Cricket as an exercise in cultural diplomacy has its highs and lows. There is the West Indian tour of Australia in 1960-61 which ended in a ticker tape parade for the visitors, through the streets of Sydney; at the other end of the scale is the Monkeygate affair of 2008-09 and Bodyline.
For the Quokkas it is similarly the case. The first of this year’s tour matches, south of the river to Port Melbourne, resulted in a 7pm finish, accusations of score-book tampering and a foul-smelling man with a beard insulting Curto.
Sunday’s tour game in Ballarat on the other hand – against the Seymours All-Stars, representing Seymours on Lydiard Hotel – was played in great spirit and saw the two sides put aside their many cultural differences (for example, a preference for Carlton Draught over Melbourne Bitter) to come together in the cause of cricket. Curto still copped insults from a man with a beard, but this time it was Ed, so no more than the usual harm done.
On a typically delightful spring day in Ballarat, the rain had stopped bucketing down by about 30 minutes before the start of play, which gave the pitch enough time to improve from a surface like a wet sponge into that of a greasy Chux wipe.
The King of Pitches
The Seymours All-Stars hadn’t quite got the concept of pub cricket and turned up in whites, with several players whose skill levels actually matched or exceeded their enthusiasm for cricket. They didn’t have shirts with their names on them though……
The Quokkas fielded first and managed to restrict the home team to 110 by the drinks break, for the loss of three wickets. Included in these was a fantastic running catch on the boundary from Chef, ignoring the pain of his injured ankle through willpower and heavy pain-killers alone.
The All-Stars’ top order had done some damage – including a six in to the nearby river – but had been drawn in to playing rash shots, exposing the middle order once play resumed. In a move of searingly astute captaincy, Dutchy was brought back on to bowl and claimed two wickets in one over (including a clean bowled off a rank full-toss, the noblest of all wickets), giving the Quokkas more than just a sliver of hope. However some late hitters pushed the score quickly, held back only briefly by another fantastic catch by Chef, this time off his own bowling. Keep taking those pain-killers, Chef!
Set 211 for victory, the Quokkas started well with 11 off the first over, before a mini collapse of 3 wickets was halted by Dutchy and Mo. Steadying the ship by repeatedly slogging it over long-on (just for something different), Dutchy retired on 39, his high score. Local and Snipper then steered the Quokkas to drinks.
After the break, the Quokkas held on against some sharpish bowlers, Local feeling the brunt of one particular ball that proved what a valuable aide the box is for every cricketer, amateur or professional.
A steady fall of wickets however kept the All-Stars on top, despite some excellent resistance from Cat and a maiden retirement from Snipper – well played. Ed managed to lift the run-rate towards the end but time got the better of the Quokkas, falling 30-odd runs short of the Seymours total.
Nonetheless, it was a top-quality effort from all of the Quokkas against a team that could have run away with it but instead found themselves in a genuine contest.
The quality of their team may have been due to them thinking they were playing “Melbourne”….
Well done to all the Quokkas who made the journey up the freeway – the Seymours team had a great day out and are keen for a return match, and it was a top afternoon for all concerned.