It’s hard to imagine former Liverpool* manager Bill Shankly suggesting that cricket is not a matter of life and death, it is much, much more important than that. Cricketers certainly have great passion for the game, and when the likes of the Malcolm Marshall and the Whispering Death were around they even put their lives on the lines, but I think it’s fair to say that even at the top level that winning isn’t absolutely everything these days.
That’s not to say winning is not still important and as a “semi-professional touring team” (Google never lies www.hungary4cricket.com/en/quokkas-touring-team-budapest) we do like to claim the odd victory now and then, even if it is just to reassure us that standing in an empty field for five hours doesn’t make us certifiable. So (spoiler alert) with one of the most outstanding and perhaps least expected second innings Quokka fight backs ever witnessed, our first victory of the season was extremely welcome.
Now don’t get me wrong, we haven’t exactly been on a Caltech Beavers-type losing streak (anyone seen Quantum Hoops?), but after coming off fractionally second best in the opening two games of the season, it was time to show some of our semi-pro credentials. Having found ourselves under a different, but equally annoying flightpath this week, the Quokka’s statistically-most-successful-captain (that’s The Egg so I am told, by The Egg) was keen to take advantage of any low flying A380’s that might catch the eye of fielders, so lost the toss and batted first. A bold move considering both the known and unknown entities in the batting line up, but fortune ventures the brave and besides it was too hot to be fielding.
We opened with Evil and the D.O.C. – no one can do it better (the gangsta rap connoisseurs amongst you will like what I did there), and they got us off to a solid start before Dave fell to a pesky straight one to a bowler named Azful. In the book it reads more like Evil – Bowled Out-Awful -4. I’m saying nothing. The D.O.C. was joined by Slick and between them they seemed to have every shot in the book. The D.O.C. took most of his from a cricketing manual, including some beautiful late cuts and a cover drive as good as you will see anywhere within the Harlington Sports Ground, whilst Slick’s reference material was possibly a Tekken 2 instruction manual, but equally effective. Just as they were about to make a 50 partnership, the Quokkas nemesis – straight bowling – struck again.
I was in next and I’d like to say I contributed greatly to our success (perhaps seeing me slip on my arse and being run out by 11 yards may have brought smiles and improved team moral), but that would be lying. So that was three down and with the excellent D.O.C falling soon after, we somehow found ourselves at 54-4. Conan and Viresh initially steadied the ship and then got the scoreboard moving with some good hits, but both fell to simple catches as confidence, ambition, ability and shot selection went out of sync. At this point we were in big trouble.
Or so I thought, but the fact is Nishant and Kashif looked assured and unfazed by the high looping spin at one end and accurate pace at the other. Having got his eye in, Nishant opened his shoulders dispatching an overpitched ball through cover, followed by several nicely timed shots behind square. Not to be outdone Kashif timed a cut so well it just made everything else ever seen on a cricket field look bad (apologies in advance to The Guru). It wasn’t his only shot either, playing forward and back and even the rarely seen Quokka front foot defence. Impressive stuff. Both eventually were out caught, Nishant attempting to go over the top and Kashif guiding one to the keeper, but the rear guard had been excellent. Of course our typical appalling game management meant a full ten overs went unused and on a very true wicket our 127 total looked around 50 short. At least we had given ourselves a chance.
With Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank now at the helm at QPR I wondered what the effect would be on the all-important half time refreshments. I’m pleased to report that the tea was strong, there was a plethora of sandwich fillings and both were accompanied by an extremely wide selection of cakes. I enjoyed it immensely, even managing to grab a mini chocolate roll and cherry Bakewell on a second trip (you can always tell when Skip is on holiday). This week’s conversation was focused on Flavio Briatore, footballers avoiding community service and the pleasure of buying barbeques. Fascinating stuff, but with Smruti keen to get away from the hoi polloi and rub shoulders with other rock stars, we took to the field.
You know the drill by now. We opened from one end with Evil, who gave everything to the cause, beating the bat on numerous occasions, but with an unrepresentative reward. At the other Viresh raced in and grabbed a wicket with his third ball, giving us some hope, but neither he nor Satan could make further inroads as Salix made it comfortably to 50.
With a small total to defend and the game drifting a little The Egg brought Fruiti and Kashif into the attack. Both made inconspicuous starts, but a full and straight one from Smruti saw the second wicket fall and this was followed by one of the most entertaining overs I’ve seen since The Future burst onto the scene. Three terrific balls, each faster and better than the last were then followed by three that had leg slip ducking for cover. Radar recalibrated Kashif bowled a couple of great maidens, but what we needed most was wickets and that’s exactly what we got, Smruti taking two in one over, before grabbing his fourth in the next. At 72 for 5 it was now very much game on, but Salix managed to see off both bowlers and shuffled their way to 97 without further loss.
Could there be another twist to the tale? On came Nishant, who with his very first ball had the star batsman edge into Conan’s gloves…and then back out again. Would that be crucial? (I bet you wish I hadn’t told you who won at the start of this report now). We weren’t to know at the time, so we gave Conan the perfect pick me up by telling him he had probably dropped the Ashes there.
Also up The Egg’s sleeve was The D.O.C. who, buoyed by his fine batting display made an instant impact with the ball. Demonstrating to full effect the old adage that `shit gets wickets’ a half tracker snared their star batsman and spared Conan’s blushes. But that was just the start, with Nishant joining the party by taking a wicket in the next over, before the D.O.C. grabbed a further two wickets in two balls. Unbelievable Jeff.
With the score at 99 for 9 and their last batsman requiring a runner we started to dream of victory. 18 runs later, was it going to slip through our fingers? No. In returned Satan who was promptly smashed flat through midwicket, but having done absolutely nothing all day I redeemed myself by grabbing it above my head. The game was ours. Nice.
Ok, so what have we learnt? Firstly, there is much more cake to go round when The Egg is skipper. Secondly, we now know why Binman bought caps in children’s sizes (he had the foresight to realise that junior Quokka’s would require sunhats) and finally if at 17.00 on Friday afternoon you only have six players at your disposal, don’t begin by asking about a player’s ability, only about his availability, and so long as they prove their dependability they will increase our capability, which is why at 17.00 on Sunday we had eleven smiling Quokkas celebrating a well-deserved win.
*With all due respect Allan Steel, whose name is inscribed on the Ashes Urn, is there a city in England that has contributed less to test cricket, not that I am bitter about Merseyside at the moment or anything.