• Hartfield 182 for 9 (Evil Dave 3-26, Faggie 3-51) drew with Quokkas 176 for 5 (Doc 34, Evil 36, Ches 46)

    It’s only a few weeks until this year’s Victorious festival, which is Southsea’s answer to Glastonbury but with the added bonus of sea views and a short walk back to my house. Because I stopped reading the NME in around 1997, I generally need to do a little research about the bands appearing on the line up, so as to be `down with the kids’ and ensure that I have an alternative to watching Mrs Ches breakdance with two glasses of fizzy wine in her hands whilst in the silent disco tent.

    Whilst doing this research, one of the groups that has definitely caught my ear is a proper old-school punk band called the Slaves. I have somewhat of an obsessive personality and if I find a tune I like I tend to play it on loop. The Slaves `Sugar coated bitter truth’ has been that song for the last two weeks and as a consequence the line `Don’t trust the flies, they are government spies’ has become somewhat of a mantra for me. To find myself with 50 or so flies circling immediately above my head for the entire game on Sunday was therefore somewhat of a surreal experience.

    I’d like to think of myself as anti-establishment and somewhat rebellious, but having completed my online tax self-assessment during the week, I couldn’t think of any reason the government would want to take a close interest in my fielding ability or woeful leg spin bowling. It was with some relief then that Bow Tie Killer informed me that I probably wasn’t on the governments radar or indeed rotting or dead as all the Quokkas were facing this, slightly uncomfortable phenomena.

    They are just not crickets

    For the convicts reading this out there in the colonies, still struggling to get fire out of two sticks to help warm you through the long winter months, let me tell you that it was hot on Sunday in the UK, very hot. It was the type of weather that induces `flying ant day’, or for those non-entomologists amongst you, when winged virgin young queens release pheromones attracting single-purpose sexual missile males during a nuptial flight (an important phase in the reproduction). But these weren’t those lovable rogues, busy breeding their way to a brighter future, it was the much maligned, mobile headed, compound eyed diptera circling just above our heads.

    Someone keep a close eye on Faggie during the next few days

    Someone keep a close eye on Faggie during the next few days

    At times like these, your first thought is probably `why the f*** do these bloody horrible things exist at all’? If not to provide important information about the Quokkas back to GCHQ, then what? What exactly is their purpose other than to annoy us humans? The simple and possibly surprising answer is that diptera are important pollinators, second only to the bees and their hymenopteran relatives. They are also used as model organisms in research of disease when human experimentation would be unfeasible or unethical. These `bastard things’ will probably end up saving our lives one day, so perhaps the minor inconvenience I faced whilst fielding in the deep was one worth the suffering.

    But it wasn’t all suffering, there was some absolutely fantastic cricket to enjoy here too at Hartfield. Despite only having eight Quokkas available on the day, it was a `talented’ bunch with very little baggage and buoyed by the knowledge that Egg would (when he eventually arrived) be captaining the side. The statistically most successful captain in Quokkas history promptly lost the toss and we were asked to field, but with our tail starting at four, this was probably all part of his master plan, besides we looked to have strength in depth in the bowling department. Well, we had the two Garlic Bread’s anyway.

    Whether Evil Dave had anything to do with the plague of insects I’m not too sure, but it was he that grabbed the cherry and with his shirt unbuttoned to the navel he had the air of 1970’s fast bowler as he came streaming in. Not so much like LiIlee, more Max Walker, although `fast’ is perhaps a misrepresentation, especially if describing his first delivery, which took one Mississippi…two Mississippi…three Mississippi…yep, about 3 seconds to travel the full 22 yards. But as Faggie rightly pointed out, “a slow ball first up is good thinking Dave” and his subsequent variation in line, length and pace seemed to cause plenty of problems for the two openers.

    At the other end Garlic bowled his usual raft of unplayable just outside off stump deliveries, but as everyone knows, it’s the sh*t that gets wickets (Ed: Ches can definitely offer some advice in that area Garlic) or at least balls bowled directly at the three wooden things. A very tight opening spell from both bowlers was eventually rewarded when Evil clean bowled one of the openers.

    It was a bright start, with good containment, despite a few gaps in the field, but Egg is not as draft as he looks (Ed: what do you mean draft?) and noticed that the batting order may have been reversed, so he decided to save Garlic for later. His replacement, Garlic Bread 2, aka Jerry the Grey seemed to have miscounted his run up and looked as graceful as Paul Adams as he approached the popping crease. When his third ball rose off a length almost taking the batsman’s head off, this seemed to settle his nerves, but at the same time it had Quokkas `batsman’ (Ed: Are they Quokkas who own bats?) wondering if anyone had brought a helmet. Evil Dave, with a tan of a man choosing to spend every spare second catching up on missed sleep, showed no signs of tiredness and continued to bowl out his best spell of the season.

    I try not to blow my own trumpet too much within these match reports, which is not a particularly tough task considering that I write better than I play, and I don’t write too well (Ed: a case in point right there). However, in the previous game I was pretty damn pleased with my own bowling performance, maintaining a relatively consistent line and length and beating the bat maybe 8 or 9 times (Ed: I find that very hard to believe sir), albeit without reward. This week, a couple of decent balls apart (one grabbing a wicket) I chucked down perhaps the worst collection of deliveries since Scott Boswell forgot how to bowl in the 2001 C&G Trophy final (Ed: that I can confirm).

