• Social media provides a candid window into the lives of others and when a photo of me appeared on Facebook gleefully claiming my 20 Euro winnings from Binman (having `thrashed’ him in the tour runs challenge), my friends suggested that I’d never looked happier. Of course none of these people were present at Anfield to see me pogoing rows of seats in elebration of Shane Long’s last minute winner to take us to Wembley, but they did have a point, I did look like I was having the time of my life. Putting to one side the obvious joy of taking money from Binman, I wondered what is it was about the Quokkas cricket tour that gives me so much enjoyment? I mean when it comes down to it, all we are talking about is a few days off work, a little sunshine on your back and perhaps a few too many beers after a game of cricket. That’s not exactly the strapline for the next Qantas holiday advertisement, so perhaps this is something a pessimistic, fun hoover ought to carefully consider whilst writing this tour report.binman-ches

    As you might expect of someone as cynical as me, a joyous experience is not always easy to come by, so to have the opportunity to tour a city of the very name, was one that was too good to be missed. Bucharest was founded by a flute playing shepherd called Buchar (which literally means `Joy’) who supposedly dazzled local traders with his flute and wine to such a degree that they named the city after him. I have to say that I can’t recall the last time I was so impressed by a Shepard’s flute playing that I felt the need to name a city after him, so I am inclined to think that it perhaps had a little more to do with the quality of that local wine he sold them. I said I was cynical, but then again, who am I to question a 2500 year old Romanian legend?

    On arriving at Skip’s house the night before the tour I found I wasn’t the only one tempted by legendary Romanian red wine, with Zoolander, fresh from his third round-the-world caravan tour packing a `sports bag’ with his usual array of coach driver outfits. An evening of bolognaise, rioja and Premier League 7th place contenders (aka Everton FC) on the box, presented the perfect opportunity to put Skip Sr’s Eastern European football knowledge under the microscope. His expertise was brought immediately into serious doubt when he provided the names of Sodov, Bogov and Jerkov as three examples of non-premiership players from the region. He quickly returned to firmer ground, recounting tales of 1970s and 80s cricket, but the lack of a “true story” endorsement at the end of all but one, left Skip and I wondering the validity of the others.

    Our amusement at his expense was short lived when Mrs Skip pointed out that cricket bags weren’t on the list of sports equipment accepted by Wizz Air. This would mean the `baggage charge loop hole’ that Skip had discovered might actually turn out to cost each Quokka a further £110, rather than save them £10. A search for jumping poles, antlers and oversize trophies was fruitless, so we decided to do what any other self-respecting Quokka would do, open another bottle of rioja and `wing it’.

    A very pleasant early afternoon flight time provided just enough time for me to erode any confidence I had in my batting as Skip’s 7 year old continually bowled me out in his back garden. Avoiding the usual red eye flight also gave us time to get our money’s worth from the Luton Airport Executive Lounge, which unsurprisingly had a tankard with Ronnie’s initials engraved on it hanging behind the bar…only kidding…it was a shot glass. I say Ronnie, but with Skip having failed to input his name correctly when booking his flight, not once, but twice, despite having his passport in front of him on both occasions, Ronnie became `Roland’ for the trip. True story that.

    Fortunately, Roland wasn’t charged extra for the error and Wizzair’s generosity extended to recognising cricket as sport, thereby enabling Skip’s `hold luggage gamble’ to come off. We were therefore off to a flying start, but as we made our way to the departure gate we discovered that the plane was late – something about `wrong type of sunshine’ – which encouraged Skip and Roland to return to the lounge for one last lemonade…silver linings and all that. “Hurry up” Whatsapp messages accompanied by photos of the inside of a Wizz Air plane grabbed from Google were enough to convince the pair to sprint back to the gate only to find that those that had remained in the queue were still in that queue and now were experiencing a little of the joy that I mentioned earlier.IMG_2577

    Apart from Roland’s nominated drinking partner on the flight, everyone arrived safe and sound and excited to sample the delights of Bucharest, but before we got a good look at the Paris of the East we took it upon ourselves to meet a Romanian ecclesiastical celebrity to discuss sex in the church after he had concluded his appearance on the evening news.
    [Ed: a truly remarkable spot that Locky].Priest

    An evening of garlic flavoured meat a truly terrible attempt at traditional dancing (did anyone know if it was English or Romanian?) proceeded a packed nightclub serving up Drambuie and the very best of 1990s pop music. Needless to say the locals were impressed by our enthusiasm on the dancefloor, but bemused by our ability (something that has become all too familiar on the field of play). With an international cricket game fast on the horizon we did what any Chris Gayle enthusiast would do and continued long into the night, favouring socialising with the locals and team bonding over any sort of professional match preparation.locky-skippy

    Transylvania CC vs Quokkas CC

    I find that those four hours of unconsciousness are just never quite enough, but suitably fed and watered by the club’s nutritionist, we travelled in high spirits to the village of Moara Vlasiei for the first game of the tour. Not exactly the first place on the map you’d look for an international cricket ground, but sandwiched between a prickled carp lake and the P?durea Surlari park is a brand spanking new pitch that is beautifully cut into the landscape and presenting a tremendous view of P?durea Brânzeasca park.

    ground

    We are met by the all too familiar sight of incredibly keen cricketers doing extensive warm up routines. The smashing of balls towards the upper atmosphere certainly had me wondering if the team bonding exercise was the right way to go, but we’ve seen all this `professionalism’ before [Ed: and lost on numerous occasions], so now is not the time to worry. Losing your best batsman third ball perhaps might be though.

