Voneus National Village Cup Quarter-Final
Loperwood Park, Calmore
Sunday 18th July 2021
Start time: 1pm

The anticipation ahead of Sunday’s Voneus National Village Cup quarter-final is beginning to crank up as Loperwood Park awaits the visit of Gloucestershire-based side Rockhampton, with two carrots dangling tantalisingly for both sides – a home semi-final for the winners and, of course, just two games away from a dream day out at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s on September 19.

For Calmore Sports, it is a first ever soiree into this competition.  But for Rockhampton, they are hoping to repeat the feat of 2013 when they reached the final, but aiming to go one better this time out.

The West of England Premier League Gloucestershire division outfit, currently second in their division behind leaders Corse and Staunton, come into this game on the back of a dramatic 1-0 bowl out victory over Ynystawe – viewed by many on the live feed from both clubs and many from Calmore too.

‘The Rams’ were up against it before the rains fell with the home side 201-3 with a couple of overs remaining and with skipper Martin Cropper missing due to Covid isolation, they felt they were a batter light.  The rain did them no harm and their solitary hit saw them through to Sunday’s quarter-final.

I caught up with the Rockhampton captain, a player I knew well from my time with Ramsbottom Cricket Club, a club where Martin played for 15 years before moving back south in late 2019 and he is looking forward to the game this weekend.

“I took over the captaincy at Rockhampton earlier this year,” he said, “and we have played some good cricket.  We got through the early round against Chipping Campden and then beat Corse and Staunton, who we had lost to in the league a week before but played well to get that result.  And it has flourished from there really.

“We do have a genuine belief and, of course, Lord’s is the big prize but we know that it not just the prize, it is to go and win it now.  We have stuck with the lads who have been involved throughout the tournament and we have a good, competitive team that is really looking forward to a good game at a lovely ground in some great weather too.

Martin, who works for the Professional Cricketers Association as a Personal Development Manager, brings with him a vast experience playing in the Lancashire League with Ramsbottom, playing 131 league games and scoring 1277 runs as a batsman and occasional wicket-keeper too, playing alongside the likes of Test match players Murali Kartik, Sunil Joshi and Lou Vincent.  In fact, it is his time originally with Rockhampton as a youngster that sees the Ram on their logo and their nickname of Rockhampton Rams.

“Back when I started playing for Rockhampton, we played on a small common ground in the village where you had to stop play if the cows started crossing the ground (sounds familiar from cricket played in the New Forest!).  My dad [Paul Cropper, something of a Rammy legend!!!] used to come down from Ramsbottom and he brought some caps with him.  Rockhampton didn’t really have a logo, just caps with the name of the club on them but they seemed to adopt the Ram as their logo and, here we are now – Rockhampton Rams.

“I moved up north in about 2004 and played for Rammy until 2019, when I was just going to play in the 2nd XI but they needed me to play in the 1sts so I did but my girlfriend and I bought a place down in Bristol and I came back to Rockhampton.  The club bought some nearby farm land and now have a great ground that Gloucestershire 2nd XI play some games on.

“And we will be bringing down a few supporters as well to add to the atmosphere.  We have done a bit of research on Calmore to see what we are likely to come up against so it promises to be a really good game.”

They will come up against a confident Calmore Sports side on Sunday, who also sit second in their league table, SPCL Division 1, which is a level higher than their visitors, but they will be hoping for a smoother ride than they experienced in the wins over Sparsholt, Cookham Dean and Goatacre in the last round.

Captain Mark Lavelle names one change from the last round with Yannick de Mezieres Lepervanche returning to the squad as we name a 12-man squad.

“We cannot wait for Sunday to come around,” said the skipper.  “The lads are excited and there has been some talk around the club about playing at Lord’s but we have got to keep our feet on the ground and get the win on Sunday first.  It is about not getting ahead of ourselves and I have tried to hammer that home to the lads this week.

“We have got home advantage, which is always a good thing and hopefully a good crowd will be there to get behind us with the weather set to be great.  And playing at Loperwood, we have to use that, we know the ground, what is a good score either batting or bowling first and make it count on the day.

“We are still in three competitions this season – second in the league and quarter-finals in the SPCL T20 and the Village Cup – and we have played some good cricket throughout.

“It has been great that the first team lads have really bought in to the competition and we have been able to stick with the same lads, bar one or two in the early rounds, to get us to this stage.  We know that we are two games away from Lord’s but Rockhampton know that too, they are a very similar side to us, playing a fairly similar level but they would not have played at Loperwood before, so we have to make that count.”

The game starts at 1pm and everyone is welcome.  The bar will be open, as will the BBQ and our good friends from ‘Really Awesome Coffee’, will be serving hot drinks throughout the day too.

As always, please can you ensure that you maintain social distancing around the ground, wear masks whenever entering the pavilion and we recommend arriving early as parking will be at a premium on the day.  The club requests that people car share wherever possible and those who are staying right to the end of the game will be asked to park on the far side of the ground.

It’s Calmore Sports against Rockhampton and we are two games from Lord’s …. let’s get behind the lads!!!