To try to counter the decrease in the number of School leavers participating, it was decided this year to hold the OR week in conjunction with the School cricket week. This proved successful in one sense: the participation of six players from the School 1st XI, all of whom made substantial contributions, including three centuries (the first time in my recollection that so many have been scored in one week), which appeared to justify the move. The negatives were the very limited availability of ORs (we had to make up the numbers with non-OR players), poor wickets and catering difficulties.


We ended up with two wins, one defeat (by a mere 3 runs) and two draws - in both of which the ORs held the upper hand.


The festival started on the Saturday with a high-scoring School v OR XI game, which the old boys won by the narrow margin of x wickets.


Sunday’s game against Chelsea Nomads was notable for a century from School opener Marcus Bazley and a quick-fire 65 from Edgar Weekes. In spite of solid starts from several Nomad batsmen, none of them reached 50 and they subsided to a 68 run defeat, with cricket week stalwart, Andy Northway, playing his only game of the week, taking four wickets, ably supported by Bazley’s leg spin.


Bowdon from Cheshire, captained by OR Sean Walters have been visiting for more than a decade and have played us in two-day games in the past. Because the ORs were unable to field the same side on consecutive days, it was agreed to hold two one-day games. Breaking with cricket week tradition in the first of these encounters, captain for the day, Sameer Patel, elected to field first on winning the toss. This decision appeared to have been vindicated when Bowdon slumped to 75 for 5, but a rearguard action saw them reach 223 all out. ORs had a similar early collapse to 123 for 7, but a 97 run 9th wicket partnership almost saw us home, until both batsmen were out in the 40s. As OR wicketkeeper, Tim Walder, was unable to bat because of a fractured cheek bone, sustained while keeping, ORs lost by just three runs.


The rematch on the Tuesday was notable for a century from School 1st XI opener, Joel Walker. He shared a second wicket stand of 162 with fellow School player, James Moore, which allowed a declaration of 269 for 6. The Bowdon opener Ashling made 147 in reply, but had little support and the match ended in heavy rain and gloomy skies, with both teams chasing victory, and the visitors nine wickets down and 17 short of their target.


Old rivals Kensington were our Wednesday opponents. Walker matched his previous day’s success with another century and shared in substantial first and third wicket stands of 122 and 89. ORs declared on 297 for 6 from 53 overs. A wicket in the second over suggested an easy OR victory, but at 153 for 2 the visitors were well set, until left arm spinner Chip Sainsbury took 4 for 68 in 23 overs. The Kensington last wicket pair hung on for a draw, with their total at 213 for 9 from 55 overs.

In spite of these successes, I have doubts about the future of the week. I am not convinced that the new format was overly welcomed by the School, in spite of the playing achievements of its players.  However, the chief reason for my pessimism is the impending eviction of the Caversham & Redingensians Cricket Club from the Sonning ground by the Sports Club, in order to facilitate more rugby. The cricket club has several OR members who have been the mainstay of our cricket week for many years and have effectively kept it afloat. Although they have been given two years' notice, the players have decided to disband this year and most will retire from competitive cricket or join other clubs. Accordingly, I see little prospect of many of them being available for cricket week in future and there is little hope for its continuation, at least under my stewardship. If a master, parent or recently-left OR were willing to take it over, they might have the contacts and persuasive powers to recruit a new generation of players, but from my experience over the last couple of decades, such a volunteer is unlikely to emerge, or have the required level of backing from potential players. Sameer Patel, a former Berkshire minor county player, expressed the view that he could encourage some of his contemporaries from the 90s when he played this year. It might be worth Council making an approach to him.


One reason for the abundance of younger players this year was that we were able to subsidise their participation through not charging them for their meals and other costs. This was hugely beneficial and is a direct result of the generous grant from the OR Association, which is greatly appreciated by all involved.


Terry Cartwright.