• It’s hardly surprising that the English like the Germans so much. Their love for football, sausages and beer very much mirrors our own and they have even embraced our game of cricket now too. With that in mind, what other reason would you need to join the quorum of Quokkas on this years’ tour of Hamburg? A quick straw poll to find out what tempted the others drew an almost universal “you’re not married with kids, are you Ches?” response. True, but despite lacking that additional motivation, I was no less keen to sample the world famous Reeperbahn, fish market and some of the finest Weizenbier known to man.

    PHOTO-2018-09-13-20-43-32Skip was so keen to get there that he selected the `Oh my god that’s early’ red eye flight from Heathrow, which meant a room at the Travelodge and a desperate search for culinary delights in Hounslow the night before. Whilst the Yak and Dac somehow found a Michelin star curry house, my search unearthed jam doughnuts washed down by a solitary Cobra.

    “Can anyone recommend a dish at the Travelodge restaurant?”
    “Yes, pringles”.

    At least the view from the hotel window was impressive.

    The pre-tour excitement and Yak snoring enabled me to get exactly one hours’ shuteye – the perfection preparation for a weekend where we normally envy the amount of sleep Navy SEALs get on their training courses. Things could be worse, you could be waiting for your passport to return from Her Majesty’s Government or worse still, forget where it resides completely.

    For those allowed to leave the country, the check-in was uneventful, but my request for balaclavas seemed not to resonate with the clubs’ hierarchy. Instead we took ownership of the latest piece of tour merchandise and the new `mug a granny’ Quokkas hoodies had us mistaken for oversized fans of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When matched with shorts, we presented ourselves as a group of boy scout leaders. To be honest, on the Reeperbahn no one bat an eyelid.

    PHOTO-2018-09-14-14-16-42With no time for the usual Irish breakfast send off, we prepared for the first game with Alpha beers and pina coladas at the fabulous StrandPauli bar. Sitting nicely on the edge of the River Elbe, the deckchairs, sand and lashings of late summer sun ensured the day flew by. Afterwards we took residency at a restaurant far exceeding our standard of attire and consumed our own bodyweight in veal schnitzel, warm potato salad and basil-flavoured gins. Has anyone got that taste of Basil out of their mouth yet?

    The tour party hit the streets of Hamburg and was soon bolstered by The Professor, Lockie and Evil Dave, who had somehow found his passport. Apparently, it was in the passport draw, next to Mrs Evil’s passport, in a passport holder with the word `Passport’ emblazoned on the front. He muttered something about Brexit, but after a bottle of Jagermeister had entered the bloodstream he seemed happy enough.

    Well lubricated, the group was keen to put their purposefully selected sequences of human movement on display. We made our way to the excellent Molotow Musikclub in search of the next Beatles and to the soundtrack of Franz Ferdinand, Tocotronic and Kraftklub  we spent several hours convincing the locals that tomorrow would be best spent watching the Quokkas dismantled in a field somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Despite best efforts and Kevin Keegan stickers offered as enticements I feared that would not be enough to convince anyone.

    It’s surprising how quickly tomorrow comes when you are having fun. Thankfully Michael D was on hand to provide us with some local grub (yes, according to my friend Wiki, burgers do originate from Hamburg) and that set us up nicely for the long day ahead.

    PHOTO-2018-09-15-14-48-08We were warmly welcomed by our hosts at the wonderful Sports Club THCC Rot-Gelb, but on a first glance it appeared that `one of the few grass wickets in Germany’ had metamorphosised itself into a coconut matting. Perhaps the long Indian summer was to blame. It appeared to have also affected the lush outfield, which didn’t quite replicate the lush bowling green advertised on their website www.cricket-hamburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/THCC-Ground_1500x520.jpg [the Chesney school of marketing in action right there]. Less than smooth outfields are the norm on tour, so we just got on with it. I moaned, obviously.

    As is customary, we sent the locals into bat (we always want to make them feel like they got a game) and initially we found the openers to be stubborn. However, Evil Dave continued his fine form with the ball by taking a brace of wickets. He really shouldn’t have bothered, as that just brought a talented Australian called Cam and the equally adept Murali to the middle.

    When we took drinks 15 overs and over 130 runs later, it looked like we were going to have our work cut out keeping things below 300. The combination of the square leg boundary located inside the fielding circle (which meant sixes were downgraded to fours – thank god for that aye Dac?) and some high-quality batting was proving problematic.

