Wantage&Gove CC 133 (Skip 4/12, Ches 3/35) lose to Quokkas CC 134 for 0 (Faggy 78no, Yak 28no) by 10 wickets
Despite the tremendous victory for the Quokkas in the opening game of the season, my mind wasn’t really on cricket last week. Instead it was focused on creating a fancy dress costume for my nephews Star Wars-themed 7th birthday party. In all honesty, I’m not one for fancy dress. All that effort for a two second acknowledgement that you indeed are dressed something like a famous person or character is not for me. However, a few years ago I did seriously consider entering the birdman challenge dressed as Wedge Antilles and jumping off the end of the Worthing pier in a Papier–mâché X-wing fighter. I came to my senses of course, but not before Mrs Ches [who as I recall seemed very keen to see me to risk my neck for her amusement] had acquired an orange boiler suit and motorcycle helmet from ebay, which would form the basis for that costume. Thus, I was already half way there with an outfit, just the chest box, strapping, flight vest and helmet decals to focus my attention on.
Pull out wedge, you’re not doing any good back there
As you can see I looked a right plumb, but having been run ragged by a bunch of seven-year old Jar Jar Binks, the movie was still very much on my mind as I travelled up north (as us members of the Peoples Republic of Southsea refer to Oxford) for the second match of the season. My car doesn’t quite make the leap to hyperspace these days, so on the long journey to Wantage I started to ponder whether there were any similarities between the Star Wars characters and the current Quokkas – I know I moan like C3PO and take your pick which sith Evil Dave best mirrors.
I also wondered if the match themselves ever bore any resemblance to the original storyline. I’m not convinced, but some of the exchanges during matches do resonate. You be the judge.
Anyway, I’ve got ahead of myself here. The night before the game Skip was still desperately trying to put a team together. Having scored 40 not out last week and looking like a Jedi with the bat, Jordan was his first target.
Skip: You must learn the ways of the Quokkas and come with me to Wantage.
Jordan: Wantage? I’m not going to Wantage. I’ve got to go home. It’s late, I’m in for it as it is.
Skip: I need your help, Jordan. We need your help. I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.
Jordan: I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like Londinium. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.
Skip: That’s Binman talking. Learn about the Quokkas, Jordan.
Jordan: Look, I can go as far as Oxford. You can get a lift there to Wantage or wherever you’re going.
Skip: You must do what you feel is right, of course.
After some reflection and on learning that he had missed the family bar-b-q, Jordan gave Skip some good news.
Jordan: OK, I want to come with you to Wantage. There’s nothing here for me now. I want to learn the ways of the Quokkas.
Buoyed by this success, Skip then tried to add to his numbers, but could only get voicemail. Unfortunately, he also seemed to have got the wrong number.
Skip: Help me Adrian Chesney. You’re my only hope.
Tom: What is that?
Belinda: Skip says he’s after Adrian Chesney, a resident of these parts. And it’s a private message for him. Quite frankly, sir I don’t know what he’s talking about.
Tom: Well, I don’t know anyone named Adrian, but Ches lives out beyond Southsea dunes. He’s kind of a strange old hermit.
Tom thought it wise to mention the call to Ches, in case the message was for him.
Tom: Ches, I found this message. It for an Adrian Chesney. Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who he’s talking about?
Ches: Adrian Chesney… Adrian? Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time… a long time.
Tom: I think Skip knew him. He said he was dead.
Ches: Oh, he’s not dead, not… not yet.
Tom: You know him!
Ches: Well of course, of course I know him. He’s me. I haven’t gone by the name Adrian since oh, before you were born.
Tom: Then the message does belong to you.
Ches: Don’t seem to remember ever owning a message. Very interesting…
On hearing that Skip was chasing players, Tom decided to call him and let him know that he might not be available in the coming weeks.
Tom: Skip, I think those new Quokkas you have found are going to work out fine. In fact, I, uh, was also thinking about our agreement about me playing another season. And if these new players do work out, I want to transmit my application to the US this year.
Skip: You mean the next tour before the Quokka Ashes?
Tom: Sure, there’re more than enough players.
