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  • Harpenden Dolphins CC 185-9 (Smruti 3-18, Harry 2-25, Mike 2-34) beat Quokkas CC 184-7 (Seagull 52, Faggie 48, Tugboat 40)

    It was a weekend of birthdays. Paul McCartney made it to 80 and The Yak is slowly catching him up. Both seemed to enjoy the celebrations. Neither seem to age. The similarities possibly end there unless Tom is also carrying pictures of Chairman Mao that I wasn’t aware of.

    Paul may have been seen to break up the fab four when he wouldn’t delay the release of his solo album and then gave an answer to a journalist’s question that “The Beatles no longer existed”, but the truth is John Lennon quit the band some time previous and then they all kept quiet about it until they got their (tax) affairs in order. I’m no expert, but Yoko may have had something to do with John’s decision and maybe George’s desire to have his song writing skills recognised would have seen him jump ship if John hadn’t got to the punch first. 

    What I do know, is in the proceeding decade, they produced music that will probably see no equal and despite my desire to continually discover something new, it’s great to return to The Beatles every once in a while. I got to enjoy a lot of their songs, brilliantly reproduced for a BBC Radio 2 show, `Friday night is music night: The Beatles Orchestrated’, during my drive home from the game on Sunday. It’s funny how much more enjoyable being stuck in a traffic jam can be when Hey Jude gets going. Certainly stops me blowing my mind out in the car. The standstill on the M25 also gave me time to consider who wins a fight between a lion and an alligator, python and honey badger, dolphin or Quokka? The first two are obvious, and the third? Well, that may depend if Snorky is among the pod of dolphins (Ed: Is that from The Simpsons – Night of the Dolphin?) or they have a first team batsman hiding at number 10. (Ed: That’s one hell of a segway Ches)

    To celebrate Tom’s birthday we hit the Harpenden drinking dens, and it was a hard day’s night consuming the entire top shelf before retiring to chez Bradley to watch the College World Series until 3:30am. Not the ideal preparation for a cricket match, but certainly a good warm-up for the tour. Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. My hangover was eased by a wonderful continental breakfast in the glorious Harpenden sunshine, followed by a fabulous barbecue. They do look after you well at the Bradleys…I wonder if he will still be feeding me when I’m 64? 

    Skip had the pre-match nutrition well in hand, but logistics less so, as we set off and arrived at the new ground in St. Albans about half an hour late. I’m pleased to say the new pitch came with a mower. I think the groundsman may work for Dulux, as he had prepared the wicket with the thickest white lines I’ve ever seen. Now was a good time to ask whether having your entire boot on the line was still out. 

    Here comes the sun. Thankfully, on a hot day, Skip won the toss and put us in. Take note Seagull. Unfortunately he asked me to open. Skip’s advice to `be more selfish when batting’ quickly came back to haunt him. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot and another dot. Solid start Seagull, but “get on with it.” 

    There were actually 27 dot balls, a four and two singles in the first five overs, as Tugboat and Seagull made a very `cautious’ start, all be it against some extremely accurate seam and swing bowling. Skip was slightly concerned and at drinks he reminded me that there was `plenty of batting to come’. We did eventually get going and put on 64 for the first wicket – Tugboat being caught in the deep. Faggie, not known for his patience, stepped things up with an immediate four and he carried most of the weight on his shoulders. It was a good partnership, with some excellent calling. Faggie said “Yes”, I said “No”. He said, “Stop” and I said, “Go, go, go”. Together we put on another 68 runs in short time, with Seagull getting his half century, before being caught in the `not so deep’ from a tired looking shot. 

    Faggie, just shy of his own fifty, joined him in the hutch a few overs later, but by then we had some runs on the board. The Yak and Arunav continued to keep things ticking over nicely despite a slow outfield, finding the bowling to their liking and one or two gaps in the field. Both fell to simple catches though, which provided the opportunity for the next generation of Quokkas (Harry and Haydon) to demonstrate their batting skills. When Haydon was bowled not too long into his debut, this allowed Skip and son to see out the innings in much the same way as we started, with a couple of dot balls. “Get on with it.” 

    The Bradleys provided us with a wonderful tea, including a chocolate birthday cake for Tom. This was supplemented by butterfly cakes, pork pies and sausage rolls. Basically food heaven. Over lunch we discussed long tossing, dollar shimmies and Thailand table tennis. Don’t ask. There was also talk of a third Bradley family member taking to the field, but Seagull’s offer to sit out the second innings wasn’t taken, which Skip lived to regret. A sizeable period of lunch was dedicated to a Michael Jackson number being reworked by Faggie and the Yak for Arunav. To be honest, as song writers, they are the Ringo and George of the Beatles, with Evil and myself taking the John and Paul roles, taking sad songs and making them better. And to prove a point I considered writing the entire match report using Beatles lyrics (Ed: I can see that you have sneaked one or two in already), but then realised I have a company to run, so have settled for this simple deviation from this classic: 

    Yesterday, all the short balls seemed so far away, now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in ducking away. 