    As Skip explain to his Dad over the course of the tea interval, what you want when you have travelled 1650 miles to represent your country is to get off to decent start, with your best batsman setting a platform from which the rest of the, ever so slightly hungover, batting order can work from. What you don’t want is your own umpire to trigger said batsman in the first over. No one was surprised to hear that Faggie felt he wasn’t out, but Skip’s suggestion to Zoolander that perhaps he could have been “a little less honest”, did place us at a slight moral disadvantage when we later came to question the sportsmanship of a non-walking opposing batsman.

    Thankfully our concerns about the quality of the opposition were put at ease by Imran, who having been donated by our opponents provided us with a detailed description of his team mates: “Do you see that guy? He is very dangerous, very fast bowler, very accurate, very good, and that guy to the left of him? Very dangerous, very fast, very good bowler…oh and that player over there , very good, very fast, very accurate bowler…”   

    As is so often the case, we don’t need intervention from umpires or even opposing bowlers to get us out, we are more than capable of doing that ourselves. And this case was no different. First Imran raced so far down the wicket he was effectively `lobbed’ by the bowler, then I added `played on’ to my ways of getting out this season (Ed: just `timed out’ to complete the set now Chez). I don’t think I have the vocabulary necessary to describe the shots attempted by The Yak and Evil Dave that were their undoing, this before Binman presented me with a 12 run lead in our run scored challenge by offering a top-edged-duck.

    Mr Shaker, strangely not one of the bowlers Imran felt we needed to worry about, somehow contrived to take five for 27 during this completely non-threatening spell. There was probably an important lesson for Quokkas to be learned here, but the only thing I could think of was that if you bowl long enough at the Quokkas you will eventually have figures better than Malcom Marshall.

    Our innings was held together largely by extras and Skip, who played sensibly for his 31 not out. That said, the outstanding performer was undoubtedly The Egg, who, played with great assurance and confidence at number 11. A previously unseen straight bat and decent front foot defence helped to forge a last wicket partnership of 49 and ensure we didn’t totally embarrass ourselves. As Skip so beautifully put it, `it’s a very fine line between being good enough to play for the Quokkas and good enough to play for Yorkshire’, although I am not quite sure if that is a compliment or who to. 117 all out was however somewhat below the “250-300” Imran suggested “were essential” on a plastic pitch that offered little to the bowlers other than a little variation in bounce.

    faggie_sleepingFully aware that the Quokkas are an internationally franchised drinking team with a cricketing problem, the tea provided consisted purely of beer and pizza. Despite the local kids deciding to join us and play loud European folk pop techno through their phones, we took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Unfortunately a cricket got in the way and before you know it were out in the middle under a searing sun.

    A suitably lubricated and fired up Roland raced in from the `prickled carp lake’ end. An equally motivated Faggie and the Tom the Yak supported him at t’other, but the faster they bowled, the faster the scoreboard ticked over. Despite Roland’s efforts to convince the batsman that they were actually really quite nervous, they didn’t look it and runs flowed freely, helped by some rather dubious fielding. A long night on the tiles, combined with a pre-tour drinking induced ailment were perhaps reasonable excuses, but Skip still remarked in amazement at how much Binman `had regressed since he last played 12 months ago’. Harsh perhaps, but strangely accurate as the ball seemed to whistle over, past and often straight through him. He wasn’t alone. Put a chocolate fireguard out in the field and it would have prevented more runs than I did.

    We desperately needed wickets and thankfully Faggie obliged with one, but with runs at a premium and the game running away from us, Skip turned to spin, or should I say my slow bowling. Taking the pace off the ball immediately paid dividends though as their number three was caught by TD via a juggling catch straight out of the Michael Leask’s top drawer. Amazingly he replicated the feet exactly a couple of overs later, earning me a second wicket and TD the `Juggler’ moniker with accompanying circus tune soundtrack.

    At the other end the Juggler grabbed two wickets for himself with some proper spin bowling. Just for a moment we were really in the game, but despite some ferocious appealing and international standard sledging, we just couldn’t make a further breakthrough, leaving us to rue our earlier poor batting display.

    Returning to Bucharest we ate neck-sweat-coated-pork-string and drowned our sorrows to a 1980s soundtrack. MC Hammers’ `Can’t Catch This…Quokka time’ sliding comfortably into the Quokkas songbook. After a tour of a mini brewery and a formal dinner in dressed in new highly flammable Quokkas ties and joined by our excellent hosts, we continue the live music theme into the evening by watching an all-girl band covering pretty much everything in Skip’s record collection. There’s no accounting for taste, but we’ve avoided the folk pop techno for a second night running and that’s worth celebrating…and we did, right up to the point where we had to get up to play the second game of cricket.  

    traditional_dancing

    Romania XI vs Quokkas XI

    Thank god for Maccy D’s. Not for the food of course, it’s not fit for cattle or swine, but for the chance to stop and get out of the sauna, also known as the tour bus. Despite Skip and Faggy’s best attempts to lift an ever-so-jaded group of Quokkas by reworking Pharrel Williams’ `Because I’m happy’, what we really needed here was the transfer of matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them. Teleportation was just part of the tour bus conversation, which leapt from overpriced photos of pole vaulters to the mixed reaction to the Building of the Union of Romanian Architects. Just as we were pondering the odds of all four Australian fast bowlers being fit on any given day we arrive and Skip is adamant that won’t make the same mistake of setting a low target, so like mad dogs and Englishman he decided to field under the hottest of suns.

