Social cricket is not something you do for financial rewards. In fact, if you took the average length of a game (approximately 6-8 hours) and applied a decent hourly rate, you’d see that it was actually costing you cash. Particularly on Sunday rates. The rewards you get from standing in the field under the blazing Sri Lankan sun are also something that don’t naturally reveal themselves, but lo, they are there.
After a game of social cricket you are left with the memories of taken or dropped catches, runs made or conceded, the weather, the teas and those you played the game with and against.
The challenge of competing, as a hastily-drawn-together group, over a prolonged period in tough circumstances against far superior opposition is something that (in the words of Jeremiah Springfield) “embiggens the smallest man”.
The second, and final, match of the Quokkas tour of Sri Lanka brought them to Galle international stadium, a beautiful ground whose cricketing status and history was somewhat grander than what the Quokkas deserved.
It is fair to say the Quokkas arriving at Galle were more than a little overwhelmed. After all, the last visiting team to play there was the Australian Test Squad, with evidence of their footy tipping results on display to prove it.
Incidentally, it seems Shaun Marsh isn’t in the squad for his tipping skills either.
For the Australian Quokkas, walking through the reception and up into a Test changing room with ice baths, a viewing deck, eating area and massage table made a fair change from their normal ground arrival; which normally incorporates dropping your kit bag under the tree that provides best shade while also the lowest percentage chance of being hit by a 6.
We weren’t in Kansas, or Alfred Crescent, anymore.
A week had past since the Quokkas had taken on the Singhalese Sports Club Academy side in Colombo, a game in which the Quokkas were so well defeated that the RSPCA could have been called to investigate abuse to animals. The team was hopeful not to repeat the punishment.
Thankfully out tour guide Ravi had gotten in touch with the Galle Cricket Club and ensured that we would be lining up against an invitational XI and not the next Lasith Malinga.
After using his stakeholder management skills to talk his way into the Scoreboard during the ODI match between Australia and Sri Lanka earlier in the week, Jay followed up by talking his hotel masseuse into massaging the team before the game, something that came in handy following the intense and enjoyable fielding practice at the beach the day before.
It’s not all looking good while drinking beers at the beach for the Quokkas.
So here we were, at a Test ground, in a Test change room, getting warmed up. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
Walking down the steps to the pitch, Captain of the day The Rev asked to meet his counterpart whereupon he was presented with a local man named Someone, whereupon the two Captains discussed the format for the day and exchanged pleasantries:
“So I guess afterwards you’ll be Someone that I used to know?”
….end of conversation.
Wanting to make the most of the opportunity to play at Galle, The Rev asked Someone if the Quokkas could field first & Someone agreed. In fact it was their Captain, Someone.
Back upstairs in the rooms, The Rev mustered the troops together and did a quick count of heads before heading out:
- Scaff: recently arrived from Singapore, on the massage table – check
- Cat: sporting a broken toe from the first game – check
- Ed: ridiculously excited – check
- Jay: disappearing somewhere for pain killers – check
- Skip: repeatedly asking what time we are starting & where the beers are – check
- Big Dog: looking quite pale from perhaps a curry too many & concerned about keeping his whites just so – check
- Alex: looking longingly at the massage table – check
- Ren: see Ed – check
- The Yak: ridiculously focussed – check
- Mahesh (our ringer, it wouldn’t be a Quokkas game without one): wondering what he’d volunteered for – check
- Rev: you don’t need to count yourself – check
Once assembled, the team made their way down the steps and onto the field, huddled for a few insipid words from The Rev and took their positions.
Jay, new ball in hand, took his mark and got ready to come in from the Fort End. Someone asked for middle and the umpire said “Play”. The opening over was solid and revelead that the Galle pitch actually offered something different to the Colts Cricket Club ground in Colombo; bounce.
Jay quickly found a good line around off, not letting the batsmen get many scoring shots apart from the cut, something that would become a regular feature of the day (though not off Jay).
The Yak was asked to share the new ball duties & came on from the Pavilion end, something he executed brilliantly from the start, slowing it down while maintaining a good line and length. Very un-Quokka-like in all; confusing the batsmen and Captain alike.