    OK, so maybe I’m more Pete Best… 

    I digress. We’d set our opponents a healthy 185 to win, let’s see how they got them. Where do you want me to field Skip? “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.“ Righto.

    As I mentioned, a new generation of Quokkas are coming through, with Harry and Haydon adding some much needed youth, energy, and cricketing ability to the mix. The pair opened the bowling and showed us how to do it, with great lines and lengths. You know, the things we’ve been failing to find for the last decade. They took wickets too. Talk about a revolution. We slowly worked our way through the batting order. That was helped by a fabulous running catch by Tugboat (and great fielder placement by Skip), who steamed in from the boundary to claim a key wicket and another brilliant grab taken by a more stationary Skip. It’s getting better all the time. Fruiti put the home side under considerable pressure, claiming three wickets in a spell that included one or two balls offering some actual flight. At this point we looked favourites, although you may say I’m a dreamer. But I wasn’t the only one.

    Arunav’s slightly overexuberant celebrations did irk one Dolphin, who I had also annoyed earlier when enquiring whether his head high full toss might be no-ball.
    “No ball? Seriously? At my pace?”
    “Well, at that pace it ought to be easier to land it on the pitch.”

    “It’s a Sunday friendly.”

    “It certainly seems it.”

    At this point words are flowing out, like endless rain into a paper cup.

    “Let it be Seagull.” 

    “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friends.”

    I did mention it was hot out there? 

    Wickets for Evil Dave, The Yak and two from Haydon’s dad, Mike, put us in the driving seat, beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah, but with a first team regular batsman coming in at number 10, we knew the game was far from won. 

    As he came to the crease Faggie came on. Left arm over the wicket bowlers have been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. In his first over there were shades of the Quokkas Ashes circa 2019, as three shortish deliveries were dispatched into the strawberry fields forever. Nothing you can say, but I guess you can learn how to play the game Faggie. It’s easy! Have a spell.

    What we needed here was the Egg man, but he was off climbing the Eiffel tower, watching Nine Inch Nails or suchlike. Despite this onslaught, a few tight overs from Skip and Harry kept us in it and the game was up for grabs when a lofted straight drive failed to go the distance. Sadly, Seagull attacked it with the same vigour as his earlier batting, and found a reason for taking the easy way out. The catch avoidance trophy will look good on the mantlepiece. Through gritted teeth, Skip politely enquired whether perhaps that was catchable? I chose to avoid all eye contact and blamed the pre-match preparations. With that, the chance of victory was gone and not even Fruiti could prevent the inevitable, especially with two legside full tosses. 

    Make no mistake though, this was a very good performance by the Quokkas against an excellent Dolphins side with two or three very talented cricketers indeed. That fact it went down to the last wicket and penultimate over is testament to the two captains curating a terrific encounter. For those I’m not still avoiding eye contact with, see you at Hartfield.

    Seagull – in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

  • Quokkas CC 301-7 (Herc 87, Arunav 61, Todd 53, Tugboat 42)  beat Coldharbour CC 161-all out (Faggie 3-15, Evil 2-38, Prof 2-not sure)

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said that `we are not makers of history. We are made by history’, but I prefer to think that a small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. Which is what happened on Sunday in the beautiful Surrey hills. Well, maybe not quite, but it is certainly halcyon times, with notable exploits seemingly creating Quokkas history almost every week. 

    Last week’s Radio John hat trick was something a bit special, but the game at Coldharbour will go down in Quokkas history (and not because Herc managed to catch a ball behind the stumps) as we congested half a season’s worth of batting into 35 overs, scoring 300 runs for the very first time. Those that played became instant legends, to be forever remembered in Quokkas folklore. For those out shopping with wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, sadly, you have become the forgotten men of history.

    So how did we reach that milestone? Well, those looking to put some shade on proceedings might point to the shortest boundary in cricket, quite a bit of Bertie Basset bowling and about 20 drop catches. However, if you’re a glass-half-full kind of guy like me….stop laughing…then the response would be, a plethora of ferocious hitting and high quality stroke play.

    Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to fail, so this week I decided to bat, a decision helped by my opposing captain winning the toss. The innings was built on the attacking intent of the Tugboat and Todd, with anything short or full, or neither short nor full, smashed deep into the ferns. It must be said that Todd almost went first ball (dropped catches may become a referring theme), but didn’t look back and played some superb shots. Leg glance was not one of them, but when you have every other in the book (and a few that aren’t), it doesn’t matter. Anything in his arc went hard to the boundary. 