    Showing he has learned absolutely nothing from the previous game Skip opened with pace at both ends, but it worked a treat with Tom the Yak and Evil Dave providing us with a tremendous spell of bowling and having our opponents in real trouble at 71 for five. Two overs from Skip undid all their hard work, but to be fair the 2016 International Cricketer of the Year (Mediterranean region) was now at the crease and as you’d expect he could bat a bit. Whether he was out first over caught behind we will never know (Skip: he was), but if he was nervous, as Roland suggested to him, repeatedly, it wasn’t for long, sweeping me effortlessly to the boundary.

    Catches win matches, which is unfortunate as we seemed to have a phobia of intercepting and holding anything other than a pint glass. Just a small selection of those drops are recorded for prosperity here.

    bat_lectureEvil looked to have dropped the Ashes when the International Playboy Cricketer of the year failed to smash another of my pies into the fishing lake. Fortunately, for the carp, he redeemed himself shortly after with an absolutely magnificent running, over the shoulder catch. I celebrated with much Buchar. With the International Bright Young Thing back in the hutch, we regained some control of the game. Wickets from The Egg and TD even gave Skip the opportunity to bring on a couple of the Romanian youngsters to bowl and was rewarded with wickets from both, which helped to restrict the Romania XI  to 216 for 9.

    A reversed batting order saw The Egg join Roland (who only had 30 minutes available in his busy schedule before needing to catch an early flight to Scotland…something about a family holiday he was supposed to be on) open the batting and we got off to a flying start with Roland smashing several balls to the boundary. His need to score quickly was his undoing though, caught trying to heave yet another length delivery into the pond. The Egg, Evil Dave, Imran II and Tom the Yak all followed him attempting to maintain the scoring rate. This brought Binman to the crease, and up until the point where he needed a blood transfusion (having hit the ball into his own face) he was looking like the cricketer of 12 months ago, emulating The Egg with a solid front foot defence, but adding his well-versed cow corner hoik into the mix.

    binman

    When he reluctantly retired hurt, I used the opportunity to extend my lead in our bet, but more importantly Skip and I eyed the win. Despite me scratching around for 5 or 6 overs, we more than maintain the required rate. When Skip was out, Faggie took up the mantle, smashing a huge six, before the International Man of the year found a big old gate. Not too long after I fell on my sword, caught trying to hit over the top, but this just allowed TD to show some of his Guru-esque class with the bat before he was eventually out. With overs running out, the game beyond us and the youngsters brought on to bowl, Binman saw his opportunity and returned to the fray. Supported by Zoolander, who took the opportunity to show us all how it’s done, Binman rapidly closed in on my runs tally and by the last over just needed four more. After a couple of dots (nice one Zoolander) he regained the strike, but thankfully failed to get the ball off the square thereafter. I had won, but the Quokkas had lost.

    Although defeated for a second time, it was an excellent display (catching apart) by the Quokkas and one that left everyone content with their efforts. We recovered from this festival of cricket by taking a trip to the Arena Na?ional? to watch Steau Bucharest take on Universitatea Craiova. This gave Zoolander the chance to introduce himself to random locals on the journey to the stadium and brush up on his Eastern European footballers. Amazingly we failed to identify anyone that would strengthen Birmingham City’s strike force, but we did unearth a women selling match tickets that were dispensed directly from her ample cleavage. Noroc!

    stalker 1 stalker 2 stalker 4 stalker3

    Caption: It’s probably worth mentioning to Zoolander that stalking is now a crime

    Those uninterested in cleavages spent the evening doubling taxi drivers annual wages and chewing their way through half a hundred weight of pork at the local beer keller. Each to their own. Once reunited we treated ourselves to Aperol Spritzs, Eastern European folk pop techno and magic shows until the early hours of the morning. Once we had extracted every last bit of joy from Bucharest, it was time to return home and with that another magnificent Quokkas tour was over.

    spritzSo having recounted this year’s tour to the best of my memory, have I managed to establish what it is that makes it so special for me? Well, I think I might just have…it’s not just the adventure, the pretending you are still young, or the dressing room banter and great socialising that a team sport offers…it’s actually the hard graft a tour requires, the travelling, the late nights, the lack of sleep, fielding under a burning hot sun with a hangover, batting and bowling whilst dehydrated, giving your all for no other reason than that’s what sport is all about…before doing it all over again the very next day, only now it’s tougher. It might not sound like fun, and it probably isn’t always at the time, but there is something deeply pleasurable about burning the candle at both ends for a three or four days when you have thrown some competitive and entertaining cricket into the mix. I think that’s what makes the tour so great for me and I encourage you all to sample it next summer. Remember, like me, you are not getting any younger!sleep-flight
    My thanks to Skip and everyone and anyone who helped make the tour happen. Fantastic job as always. I look forward to seeing you all at the Annual Dinner and hopefully in Hamburg next summer for some more joyous hard graft.

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  • 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”.

    embiggens

    Peak Quokka

    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.

    Hard at it

    Hard at it

    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:

    “You’re Someone?”

    “Yes”

    “Someone?”

