Keep pinching yourselves, Calmore Sports are just one game away from Lord’s following a hard-fought 38-run victory over Rockhampton at a sun-soaked Loperwood Park on Sunday in the quarter-final of the Voneus National Village Cup.

It was a magnificent day with near 500 people around the perimeter witnessing history being made as Mark Lavelle’s side booked their place in the last four – a home semi-final with Slough-based Stoke Green on Sunday 1 August – with a battling performance which looked like it could edge away from them as the Gloucestershire side moved to 91-1 at the 18-over drinks break in response to our 205-4.

A few rousing words from senior player Jimmy Manning, which has been described by many as more of a rollocking, worked as Calmore claimed two wickets in three balls, removing both dangerous set Rockhampton batsmen Will Tyler and George Driver-Dickinson and that, in turn, brought a steady flow of wickets as the visitors fell some 38 runs short.

Calmore won the toss and decided to take first use of the fresh Loperwood wicket and openers Will Brewster and Ben Johns set about their task although they were finding the going tough as the pitch provided a bit of indifferent bounce and a few balls stuck in the surface which made scoring difficult.  The fact that both went on to score half-centuries as testimony to their patience with the former falling leg before to Jamie Wakefield for an 88-ball 53, putting on 109 for the first wicket but taking some 26.5 overs.

It needed a little bit of an injection and it was provided by Shawn Johnson, who smashed one huge six in his brief stay of 17 while Matt Taylor (14) and some lusty blows from Manning, cracking two fours and a six in his 11-ball undefeated 19 took the Calmore total beyond 200, closing at 205-4 – Chris Willoughby the pick of the bowlers with 0-28 in his eight while Dave McCabe bowled the solitary maiden in the innings in his 0-23 off six.

Ben Johns, playing the anchor role was finally removed by Wakefield’s throw for a superb 103-ball 75, his second half-century of the weekend following his undefeated 57 at Portsmouth in the league the day before.  His innings was much needed – and he provided.

A smart catch from Johnson in the covers sent the Rockhampton skipper Martin Cropper back to the pavilion third ball without scoring before Tyler and Driver-Dickinson put the visitors in a strong position.  Manning’s rousing speech at the drinks break and the introduction of off-spinner Liam Carty, playing his first game of the campaign in place of the unavailable regular Ben Perry, turned the game.

Tyler’s run out was followed by Carty’s impressive removal of Driver-Dickinson, trapping the wicket-keeper/batsman leg before and following it up with the same treatment to Wakefield and then rushing through Harry Collins’ defences to put the boot into the Rockhampton chase with figures of 3-27 from eight overs as 91-1 became 106-5.

Veterans Manning and Mike West claimed a wicket each before Lavelle cleaned up the tail from the Pipers Bank end and the game was over following a bizarre run-out of Matt Belbin, who had given his side a little bit of hope with an 11-ball 17.

But it was Calmore’s day in the sunshine and the packed house celebrated long into the evening, still with the dream of walking through the Grace Gates and through the Long Room at Lord’s still alive and still real.

The Calmore skipper wasn’t getting too carried away afterwards.  “We’ve done alright today.  It was a very Calmore innings when we batted and when we bowled, it was very much a Calmore bowling effort.  We stuck to the guns as we were always chasing the game but we stuck to the process, stuck to what we do and came out the right side of it.

“We got the big wicket early but the two guys, the young lad and the keeper, batted very well and we didn’t look like getting a wicket but it was the run out that changed it.  It was always looking likely as they played the drop and run a lot, which is fine, but the run out always looked on.  That was the massive turning point, straight after drinks, it was a huge bonus.

“And now we are just one game away from Lord’s.  You’ve just got to laugh, haven’t you?  If we get there, brilliant, but like we said, you’ve got to treat it like a game of cricket.  We are such a tight knit group, Pez has had a difficult week, he should have been here today, playing the last two games but he wasn’t here, he was here in spirit and that’s what carried us through.  We said at 11am yesterday, if we are going to do anything, let’s win two games of cricket for Pez and Rachel.  He’s such a big part of our team, big part of our squad, big part of our club.  That’s what we are about.”

He has a special mention for Perry’s replacement.  “Liam has bowled superbly today.  Liam, the last three/four weeks, coming up from the twos where he’s been getting wickets, he’s just carried on.  The shout from the boundary when Carts was bowling well was ‘he’s a second team cricketer, why aren’t we hitting him’, you can’t hit him because he’s such a good bowler.”

And so, onto the next one, the semi-final and the challenge of Slough’s Stoke Green side, who defeated the much fancied Foxton by 5 wickets, chasing down their target of 193 in just 33.5 overs with 50s from Basharat and skipper Bhachu.  It will be a very tough game but the carrot dangling for the winners is Lord’s … there is no bigger incentive in our game.

Hear Mark Lavelle’s thoughts on the game with this interview with RV.