Great drama, terrific entertainment, genuine shocks and, above all, tens of thousands raised for charity – Mace Group’s first ever Celebrity Cricket Challenge to be held at the Brit Oval delivered it all. Mark Hansford relives the fun and games.
A London Test cricket ground in full glory; a partisan crowd buoyed by spectacular batting collapses and some wayward bowling; players engaging in some feisty sledging and voracious downing of the amber nectar. It could quite easily be the Australian cricket team taking another spanking in this Ashes summer.
But no, this Test cricket ground is the Brit Oval, and the scene was the first ever Mace Group Celebrity Cricket Challenge. Eleven teams of six senior players from across the water industry – and the construction industry at large – doing battle in five overs of frenetic cricket, aided and abetted by some of the legends of English cricket.
The prize for the winners? The right to take on the infamous Bunburys – the world’s number one celebrity cricket team – for the trophy and the glamour.
The real prize: money for WaterAid
But the real prize – vital money to support the work charity WaterAid carries out in the developing world to enable some of the world’s poorest people to gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
Just £15 can provide a person with a lasting supply of water and sanitation, which means the staggering £36,000 raised by Mace and the other competitors – Aecom, Anglian Water, Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, Enterprise, Holleran, Scottish Water, Thames Water and Veolia Water – will go a long, long way.
“WaterAid is a truly worthwhile cause and we were proud to recognise its importance and host such an event to raise awareness of the work they do,” said Mace Group utilities director and event organiser Andy Sharples.
The staggering £36,000 raised by Mace and the other competitors will go a long, long way.
Mace is a relatively new player in the utilities market, having won its first commission in the sector in December 2005 with Three Valleys Water. Its work there has delivered significant savings to the firm.
The event took place on a typically English summer’s day, with morning play on the legendary Oval square seeing some big hitting. Batsmen had to retire on 25 and Thames Water Blades’ Graham Doggett was joined the illustrious company of Bunburys’ and county cricketers Lou Vincent, Paul Prichard, Philip De Freitas and Mark Ramprakash to achieve this feat.
Not all plain sailing
It was not all plain sailing for the cricketing legends, however, with former England Test Ace Ramprakash succumbing to a fiery delivery from Mace Barbarians’ Mark Hansford. Admitting later to NCE’s content editor that he was undone by the vicious reverse swing, it was a very rare dismissal for Ramprakash in the short form of the game.
Sadly NCE’s other representative, editor Antony Oliver, fared less well against the Bunburys. Turning out for the Mace Sharks, Oliver scratched together three runs before the medium pace of Essex’s Andy Clarke sent all three stumps cart-wheeling out of the ground. It is understood he left the ground shortly afterwards to be replaced by a nine year old.
The substitution came too late to rescue the Sharks, however, with the morning dominated by the Thames Water Blades, the Veolia Lions − who posted a top score of 79/2 – and Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions who also managed a score in the 70s off five overs. Scottish Water Highlanders also played impressively, in particular Bob Irvine who managed a double wicket maiden in the team’s game against Mace Barbarians.
Being summer, rain brought outdoor play to halt early in the afternoon, forcing play into the indoor bowling centre. There, Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions and Thames Water Blades made serene progress to the final. In a cauldron-like atmosphere Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions batted first, scoring 45/5. The score was never likely to be enough against the Ramprakash-assisted Thames Water Blades, and so it proved with the Blades easing to 47/2 to secure the win.
Congratulations then to captain Garry Neicho and teammates Graham Alger, Keith Barron, Graham Doggett, John Gilbert, James Kennealy, Akshat Sharma and Joel Turner.
The Blades were, understandably, delighted with their win.
“The only thing better than having the opportunity to play at the Oval was, playing and wining at the Oval,” saysThames Water’s head of carbon management John Gilbert.
“The whole day has been a great success, from the first ball bowled the Thames Team worked together, supporting and challenging one another. We started with high expectations of ourselves which we was apply to translate on the day into a winning performance.
“Even the weather played its part, adding drama, as our only match playing inside was the final. However, the team was able to adapt and as they say, the rest is history. Well done Mace on organising such a great event, for such a worthwhile cause.”
“We were planning the day to be an informal and enjoyable day and we wanted to offer the water companies an event with a difference,” says Sharples. Those attending attest to that.
“Fantastic day for a fantastic cause,” says Scottish Water commercial director Chris Banks. “Coming from Scotland, when it started to rain we thought the conditions were turning in our favour! The Bunberrys added to the fun for all keen cricketers and Mace’s organisation adapted really well to give us an exciting finish indoors and great hospitality.”