    “Yes”

    …pause…

    “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:

    1. Scaff: recently arrived from Singapore, on the massage table – check
    2. Cat: sporting a broken toe from the first game – check
    3. Ed: ridiculously excited – check
    4. Jay: disappearing somewhere for pain killers – check
    5. Skip: repeatedly asking what time we are starting & where the beers are – check
    6. Big Dog: looking quite pale from perhaps a curry too many & concerned about keeping his whites just so – check
    7. Alex: looking longingly at the massage table – check
    8. Ren: see Ed – check
    9. The Yak: ridiculously focussed – check
    10. Mahesh (our ringer, it wouldn’t be a Quokkas game without one): wondering what he’d volunteered for – check
    11. 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.

    Artists impression of Revs bowling

    Artists impression of Revs bowling

    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.

    Artists impression of Scaff

    Artists impression of Scaff

    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.

    An artists impression of Skip

    An artists impression of Skip

    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).

    #realopeners

    #realopeners

    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)

    team photo

  • Ahoy me hearties. If the tour to Sri Lanka is half as much fun as the weekends jolly to the People’s Republic of Southsea, then the Quokkas are in for a real treat. It might perhaps be a surprise to many of you that there are some great similarities between the two venues, not least the deep harbours and long histories. I’m not sure Portsmouth has prehistoric settlements dating back 125,000 years, as can be found near Bundala, but we certainly have dinosaur fossils turning up right left and centre. Also, what Portsea Island lacks in Buddhist temples it more than makes up for in the way of two cathedrals, maritime history, high quality cricketing opposition, culinary delights and beautiful beachside facilities, though I suspect neither Galle or Candy will be quite as humid as Scandals nightclub. More of that later.

    It’s funny, whenever I speak with my American or Russian friends especially, I’m always amazed at how extremely proud and passionate they are about where they come from. Probably because I have never felt that way about Pompey, despite living here for almost 20 years. However, as I sat on the beach soaking up the Saturday afternoon sun with half the Quokkas touring party and offering just a small slice of its deep history I started to feel a little attached to the old place. The city has not only been England’s first line of defence since before the French invasion in the 16th century and by the 19th century was the most fortified city in the world, but as England’s largest Royal Naval port has been a pivotal embarkation point for the D-Day landings and the Falklands War. There’s a lot to see and do for all the family, it’s certainly an interesting place, but it’s very much a fighting city, well, they certainly like a fight.

    I didn’t tell you this before the mini tour, but the last time I invited a large group of friends from London to visit Portsmouth I took them to a popular nightspot whereupon they witnessed a mass brawl as they queued to get in. They joked about it for years afterwards, but at the time I think they wished they’d never left the confines of the M25. An island, the most densely populated city in the UK and home to two thirds of the Royal Navy’s entire surface fleet contribute to making this a rough and ready place at times, but as with all ports the 200,000 population is very fluid and as a result we hardly ever see ten women battering the shit out of each other before they have got in the club these days.

    It’s a fair fight

    An actual pavilion

    An actual pavilion

    In cricketing terms, we had a fight on our hands ourselves. You’ve heard of David and Goliath? Well this fixture turned out to be David’s hungover and out of shape older brother against the guy Goliath wants to be when he grows up. We were so much out of our depth, we could have been dropped into the middle of the Atlantic with only a pair of budgie smugglers and a robin hood costume and still had more chance of success, but that’s never stopped us before…

    To be honest I always thought we might be up against it, this is The City of Portsmouth’s Cricket Club we are talking about here, but when their skipper revealed that “due to our under 19s having a rearranged game the team is just a little bit stronger than I’d hoped” I wondered if a side that failed to chase 93 last week was going to be quite strong enough. Actually, I think the phrase I used rhymes with clucking bell.   

    The detail behind their skippers’ remark was that their overseas professional Fraser Hay (coming to an Australian test side soon), yes that’s right overseas professional, was playing and fresh from scoring 159 from 120 balls the previous day against Bournemouth in the British Gas Southern League division one. Thankfully “he’d only be fielding at slip and practicing his switch hitting if called upon to bat”. Fortunately for us he had to travel to Nottingham to play for the Hampshire County Cricket Club second XI against Nottingham, so we missed out on his slip catching, but sadly we did get to see him bat wrong handed better than most of England’s middle order.

    Scandalous

    Slick enjoys Scandal's low ceiling

    Slick enjoys Scandal’s low ceiling

    Crucially we prepared well for the game, with just about the right amount of Naval Rum to seriously not give a fuck if we lived or died, never mind win a game of cricket. The pre-for-mentioned Scandals did most of the damage. For all aging rockers and over the hill break-dancers like me it’s very sad news that this truly dreadful former wine bar, but fantastic after hours drinking establishment, is closing down. You have got to love a place that asks The Verger for photo ID.

    Portsmouth bouncers are a bit wary of outsiders (having more than three teeth tends to give you away) coming onto the city and draining our resources of Sambuca, as only a man-o-man-o champion of his reputation can, but Mrs Ches vouched for him and the bouncers don’t tend to cross the fairer sex, especially those having consumed their fair share of Merlot. Once inside we do our best to offset the loss of bodily fluids caused by the 45-degree heat and dance moves to Morrisey, The Roses and Joy Division. We are first in, first to the bar, first to the dancefloor, last to bed. G&Ts at Chez Ches round off a valuable night of team bonding, which began much, much earlier with beers on the beach, beers at The Eastfield, beers at Spice Island and beers as we dined…I digress.

    Match made in heaven?

