There was a time when I could answer almost every single question correctly on `A Question of Sport’. A love of all sporting activity, very little televised coverage and a pre-alcohol brain meant I’d be willing to `Go away’ with great confidence and could tell you exactly What happened next almost every single time. These days I couldn’t tell you who the team captains were, never mind identify the mystery sportsman simply from an obscure photo of their ear lobe.
I put that down to three things; Firstly, I’d rather perform docking than watch Sue Barker play hard to get with John Parrot (Ches you really haven’t watched Question of Sport in a long time – Egg), secondly there is now far too much sport on TV to ever actually witness a lion attacking the golf caddy on the 9th hole of the Zimbabwe open and thirdly, perhaps most importantly, my increasing hatred of professional sports due to the participants mostly being utter tossers, on the juice or both.
But as my love of professional sport diminishes at an exponential rate, I find myself growing increasingly in love with amateur sport. OK, so the Quokkas may be regarded as semi-pro in some Hungarian circles, but as I’ve yet to be paid it’s safe to assume none of us are doing blood transfusions, although I’m less sure about there not being tossers amongst us. That’s not to say I’m about to start supporting Fareham Town FC in the Sydenhams Independent Timber and Building Materials Wessex football League, but it does mean I take increasingly greater levels of enjoyment from Quokka trips to the likes of Harfield CC.
Which is surprising, since there is not many laughs to be had following tractors and a triathlon bike race through the rain-soaked Surry countryside for two and a half hours only to find the heavens hadn’t finished opening when arriving at the cricket ground. But here I was immediately presented with the difference between us amateurs, desperately seeking a game of cricket, and the pros more concerned with whether the bad light might affect their image rights. Despite the heavy rain there were already players in whites putting boundary markers out, knocking in new bats and doing some scientifically proven to do you more harm than good warm up exercises. Rain? Meh.
OK, yes, I know, I’ve got too nostalgic too early, but when you’ve been clean bowled by a man called Care Bear, who subsequently was dispatched for 21 runs in his next over, you had better start seeing the game in a new light or you’d be forced to give it all up. But I’m getting ahead of myself, there’s a complete cricket match to describe and bloody hell what a game it was.
It goes without saying Skip led us into the field having lost the toss. It rained continuously for an hour or so. Some serious underestimations as to the conditions left a number of Quokkas wishing they had received a club jumper instead of a water resistant towel during the last tour. Unperturbed, the Professor opened the bowling up the hill and provided a wonderful lesson, seminar or indeed lecture on how to bowl Ian Austin style dobblers in very damp and overcast conditions. He was almost impossible to get off the square and that gave us the perfect start.
At the other end Garlic Bread entered the Guinness Book of records for slow over rates, but eventually found a rhythm after some `coaching without groping’ from Skip and started to cause the batsman a few problems. Wickets began to fall, with the Yak taking three in a fantastic spell before Skip took him off to prevent the Quokkas honours board filling up too quickly. Skip also bowled a few nice overs himself, but he’s not getting any younger and to make sure he had something left in the tank to consume serious amounts of cake at tea he stood aside for Kashif, Matt and The Egg to close out the innings. I mention them all with little commentary simply because I can’t remember who took what wickets when (I have post beer brain now) I can only remember the catches taken.
I am mindful of Skips pre match rant requesting that the ball remain in the air to keep it dry. Strangely the Quokkas seemed to take notice of his ramblings for once, or maybe the threat of `press ups for failure’ was enough to scare the gym shy fielders into action. The result was that not only did we manage to return the ball back to the bowler unscuffed most of the time, but we also held some beauties in the field.
The D.O.C. for example took a tremendous low catch to his right, after a slight bit of juggling, making it look almost easy.
Garlic bread grabbed an incredibly tough chance over his head as he rapidly backtracked at long off. It must be noted that having hit the ground hard he appeared to dislocate his shoulder, but a 2.5 second verbal consultation from The D.O.C. was enough to conclude that he would live.
Apart from some dubious umpiring, my only useful contribution this week was a one handed take above my head at extra cover that saw Hartfield six down.