    PHOTO-2018-09-16-17-24-05Thankfully, Cam took pity on us and retired during the drinks break. Then when our new and extremely hyperactive Quokka, Jigger, brought a little more pace to the attack and we started to make inroads. Jigger eventually got Murali out and with the talent safely back in the hutch, Skip saw that the coast was safe and made a long-awaited bowling appearance. He, along with The Egg efficiently cleaned up the tail, with The Egg claiming the prize wicket of expat captain Andy. Despite this we still were set over 200 from our 35 overs. Have we got even close to that on a first day of a tour?

    Tea was a strange mix of cold toasted sandwiches and two absolutely wonderful cakes. I miss the days of a box of pork to be honest.

    It’s not often that a batsman acknowledges that he was probably out lbw and that didn’t happen here when our designated batsman for the tour, Milind, was triggered by Evil. Müllmann fell not long after, leaving him somewhat exposed in our annual runs challenge. Like our rivals, the real talent was at three, with The Professor finally deciding not to hide his bushel at nine, ten or jack, and showing us what he can do when he has upgraded from a piece of balsa to the clubs’ plywood Slazenger.

    PHOTO-2018-09-15-14-48-07We knew he played straight, but with the confidence hair highlights brings to a middle-aged man, he started to display a bit of flair in attack. Having seen off the openers he then picked off the bad ball and of course was resolute in defence when required. We had spent tea trying to construct the ultimate batsman out of the few genuine cricket shots from Quokkas players – it appeared the shoe-in-Guru-cover-drive was now under threat. Myself, Tom the Yak, Skip and Slick provided some support, but not nearly enough and just a little shy of his maiden Quokkas half century the Professor was out trying to move things along. In the end, even with 12 batsman we still didn’t come close, but most importantly we survived to fight another day.

    A delightful dinner provided by our guests, accompanied by a few sherbets and the shortest game of 21s in Quokkas history was the perfect kick start to the evening. I don’t recall too much about it, other than consuming lashings of beer and German death metal, an unusual arcade claw game that replaced soft toys with sex toys and having to suffer the appalling Codeko remix of MGMT’s Kids {Ed: I’ll pass on adding that link] at the titty twister bar night club. For those with insomnia, the fish market completed the evening, with a blues band entertaining the revellers and fishmongers alike.

    It felt like my head had hardly hit the pillow when the call went out to be in the lobby for the taxis back to the Sports Club THCC Rot-Gelb for the second game of the weekend. Lidl and Michael D saved the day, providing us with enough sugar to bring on type 2 diabetes. My 18 trips to the toilet during the day suggested that either I have the smallest bladder in the world or that that ship has already sailed. I digress.

    PHOTO-2018-09-15-18-16-51With the batting order reversed, The Egg and Evil strode out to the middle, with Fruiti following them into the middle shortly afterwards. He and Evil Dave proceeded to put on a fifty partnership, finding the short square boundary especially appealing. After a short cameo from Jigger that saw him take on their quickie, Dac was in and looking to avoid a pair. He was going well until Müllmann sent him back to the hutch. Dac claimed he middle it, but Milind’s video of the shot in question was inconclusive.

    The fast bowler called Bai was too good for Lockie and myself, but Skip stood firm and with Tom the Yak in support played an excellent captain’s innings, scoring a very swift half century and eventually carrying his bat. 180 looked a little short, but with a completely new bowling attack at Skip’s disposal, Murali tucking into far too many beers and no sign of the German Ladies National Team captain, we were confident.

    PHOTO-2018-09-16-15-50-13Milind and Müllmann opened the bowling, one ever so slightly more accurate than the other, but the pair combined well, restricting our opponents to 25 for 1 from the first nine overs. Murali, now into his fifth larger top, demonstrated exactly why you shouldn’t drink and drive kids, showing absolutely none of the exquisite timing from the day before. You can’t take liberties like that when The Egg is bowling and he duly claimed his wicket during another excellent spell. That was proceeded by The Professor substantiating his all-rounder status, with a terrific six over spell of line and length bowling claiming three wickets.

    PHOTO-2018-09-17-10-17-40With us cruising to victory there was enough leeway to bring me on. Right on que the prementioned Tina turned up and began dispatching me into the tennis courts. Fortunately, she began to run out of partners and in an attempt to win the game single handed, The Yak had her caught on the long on boundary. With a nipper to bowl at, I looked far more comfortable and eventually got one to land somewhere near the wickets and the game was ours.