    Athletes raring to go

    Athletes raring to go

    As you would expect, we put them in to bat. Skip making a wise choice to field first to ensure that we had enough time to sober up before the long drive (ahem) or walk home, that despite being two short – Satan and Fudger probably delayed due to the long queue of traffic entering into the city hopeful of seeing a semi-professional cricket side in full flow. The Yak steamed in from the Southsea beach end, but with gaps in the field the home team cruised to 90-1 from the first 10 overs, that despite skip bowling a wicket maiden. Having joined the fold Fudger and then Fruiti stemmed the flow of runs and for a short spell we look like a reasonable side. We even take a few wickets, which is a mistake as with every one taken, the batting partnerships strengthen and the ball goes to the boundary that little bit quicker. Mind you we do our best to offset this by dropping numerous chances in the field. “Good drop that one Ches” remarked Skip without any hint of sarcasm whatsoever.

    Evil Dave, fresh from one hours sleep and a two-hour drive bowled well and took several wickets (the crazy fool), but crucially we dropped both star batsman before they had got going. Once they did only the sea wall and a 20-foot fence could stop them, although both Anand and The Egg served just enough mystery to keep things respectable. That said 259 for 7 from their 35 hours was a decent haul, fast outfield or not. Time to refuel.

    At lunch we are disappointed to hear that we are a day late for the home made cakes, but a cream tea helps us overcome that and we take the opportunity to discuss The Verger’s appearance on the Naked Dating Show, Australia’s imminent disappearance from the upper echelons of the Test rankings, turning Spit Bank Forts into luxury hotels and Ben Ainsley’s chances in the Americas cup. Fascinating stuff, but some of us have homes to walk back to, so we end our banyan with Anand pressganged into opening the batting with Locky.

    Sinking ship
    Blast. I’ve just remembered that I was going to give this report a nautical feel. I got distracted by the fighting city stuff I inserted at the start. I’ll subtly shoehorn some of that in now, you’ll hardly notice. An early wicket – Locky unluckily playing on – meant we need to batten down the hatches, but Quokkas batsman are overly keen to splice the mainbrace, Fudger for example was a Booby, a seabird with little fear and therefore particularly easy to catch, and at 23 for 3 we are all at sea and seem to be up the poop deck without any bonded jackey.

    The Quokkettes are seduced by the electronic scoreboard

    The Quokkettes are seduced by the electronic scoreboard

    `Eagle’ Dave isn’t keen to `kiss the gunners daughter’ though and takes a different tack, smashing anything short into the neighbouring pitch-n-put course, and in doing so scoring a very credible 3 under par. It’s a lovely innings, effortless and brutal in many respects, but just as it looks like he is going to bail us out, Evil is caught and the ship looked sunk. To be fair both Shub and Fruiti offered decent support, Fruit playing one or two lovely shots off his legs and they managed to get us up to 150. But in all honesty we are land lubbers here and they have buoyed (I’m sorry I’ve taken things too far now) with us long enough and with the light going they put us out of our misery, bringing their top class first team spinner on and cleaning up our cat and nine tail in emphatic style. The pitch on leg, take off peg ball being far too good for any of us, me especially.

    So a crushing defeat and I feel a little guilty at my terrible matching making, but I guess every now and then it’s good to be taught a lesson and at least maybe one day we’ll be able to say we had bowled at a test batsman, all-be-it one batting wrong handed. In the end we certainly didn’t disgrace ourselves, fighting hard, as all good skates do, especially in the field, but on this occasion I have to admit that Goliath was in a different league to us, fighting blindfold yet still having little problem crushing a groggy David’s fat brother. C’est la vie or as those from Pompey say `whatever mush’.

    Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for making the long journey down to the South Coast. I much appreciate your efforts and I hope you enjoyed yourselves and got a flavour for the place. If you are ever visiting Southsea please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. Ches Portsea Island tours and Chez Ches are always open for business. For those off to Sri Lanka have a great time and see you all at the annual dinner.   

    Ches.

    I'll just leave this here...

    I’ll just leave this here…

  • pogonophobia  /p?g?n??f??b??/

    extreme dislike of beards

     

    The natural habitat of the Quokka is northside inner suburban Melbourne. As we have tired of our surrounds the quest has continued to find new locations to spread the quokka legend. This year’s tour game took us far from the hipsters and skinny jeans of Fitzroy to the Gippsland countryside. Stories abounded that our hosts Nerrena had the only other ex-hurler Irish cricketer playing in Victoria. Someone other than Big Dog with a single cross-batted shot and an unorthodox bowling action? That alone was worth investigating further.

    The preceding week was spent with the squad oscillating from 13 down to 10 and with a couple of late additions we had 12 to play. On winning the toss our hosts decided that the decent thing was to give us the choice in any case and so it was that the Quokkas were set to bowl first. Snipper and Eliza arrived rock-star late but our hosts were happy to hold off the start. There was significant net activity and youthful exuberance by our opponents whilst the Quokka pre-match routine consisted of cracking open a few cold cans. All the warning signs were there you might say.

    The innings in the field started well with Ed and Chef keeping it tight. The Nerrena captain poked and prodded to 13 as wickets fell around him. Big Dog had a bowl and that little Waterford versus Kilkenny duel ended honours even. The Quokkas rotated the bowlers and Chef, Alex, Jay and Local all picked up wickets along the way. Impressive catches for Local and Alex off steepling shots and an uncharacteristically generally attentive fielding display left us with a gettable 117 to chase on the wide expanses of the fertile Gippsland dairy paddocks.

    Pretty great.

    Pretty great.

