By Julian Frost

Perfect April sunshine on Saturday 20th April saw Frensham begin the cricket season with three matches in honour of Ray Clarke, who sadly passed away last autumn. On the day ,Frensham CC’s  1st, 2nd and 3rd XIs took on their near neighbours Tilford, for the inaugural Ray Clarke Memorial Cup kindly donated by Michael Fathers, Frensham’s President. The idea for this perfect pre-season fixture was first suggested on the day of Ray’s funeral which had been attended by a large Tilford CC contingent amongst the hundreds present. To see it now take place in front of large bank holiday crowds, including the whole Frensham and Tilford cricket communities plus friends from other I’Anson clubs, is a fitting tribute from all those involved to the man himself.

Ray Clarke, the cricketer, was one of those stories which make cricket, and especially village cricket, something more than just a sport. Ray, at the age of 70, was still a 1st team cricketer picked on merit and playing in the top division of the I’Anson league. Not only was he regularly taking wickets for his club but in recent seasons had been a stalwart for Surrey Over 60’s, culminating in being capped by England Over 70’s to take on the Aussies veterans in Australia. At what ever level Ray played he was a tough competitor on the field and an affable companion off it; the essential definition of a sportsman.

On the day the 1st and 3rd team games commenced at Frensham at 2pm whereas the 2nd team game at Tilford began an hour earlier allowing all involved to get to Frensham for the eventual presentation.

Frensham & Tilford’s combined 1st and 3rd teams with umpires and Lorna Clarke
Frensham & Tilford’s combined 2nd team on Tilford Green

Tlford took the spoils in the first XI fixture. Frensham won the toss and elected to bowl. After losing early wickets, Clinton (29) and Cook (30) steadied the ship for the visitors. Wickets continued to fall steadily however, with Pow, Goulder, Frost and Knight all making contributions with the ball, but a handy 20 from Denis Hounsham down the order saw Tilford eventually bowled out for a respectable 155.

In response, the home side lost a wicket in the first over but a strong partnership between Wood (55) and Farncombe (26) put Frensham in a seemingly commanding position. However, strong spells of bowling from Huw Town-Jones (4-26) and Andy Hall-Hall (4-12) helped drag the visitors back into the game and from 95-2 the home side’s run chase eventually ran out of steam, being bowled out for 151 – just five runs short of victory.

The second XI fixture, played at Tilford, on the type of wicket not normally associated with early season games, saw Frensham bat first and amass a strong 247-4, chiefly because of an excellent partnership of 161 between Harvey Herrington and Seb Grundy. Grundy eventually fell for a fluid 80 whilst Herrington continued and deservingly reached his excellent century just before the 40 over close of innings. In reply Tilford started strong and kept along with the run rate before a flurry of wickets seemed to turn the match in the visitor’s favour. A fighting partnership between Macdonald and Gillon Webb stemmed the tide, but when that was eventually broken, Frensham wrapped up victory with a couple of overs to spare.

Harvey Herrington, top scorer on the day in all 3 matches, make a maiden century

The third XI fixture also saw Frensham prevail. Batting first, Tilford struggled to make headway against tight Frensham bowling. Youngsters Sam Johnston and Charlie Chilcott, bowled economically, before the old heads of Pete Harrison (3 for 8) and new skipper Rob Blythe (a hat trick in figures of 3 for 4) wrapped up the Tilford innings for 110. MacDonald rolled back the years with several classy drives, but run scoring proved difficult on a challenging early season pitch. Frensham reached the target for the loss of just 3 wickets, thanks mainly to a fluent 46 no from Tom Eastwood. The aggregate score of the matches was therefore 2 to 1 in Frensham’s favour who thus became the first winners of the Ray Clarke Memorial Cup, proudly presented by Ray’s widow, Lorna, to Frensham club captain Tim Stubbs. All agreed this had been a fitting way to remember Ray and hopefully a fixture in the village cricket calendar for many years to come.

Rob Blythe bowling his way to a hat-trick
The presentation of the cup by Lorna Clarke to Tim Stubbs, Frensham Club Capt