I think the best catch of them all though, was a wonderful running grab over his shoulder in the deep by Shrub. As he set off I don’t think he or anyone else thought he would snuffle it, but with ample encouragement he bagged it for his first Quokkas catch, or perhaps even his first ever catch, who knows? There may well have been others, but I am running out of alternatives to the word `catch’, so forgive me if I have left you out.
It’s hard to put into words the quality of these efforts, but fortunately we were able to video all of them. Here’s that D.O.C. catch I mentioned and Garlic Breads take, my grab and finally Shub’s number. Nice!
With fielding like that it was little surprise that we had them at 80 for 7 at one stage, but unfortunately they had kept their ace batsman up their sleeve, who with some decent hitting enabled them to recover to 155 for 9 at tea.
What is that warm glowing yellow thing in the sky?
Tea consisted of small variety of rolls, a platter of sausage rolls and a rare blend of cakes. By now in glorious sunshine, the break in play gave us just enough time to discuss wheel chair tennis on grass, the merits of visiting the neighbouring Llama Park and the advantages of being a confectionary travelling salesman. Fascinating stuff, but we’ve a Euro2016 final to miss almost all of, so we are quickly into bat.
Following his fine opening spell with the ball, The Professor did a bloody fine job opening the batting too, playing some Guru-esque cover drives I might add. At the other end Slick provided capable support in the face of some decent opening bowling. However, straight stuff has always been our nemesis and sadly wickets fell, first Locky, then the Prof, before Shub played a stroke described as `horrific’ by the square leg fielder. I concurred before falling to a leg stump yorker to a less than glamorous shot myself shortly after.
This brought The Yak to the crease and he dismissed this so called `decent bowling’ straight to the boundary, several times, in the same over. By the time I appeared back from the changing rooms we had somehow raced on to 70 for four, from less than 10 overs. In between overs we got our first double teapot sighting of the season, but shortly after Tom fell attempting another big hit.
We then lost Matt for not quite enough and Skip trying to tickle one past first slip after some solid blows. All this while the D.O.C. had been standing firm, before now opening his shoulders and piling on the runs. Front foot, back foot, no footwork at all. It didn’t matter as The D.O.C. seemed to have an answer to every question and eventually passed the half century. At the other end Kashif defended the good ones and smashed the bad ones. A trade mark cut brought the opening fast bowler back, who was then promptly pulled for four as the game got interesting. With the singles flowing the field was brought in to stem the tide, but The D.O.C. simply took the aerial route to our opponents’ dismay.
Just as we looked to be cruising to victory we lost both batsmen in two balls.
Cometh the hour cometh The Future and The Egg, who were by now the last men standing. Facing the best bowling seen this summer, they needed 12 to win, but just as importantly had to survive three overs to earn a very creditable draw. Nail biting stuff.
First ball faced was just short of a length, angled in and both lifting and straitening. Needless to say The Egg didn’t get anywhere near it, but then again I am not sure who would. Five more good line and length beauties were defended well. At the other end The Future looked nervous, but his front foot defence was solid and he managed to keep the bowler out. Two overs and just one run scored left us needing 11 from the last. “Do I go for it?” asked a confident Garlic Bread.
In came the opening bowler…a single off the first, then a slash by Egg over point. “For six?” asked a hopeful Lord Frumpkin III on Whatsapp? No, for one. The future then drove smartly into the covers, but no run was scored, followed by another dot ball. Then from nowhere we grab four byes leaving just 6 to win off the last ball. Could The Future get it or would Harfield claim the last wicket to win the match themselves? In raced the bowler and it is crashed through point, but it’s not enough and the match is a draw.
Reading my words back, as usual my commentary skills don’t do the game justice, but what we got here was five hours of competitive and spirited cricket that all came down to the very last ball of the match. No diving, no faking injury, no sleeve tattoos, no socks pulled up over knees, no berating officials, no EPO and definitely no crying. Just blokes playing a game hard with Emlyn Hughes like enthusiasm to the best of their limited abilities in a closely fought battle. Now that’s what I call sport. You know people might pay to see that sort of thing…no hang on.