• Quokkas CC 177-9 (Roshan 52) bt Leigh 174 (Fruity 3-29, Kanna 2-24)

    The recent untimely death of Leslie Grantham brought to my attention just how long ago it was since I last watched East Enders. Back in my younger days I was an avid watcher, which surprises even myself, considering my now complete disdain for anything other than the highest televisual culture. To my defence, until streaming, I had very few options due to the unavailability of cable and my boycott of anything remotely connected to the Murdoch empire. I still wonder why I tuned in every week, but perhaps argue that once engaged with a soap opera, no matter its limitations, it can become difficult to extract yourself from the ritual. It becomes a habit and having invested significant time into characters and storylines you become hooked and are reluctant to waste that effort.

    An addictive personality doesn’t help and might explain why I also love watching professional cycling on television. Since I saw Laurent Fignon’s 53 second lead being erased by Greg LeMond during the Versailles to Paris final stage time trial in 1989, I’ve hardly missed a day of Le Tour. The sun may be shining and the Solent beckoning, but I find it impossible to extract myself from the sofa when there is five hours of racing and perhaps an Alpe D’Heuz to be conquered. For those yet to turn their nose up at a beer garden in favour of watching EPO-assisted domestiques babysit grand tour riders over the Pyrenees, it’s probably because you have yet to discover that races are like soap operas, with characters, storylines and subtle nuances that once tasted, become all consuming.

    The forthcoming Tour de France was brought to the forefront of my mind, when, as I made my way to Leigh for Sunday’s Quokkas game, I found myself weaving in out of various pelotons negotiating Box Hill, of Olympic road race fame. Personally, the idea of wearing Lycra, never mind cycling up an 8% gradient for two miles for fun, strikes me as madness, but then again, I am not sure I am in a position to preach – I spend my Sundays standing in a field for five hours until it’s my turn to try and avoid being hit into the next county. Playing and especially watching cricket requires a certain mentality. Very much like cycling it’s not a sport that you can instantly embrace. The attraction is not always obvious to the untrained eye, but once sampled, reveals much greater depth, and thus longstanding devotion.

    leigh2018aAnd you have to be very devoted to the sport when you decide to face Leigh at exactly the same time as an England World Cup game kicks off. This scheduling faux pas perhaps accounted for the small Quorum and large percentage of impartial Quokkas available. Obviously, our Australian members have very little interest in the World cup, with their team just visiting Russia for the weather, so we were well represented from that quarter. This was handy, as it gave me the chance to share in their joy at witnessing their side being white washed by England, in their national sport. Did I mention we won 5-0 and it was a white wash, I did? Oh, OK. The Quokkas were supplemented by Leigh players too, with The Mouth taking over the reins, supported by our friend Uwie (drawing the short straw for a second year running) and Mo, Kunyan and Roshan. The influx of actual cricketers helped forge arguably the best Quokka spin attack ever seen. It needed to be. Memories of chasing 250+ runs to the boundary and picking balls out of the thorn bushes last year still scar me, literally.  

    When it comes to devotion and dedication to the game, I think the 11,090-mile round trip made by Arunev has set the appropriate bar expected of all Quokkas from now on. He is still undecided if he will make the repeat journey for Hartfield next week, but his stout defence, effortless attacking play and methodical line and length bowling looked to have been enhanced by Mexican tequila. Skip has put you down as a maybe.

    After two and half hours driving back from Wantage last week, The Yak was another to have Roy Castle purring, risking the M25 weekend traffic once again and being rewarded by opening the bowling. Kanna, showing little interest in watching the football sent us out to field and with Kane scoring fantasy points right, left and centre for everyone but me, I was glad he did.

    We started well, with Uwei offering great support to The Yak, and both proving difficult to get away. Despite some attacking batting and a very fast outfield, only 40 odd runs were taken from the first 10 overs. Both claimed a wicket too. If only my dedication to memorise any of the important incidents matched their efforts I would be able to describe them to you now in detail. Sadly, with the first seven wickets all coming as a result of catches, I am struggling. What I can say is that Kanna took a beauty at slip when discovering he couldn’t get out of the way of it. Conan, wearing the gloves for the day, also grabbed one, by his right ear, which everyone, including himself, expected to have to search for in the thorn bushes.  

    Keen not to allow their batsman to settle, Kanna rotated the attack, with Arunev and Fruiti making life especially difficult. They bowled a combined 13 overs, claimed four wickets and conceded just 43 runs. Spin bowling had become the order of the day with Kanna and Roshan following them and all but cleaning up the tail. This left us in a such a strong position that I was afforded the opportunity to toss up a few buffet balls.

    Talking of food, during a delightful sun-drenched lunch, we discussed Portsmouth’s continued attempt to become more populated than Sanata Cruz del Islote, just how forgiving cricketers’ wives need to be and whether Kevin Curren, the Zimbabwean cricketer and/or South African Tennis player was indeed the same person? All fascinating stuff, but with some of us having to make a 5545-mile trip home, Mo and Slick bounded out to the middle.

