Houghton Main v Timsbury, Village Cup final, Lord's September 3, 2006

Houghton Main take village title

Houghton Main 185 for 6 (Jeffs 45) beat Timsbury 184 (Sage 72) by four wickets



With the wayward bowling, slapdash batting and shoddy fielding it would have been easy to call it amateurish - but that's enough about England. Less than 24 hours after a cold and quiet Lord's had sat through England's latest one-day capitulation a vastly smaller, but much more vocal, audience were treated to a competitive and thrilling npower Village Cup final as South Yorkshire's Houghton Main, who take their name from a local colliery, closed in 1992, won the TWC-organised competition in the penultimate over, beating Timsbury of Somerset by four wickets.

Houghton's supporters couldn't contain themselves when the winning runs were scored; a small group sprinted on to the field and grabbed the stumps for souvenirs. The hero was Nick Bisby, a geologist who was forced to retire hurt through cramp and played with a broken thumb sustained in the semi-final. Chasing 185, Houghton's top-order crashed to 31 for 4 but student Luke Jeffs played a classy innings before Bisby returned and etched a permanent place in the club's history. "You had to doubt it when we lost the first four," admitted an emotional Houghton captain, Ernie Heseltine. "Our big guns had gone and we just pulled it out the fire. It means so much to the lads, it's unbelievable for them, I'm so proud of them. It's the club's greatest moment and it's a lot of our greatest moments as well."

Bisby, who was due back at work the following morning, struggled to take in what happened: "I can't describe what it was like. It was only in the last couple of overs that we realised we were playing cricket because the surroundings were just so amazing. I've played at Scarborough and county grounds around Yorkshire but this place is unbelievable."

On the flipside, Timsbury's players struggled to hold back the tears, among them skipper Mark Sage, who earned the man-of-the-match award. He had appeared at Lord's twice before, and his allround performance was of a man at ease with the lofty surroundings. His 72 was made with conditions at their toughest after Houghton had decided to bowl under the morning clouds. After 20 overs the run-rate was barely three an over, but Sage took advantage of the short Tavern boundary. He then led from the front in the field, with a wicket and a catch. When the match slipped away he sank to his knees. The outcome was harsh, too, on the travelling supporters from Somerset who had endured the often nightmarish cross-country trek. Many of the club's supporters had set off in the early hours, and for one group there was a detour via Swindon to pick up the scorer who'd been watching a football match the night before.

The father of Jez Hare, Timsbury's wicketkeeper, only just made it for the start. He is a vicar and had to read his Sunday sermon at eight o'clock in the morning. But, in the end, it was Houghton who found the divine inspiration.

This article was first published in the November issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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