    A trip to Germany would not be complete without some pork knuckle and we rounded off the tour with dinner at the Schoppenhauer restaurant. The non-vegetarian’s within the party were more than impressed with the menu and we proceed to eat our way through half a hundred weight of meat. With tour fines handed out, Professor acknowledged as best on tour and a keg of beer drunk, it was time to hit the bright lights of Hamburg one last time.

    A short uneventful flight back aside, that was pretty much that for the 2018 Quokkas Tour of Hamburg. All I can say is that once again it was brilliantly organised (thanks to anyone that helped with that), great fun to participate in and I can heartedly recommend it to any husband and or/father. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, I moved 2-1 ahead of Müllmann in our usual runs challenge. At his age you have to wonder if he will be back next year. I know I will.

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  • Quokkas 171 all out (Faggie 52, Kashif 28) beat Coldharbour 140 for 9 (Evil 5 for 12)
    It’s funny how a long summers night in Southsea can sometimes pan out. One minute you are getting a Rastafarian education from MC Ras Kayleb and tripping the light fantastic with light minded souls to the sounds of the Channel One Sound System, the next you are observing the four Jovian moons rotating around Jupiter from my back garden, doing the `Pepsi challenge’ with 27 variates of gin and discussing how poets possibly make a living. Surprisingly, our blind testing established that Tesco own brand tonic water was preferable to Fever Tree, the hipsters favourite, only Mrs Ches’ well proven pallet could identify overpriced gin and I’m afraid it will have to be answers on a postcard as to how poets keep the wolves from the door.

    Poetry is certainly not one of my specialist subjects and I do feel that a lack of appreciation of the art undermines my culture vulture credentials; apparently attending a computer science lecture in the Hull University Philip Larkin building doesn’t constitute taking in the arts. With ample exposure to the wonderful Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah and Roger McGough, it’s now hard to understand why I didn’t continue to embrace phonaesthetics, sound symbolism and metre as I entered my teens. John McCrae’s ode to Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, in Flanders Fields certainly left in indelible mark, but after years of `clearing the fluff out from under your bed’, the serious stuff perhaps just left me yearning for more `chocolate cake’…ah, thank god, or should I say Jah, for that, I was wondering how I was ever going to transition from my usual ramblings into an actual Quokkas match report.

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    Coldharbour 2018. Less cloud than last year

    Where there is cake there are Quokkas and based on previous visits to Coldharbour, a sizeable chocolate cake would be the very minimum to expect from the outstanding teas. That meant, to no surprise, that we had a full quorum of hungry Quokkas available for the final game before the forthcoming tour of Hamburg. And some even arrived on time, but not Skip (who’d of thought the M25 could ever get busy Skip?) which thus allowed Faggie, desperate to give himself the opportunity to surpass Alex’s double hundred on this ground, to make his way to the middle before putting us into bat. That certainly seemed a smart move as The D.O.C. and Lochie thrashed 13 runs off the first 5 balls, showing there were runs available, and with Lochie falling to the sixth ball he (Faggie) was quickly at the crease. Which is where he stayed for the next 16 overs, quite literally destroying the last of our club match balls as he dispatched it to all quarters of the ground when racing to a splendid 50. The measured innings, fuelled by diabetes in bar form, included some terrific cuts, pulls, the odd smash and surprisingly to all some decent running too, all be it for his own runs. At the other end, The D.O.C. did his best to put Plan F into action and he and Skip made some nice contributions before Kashif took up the reigns and demonstrated some wonderful cut shots of his own, and some slightly less conventional leg glances.

    At 102 for 3 we looked well set to post a defendable target, but there would be no fun in that, hence Tom, myself, Fruiti and Dave all committed harakiri in quick succession, leaving us at 141 for 9. It was unclear whether the Professor, sporting Kajagoogoo inspired highlights and a £12.99 balsawood harrow bat, still retains a master and thus did not need to perform seppuku, but he and Matt, our resident Soccer AM presenter, refused to emulate us lemmings and ensured the tail wagged firmly. Some crisp hitting from Tubes and fine stroke play from The Professor provided us with much entertainment and runs to boot with the scoreboard reaching a much healthier 171 before The Professor eventually fell on his sword to a fine caught and bowled.