    A healthy start was undone by some suicidal running and perhaps the best catch that I’ve ever seen to claim Mo’s wicket. Think Sachin Tendulkar, but with more effort. Mo may have been less impressed, I’m not sure, as I decided not to ask for his opinion. When Conan was undone by one that stayed straighter than expected, we somehow found ourselves 40 for 3. The wobble didn’t last long once Arunev stopped using his pad to fend balls away. With Roshan looking very assured the pair saw off the opening bowlers before pushing the scoreboard along with some powerful hitting. A fifty partnership came in what seemed no time at all.

    When a wicket fell I provided some support, choosing to ignore Roshan’s advice to play my natural game when hitting the first two deliveries straight back over the bowler’s head for four. Things were going well, with Roshan playing shots to all parts of the ground, but then with Leigh’s very own Egg brought on to bowl, wickets began to tumble. First my own, then The Yak and finally Kanna, all suffering from what I will call the `eyes lighting up syndrome’. Kanna’s stumping might have to be called a run out…I think you get the idea.

    After reaching his half century, Roshan’s wicket eventually fell. At that stage we were eight down, pace had been brought back into the attack and there was still another 20 to get. We had a game on our hands folks and when Kunyan was out it fell to the last wicket pairing Uwie and Fruiti to see us home… 

    What, you want to know what happened next? The power of the soap opera, right there…

    Cometh the hour, cometh the dropped catch at midwicket to a skied cover drive. A missed chance Leigh were left to rue as Fruiti then played a lovely shot off his legs and another straight drive, both for four, to claim the winning runs.

    leigh2018cWhether you are a fan of cricket or one of the other sports that requires an attention span slightly larger than a goldfish, they are most enticing when the sides are evenly matched. Kudos to the two skippers in helping to achieve that and well done to both sides for producing some exciting cricket. With the drive home over the beautiful South Downs, the fixture against Leigh is certainly one of the most enjoyable of the summer. I only hope the game next season is not scheduled to coincide with a Mont Ventoux finish…although I’m sure Arunev will pop over to replace me. Everyone’s a winner!

  • Quokkas CC 143 all out (Garlic Bread 21) beat Wantage & Grove CC 105 all out (Evil Dave 3-30, Ches 3-19, Garlic Bread 2-7)

    I made the ultimate sacrifice earlier in the year when turning down a ticket to watch Saints in the FA Cup Semi-final at Wembley, in favour of accompany Mrs Ches on a long-planned pilgrimage to South Wales. For someone who got his first season ticket in 1984 and only seen my team play twice at Wembley since, you’d imagine that it was a very tough call. In actual fact, my longstanding love of the game has diminished somewhat in recent years – the Southampton football business’ (I can’t bring myself to call it a Club any more) decision to charge fans to park their cars in the empty stadium car park when buying tickets or travelling on supporters’ buses to away games was the final straw, so it wasn’t quite as painful as you might think.

    DSC_0431And I was glad that I did join the out-laws on a trip down memory lane, otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that my father in-law [no, I have got married Skip, it’s just easier for the story] had represented the Navy against Yorkshire, Boycott and all, whilst stationed in Gibraltar. Or that his family home in Caerleon sat immediately above a yet to be discovered Roman fortress and accompanying baths. The house itself is still standing, but the back garden is now an impressive museum housing frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium and natation once used by the Second Augustan Legio in AD 75.

    OK, so Caerleon doesn’t have the ornate mosaics of the lavish Fishbourne Roman Palace in my neighbouring town of Chichester, but we are talking about one of only three permanent homes for the Roman army in Britain and a damn sight more impressive than the old brick works my house apparently sits above. What an amazing discovery, the father in-law had his suspicions of course (was it the cassis and gladius poking out of the flower beds that gave the game away Ron?), but then again, these Roman artefacts seem to unveil themselves in all manner of strange places. You will probably all be aware of the Roman bath house discovered under the Carlisle Cricket club when rebuilding the cricket pavilion.

    IMG-20180617-WA0000Wantage, more famous for being the birthplace of Alfred the Great, was itself a small Roman settlement, with impressive tower granaries probably used to store grain before being taken as taxes to feed the Roman army. Whether there is an undiscovered amphitheatre hidden under their cricket square, I am unsure, but with the club always offering Quokkas a tea fit for Emperor Hadrian himself, it was certainly worth a trip just in case.

    On arrival at the ground there were no obvious signs of aureus lying in the outfield, but it appeared that Skip had unearthed some gems, with The Juggler making his first appearance on a Sunday and the reappearance of Garlic Bread and Jerry the Grey, both having been buried under schoolwork for the previous two years. These fresh-faced gladiators were joined by the usual fossils such as myself, Evil Dave and Slick, creating a formidable side, if perhaps light on numbers.

