in UK sport with the aim of rejuvenating the game. The club has teams catering for women players and young cricketers in addition to the seven sides it fields at weekends. The club’s pavilion no longer meets current needs and help with building a new one is coming from the English Cricket Board who have identified the club as a national priority for capital assistance. Funding is also anticipated from the Marathon Trust and Sport England.
Anyone for Croquet?
The Old College Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Gallery Road is looking for new members and invites anyone interested in playing croquet to drop in and give it a go - even the equipment is provided! More information can also be found on the club’s website : www.oldcollege.co.uk or telephone 0208 670 5477
The club can trace its history prior to WW1 Although interest faded between the wars it revived in the 1960’s. Today the club plays every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and Bank Holidays during the season. One weekday a month is specified as ‘Croquet Day’ when play begins at 11am and goes on into the afternoon and members bring a picnic lunch. On two evenings in summer cheese and wine accompanies the matches. The club has a number of fixtures against other clubs, both at home and away.