    As with Boswell my action isn’t a biomechanical dream, but there is no excuse, other than I’m not very good, for serving up that kind of tripe (my thanks to The D.O.C. for preventing several wides from going to the boundary). Despite this I walked away with a brace of wickets, thanks largely to a terrific running, diving catch on the boundary by Conan. As Greavsie so rightly put it (all be it about a totally different sport) “it’s a funny old game Saint”. But as Faggie suggested so helpfully as I ran in to deliver the last ball of my over, it was perhaps time to “bring on the Egg”. However, the Egg decided to bring Garlic Bread back on instead, but with their best bat coming in well down the order (I told you there were no flies on Egg) and now well set, he conceded the odd boundary or two himself.

    No matter, “a few extra runs will make it interesting” suggested Faggie (which was obviously going to come back to haunt us), but he himself bowled well, the highlight of his spell being a tremendous one-handed catch of his own bowling that Corey Anderson would have been proud of. He even bowled a few straight ones, no honest, which, as suggested earlier, tend to get wickets at this level and did so here. Completing the attack was Conan, who, still struggling to find a cricket trouser of a suitable length, bowled a beautiful tight line helping to not only slow the run rate down, but also to add to our wickets haul before their innings came to a close at 182 for 9.

    The sandwiches contained far too much sweetcorn for my liking and is it just me or is everyone bitterly disappointed when they bite into a perceived sausage roll only to find its full of cheese? A fine chocolate cake, slowly melting in the late afternoon heat more than made up for that though. Over tea we discussed the lack of youth participation in sport and subsequent health consequences, the trustworthiness of car main dealers and the recent Lego Batman movie. Fascinating stuff, but with a relatively late start to proceedings we needed to make inroads otherwise we wouldn’t get to see the sun going down over the South Downs on the way home.

    D.O.C. Martin and Conan the Bow Tie Killer makes a brilliant jazz combo name and pretty decent opening partnership too, which is just as well as they had to face some angled probing deliveries from one end, and a fair amount of swing for t’other. Stout defence and great patience was rewarded with runs, especially for the D.O.C through the covers, which helped us make a good start. Not to be outdone the Bow Tie Killer delivered a trade mark Conan Smash™, dispatching a short ball to the legside boundary. All seemed well, but having survived one very decent shout for LBW, Conan couldn’t repeat the escape to the next, thereby becoming the first wicket to fall. Faggie joined the fold and followed the D.O.C.s lead by playing a few elegant shots through the covers. All was going swimmingly until D.O.C. was out, which brought me to the crease (as I said, the tail started at four) with a fair bit of work to be done.

    I was clean bowled for a duck by a part time bowler nicknamed Carebear last year, immediately proceeding The Yak smashing 22 off him in the remainder of the over. I wasn’t going to let that happen again, so I made the decision to actually watch where the ball was going this time. Having seen off the opening bowlers, Faggie and I played sensibly, nudging it around and dispatching the rank bad ball when it came along. The scoreboard ticked over nicely and we seemed to be just about keeping up with the run rate. It couldn’t last forever, Faggie’s T20 instincts taking over and according to Conan (who was umpiring at the time) he somehow played over a full pitched delivery.

    Evil has been described as a supernatural force. Dave’s natural hitting through the on side had a fair amount of force behind it too, which is just as well as my leaves, tickles and defensive prods were not going to see us home. That said I did keep rotating the strike, allowing Dave to see just enough deliveries to get some much-needed boundaries. Eventually I managed to get a few of my own and we looked firm favourites at this point. I spoke too soon as Dave chased a wide one and was caught behind off the faintest edge. There were only a few overs left when Garlic Bread joined me in the middle, but with the ball being delivered quite literally straight out of the sun from one end, it was a tough task to see it, never mind get it off the square. The flies didn’t help matters, by now at eye level as well and with the game slipping through our fingers I did absolutely nothing to help by running myself out (again) like a lemming.

    With the sun setting and the flies running out of time to do whatever it was they were trying to do all day, there were just two overs left and 18 needed to win. Could the Egg and Garlic Bread swat us home this year? You may recall we were in a very similar predicament last year and there was certainly a sense of déjà vu when the opening bowlers were brought back on to try and prevent us getting there. With just two wickets needed could they possibly steal victory for themselves? It was a close thing, but despite some gallant hits from the Egg and some adventurous running from Garlic Bread, sadly it wasn’t to be falling just 6 runs short. Having repelled their opponent’s best efforts, the game ended in a draw, which was a fitting result for a wonderful day’s cricket.

    Our thanks to Hartfield for welcoming us, despite being short-handed and we look forward to battle with bat, ball and nature next year.

    This week’s match report wasn’t sponsored by Raid, but if they want to send me some fly spray or catcher units I would be more than happy to accept them.

    Ches

  • 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 met Emlyn Hughes twice: Once in a shoe shop in Rotherham, and again as we were the only people in a restaurant on my 18th birthday. Our families that is, not just me and Emlyn, that would have been weird.