    With half of the team lost somewhere near Oxford, perhaps attempting to find the North Leigh Roman Villa, we took the obvious decision to bat. The Yak and Faggie were sent in, resuming their undefeated partnership, that saw us to victory in the corresponding fixture last season. They set off at a tremendous rate again, looking both assured in defence and ferocious in attack. Sadly, Faggie was out 93 short of another fabulous century, but with some lusty blows from The Yak it was certainly a decent start.

    From then on, the runs continued to flow, with Slick, The Juggler and Evil Dave hammering balls to the boundary, only interrupted by those damn straight wicket taking balls. A fine spinner at one end then turned the screw, bamboozling all but Garlic Bread, who displayed a wonderful straight bat,  testudo-type defence and some quality cricket shots. The Skip looked to have recovered from his UDI (unidentified drinking injury) that kept him out of the first game, but showed every one of his 43 hard years, when running three consecutive twos. When he was eventually bowled around his legs, our total looked a little short, but with Jerry the Grey and Dave, the Wantage Chairman, he had seen us to a defendable 143 all out.

    DSC_0493Over the most wonderful of teas (gin jelly and chocolate orange marble cake being just two of the highlights) we pondered whether we really wanted England to win the World cup thereby creating the possibility of Henderson, Lingard and Deli Ali being handed knighthoods, whether the sex dolls business requires a sex establishment licence if they provide a `try before you buy’ offer, and why there is such intense scrutiny of meat content in sausages but a rather lassie fait attitude towards the mini cocktail versions? Gripping stuff, but with a Brazil World Cup game later that evening, we have a batting line up to conquer.

    Evil Dave, now located a pilum’s throw from Verulamium, opened the bowling. After his usual slow first delivery, he found equal amounts of rhythm and venom to help garner three crucial wickets, helped by some tidy catching in the field. At the other end, Garlic Bread, who I would guess spends much of his spare time finding tesserae, pot sherds and tiles near to the Roman trackways passing through Harpenden, bowled a tremendous spell. Despite already steaming in, he was encouraged, after very ball, to bowl “faster” and “faster” by Skip. He duly obliged, much to Slick’s chagrin behind the stumps, who took several for the team, including one in the face. Not to be outdone, The Juggler decided to trap a ball headed to the boundary with his mouth and Evil Dave swallow dived onto the concrete-like square attempting an impossible catch.

    Those positioned in the slips were in equal danger of injury due to the pace of the bowling and the varied bounce. One fast, full length delivery from Garlic Bread caught an edge that flew through the cordon at lightning speed (well that’s my excuse). My failure to grab it brought unsympathetic encouragement from The Yak, which brought a wry smile from Skip. However, further breakthroughs were not long coming, with Jerry the Grey finding a troubling length immediately and grabbing himself a well-deserved wicket.

    We were on top, but with the fine spinner revealing himself to be equally competent with the bat, the game was far from over. He calmly carved several balls to the boundary and intelligently picked gaps in the field. Just as it looked like the tide had turned he was triggered by his own umpire from another beauty from Garlic Bread.

    stumpsWith our opponents now facing a proverbial `pollice verso’, Skip turned to very slow bowling to ease the pressure. After an inauspicious start, I borrowed a ball from The Egg’s back catalogue, which managed to eek out the stubborn opener, thanks to a fine catch from Evil Dave. I then claimed, with huge exuberance, the prize wicket of the 13-year old that had clean bowled me earlier. My overenthusiastic appeal for leg before wicket (in the end unrequired because he was bowled) may have been mistaken for celebration, but I feel no shame whatsoever [he’s out, it’s in the book and there’s no `under 13’s’ Asterix on the Quokka top trump cards that I’m aware of].

    The Yak, held back because he is just too damn good at cleaning up the tail, was eventually brought on to bowl. At the other end, a bruised Juggler, showed me what spin bowling is really meant to look like. Predictably they took the remaining wickets in emphatic manner, both unplayable, as always.

    With another gladiatorial contest over, the quorum of Quokkas decided to celebrate the win with a few cerevisiae in the glorious late afternoon sun and discussed ways in which we could somehow put a team out to challenge the Leigh empire next week. That is what a `club’ is all about.
    Chiao bella.

  • It was very warm.

    Skip had a pre-match BBQ and, apart from the fire, this provided much needed Quokka sustenance.

    We had a lot of support out, which was nice.

    We dropped a lot of catches and fielded quite badly, especially on the boundary.

    Skip taking Fruity off after a 3 over spell had yielded 3 wickets, may have been a bit premature.

    Their number 8 scored 99 off 50 balls.

    Batting we gave them some catching practice. They evidently are practiced enough already.

    We lost.

    Ches had man flu so we have a brief match report.

   

Recent Comments

  • Strong.
  • Proper swing bowling that was. Pitch it up.
  • Fabulous article which made us smile in the Spanish sunshine...
  • You forgot to mention Harry getting to bowl an over aswell. ...
  • Please see point 5.