MCC feature match: Duchess of Rutland XI edge high-scoring thriller

The teams line up for the official photograph with the Duchess of Rutland. Among those playing were Graeme Swann, Nick Compton, Darren Bicknell, Owais Shah and Neil Johnson EMN-180717-164610002
The teams line up for the official photograph with the Duchess of Rutland. Among those playing were Graeme Swann, Nick Compton, Darren Bicknell, Owais Shah and Neil Johnson EMN-180717-164610002
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The ninth annual match between a Duchess of Rutland XI and the MCC saw nearly 500 runs scored with the game in the balance right until the final over.

The feature match, for the Belvoir Cricket and Countryside Trust, took place at Belvoir CC at Knipton, with both sides playing for the Imogen Skirving Trophy.

The MCC lost two quick wickets after being put in to bat before Tom Smith and former England batsman Owais Shah eased themselves back into the game against the nagging accuracy of the Duchess’ David Lucas (2 for 5), Scott Boswell and Lyndon James.

Things really got going at the turn of the 10th of the allotted 35 overs, with Shah spanking the bowling to all quarters.

Not to be outdone, Smith followed suit, reaching his half-century from 53 balls with nine fours and an explosive six.

Some control of the run rate was achieved by Neil Johnson who bowled seven tight overs for 30, while having Smith stumped by Colin Povey.

But by this point, Shah was in full flow, hammering 28 from eight successive deliveries.

He was joined by Fraser Stewart (35 not out) in a stand of 52 from 29 balls before Shah finally fell to Tom Neville’s brilliant running catch along the boundary. Shah’s 114 came from 77 balls, with 17 fours and five sixes.

But if spectators thought this was entertainment enough for one day, the hosts had other ideas

Set 250 to win, the Duchess’ boys were up for the challenge, with openers Martyn Dobson and Lyndon James setting off hard and looking for every opportunity to score.

The MCC’s Johny Marsden and Wes Morrick kept up the pressure and eventually removed them both, James to a particularly neat stumping by his namesake.

Will Butler (31) continued the good work and appeared to be taking the game away from the MCC on his own.

But when he flashed outside off, a leaping John Stephenson took a magical catch off the gutsy bowling of Joe Ellis-Grewal (3 for 49), the day’s most successful bowler.

Darren Bicknell (31) was then joined by Tom Neville and they carried on at over a run-a-ball.

Neville, winner of the Vic Heppenstall MCC Spirit of Cricket award, took the lead by pull-driving with ease and flat-batting anything outside off through extra cover.

His fifty came up in 37 balls, including eight fours and two sixes, and when he was eventually caught off Shah only 14 more were needed from 14 balls, and the home side duly won to take a 5-4 lead in the series.

Winning skipper Bicknell, chief executive of the Trust, was presented with the team trophy by Her Grace the Duchess of Rutland at a dinner in the State Dining Room at Belvoir Castle, attended by around 100 members and guests.

The Trust has worked with around 2,800 primary and special needs children this year, introducing them to the game and running countryside education days on the Belvoir Estate.