Reported in the Henley Standard of the day, a cricket match was played at Greys Green on July 31st 1873, between a Mr. Samuel Saunders’ XI & a combined team from Stoke Row & the Wyfold Court United cricket clubs. Stoke Row won that match but, a fortnight later, a return fixture took place but, this time, Mr. Saunders’ XI was calling itself Greys Green….&, thus, a club was born. Greys won this second game & so it has continued ever since - for almost 150 years – winning some, losing some but, at all times, enjoyment & playing in the right spirit have been at the heart of the club’s ethos.
Needless to say, fortunes have fluctuated along the way – especially between the World Wars – but obstacles have always been overcome &, during the last forty years, the club has developed secure foundations which, we hope, will ensure the survival of cricket on the green for the foreseeable future. Greys prides itself in being a friendly, family-oriented club but, if that is not enough in itself to attract new members, there is always the setting itself.
The ground is as delightful as one could ever wish to find, its boundaries studded with the brick & flint of country cottages &, encircled by a necklace of ancient hedgerows & mature trees, the green is a perfect marriage between Nature & the man-made. The beauty of the ground & the longevity of the cricket club are clearly intertwined for, even though the village can no longer provide a team from its own inhabitants, the club has never seriously struggled for players; the lure of the green is great & everyone considers it their second home, their retreat in the countryside.
Before the comparatively-recent purchasing of machinery, the Greys’ wicket was a paradise for bowlers & no batsman was safe! The village album, compiled in 1955, recounts how “….even before the First World War, Rotherfield Greys was a village with an established cricketing tradition. Visiting teams viewed its XI with respect & made careful preparation for the encounter. A veteran of those days delighted to tell of an occasion when an unknown member of a visiting team –AFTER he had been bowled by the crack Greys’ bowler of the day – was revealed to be none other than JACK HOBBS!”
During the first half of the 20th Century, many matches failed to aggregate a hundred runs, whilst a total of forty, or fifty, was often seen as a winning score! In 1934, George Hunt took 71 wickets at 5.4 apiece whilst, a year later, during five consecutive games, he took 33 wickets for just 61 runs! Even during the 1970s, 100 wickets per season was achieved on three different occasions by individual bowlers. Today, however, it’s the bat which dominates & individual centuries & team scores of well over 200 abound.
For a small village team, off the beaten track, we – nonetheless – have rubbed shoulders with some famous names. The club was the subject of a Sunday Telegraph magazine article in 1989, whilst Michael Manley, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica & Nigel Havers, the well-known actor have both been vice-presidents of the club in the past. Alf Gover & Jim Laker both played on the green, for the Daily Mirror, against Greys whilst, just last year, Sebastian Faulks, the author, & Jim Rosenthal, the sports presenter, played for opposition teams. You never know who you’re going to meet at Greys!
The club plays “friendlies” – i.e. non-league – from mid-April to early October, usually two games per weekend &, although we try to introduce new fixtures when we can, old rivals are often the best of friends & we have been playing The Refreshers – a team of barristers based in London – for over fifty years.
We undertook summer tours to the West Country for over twenty years but, sadly, these fell by the wayside a few years back. However, there seems to be a growing mood that tours may be revived.
If any of the above has whetted your appetite to play village cricket, please contact me, whenever convenient;
Michael Cusden, Chairman; 01491-638670.
To give you an idea of the season ahead, a fixture list can be found at the end of this article.
We would be glad to hear from you as a potential player but, should you just want to enjoy the game as a spectator, you are equally welcome to join us at Greys anytime. Please walk across & make yourself known at the pavilion; there’s always a pot of tea on the go!