For most of us weekend cricketers, the problem is that we’re never out there long enough to find out whether we’re any good. This dilemma hung heavy above the dew at Glenntunnel Domain when a Fulton team representing Valley of Peace played the Deans XI on Sunday, March 20th 2022.

Expectation was fragrant and happiness and handshakes abounded as Fultons and friends assembled.

A team member, Bob Masefield (cousin Bob), noted that the Fultons were not as young as the opposition. Just wait until our 15-year-old and 12-year old arrives, I told him.

In fairness, the Fultons’ fortunes were always going to rely on the performance of our single (current) Premier grade cricketer, David.

People soon murmured: ‘So where’s the tall one today?’ Captain Tim smiled happily back at them as if the answer was standing before them, but no one took the hint.

The Fultons won the toss and chose to bat; cousin Sam and I (seven of us were Fultons so please indulge the lack of surname) opened the innings. Sam reckoned he last played cricket when Donald Trump won office but this big lump of a lad from the Military Police – HQ Burnham – soon settled. By this time, Tim was gone, wrapped on the pads and caught behind.

Brother John of Methven started to show his form of the ’90s at Swannanoa Domain before an untimely chip to field. His son George (15) quickly showed the excellent cricket tuition at CBHS, joining Big Sammie, then his uncle Dave, who increasingly wore the heavy expression of a man who knew he needed a 100.

Run-rate at the 20 over break was hovering around a mild 3 per over but while there was Dave (and Young George), there was hope.

Unfortunately, as per the game of cricket, something happened. George was dismissed, to be replaced by our other youth academy player, Angus. Straight off the mark with a single pushed to cover – well done, son.

Dave and Angus were soon locked in a heady contest with the craftiness of Andrew Nuttall, though it was Phil who made a critical breakthrough. A ball leapt at Dave’s defences, took an edge and was pouched by the keeper in a smart piece of work.

Well played Dave – a good start but how we needed that 100 from him.

Next, it was Gordon to the crease. After first posing for multiple pitch-side photos with his grandson, Gordon and Angus pursued the challenge of facing down Nuttall. It’s hard to know what advice is shared between players 60-odd years apart in age, but it must have been a good conversation – and a delight to see.

Angus straight batted for a few overs before being done, as so many have been, by a Nuttall variation of flight. Well played, son.

By now, as you may have gathered by the lack of commentary on scoring shots, we were struggling for runs and starting to lose wickets at an alarming rate. But we did see other magic moments, like Gordon batting with his cousins – firstly John, then Bob.

Gordon saw off a few partners by the end of it. As we threatened to compile 100 runs (team score, not Dave score) our Swannanoa Cricket Club bastions Lance Ryan and Geoff Olsen set about doing better than Fultons and Masefields. With Nuttall wreaking havoc among the tail, we finished with a muted 94.

Lunch – brought our own and the Deans brought some too. Sunshine and a 40-minute break to catch up with family and friends. Terrific.

Now, back to the heroic task of defending our 94.

After a warm-up on the Section 4 wicket, it was clear that we were missing a 2nd fast bowler to complement Geoff. So, in the style of Martin Crowe at World Cup 1992, captain Tim turned not to Dipak Patel but a left-arm spinner in the form of young Angus.

Not only did this bold opening move placate the fears of his mother, Fiona, who worried he wouldn’t get a go, it surely confounded the opposition. Twirling in from the southern end, Angus bowled two very respectable overs. For comparison, they were certainly more respectable than his father who came in at first change from the other end.

After Tim made it clear that, personally, he deserved no more than two overs of punishment, he called on Big Sammie from the northern end. Now, as described earlier, Sam is quite the ‘unit’. Loves his weights, does a bit of speed work and has a great appetite for work. And boy, did we work him…

After only a couple of looseners, it was clear that Sam had steam in his belly. He crashed back the stumps with one delivery and we all got excited. Big Sammie was puffing, but getting more and more excited as we called for more metaphorical blood at Glentunnel Domain.

Let me make it clear, it was too much to ask Sammie to bowl out the Deans, who in truth were smashing most of us to all parts, but well-bowled Cuz.

As the Deans’ innings exploded onward, it became vitally important for all of the Fulton XI to get a bowl before it was all over.

In all, the bowlers were John of Methven, Bob of Akaroa, John of Goughs Bay, Gordon of Swannanoa, Geoff and Lance of The City, George of Fendalton, Sam of Lincoln and Angus and Tim of West Eyreton. Only Dave of St Albans missed out on a bowl, but we had to punish him somehow for not scoring a 100.

After an exciting 20 over in the field, the Deans’ declared their winning innings closed – 15 runs ahead.

It was truly a magical day of cricket, that in some ways was not about cricket at all, though it must be said, the Deans XI were far too good for us on the day.

For some of us Fultons, result aside, this was the realisation of a dream that appeared to stand little chance until it happened. Thank you so much to the Valley of Peace and the Deans XI for indulging us in this fixture. Particular thanks to VOP’s Scott for his pre-match liaison and support; equally, Jo and team for mustering the Deans squad and Peter Williams, our umpire for the day.

And of course, a mighty thanks to everyone who played and came along to support. Blood is obviously thicker than water.

Match Day Captain (but not the head of the family), Tim Fulton