After watching Someones batting partner in the yellow cap scratch around a bit, The Rev got ambitious and brought the field in. Almost straight away Yellow Cap clipped one off The Yak uppishly, Alex dove forward from short square leg, and the Quokkas had a wicket!
Beach cricket may not be for the foolhardy, but it does get you used to taking catches diving forwards.
With Jay rightfully starting to tire under the Sri Lankan sun, The Rev brought himself on, whereupon the momentum of the game changed right away. Struggling to find his radar, The Revs first two deliveries went wide and loose. One of them is still missing in the greater Galle area. Please direct all information regarding it to the local authorities.
Changing to bowl around the stumps, The Rev was able to correct his line, but it didn’t stop Someone from taking big lunges forward, free from the perils of LBW, to slap the ball over long on.
Wanting to keep The Yak fresh for later & invoking the lessons of Australian Cricket Captains in Sri Lanka from yore, The Rev brought Alex on for a bit of leg spin. Alex’s first 5 deliveries landed close to the pitch, frustrating the new batsman and bowler alike, before the 6th landed gently half-way down the 22-yard strip whereupon the batsman pulled it mightily – straight to Ed on the Square Leg fence.
Thinking this was a Warne-(insert medium pacers name here)-type partnership, The Rev kept himself and Alex on for another 2 overs each, which yielded somewhere in the vicinity of 50 runs.
Mahesh approached The Rev at one point, asking him to bowl over the wicket on an off-stump line. The Rev responded with an incredulous look and replied; “Mate, I have no idea what I’m doing here”. Once again, Mahesh was left to wonder about his life choices.
The only other real chance in the partnership was a caught & bowled opportunity put down by the Captain.
At this point you could really sense the air rushing out of the Quokkas balloon, with several opportunities on the boundary being either watched or ushered through by the fielders for 4 more runs against. A special mention must go out to the Big Dog, who was keeping wicket masterfully against some real dross while also keeping his lunch down / in. Credit too to Cat, positioned at slip with a broken toe, who was often forced to chase late cuts to the boundary, which she did with vigour and without hesitation.
At the 15th over drinks came on the field for a welcome reprieve. While it was overcast, it was still over 30 degrees celsius (we prefer to avoid Imperial entanglements) and humid.
Wanting to bring the momentum back their way, The Rev brought on Mahesh for some line and length from the Pavillion end and Ed from the Fort end. Both bowled tight lines & few runs were scored. Like Easter, it was time for the resurrection, so the Captain brought the Scaff on for a trundle.
The result was a mixed bag of some balls hitting good areas of the cut-strip and others not hitting it at all.
Ed continued unchanged for 5 overs from the Fort end, a marathon effort for a pub cricketer, giving away few runs and even clean-bowling one batsman with one that actually turned. That wicket of Eds was the first chance seen for more than 10 overs and provided more of a relief than the next drinks break. As it happens, the next drinks break arrived shortly after the 25th over, with the score on approximately 200. With ten overs to go, the Quokkas were a good chance to keep the opposition under the 350 they had conceded the week before! The hunt was on….
Not wanting to let Ed get above his station, The Rev replaced him with the Skip, having saved Skips ‘deceptively straight’ ones for the death overs. It should be noted that the Skip had spent a great deal of the match to this point in the outfield, chasing the ball to the boundary, developing a skin colour much closer to that of bacon than an Yorkshireman.
The Skip took some time to adjust to not bowling too straight, finally finding an off-stump line, while developing a more reddish-hue with each over. The Rev was tempted to take him off but could see the collective frustration of fielding on the boundary for 25 overs boiling over & thought it best to just let him have a trundle.
Having taken 2 wickets in the previous match, The Big Dog swapped the gloves with Alex and came on from the Pavilion End to baffle the batsmen with deliveries they had never seen before or are likely to see again. While expensive, a wicket did fall, giving The Big Dog 3 wickets for the tour; the most of any Quokka.
Sensing a weakness against lack-of-pace, Ren was then brought on to replace the Dog and another wicket quickly fell after the batsman waltzed halfway up the pitch, only for Alex to whip the bails off in quick time.