    The sun beat down with lazy sense of optimism at the innings break and all looked well in the world for the Quokkas. An early dismissal for our debutant Ian was followed by a solid partnership of 44 between Alex and Dutchy. Big Dog joined Dutchy to take the score to sitting pretty on 2/64 off 11 overs. But being the Quokkas calamity was never too far away and Big Dog, Snipper and Jay departed in the 12th over leaving us reeling.

    That triple wicket maiden was the turning point from which the Quokkas never recovered. Dutchy was out for 49 and Bowl’en, Cath and Ed couldn’t quite get us there despite some lusty blows in the last few overs. The Redcaps skipper showed his versatility with a spell of death bowling to clinch victory for his side. So in this particular Irish civil war it was keeping with the pattern of history as once again black and amber ruled supreme over white and blue. Tiocfaidh ár lá.

    Thanks to Brian for organising and for the whole club at Nerrena for hosting us on the day. It was a measure of the enjoyment from our side that when a return game in Melbourne was mooted one of the recently defeated Quokka batsman quickly added “stuff that, we’re coming down here again”. Big Dog retains the anti-Midas touch with a perfect record of 4 losses from 4 games as captain. Surely Winston Churchill had the Quokkas in mind when we said “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.

  • Chez moves on from his usual essay, and writes a book about Quokkas 2015 Tour

    Chapter 1

    It’s a good job the Hotel de la Bradley serves not only wonderful food, but great drink too when I come to stay on the eve of a cricket tour, especially the latter, in large doses. I’m not sure I could cope with some of the `incredibly deep’ conversations that take place between father-son without having consumed copious amounts of red wine beforehand. I’ll give you a sample of this year’s pre-tour discussion.

    The art of good conversation

    “Villa are going down, they haven’t signed anyone.” “Well I’m not so sure about that. They’ve added pace to the side.” “Maybe, but name one Villa summer transfer signing then Zoolander?” “Er, well, they signed that fast fella on the wing, haven’t they?” “Yes, what’s his name?” “Erm, well, he’s a fast young guy, plays out wide” “You mean Traoré?” “No, I don’t think so, he’s a fast fella, plays out wide, out on the wing.” “You mean Traoré?” “No Robin, I’m talking about a quick winger.” “Oh yes, I know who you mean, that will be Traoré…” “Sigh, no Robin he’s fast and a winger….” and so it goes on well into the early hours of the morning.

    Thankfully the logistical manager has again provided us with lunchtime flights, which allows me time to sober up from all the wine I’ve had to drink, but sadly it also provides us with enough time to resume the fast Aston Villa winger conversation whilst partaking in a beer or two at our favourite airport.

    It’s here in Luton that I discover that my 12 months of Plan-F preparation are totally wasted because Fudger has pulled out with a suspected broken eyelash. Zoolander swallows Skip’s ‘he needs to make up with the girlfriend because of infidelity with another man’ explanation and spreads the word to the rest of the touring party, all of which already know about the broken eyelash.

    We depart on time having `upgraded’ from EasilylateJet to WizzAir. However, these guys take economy class flying to a new level, with a deep vein thrombosis inducing 21 cm seat pitch that renders pretty much anyone over 5ft 10 from getting in or out of their seat. Binman absolutely loved them. Ronnie did too, but more for their selection of refreshments. At this point I instantly regret my earlier suggestion that `very young children shouldn’t be allowed to fly’ as instant Karma has me sat directly in front of two, three month old babies that start crying as soon as we take off. Safely airborne and shoehorned into our seats we get Quokkas top trumps underway. Sadly I’m still represented by a photo of Mantis’ groin.

    The flight is uneventful, although the plane was “going too fast on landing” accordingly to the completely unqualified pilot Zoolander. An ever increasing taxi price into downtown Sofia provides some of the East-Midlanders with something to moan about, and they continue this discussion pretty much right through until we board the plane back to Luton. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if it had cost more than 3 Euros each.

    Cold war hotel

    We are staying at the `not quite as good as it was’ Hotel Rila, opened in 1962 for the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party and subsequently under constant monitoring by the Safety & Security Directorate. If you like the smell of stale cigarettes, running water that tastes of cigarettes and décor discoloured by cigarettes, then this is the hotel for you. The place certainly has character. It also 24 hour techno music from the club below it, beds that could double for KGB torture contraptions and large biting bugs to share those beds with. I wonder if previous guests Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova enjoyed their stay? I imagine there wasn’t a Sheraton just round the corner back then as an alternative, which is where half the Quokkas checked into the following day. I took my chances with the two way mirrors and bed bugs.

    We meet up with Bowtie Killer at the McMurphy’s bar. Conan arrived early, something about being concerned that Ronnie might drink all the beer before he got there.  We are informed that pints cost three Bulgarian Levs and that Conan’s cheeky grin had earned him an extra half from Nicola the waitress. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that that was the happy hour offer. Instead we join him and focus on watching England take the convicts to the cleaners, yet again.

    Keep the noise down chaps

    The beers start to go down well, but our merriment at England closing in on ODI victory was momentarily curtailed by a menopausal local who informed us that she “wished to enjoy her last five minutes in the establishment by drinking her coffee in relative peace.” Chastised like schoolboys for being too loud in an Irish sports bar, during happy hour. You couldn’t make it up. Eighteen more beers please barman!

    England’s win and Maxwell’s wonder catch put us all in the mood for our own forthcoming international ODI [I’m still waiting for the actual international caps to be presented to me by the way] but as everyone knows, hydration is critical in top level sports, so as has become traditional we search for a rock music bar to gain that much needed lubrication.