    If you didn’t know already (you obviously haven’t been reading my match reports, also known as Quokkas history), Tugboat can really bat. The noise made as leather is crucified by his willow is something it behold and literally echoed across the Surrey hills. We got to enjoy that sound several times, including from an exquisite cover drive that will live in my memory until I remember where I put the key to the drinks cabinet.

    Faggie came to our opponents rescue, giving Tugboat out leg before wicket, while Driver did the same for Todd. Did history repeat itself, first as tragedy, second as farce? No. Both were plumb. By then though, 120 runs were on the board.

    The relentless ten-runs-an-over pace continued, with Herc dispatching pretty much everything, no matter where it was pitched, to the boundary. He pulled several balls for six, with one sailing over the protective netting and missing his own car by inches. His excellent 87 runs will earn him a probable five points towards the `Bestest and Fairest’ award, but with confirmation that additional games were unlikely, we can look forward to seeing him rise and then rapidly plummet down the Revometer score board at the next annual dinner. It would be remiss of me not to point out that there was the odd piece of luck along the way. I think Coldharbour must have been studying the Quokkas `”How to avoid taking catches” manual, which obviously helped our cause. A miscue saw three players shout “yours” in tandem, which might form the basis of a new chapter.

    At the other end, Arunav initially played a very measured innings, but then opened up, with one straight drive still climbing as it hit the top of giant pine tree some 30 yards beyond the boundary. A partnership of 147 in 13 overs was magnificent, no matter how short the boundary or bowling.

    When both fell, Faggie narrowly avoided a pair, before finding the only fielder that could catch. Professor, who is a different player altogether now he has a bat made of wood, played some lovely shots and he, Radio and Evil saw us past the 300 mark. This was followed by my favourite sledge of the season so far, when Radio revealed to a young opponent that he’d travelled down from Birmingham for the game only to receive the reply: “What? You travelled two and a half hours to be bowled by a thirteen year old?” which he was. 

    Talking of legendary status, the Coldharbour teas are starting to build quite a reputation, with our friend Mr Beer’s homemade sausage rolls complimenting the strawberries, cream scones, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownies. If he had provided a sample prior to his leg before wicket appeal, I might have even given it. As stand in skipper it’s obviously my job to consume enough cake to ensure more are baked next year. I dutifully obliged, although having to field second does limit consumption. This is another reason I like to bowl first. Note to self: Must get whites with bigger pockets.

    Driver, `fresh from a trip up to Leicester to watch egg chasing, opened the bowling and provided almost nothing for the batsman to hit. Evil was equally frugal (the claw not getting an outing helped) and between them they took three well-earned wickets. Faggie also bowled a terrific spell, dropping only a single delivery short in his six overs (I told you this was one for the history books), taking three excellent wickets of his own and causing all sorts of problems for Coldharbour’s two best batsman. 

    Ideas shape the course of history and my 8-1 field with the ball angling across the right hander almost paying dividends. For once, some field placements did pay off and Irish Driver said “the batting, bowling and fielding was OK, but the captaincy was bloody brilliant,” and who am I to argue?. OK, so he actually said “You will no doubt write in your match report that the batting, bowling an fielding was OK, but the captaincy was bloody brilliant,” but history will always be kind to me, for I have written it.

    Victories and failures, traditions and heritage, make history ever changing. A bit like Yaks bowling length, which allowed our opponents some rest bite. Yet history remains the same, with the Tom claiming yet another wicket to add to his collection, albeit slightly hidden among the batch of long hops. With that, we were into the tail, which Professor and Radio John cleaned up in no time at all, helping to seal an emphatic victory. History is of course written by the victors, which is why I am typing this match report and not my counterpart.

    The only way to become part of Quokkas folklore is to make yourself available, and soon. If you like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past, see you in Harpenden next week. I’ve heard they may even cut the grass this time. 

    Captain Seagull

  • I know you come here for a Quokkas cricket report, but some things are more important than cricket, and retelling this story is one of those things. A passenger on a recent Delta Airlines flight stunned fellow travellers and cabin crew alike when she was observed breastfeeding her pet cat. The woman had her hairless Canadian Sphynx swaddled up in a blanket so that it looked like a baby. When confronted by a flight attendant, her shirt was up and she was trying to get the cat to latch, which was screaming for its life. The woman refused to stop and wouldn’t put the cat back in the carrier. Delta airlines confirmed that it fully supports a woman’s right to breastfeed onboard its flights. You’re welcome.

    I have had feline issues of my own, but finally cracked the problem of them using my garden as a litter tray when I discovered `Silent Roar’. Basically lion-dung-smelling balls of joy that have turned the cocky little bastards into tight rope walkers round my backyard fence. I tell you this because it was perhaps the only win I had all winter. While Fergal Sharkey was informing me of how many billions of litres of raw sewage were being dumped into my local water ways, Saints were stinking up the Premiership with some of the most abject displays since the last set of abject displays, my holiday to Sri Lanka turned to shit when the country went into financial meltdown, and as for the winter tests, Jesus, can I have a `severance’ medical procedure to separate my England cricket watching memories from the rest please? Boy, I’m glad I have my disappointment. It’s better than nothing. 