    Ches and Skip get a selfie with David Coleman

    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.

    Perfect cricketing weather

    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.

    Bowling tutorial

    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.

    “What’s that Glen, you’ve twisted your ankle? You’ll be fine mate” The D.O.C. provides another brilliant prognosis.

    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.

    Testing first delivery for The Egg

    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.

    Ches

  • The Voice sings writes….

    Like the Sex Pistols’ Manchester gigs of ’76 or the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Quokkas history was made at Hartfield 2014, everyone will say they were there.

    Because it was a fantastic all round performance from regulars and new joiners alike? Because we successfully vanquished the memories of last year’s shocking (though admittedly rain-affected) batting performance? Because of the cupcakes?

    Yes, all of these things played a part. But the moment that will truly moisten Quokka’s eyes for years to come was the glorious sight of Mr Saucisson himself, Casey Quokka, Senor Sausage roaring down the crease to celebrate his, and the club’s, very first hat trick. Delivered in equal measures of grace and fury, the ball had ripped out a middle stump that would grow accustomed to feeling the wrath of the Aussie Banger, sending Quokka hearts into rapture and the Hartfield middle order in disarray.

    Henry walks Arunav

    Henry walks Arunav

    Rewind a few hours and the Quokkas had been sent into bat on a pitch that would offer little in terms of bounce, but plenty in terms of wickets. With Faggie and debutant Milind opening, the runs began to amass, but almost as quickly as the wickets. Luckily Snoop Robby Rob and a defiant Milind were able to steady the ship and provide continuity in what could have been a traditional Quokka capitulation. Support then arrived in the form of fellow debutant Ankeet and his invaluable 32, made even more remarkable by the mere 20 minutes practice he’d just had after several years away from the crease. A further highlight was Slick’s elegant hoisting of a loose delivery toward a nearby garden, heading toward what would have been a glorious 6, but for the elements that heartlessly plucked it from the sky, and sent it back down to earth for 2. It was a 6 in our hearts Locky.

    With The Voice and Casey reunited once again at the tail end, it was soon clear that Senor Sausage had had enough. Deciding 126 was a decent enough total, he very generously offered up his wicket, literally watching the ball from release all the way to his middle-stump. Now cynics might suggest there’s a betting syndicate somewhere filling up a bag with cash for a certain snag-loving Aussie. But with no concrete evidence we’ll have to assume it was an act of generosity to an oppo fielding two (very) youth team members, in absence of a couple of pretty decent regulars.

    Still digesting his cupcake, Faggie came tearing out of the blocks after lunch to intimidate their opening batsmen. Preferring at times to cut out the sticky turf completely and ‘go direct’ to the batsmen’s bodies, he did a great job of unsettling them. Frustrated at not getting the breakthrough however, he instead called upon the type of colonial cunning not usually seen in village cricket, executing what can only be called a ‘false missed catch’. Conspiring with his fellow Antipodeans, the ball was sent through Conan’s wicket-keeping legs to bring the batsmen out of their crease, allowing Casey to then whip it back in for a run out. The game was on.

    The scoreboard was being updated. We weren't really 7/6

    three wise men

    After Saucisson’s historic spell brought his fourth wicket, just one wide after his hat-trick ball, it was time for the Quokkas to show their strength and depth. In came The Voice to explore the uneven bounce, though in the process offering Hartfield as much as he took away with 2-19. From there Arunav sent the umpire’s finger skywards through the sheer force of his lbw appeal, and Milind and Tom the Yak frustrated the batsmen with wonderfully tight spells. Then came Ankeet to cement a perfect start for the Quokkas, with a wicket from his very first delivery, in a maiden over. It should be noted here however that the majority of that over was to a 10 year old, so he shouldn’t get too carried away. Once The Egg had finished things off with an inviting ball that whispered into the ear of the batsman, telling him to send into Arunav’s hungry hands, victory was officially ours.

    As Casey was unanimously declared Man of the Match, the eulogies began to form. All agreed his first wicket, a delightful outswinger edged into Conan’s grateful gloves, was like “something off the telly”. One can only imagine what the noise would have been like if this had happened in front of a packed Lords, or a boisterous WACA. Even Henry the dog, the Quokkas’ new mascot wanted to pat the Sizzling Oz on the back.

    So with great team performances like this, can the ‘happiest team in the world’ (declared so after our namesake), now add serious contenders to our CV? Only time and next week’s match at Barnes will tell.

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  • It’s May, it’s raining, it must be time for some cricket.

    Sunday 11th May – Hartfield CC vs Quokkas CC

    Despite the off-season breeding swelling the ranks of future Quokka players and the pull of babysitting parenting duties, the Quokkas are fielding a strong team to take down to East Sussex. 11 men true and strong to possibly put a decent total together for the first time in this fixture:

    • Arunav
    • Milind
    • Snoop Rob
    • Faggy
    • Conan
    • Mr Saucisson
    • Tom the Yak
    • Slick
    • Egg
    • Binman
    • The Voice

    Meet at 1:30 for a 2pm start Quokkafans

   

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