Skip: The Quokka Ashes is when I need you the most. Only one more season. Your Dad will make enough on the harvest, so will be able to hire some more hands. And then you can go back to the US next year.
Skip: You must understand I need you here, Tom.
Tom: But it’s a whole ‘nother year.
Skip: Look, it’s only one more season.
Belinda: Where you off to Tom?
Tom: It looks like I’m going nowhere. I have to finish cleaning those whites.
With time running out, Skip’s recruitment drive for the game required some tough bargaining, so he took Evil Dave with him to the Mos Eisley cantina to try and get a bowler.
Skip: Australia. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
Dave: Do you really think we’re going to find a bowler here that’ll bowl out Wantage?
Skip: Well, most of the best bowlers can be found here. Only watch your step. This place can be a little rough.
Faggie: I’m `Millennium’ Fagberg. Dave here tells me you’re looking for a bowler to take to Wantage.
Skip: Yes, indeed. If you’re a fast bowler.
Faggie: Fast bowler? You’ve never heard of Millenium Fagberg?
Skip: Should I have?
Faggie: I’m a left armer that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs! I’ve outpaced T20 batsman, not the local bulk-cruisers, like Kanna mind you. I’m talking about the Special K’s now. I’m fast enough for you, old man. What’s our team like?
Skip: Only passengers. Myself, Evil Dave, two bats, and no questions asked.
Faggie: What is it? Some kind of local team?
Skip: Let’s just say we’d like to avoid an innings defeat.
Faggie: Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? And it’s going to cost you something extra. I want to open the batting and bowling.
Skip: Batting and bowling? We could almost hire our own team for that!
Faggie: But who’s going to captain it, kid! You?
Dave: You bet I could. I’m not such a bad all-rounder myself! We don’t have to sit here and listen…
Skip: We can give you five overs, plus a decision on opening the batting when we reach Wantage.
Faggie: Okay. You guys got yourself a player.
Faggie: Batting and bowling. Those guys must really be desperate. This could really save my neck after two T20 golden ducks in a row.
Kanna: Going somewhere, Faggie?
Faggie: Yes, Kanna. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see Locky. Tell him I’ll get his runs.
Kanna: It’s too late. You should have scored some runs when you had the chance. Every bowler in Londinium will be looking for you now. I’m lucky I found you first.
Faggie: Yeah, but this time I’ll get the runs.
Kanna: Locky’s through with you. He has no time for all-rounders who give up their wicket the first ball from an octopus bowler.
Faggie: Even I get out sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?
Kanna: You can tell that to Locky. He may only take your place.
Faggie: Over my dead body.
Kanna: That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to bowling you out you for a long time.
Faggie: Yes, I’ll bet you have…
On the day of the match Skip, Evil Dave and Faggie were travelling to the ground together, but Dave was having a few problems with his old R2D2GPS system.
Dave: “Where are you going? Well, I’m not going that way. It’s much too rocky. This way is much easier. What makes you think the ground is over there? Don’t get technical with me. No more adventures. I’m not going that way. That malfunctioning little twerp. This is all his fault! He tricked me into going this way, but he’ll do no better. I should have known better than to trust the logic of a half-sized thermocapsulary dehousing assister…”
In fact, they were not only running late, but they were lost.
Dave: What the…? Aw, we’ve come off the motorway into a contraflow. Some kind of diversion. It’s not on any of the charts.
Skip: What’s going on?
Dave: Our position is correct, except… no, Wantage!
Skip: What do you mean? Where is it?
Dave: That’s what I’m trying to tell you, kid. It ain’t there.
Dave decided to call the Wantage captain Pirate Steve, to see if he could get some directions. However, the thought of three Quokka bowlers being removed from the attack meant he was slightly hesitant.
Dave: Don’t play games with me Pirate Steve. I want to know where your ground is. I’ve lost the directions. Now you are my only link to find the ground.
Skip: Steve will die before he tells you anything.
Dave: Leave that to me.
Faggie: Evil Dave, the directions are not aboard this car.
Skip: Pirate Steve must have hidden the directions. Call Ches. See to it personally Evil Dave. There’ll be no one to stop us this time.
