In the latest of this season’s Thursday features, Gary Heatly chats to Ross County CC legend Renato Belli…
In July we heard via this column how Ross County CC won their first trophy in 21 years when they defeated Forres St Lawrence CC in the final of the North of Scotland Cricket Association (NoSCA) T20 tournament.
Well, trophies in that part of Scotland must be like London buses because as soon as one came along the Strathpeffer outfit won another piece of silverware soon after.
During early August they won the NoSCA Senior Cup, again defeating the same opponents, this time by 105-runs and club stalwart Renato Belli had a day to remember.
With Forres chasing 173 to win batting second, the 64-year-old ripped through the Forres tail.
With the first ball of his second over Belli claimed his first victim.
The next time he came on to bowl, with four wickets still needed for victory, nobody expected it to be the last over of the match, but that was exactly how it would play out.
He amazingly took four wickets in four balls to finish the game off in style and Belli reflects: “It was just one of those days where everything went right for me.
“The team had batted really well and the other bowlers had done a good job, so by the time I came onto bowl there was not a lot of pressure on me and I just tried to enjoy it and cause the batters a few problems.
“When I was a youngster I used to bowl in from quite a distance and try and bowl the ball quickly, but as the years have gone by I have started to rely on my accuracy and try to swing the ball and cause some issues that way.
“Thankfully in that final it came off, but although it was nice to do well personally it was more about doing well for the team because we are a small, close-knit club and to be part of a season where we have won two trophies is just superb.”
So, how has Belli’s association with the club grown over the years?
“I played for the club from the age of 14 until I was 20, but then I was running my business [the famous Tony’s ice cream shop in Alness] from that stage until I was 50 and I couldn’t play as much as before because Saturdays were the busiest day,” Belli explains.
“When I was 50 I took a step back from the business and in recent years have had more part-time type jobs and that has allowed me to go back to cricket more for the last 14 years.
“It has been great playing with the club again and trying to help the younger players come through. We work hard to retain players, sometimes we lose them, but others from the local area step up to the plate and the great thing is we play for each other and have fun while we do it.
“The ground we have [in the grounds of the magnificent Castle Leod] is one of the most picturesque I know and it is an amazing place to platy your cricket, especially when the sun is shining like it was for large parts of this summer.
“On my days off from working I head down and tend to the grounds and make sure the wicket and the outfield is as good as it can be and Ross County CC has been – and still is – a big part of my life.”
So, after his five wicket haul and four in four balls, is Belli ready to hang up his bowling boots?
“It might be a nice way for me to go out and after such a long season when I have played on a lot of Saturdays and Sundays the body is certainly feeling its age,” he quips.
“I will take time over the next few months to decide what is next, but I dare say when the start of the season rolls round again in 2022 I will be keen to play again!”
The Ross County team that won the NoSCA Senior Cup is pictured