With only a matter of overs to go, the opening bowlers were brought back on (despite a mystery cry of “bring back the Rev” being heard around the ground) Jay and Yak kept a tight line and length & Jay snared a well-deserved wicket, hitting the batsman dead in front to have a rare LBW. With that, the innings was over and the Quokkas were only chasing 301 for the win from the 35 overs to come. Someone might say it was gettable.
The innings break was an enjoyable affair, taking in the boiled chicken in the dining area of the rooms while family members made best attempts at entertaining young children in a Test dressing room & the Skip incessantly asked after cakes.
Ed and the Big Dog opened the batting and would soon combine to produce the best opening partnership of the tour so far; 2 runs (1 wide and 1 off the bat).
To be fair, the Dog was bowled by one that pitched on a length and turned in, something that a lack of practice & abundance of games for the Quokkas won’t prepare you for. Ed was lucky to survive an early LBW shout but soon settled and started scoring with shots all over the ground, nudging them about and occasionally hitting out. He was joined at the crease by the Skip in the 2nd over, not-so-fresh from bowling 5 overs unchained at the death but decidedly intent on making an impact on the game. After emulating Ed in poking the ball around a little, the Skip unleashed and hit a straight 6 down the ground, arguably the shot of the day.
Ed eventually departed for 19 composed runs, bringing Ren to the crease. While the Colombo opposition were visibly and audibly upset at having women in the opposition team, our Galle opponents were much more relaxed. That being said, they did bring the field right in for her.
Unsurprisingly, Ren kept out a number of overs, helped turn the strike over with Skip and even glanced a 4 to the leg side boundary before being caught behind off a jaffa.
Rens wicket brought the powerful middle order into the game; the Yak, Jay and Alex. All of them made fine contributions and supported the Skip, who had become more of a red fountain of sweat than a man; twisted and evil.
Yak plundered a number of boundaries and was getting his big-hitting out of second gear when he inadvertently ‘bunted’ a slower one back to the bowler, bringing Jay to the crease. Jay wasted no time at all in getting in on the cut-shot action, hitting his first ball to the boundary. His intentions were there from the start, but unfortunately they got the better of him, with a straight one eventually pegging him LBW.
In the background, the Skip was still in, still sweating and had passed 50 runs with plenty of intent left in the tank.
Alex came in at 7 with The Revs bat, Eds pads and Jays intentions. Hitting 4s from the start and looking to hole out to score some runs & ensure others got a go. A very Quokka-like approach and something to be admired. The Scaff then came to the crease with an approach formed at a school where boys were taught to play cricket with a high elbow and punch rocks on the ground with solid fists. Scaff helped the Skip stay on strike, while the Skip helped himself by raising his run-rate, hitting out and over the field with greater regularity. The Scaff was eventually undone by some tight bowling, bringing Cat to the crease with less than 4 overs to go and the Skip dwelling on the threshold of the 90s.
Cat, the most skilled bat in the team, did a tidy job at keeping out the good ones and turning over the strike for the Skip on the bad ones. In classic style, she didn’t take a single off the last ball of an over, just to give Skip every chance. With the last over underway and the Skip on strike, the squad was all up on the balcony, hoping for a social cricket miracle.
Harry, Skips eldest, had already informed us all that his Dad was the best bat in the team, though wasn’t so confident of his ability to hit a century. One hope that’s changed now. With the nurdle in full effect, the Skip got to his century and raised his bat to the air in the Galle International stadium, with seemingly un-ending applause from his team-mates.
After that he stayed at the non-strikers end, letting Cat finish out the innings, ensuring the Quokkas batted out the allotted overs while also posting a respectable 170 off some high quality bowling.
Mahesh stayed padded up on the balcony, still questioning his life choices.
The Quokkas were quick to take the field and celebrate the Skip and his achievement. Skip had scored a century at Galle International stadium, and nothing could ever change that. For a club that started as a whimsical idea between the Rev and the Skip, they had just played a match in Galle with a combined team of Quokkas from the English and Australian sides. This match provided a number of memories that will stay with all involved for a long time and I’d like to thank them all for being part of it.
– The Rev
Galle Invitational XI 300, wickets: Jay, Alex, Yak, Ren, Big Dog
Quokkas 170 (Skip 100*, Ed 19)