Upminster v Essex: Benefit match memories
PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 September 2017
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It has become one of the most eagerly anticipated days on the club cricket calendar and this Sunday sees the 20th anniversary of Upminster’s first-ever benefit match against an Essex XI.
The club’s new main sponsor, Hunter & Co, will be special guests at this year’s event, and can be sure of plenty of entertainment and a good day out, if the previous matches are any guide – and the weather is good!
That first clash in 1997 was in aid of Alan Lilley’s benefit, with the county side also including Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain (who top scored with 52), Mark Ilott, Peter Such, John Childs, the late Brian Taylor, Robin Hobbs, Paul Prichard, Stephen Peters and Barry Hyam.
Essex won by 16 runs that day and have generally held the upper hand in most of the meetings since (although the fixture was not played in 2007 or 2008).
Paul Middlemiss made ‘an excellent 37’ before being caught and bowled by Peter Such as Essex won again in 1998, while Ronnie Irani (107) and beneficiary Hussain (72) led Essex to a 52-run win in 1999.
But Upminster have had their moments, most notably their three successive wins from 2000-02.
Steve Wright’s 65 helped secure a two-wicket win in the first meeting of the 21st century, with Nick O’Dell hitting 109 and Steve Mack an unbeaten 60 to spoil Peter Such’s day in a one-wicket win the following year.
The 2002 clash saw Jason McNally and Kevin Roome take three wickets apiece and Tim Phillips (90) top score for the county XI, before half-centuries from Lorne Sprigg (62) and Danny Laird (61) helped Upminster to a five-wicket win.
But it’s not really about who wins, it’s the taking part that counts and the entertainment the two teams provide for the local crowd.
I’ve attended several benefit matches over the past two decades, having started work at the Recorder in October 1996, and know the fixture has provided plenty of “Did I tell you about the time...” stories for club members, such as Danny Tyler, who claimed the prized scalp of the legendary Gooch in 2003.
The former England captain had scored 163, though, and Irani (95) helped lead his side to a 100-run triumph.
Irani (75), Will Jefferson (59) and Graham Napier (52) steered Essex to a 31-run win a year later, despite Shafiq Rahman (72), Adrian Rosser (57), McNally (53) and John Curtis (53 not out) replying with half-centuries for Upminster.
And Jefferson hit 125 as Paul Grayson’s Essex won by four runs in 2005, after Terry Wyatt (83 not out), Rahman (77) and McNally (58) got the hosts close.
Ryan ten Doeschate’s 103 off 66 balls sent 2006 beneficiary Ashley Cowan’s Essex XI on the way to a match record 395 from their 35 overs, with Nick Ison (69) and Rahman hitting half-centuries in Upminster’s 280 as the county moved 7-3 up in the head-to-head.
But after a two-year break, Upminster claimed a one-wicket win in 2009 thanks to Alan Ison (74) and Elliot Bussey (109 not out), after James Foster (120) and Varun Chopra (70) top scored for the county.
And the 2010 match produced 631 runs, with Grant Flower’s 103 leading Essex to 353-8, before former academy youngster Ison fell on 99 to the occasional bowling of Michael Comber as Upminster made 278-9 in reply.
Foster fell cheaply during his 2011 benefit, as James Evans played the villain and held on to a catch, but Comber (114 not out) and Mark Pettini (79) saw Essex to an eight-run win despite Akbar Jabar’s 102 in reply.
Graham Napier produced typical fireworks during his 2012 match, hitting 116 off 48 balls in a 30-over total of 366-8, although there was a nasty injury suffered by Upminster wicketkeeper Bussey, before Wyatt (75 not out) and Andrew D’cruz (55) top scored in the home side’s 302-7.
The 2013 match for David Masters saw Jaik Mickleburgh (100) and Nick Browne (86) lead Essex to 331-5 in just 30 overs, before Elliot Timoti (101) and Shahbaz Butt (87) saw Upminster reach 303-6, despite a wicket for Foster.
And England captain Alastair Cook was the 2014 beneficiary when a large four-figure crowd was in attendance to witness another run feast.
Cook hit five sixes and eight fours in his 80 off 45 balls, before holing out to Butt off Oliver Peck, with Mickleburgh (63 off 37), Browne (56 off 26) and Ben Foakes (50 off 23) helping Essex to 327 all out.
And Cook picked up 3-74 from a seven-over spell with the ball as Essex used 10 different bowlers to ensure a tense finish, that saw Upminster’s 12-man line-up reach 326, as But (61 off 30) and guest Anthony Alberti (57 off 37) led the way.
Ravi Bopara was the beneficiary in 2015 and led his side to 292-7 with a typically classy 117, before succumbing to arguably one of the greatest caught and bowled dismissals in Upminster club history, as O’Dell – who is nicknamed Bear – stuck out a big paw to hold on to a full-blooded drive off his own bowling.
Harry Jenkins (59) top scored for the hosts as they were held to 213-7, with Tom Westley picking up 5-45, just two short years before making his England Test debut this summer.
And last year’s meeting also ended in a relatively comfortable Essex win as Bopara (59) and Paul Walter (58 off 28) led them to 261-7, before Louis Pickering’s 54 off 28 lit up Upminster’s 189 as the two sides combined for 17 sixes and 50 fours.
With Essex riding high at the top of the County Championship this season, their first year back in the top flight after winning the Division Two title last summer, it should be another great occasion at Upminster this weekend.
With barbeque and beer tents to keep the crowd fed and watered, live music to add to the entertainment factor, the usual barrage of boundaries – watch out if you’re having a picnic on the edge of the field of play! – and plenty of familiar faces from the local club scene sure to be strolling around the ground, it is definitely one not to be missed.
The 30-over match starts on Sunday at 1.30pm.