    Liverpool or Madrid to win the Champions League final? You are asking me to rate my favourite flavour of dog turd there, but as the famous philosopher Paul Merson recently said, the richest people in the world are those that live in the moment, so I celebrated the Scousers failure and now I feel like a pig shat in my head. Mrs Seagull: What’s that smell? 

    Bourbon and despair my dear. I’d like a bloody Mary. But it’s nine o’clock in the morning. 

    Yep, hence not requesting whiskey. Thank god the cricket season is under way.

    First up, the Whalers and this match will be long remembered for the first ever Quokkas hattrick. Yeah, I know. What a turn up for the books. You may recall that Radio John almost achieved the feat twice last season, but this time he actually got the trio and in style too, clean-bowling his third victim. Unbelievable Jeff. The first two wickets weren’t bad either, Radio beating the batsman all ends up, allowing Todd plenty of time to claim a brace of stumpings. And he wasn’t finished there either, claiming another two wickets in two balls and just missing out on a second hattrick! A sixth victim did follow, leaving him with figures of three overs, six wickets for six runs…let me give you a moment to let that sink in…Malcolm Marshall eat your heart out. Seagull took him off. Obviously.

    Other than the magnificent Radio, our bowling looked rusty. Smruti went for more runs than all of last season. Faggie went for six an over and those that followed him wished they had. Jatin and Tugboat’s mix of unplayable and unreachable deliveries kept the scoreboard ticking over. Seagull didn’t help proceedings, placing fielders within the boundary, thereby failing to combat batsman hitting juicy leg side full tosses thirty yards beyond the rope. Viran, on loan from the Whalers, arrived about half way through the innings and the extra fielder made absolutely no difference to the run rate, but we at least had one more pair of hands to retrieve balls from the neighbouring pitches. 

    We needed a wicket badly. Seagull turned to Driver and he immediately delivered with a truly horrible first ball that saw the opener, already fifty runs to the good, miscue straight to midwicket. Finally, we had our breakthrough and one brought two, with the Yak joining the party, drawing another false shot and Seagull taking an easy catch. Driver then got a second wicket, with Todd taking a good catch behind the stumps, paving the way for the Radio show. The final wicket was claimed by Viran and by then our opponents were 232 to the good. We’ve lost from better positions.

    With cricket teas becoming optional, it was nice to tuck into an array of sandwiches, cakes and English tapas, although the accompanying UK garage soundtrack left a lot to be desired. MC Toes seemed in his element as did the 500 screaming kids enjoying another bouncy castle. Over tea we discussed the need for an option that’s more than sleeping, but not as much as being dead and discovered that only humans can cry tears and in football, space and time are the same. Fascinating stuff, but 21 seconds is about as much of So Solid Crew I can handle, so let’s knock those runs off. Well, some of them. 

    It wasn’t that we batted badly, we didn’t, we just didn’t bat terribly well. Although, with a little bit of luck we could have made it…(Ed: Oh no. I can see where this is going). To be fair, the bowling was decent and as a result, Todd and Driver were forced to bat sensibly knowing you just gotta get through this. And they did a great job until Driver was out. Faggie sadly didn’t trouble scorers and when Todd fell to peer pressure (bloody Kiwi wicketkeepers insisting they have heard an edge when the ball has missed by about a foot), we were in a little trouble. Tugboat smashed several fours and for a while looked dy-na-mi-tee, but just as drinks approached he let one through the gate, which he would like to have re-rewind…(Ed: in the spirit of things, `fill me in’ Seagull). 

    On Sunday we chilled, especially when Jatin continued the attack, hitting one or two huge boundaries, but he also fell on his sword as things started to look interesting. Viran hit a four that was as sweet as chocolate, before injuring himself and having to re-retire hurt. (Ed: Yeah that doesn’t work and I’ve got no idea how you are going to shoehorn flowers in the pouring rain). 

    Toes also looked very comfortable, but runs were proving hard to come by. The Yak and Smruti tried to move things along, but were both out playing the wrong shot, which left Seagull and Radio with just a little too much to do. Radio did however smash several lose deliveries for four and played one or two nice strokes too, forcing their skipper to bring back the opening bowler. With 85 needed from the last over you just never know. Sigh. 

    So, an opening game defeat for the Quokkas by the triumphant Whalers, but to be honest no one cared about the result as the day belonged entirely to Radio John. Well done sir, if I had them I would have presented you with flowers, as you made my day (Ed: nicely done).

    See you all in Coldharbour. I am hearing there might be a return of the attack (pump up the world).

    MC Seagull

   

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