Dave: Until the Quokkas are fully operational we are vulnerable. Wantage are too well equipped. They’re more dangerous than you realise. And what of Pirate Steve? If he has obtained a complete technical readout of our batting line up, it is possible, however unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it.
Skip: Any attack made by Wantage against the Quokkas would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained. This team is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it!
Dave: Don’t be too proud of this team you’ve constructed. The ability to get opening batsman out is insignificant next to the power of the Wantage’s bowling attack.
Skip: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Evil Dave. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up a five-wicket haul, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Wantage ground…
Dave: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Unlike the guys from Harpenden, I found the ground easily and just as I arrived Tom pulled up next to me in his old Peugeot with Conan and Jordan.
Ches: You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.
Tom mentioned that my attendance must mean that I received Skips message. I hadn’t, but when I checked my phone I found it:
Skip: Ches, years ago you played well in the Quokkas Ashes. Now I beg you to help us in his struggle against Wantage. I have placed information vital to the survival of the Quokkas batsman into the kit bag. You must see this bag safely delivered to Wantage. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Adrian Chesney, you’re my only hope.
Whilst waiting for the others to arrive, I did my best to keep the true identity of the Quokkas hidden from our latest recruit Jordan. After somehow winning a game last week, we didn’t want to ruin that façade.
Jordan: How long have you had those whites?
Tom: About four or five seasons.
Ches: They’re for sale if you want them.
Jordan: Let me see the Quokkas scorebook.
Ches: You don’t need to see the Quokkas scorebook.
Jordan: I don’t need to see the Quokkas scorebook.
Ches: These are not the Quokkas ties you’re voting for.
Jordan: These are not the Quokkas ties I’m voting for.
Ches: He can go mark his run up.
Jordan: You can go mark your run up.
As you recall it was a very hot day on Sunday, so Conan and Tom decided to wet their whistles in the Wantage clubhouse whilst we waited.
Wantage bartender: We don’t serve their kind here!
Wantage bartender: Your Australians. They’ll have to wait outside. We don’t want them here.
Tom: Listen Conan, why don’t you wait outside. We don’t want any trouble.
Wantage man at the bar: He doesn’t like you. I don’t like you either. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence in five counties.
Conan: I’ll be careful.
Wantage bartender: You’ll be dead.
Tom: This little Bow Tie Killer isn’t worth the effort. Come let me buy you something…
With the match start time rapidly approaching, only myself, Matt, Tom, Jordan and Conan had arrived at the ground. Somewhat shorthanded, we wondered if we should get changed and go out and do the toss.
Jordan: Is there anything we can do?
Tom: Well, not unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest, or bowl at both ends
Jordan: I don’t think so, sir. I’m only a batsman and not very knowledgeable about such things. Not in this country, anyway. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure which country I’m in.
Conan: Well, if there’s a bright centre to the World, you’re in the country that it’s farthest from.
Jordan: I see, sir.
Their skipper popped his round the dressing room door. We suggested Tom do the toss, but we had to decide if we would bat or field first if he won it.
Tom: Can you open the batting? We’ve got to get out there before the Wantage return.
Matt: I don’t think I can make it. It’s too hot. You go on, Master Tom. There’s no sense in you risking yourself on my account. I’m done for.
Tom: No, you’re not. What kind of talk is that?
Ches: Robin. Robin Bradley. Boy, am I glad to see you!
The Harpenden party had arrived, just I the nick of time.
Skip: Where’s the toilet:
Matt: Head for that small moon.
Skip: That’s no moon…It’s an air vent.
Ches: I have a very bad feeling about this.
Skip: Pirate Steve, before we beat you today I would like you to be my guest in the middle at a tossing ceremony that will make this game operational.
Pirate Steve: The more you tighten your grip, Skip, the more chances will slip through your fingers.
Skip: Not after we demonstrate the power of this team. In a way, you have determined the choice of the batsman that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with a batting line up, I have chosen to test this teams destructive power… on your opening partnership.