    The Rock’n’Rolla Bar turned back the clock to 2001, with vodka red bulls and Jägermeister’s aplenty, all served to us by the lovely Nicola whilst we laze in large brown velvet armchairs. Having discovered it was an hour wait for our turn on the karaoke we moved on to another bar whereupon The Egg dropped a tray of spirits. That was something we saw a lot of on this tour. 

    Despite having our confidence boosted by Tequilas recycled from said tray, in the absence of the Verger there seemed little interest in a mano-e-mano. With my top trumps drinking prowess still stuck on 5, I certainly wasn’t going to chuck my hat into the ring. However, I did take Binman’s bet that he’d score more runs than me over the course of the tour. Just how much is 50 Lev worth exactly? Whatever, it’s easy money.

    As we moved into the witching hour the tour party became split depending on which vice they preferred. Those that did head back to the hotel probably wished they hadn’t bothered. A lack of air conditioning (requiring open windows) and thunderous house music from outside meant that sleep was nigh on impossible. Those that had regarded sleeping as cheating, made it back just in time in time to see the sun rise, taking in a breakfast of champions, within the hotel casino.

    Match 1

    sofia-tour3A hastily rearranged start time enabled us to arrive fashionably, rather than ludicrously late.

    The pitch was located deep within a very large sports complex being utilised predominantly by a large number of discuss throwers, sex unknown. We eventually found the cricket pitch hiding behind a one-hole golf course and in the world’s shortest driving range. A muddy outfield brought back memories of Corfu, but helmets rather than snorkels would have been more useful for those fielding in the ever so slightly uneven outfield. The track itself was of the concrete variety, covered in an old Subbuteo felt pitch and was perfectly positioned to avoid the pylons and overhead power lines that cut through the ground. 

    As is customary we fielded first, starting brightly, but as hinted earlier, catches were dropped at regular intervals. Binman made sure everyone knew who it was that was dropping the next one by shouting his name loudly just before spilling it. Mind you he should have been applauded for his efforts compared to others. One skied chance saw Evil Dave run almost 40 yards before making a valiant, but ultimately failed diving effort, only to find that it had landed less than five feet from where Ronnie had been standing all along. I myself joined in on the act, albeit dropping a particularly difficult chance that came directly out of the sun [Ed: what a load of bollocks. A tame hit saw Chez hightail in the opposite direction with his arms waving in the air and screaming like a girl] which despite my Maxwell-sharp-like-thinking couldn’t be taken over my shoulder at the mere guess of where it might land.

    sofia-tour2Our ranks were supplemented by locals Ivo and Evgeny, who do pretty much all of our fielding. Out in the deep Evgeny, resplendent in a wonderfully ill-fitting new Quokkas jersey struggled a little to prevent boundaries as he kept slipping on his own shirt. We do eventually take some wickets, I’ve no idea how, but with my good-self brought on for a few overs of pie throwing, the scoreboard tickled over nicely.

    The home team eventually make 152 from their 20 overs which, with an incredibly unrewardingly slow outfield felt like quite a tough ask. We start badly, struggle in the middle and the less said about the end the better. Actually, whilst Ronnie was in and finding the boundary on a regular basis we looked likely victors, but once his wicket fell the run rate came to a standstill. One noticeable dismissal was The Yak, first ball without facing, but I can’t tell you who scored what, as I was firmly concentrating on Binman’s tally. Thankfully it was paltry, but still saw him taking a three run lead in our bet. We eventually fall short of our target by 20 and go one down in the series.

    Match 2

    sandal-shoeThe lunch break is short, but it does offer just enough time to discuss the virtues of a high healed white and patent silver trainer shoe sandal. With lunch quickly over we are straight into the second match, this time against a Bulgarian Youth XI. Sadly we are another man short as the heat, combined with a bad pint (or 14) gets to The Yak, who had turned a wonderful shade of green.

    We bat first and get off to a very slow start, failing to trouble the scorers in the first four overs. We lose wickets before Binman and I steady the ship, but with our strike-rates lower than the late Runako Morton, there is a concern we might not have enough runs. The Quokkas are rescued as we both lose our wickets in quick succession, but not before I demonstrate what Plan-F might have looked like: “yes, no, yes, wait, maybe, no, yes…noooooooo, shit, sorry Egg.” Thankfully Snoop puts our slow progress to shame, effortlessly striking the ball over the boundary, which enables us to set our hosts a reasonable 148 to win. Most importantly I have opened a 15 run lead over Binman.

    As we take to the field again the Quokkas mean business. We grab wickets at regular intervals and can even offer one young opponent a second chance. Strangely Skip decides to run him out the very next ball, albeit in brilliant style. That’ll learn him Skip. The young Bulgarian players are confident, but seem intent on running each other out at every opportunity. It’s time for some coaching from two of our leading running between the wickets experts – Zoolander and Skip. With lots of arm movements from our coaches, and plenty of nodding and smiling from the pupils, the quality of coaching is immediately apparent as after the very next ball both batsman find themselves standing next to each other at one end.

    Having got into the tail, victory is within our grasp, but we still have to get their best batsman out, who by now is well set. With two overs remaining they need 21 to win, which they look likely to get. The Egg has other ideas, for once taking the pace off the ball to great effect, and with support from Evil Dave in the last over sees us home. The Quokkas win by 12 runs and we are all square after two games.

