BRAYDON Pink, Ripley’s overseas player, has set his sights on helping the first XI clinch promotion from Shepherd Neame Surrey County League Division One this year.

The all-rounder from Perth in Western Australia told the News & Mail: “My goal is for the club to win the league, but I’d settle for second place and promotion. Either one’s fine by me.  

“We’ve got a good, strong team and base, so I feel we can challenge.”

Pink, 22, whose earliest memory of playing cricket was as a four-year-old, admits Surrey is vastly different to what he is used to.

He said: It’s a lot different from home. Everything here is a bit further away. It’s like a country town in Australia. This is the vibe I get.

“I’m living on a farm, which is very different for me because I’ve always lived close to the city. So it’s a little bit of a shock but I like it and it’s good.”

Pink is also enjoying a coaching role at Ripley, who were established in 1749 and are one of the oldest clubs in the country.

He said: “A lot of people here use their foot more to field, and I guess that’s probably because of playing football. 

“And the wickets are a lot different. They’re much slower – and at the moment, a lot of them are way too soft.”

Pink is staying as a guest of Ripley official Peter Shoesmith and his wife. 

Club membership secretary Shoesmith, an ex-Ripley player, is the uncle of former England cricketer Ashley Giles, who began his career as a youngster at The Green. 

Shoesmith said: “I was born in the village. I played cricket here from the age of about 14 to 52, when I stopped. 

“I’ve lived in the village or around the village all my life. My father played cricket here before me and I’ve got a brother who played.

“In the early days, I played here with my father. I used to come along scoring when he was playing, and occasionally he’d say ‘Bring your kit because we might be one short’ – and instead of scoring I’d end up playing. And after that, I played every Saturday and Sunday for quite a number of years.”

When it was put to him that playing on a Saturday and a Sunday is less common now, he said: “People have got so many other things to do these days. 

“In the past, cricket was pretty much all there was to do in the summer here. But now kids have got so many other things to occupy them and they don’t commit to cricket.”

Of his most memorable knock, Shoesmith said: “It’s probably one of the hundreds I scored. I didn’t score very many.

“It was at Ripley and I opened the batting and scored the first 50 relatively slowly. 

“And then they brought on a spin bowler and I hit him for five sixes – and then I mis-hit the sixth ball and it went for four. So that was 34 off one over instead of 36.

“Cricket is a fantastic game. There’s so much skill and camaraderie and there’s usually a great social event after the game. I love this place.”

Giles spent his early years living in Woking. His family then moved to Ripley. 

He went on to play 54 Tests and 62 one-day internationals for England, and spent his whole county career with Warwickshire. 

Shoesmith said: “He grew up in Ripley and played here until he was about 12 years old.

“I played cricket with him in his street and he would still be out playing when it was practically dark. 

“It’s all he wanted to do. And if you’d asked him at 12 what he wanted to do when he grew up, he’d tell you he wanted to play cricket for England.”

Asked if another of the village’s famous sons, rock legend Eric Clapton, had ever been to watch Ripley play, Shoesmith said: “Yes – loads of times. Not for quite a few years, but in the 1970s he used to be down here quite a lot – particularly on Sundays.”

And of whether he ever heard Clapton playing his guitar, Shoesmith said: “Yes. I used to walk past his house on the way home from school and he’d be sitting outside practising when he was in his teens.”

Ripley first XI are skippered by George Geaves, and the seconds – who play in the Surrey County League 2nd XI Premier – are led by Malcolm Burt. 

The club also have a Sunday XI and a strong junior section. 

Shoesmith said: “It’s running really well here – I don’t think there are many better village grounds and clubhouses than this. 

“And the facilities we’ve got are fantastic.” 

That view was shared by Ripley’s cricket manager Tom Clover.

He said: “The future’s very promising. We’ve got a really good academy with lots of coaches who are committed and brilliant. 

“They don’t do it for money. They’re volunteers who just get down here and train the youngsters – and that’s what this club thrives on. 

“There are so many people who want the club to do well, and it will.”

Colin Gibbons, joint captain of the Sunday XI, has come  through the club’s ranks from the colts.

He said: “The Sunday XI is the future of the club. We have colts playing for us and we have people who may not get a game on a Saturday, or who don’t want to play league cricket, coming down to play. 

“We get all abilities, so we give everybody a game on a Sunday. 

“We get a lot of travelling sides from further afield who don’t have a ground coming here and they love playing us. 

“It’s all sorts of fun and we enjoy it.”