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Upminster ready to host Essex

PUBLISHED: 08:56 17 September 2011

Captains Michael Rath and James Foster toss the coin in 2010

Captains Michael Rath and James Foster toss the coin in 2010

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Power to the People: Benefit clash a highlight

The 2011 cricket season is almost over then, but not before Upminster’s annual benefit match with an Essex XI on Sunday.

League and cup issues have all been resolved, but there are a few odd club friendlies here and there still to be played across the borough.

And hopefully the weather will be kind enough this weekend to allow Upminster to put on another big show against the county.

James Foster is this year’s Essex beneficiary and has played in plenty of these matches down the years.

Names confirmed as playing in midweek included Foster, who tops the team averages with 931 runs at 46.55 this season, former captain Mark Pettini, Tim Phillips and David Masters – the leading wicket-takers in this year’s T20 (26 at 13.23) and county championship (93 at 18.13) - and youngsters Adam Wheater (804 runs at 42.31) and Kishan Velani.

Coach Paul Grayson also looks set to feature and last year’s meeting was blessed with blue skies, a century from Grant Flower and typically lusty hitting from Ryan ten Doeschate, not to mention a great catch in the deep by Ollie Peck and a couple of wickets for young Alex Ward.

Alan Ison, a former Essex Academy youngster, then treated a big crowd to another fine innings, only to drag onto his own stumps when looking for the single to complete his century.

A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes each year to stage the benefit match, but it’s all worth it in the end if the bar and burger van is kept busy enough through the day.

It’s a great chance for youngsters to see their heroes (Essex and Upminster!) up close and takes me back to the days when I would chase the likes of Allan Border and Imran Khan for their autographs.

I must have bored enough people with tales of the Essex v Sussex match I witnessed at Ilford’s Valentines Park back in the mid-1980s when the visitors were all out for about 150 by tea and the master Graham Gooch helped himself to a century in the final session of the day as Essex closed on about 200-1!

Sunday’s match, which starts at 1.30pm, may only be 35 overs per side, but I’m not ruling out seeing a centurion or two again.

The cricket pads and spikes might well be going into storage for the winter, but that means the rugby boots, ice hockey skates and hockey sticks are now out and being put to good use.

Romford & Gidea Park and Campion both opened their seasons with wins last weekend, while Romford Raiders recorded their third successive triumph.

And the 6-2 win over Slough produced a milestone for 17-year-old JJ Pitchley, who is back at his home club after a brief spell at Bracknell.

Pitchley has spent a sizeable chunk of his young life at Rom Valley Way, watching dad Ben as his senior career drew to a close and scoring for fun in the younger junior age groups.

Max Falzon and Pitchley are the latest products of the club’s youth programme to graduate to the Raiders line-up, joining Frankie Harvey, player-coach Danny Marshall, AJ Smith (briefly a Romford junior), Grant Taylor, Billy Phillips, JJ McGrath (who cut his ice hockey teeth at Romford before going to Canada), David Oliver and Glen Jackson of the current crop

And Pitchley’s first goal as a Raider, in only his third appearance, was warmly greeted by teammates, who will be hoping he can continue to chip in as the season progresses and the race for honours hots up.


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