Pirate Steve: No! We have no regular opening batsman. You can’t possibly…
Skip: You would prefer another target? A middle order batsman perhaps? Then name the openers.
Dave: I grow tired of asking this. So, it’ll be the last time. What is your batting line up?
Pirate Steve: Fazal and Porter to open, with Bramley in at 3…
Dave: There. You see Skip, Steve can be reasonable.
Dave: Continue with the game. You may open the bowling when ready.
Pirate Steve: What?
Dave: You’re far too trusting. Your openers are too good to make an effective demonstration. But don’t worry. We will deal with your tail end soon enough.
Before starting we get some quick fielding practice in and Matt turns his arm over a few times watched by fellow `spinner’ Ches.
Faggie: Hokey religions and ancient spin bowlers are no match for a good fast bowler in your side, kid.
Matt: You don’t believe in Legspinners, do you?
Faggie: Kid, I’ve bowled from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful legspinner controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of Googlies and nonsense.
Faggie: I call it luck.
Ches: In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck, apart from when you take a wicket.
Faggie: Look, practicing in the nets is one thing. Going up against real batsman in the middle? That’s something else.
Matt: You know, I did feel something. I could almost get some spin.
Ches: That’s good. You have taken your first step into the larger world of legspin.
Just before we went out to bowl Skip provided the perfect team talk.
Skip: The run up will not be easy. You are required to manoeuvre the ball straight down the corridor of uncertainty and skim the surface on a decent length. The target area is just outside off stump. A precise delivery will start a chain reaction which should destroy their entire batting line up. Only a precise delivery will set up the chain reaction. The batsman has a ray-shield-like defence, so you’ll have to use a googlie.
Tom: That’s an impossible delivery, even for a Quokka.
Ches: It’s not impossible. I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-sixteen back home. They’re not much bigger than a stump.
Skip decided to open the bowling with Evil Dave and Faggie, who both charged in under a blazing hot sun.
Dave: I’ve been waiting for you, Pirate Steve. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the batsman; now I am the master bowler.
Pirate Steve: Only a master of evil, Dave.
Dave: Your powers are weak, old man.
Pirate Steve: You can’t win, Evil Dave. If you bowl me out, we shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
Pirate Steve to Conan: Aren’t you a little short to be a Quokkas?
As is so often the case Faggie beat the bat often, but invariably was nowhere near the stumps.
Skip: If he bowls as fast as he’s boasting, we ought to do well.
Tom: What a piece of junk. Pitch it up.
Faggie: I may not look like much, but I’ve got it where it counts, kid.
Skip: Listen Faggie. I don’t know who you are, or where you came from, but from now on, you need to bowl straight. Okay?
Faggie: Look, your worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from one person. Me.
Matt: Why don’t you outpace them? I thought you said you were fast.
Faggie: Watch your mouth, kid, or you’re going to find yourself walking home.
Ches: How long before we can take you off?
Faggie: It’ll take a few overs before the batsmen start coordinating the ball to the boundary.
Tom: Are you kidding? At the rate they’re scoring?
Faggie: Bowling fast isn’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations the ball could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip to Wantage real quick, wouldn’t it?
Tom: What’s the problem?
Faggie: We’re losing our ring of steel. Go strap yourself in, I’m about to be taken off and Ches is first change!
Both Quokkas toil away in the searing heat, Faggie eventually getting his reward with a couple of wickets, but as their number 4 made his way to 50, Dave started to tire.
Dave: This is ridiculous. Even if I could get some bounce, I’d never get past the outside edge.
Skip: Leave that to me.
Faggie: Damn fool. I knew that you were going to say that.
Skip: Who’s the more foolish… the fool or the fool who follows him?
Ches: The number 4 bat has a lot of force with him.
Skip: You’re right, he must not be allowed to get away.
Ches: Escape is not his plan. I must face him alone.
Skip: OK next over this end Ches?
Ches: This is not going to work.
Skip: Why didn’t you say so before?
Ches: I did say so before. I have a very bad feeling about this.
As the batsman start to get away and we labour in the field, mercilessly its drinks, whereupon Conan makes an important discovery.