    We immediately make a start on rehydrating with some magically appearing Zagorka beers. On the return to the taxi rank The Yak shows us how he earned his name and is laughed at by a small child.

    Anyone want chips?

    In the evening we dine with a selection of expats including Mat, who has got a pass out from his wife despite him recovering from a hernia operation. The 180 page menu before us would have Gordon Ramsey fuming, but we are starving, so waste no time and order several meat platters before tucking into Priest’s wife party, a rabbit with expired shooting license and several other wonderfully name dishes.

    Our hostess Nicola serves us homemade red wine, which washes down a superb selection of cakes, before we all try to justify why we shouldn’t get fines. Our debating skills are as suspect as our cricketing skills, so the bottle of Bulgarian brandy, aka Rakia, is polished off in record time. Binman tries to pass off his water as Rakia, probably to ensure he is fresh enough to claw the runs back tomorrow, but Skip’s having none of it. That’s another fine.

    Just as desert is being polished off Zoolander orders himself five portions of chips and makes a reasonable effort of finishing all of them. The remaining portion follows him around for the rest of the tour.

    quokkas tour3-2The Rakia is supplemented by a beer or two at a fashionable bar before we ignore our waitress Nicola’s advice not to go to the Biad Disco Bar. Doorman tax paid, we find that the venue is packed to the brim full of cigar smoking gangsters who have come to see Bulgarian’s third most famous pop-folk singer. Emilia delights the enthusiastic crowd with quite literally hundreds of songs that sound exactly the same taken from anyone of her eight studio albums. Everyone except us knows every single lyric. We don’t stick out…much.

    quokkas tourWe lose half the Quokkas as they seek selfies with Emilia. Skip then makes a Bulgarian faux pass by buying Coca-Cola, which sees a local grab the bottle and smash it on the bar in front of him. I befriend the Bulgarian Tony Soprano (this really is him in the photo) who has a bottle of Jameson on the go. His bodyguard looks uneasy as I offer them a drink, but it breaks the ice and I’m free to select whatever mixer I like. Our attempts to place our glasses on a half empty table has another Emilia enthusiast keen to impart some old fashion Bulgarian hospitality, so we take a safe haven next to a six foot eight bouncer on the toilet paper covered dance floor…don’t ask. Egg later describes the Biad Disco Bar as amongst the scariest places he’s ever been to and we did well to get out in one piece.

    Match 3 – ODI

    sofia-tourThe next morning it’s hot, very hot. The mud in the outfield has now turned to dust and 60 long overs beckon. Skip decides we need to sweat off the hangovers, so we are into the field. Somehow Skip, fresh from his thirty three minutes sleep opens the bowling, with Evil Dave in fine support. With a quickening outfield, 200+ looks highly likely, but some tight bowling and absolutely outstanding catching helps to keep us in the match. The break through comes from Skip and then the Yak grabs a wicket with Skip taking a beauty at slip. The quality of batsman doesn’t seem to falter, but just as they get themselves in, they are trapped like WizzAir passengers. We get into their tail and eventually bowl them out leaving ourselves needing 175 runs to win.

    Binman, desperate to overhaul my 15 run lead, sneakily volunteers to open and quickly takes the lead with some lusty blows to the boundary. To my horror he starts playing straight to the good ones and slaps the rest to the boundary. The scoreboard ticks over nicely and I start to regret fighting Skip and The Egg for 9, 10, Jack.

    At the other end Snoops batting form deserts him, Conan smashes the ball to the boundary, before getting out and we get a chance to see a double teapot, albeit for just a few overs. Eventually the tiring Binman plays round a straight one, but not before taking a 19-run lead and a sizeable chunk out of the overall total. There may not be enough runs left for me.

    By now Ronnie has entered the fray. I particularly like his energy saving running between wickets. His technique is to `run’ (it’s a walk really, with a bounce in it, like a dressage pony rider) the first half incredibly slowly so as to make absolutely sure that there is a need to complete the second half. But who needs to run singles when you are striking the ball to all parts of the ground? We are almost home, Ronnie only slowing down to tease the Quokkas crowd before the shout of “beer getting warm” sees him smash the winning runs. Binman is especially pleased as I am padded up, but not needed. 50 Levs is worth how much? 

    Fancy a few beers at Sainsbury’s

    We dine at the Saffron Indian Restaurant owned by our opponent’s skipper, Prakesh, and now proud owner of a too small Quokkas baggy cap. Afterwards we consider joining the hundreds of locals drinking beer immediately outside the local supermarket, but sadly we can’t see a space free amongst the shopping trollies. So, we head back to the bright lights of central Sofia for cocktails served by the delightful Nicola. Here we discuss Quokkas Ashes tactics, debate Estonia or Romania for a future tour and then out of the blue discover from Snoop that the absolute undisputed best supermarket curry is a Waitrose fish number. As fascinating as that conversation might have become, Skip spots the danger and suggests such talk is left to when Snoop and Zoolander are alone. Thank god, because I haven’t drunk enough Hotel de la Bradley red wine to endure that level of conversation.

    As always many thanks to Skip and everyone else (you know who you are) that helped to organise yet another fantastic tour. See you at the Annual Awards Dinner, where I look forward to supermarket curry reviews and details of where I can buy high healed trainer shoe sandals. I’m guessing my almost great catch should see me take the Bestest and Fairest award, so make sure that you attend.

    Dovizhdane!

    Chezaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

     

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