- The players line up at the County Ground, Taunton, for the national anthem
The much-anticipated contest between Great Britain and a team of cricketers more than lived up to expectations thanks to a classy performance from the national side, a willingness among the cricketers to apply raw talent, and an enthusiastic crowd made up of baseball fans and newcomers to the sport. Five’s Jonny Gould provided a commentary on the game through the ground’s PA system, which kept the aficionados entertained while guiding the newcomers through the intricacies of the match as it unfolded.
A great amount of effort was put into making this event a success, not least in converting a cricket pitch into a baseball field. You can see on the picture above that an outfield fence was erected and infield dirt cut-outs made (these were not as substantial as on the mocked-up image of the diamond shown in a previous post, but I don’t think the groundstaff would have agreed to that amount of de-turfing). On the picture above, you can also see an electronic scoreboard, a rarity in British baseball.
Among the cricketers, three household names showed up: spinner Ashley Giles; wicket-keeper Geraint Jones; and, of course, Trescothick himself. The other spots on the Bangers’ roster were filled by fellow cricketers as well as two very experienced baseball players, Tom Gillespie and Cody Cain. Cain caught the whole game (which was a smart idea, as an experienced catcher is one of the fundamental ingredients of a decent ball game), while Gillespie was there to help with pitching duties if required.
Overview of the game
The 20-run margin of victory reflected the gulf in ability between talented athletes with baseball experience and talented athletes who had not been exposed to the game before. This is clearly not a sport that you can excel in from day one. Even over the course of eight innings, though, there were marked improvements in the quality of fielding by the cricketers. Early in the game, the lack of experience made for some curious fielding plays, but by the end of the game, the Bangers were producing some slick outs.
Highlights for the Bangers
Marcus Trescothick was the pick of the batters, going 3-for-4 on three infield hits (Gould suggested in his commentary that one of these may have been a “home-field call”, but it would have taken a harsh scorer to deprive Trescothick of a hit during his benefit match). James Hildreth, who plays his cricket for Somerset, was the only other Banger to get a hit, a single that resulted in the solitary score by Trescothick’s side, with Geraint Jones coming home from second on the play, after having got there via a walk and a steal. Steffan Jones was perhaps a little unlucky not to get a hit, picking out Alex Malihoudis in centre-field with hard-hit fly-balls in his first two at-bats.
Between Charl Willoughby, Ashley Giles, and Craig Kieswetter, the cricketers pitched five of the eight innings, calling on Gillespie for the other three. All three of these cricketers looked like they could develop into very effective pitchers, with Giles showing great control and the other two players some raw velocity.
Highlights for Great Britain
Everyone in the ground must surely have wanted to see a ball sail over the outfield fence at some point in the game, and while Great Britain managed only one home run, off the bat of Ian Young, it came with the bases loaded. Aside from this grand slam, other highlights were Brant Ust’s four hits (including a triple that drove in the opening run) and doubles from Chris Falls, Ryan Trask, and Will Lintern. The winning pitcher was Craig Pycock.
Potential benefits for British baseball
While the day’s main purpose was to form a part of Marcus Trescothick’s benefit year, there were clearly also some potential benefits for British baseball.
There was no official attendance figure, but estimates for the number of fans at the County Ground ranged from 800 to 1000, which represents the biggest crowd to watch a baseball match in Britain for some years. The high-quality performance from the Great Britain side should have raised the sport’s profile among newcomers at the game. And the cricketers appeared to have really enjoyed the experience, which is a good sign if we are to have a repeat event (there were rumours that a similar day could be organized at Kent’s ground in Canterbury).