Conan: We found the score book, sir.
Skip: Take a look. We should be able to see their entire season showing us their strengths and weaknesses.
Conan: I’ve found the main batsman that’s holding their team together. I’ll try to make the precise location in the batting line up. Their number 4 has every shot in the book hitting the ball to seven locations. A slower ball with turn bowled just outside off stump will allow the batsman to leave.
Skip decided to make a double change, bringing both me and himself on. After I was hit for a few fours and a six, the ball starts to turn a little and a double bounce yorker has the batter in all sorts of trouble.
Faggie: What the hell are you doing?
Ches: Somebody has to save our skins.
An appeal for no reason whatsoever is followed by a ball tossed up that the number 4 bat fails to read. Although the ball disappears high into the sky, Jordan makes a terrific diving catch. A pivotal wicket perhaps.
Faggie: If we can just avoid any more of Skip’s advice, we ought to be able to get them out here.
As is so often the case, one wicket brings another and Skips full and straight deliveries rip through our opponents’ middle order. With seven wickets taken by Skip and myself the damage has been done and Matt and Jordan are brought on to clean up the tail.
Jordan: I’ve analysed their attack sir and there is a danger. Should I remove the slip?
Skip: Evacuate? In out moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!
After one or two looseners, Jordan then found his range enabling him to grab the last wicket with a straight full pitched delivery. Our opponents have managed to score 133. Possibly the finest tea this side of Totooine (pavlova, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes on sticks, vodka jellies and the best chocolate cake ever tasted) gives us the time to discuss boat trips to Rottnest Island, Romanian `discotheques’ and inadequate father days. Fascinating stuff, but with the alcoholic punch all but gone we must get out to the middle to bat.
Skip: “Tom, open the batting will you. I want those runs knocked off before dinner.”
Tom: “Awww Skip, but I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters…”
Jordan: Tom’s just not a cricketer Skip. He has too much of a farmer in him.
Tom is joined in the middle by Faggie, both resplendent in the new man-size Quokka baggy caps. They both start well against some very accurate spin bowling and pacey cutters. Tom keeps out several Yorkers, whilst Faggie plays a measured game, by his standards, offering only the odd half chance. Eventually as the bowlers tire, Faggie starts to open up his shoulders, carving the ball to all parts of the ground.
Faggie: “Not a bad bit of batting, huh? You know, sometimes I even amaze myself.”
Tom: “Nice kid, but don’t get cocky”
Having seen off the opening bowlers with a series of fine cuts and drives, the Wantage skipper turned to his slower bowlers. A young lady at the far end was immediately underestimated by Faggie, who, having failed to get to the pitch of the ball, looped an aimless shot high into the midwicket area. Fortunately, it fell just out of reach of any fielder.
Faggie: “Everything is under control. Situation normal.
Tom: “What happened”
Faggie: “Uh… had a slight bat malfunction. But, uh, everything’s perfectly all right now. I’m fine. We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?”
Tom: “Conan’s padding up”
Faggie: “Uh, uh, negative. We had a talent leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak… very dangerous.
That minor scare apart, the home side failed to trouble either batsman and Faggie continued to pile on the runs, breaking the clubhouse TV arial with a six. Several well-timed fours through midwicket see the scoreboard race along, with Tom adding to the home team’s woes with a brilliantly timed four to the third man boundary. Two further bowling changes fail to break up the partnership, which now threatens to smash all Quokka records. With just 3 needed it fell to Faggie to hit the winning boundary.
We had reached out target in just 18.1 overs without losing a wicket. The successful batsman were of course met with the usual Quokkas congratulations as they left the field.
Skip: Batting paradise. It’s the only explanation for the ease of our victory.
Faggie: Easy… you call that easy?
So, two games into the season and having won both handsomely the Quokkas can feel pretty content with their efforts. On the long drive home, I reflected on the day’s action, but struggled to find any correlation with the Star Wars film. Perhaps Quokkas matches have more in common with the Raiders of the lost ark, Airplane or Goodfellas. I’m not sure. Certainly, some food for thought there. Until the next episode…