    Over previously mentioned chocolate cake, cream scones and a rather amazing blackberry topped sponge, we discussed the possibility of Bishop Charles H Ellis III joining us on tour to provide tips on appropriate personal space, questioned if you can identify crisp flavours without the use of smell and contemplated whether the world’s all-time best all-rounders would beat the world’s all-time best specialists. Personally, I struggled to decide who made the specialists team. I guess you have to include Glen McGrath to keep the natives quiet, but in attempting to avoid completing a quartet of fast bowlers just with West Indians, I did think about a swing bowler like Anderson to take advantage of any overcast conditions. However, can you really pick the Burnley Express over someone like Sir Curtly Ambrose KCN? If you are looking for someone with over 400 wickets at an average under 21, then Curtly’s your man, but I should point out that Jimmy actually has four more five wicket hauls (26 in total), all be it from 44 more tests.

    The Claw!

    Up until Sunday, over the same 15-year cricketing career, Evil Dave had yet to claim a single five wicket haul of his own, but perhaps that was down to him not bowling over thirty thousand deliveries and more importantly because it has taken a while to master the `claw’. Cleverly undisguised and completely visible and ridiculously obvious to batsman, this new delivery looks set to revolutionise the world of medium to slow seam bowling, by, well, somehow completely bamboozling those same batsmen. Whether that is true or not, I am unsure, but it certainly proved very effective as Evil Dave wrote himself into the Quokkas record books with a quite outstanding spell of seven overs, five for 12. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he also brilliantly caught two of those batsmen himself. Such a devasting bowling display all but ensured the match result, especially when it was backed up by The Yak (four overs for just seven runs) and The Professor (1 for 26 from 7 overs). Some buffet bowling from Tubes and myself kept it interesting, but the damage had been done and with decent cameos from Fruiti, Kashif and Faggie the victory was ours.

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    Evil takes home the match ball

    It would be remiss of me not to mention one of the finest over the shoulder running catches you will ever see by the Yak, dare I say it; poetry in motion, which was in stark contrast to Skips `effort’ shortly after, which combined tectonic plate speed of movement with the agility of a concrete bunker. When it comes to effort there can be no faulting Lochie, who chose to completely ignore all available medical advice by diving around in the field shortly after a hernia operation – they must be making these soft Australian’s out of firmer stuff these days.

    I believe now would be a good time to kick start the Quokkas poetry corner.

    Fast bowlers
    Fast bowlers seem so hostile after beating my edge
    They come striding down the wicket with a Paddington stare
    I think deep down that they yearn to be batsman
    I know, let me demonstrate a perfect front foot defence
    I’m sure that batting education will be appreciated

    Peace and Love. Rastafarian. See you in Hamburg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • It was very warm.

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

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

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

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

    Their number 8 scored 99 off 50 balls.

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

    We lost.

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

  • Whalers 165-7 (Faggie 2-11, Dac 2-22) lost to Quokkas 251-4 (Faggie 125no!, Ches 64)

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    Whenever I spend Christmas day with my family and find myself losing yet another game of Trivial Pursuit, I am mindful of the famous Jimmy Ormond response to Mark Waugh’s sledge during the 2001 Ashes series, when he said: “at least I’m the best player in my family.” As every sibling will tell you, that is one hell of a burn, because no matter how much you love one another, you still want to be better than them, at pretty much everything, all the time…especially when it comes to who is the more intelligent.

    My sister has distinct advantage over me when playing Trivial Pursuit. Red wine consumption doesn’t increase my general knowledge, solicitors tend to be quite clever and unlike myself, she doesn’t just think she knows everything, she actually does – except for the subject of geography, which is such an embarrassing blind spot, that even she has to swallow her pride and admit her nine-year old daughter is more competent.

    However, general knowledge quizzes are generally just the `prawn cocktail starter’ of the battle of wits on Christmas day. The `port and cheese course’ is all about winning arguments, be they political, social economic or anything really. I plant myself firmly on the opposite side to my sister in any argument, no matter what my beliefs are, just to try to prove I have the upper hand in that department. Unfortunately, this is another battleground I seem to be coming off second best these days. Where once I got away with half-truths and unprovable theories, stats or facts, I am now taken to task, not only by my sister, her husband and my other half, but now Alexa too. The `Anyone But Ches’ brigade I could handle, with relative ease, but how do you argue with a flipping database?

    Predictably, Christmas 2017 went badly. First, I barely won a cheddar, then I found myself at the non-stilton end of the dinner table, but worse still, I nonchalantly suggested that bears didn’t hibernate. On the face of it just a completely insignificant remark, something you’d hardly bat an eyelid over, but in the hotbed of Christmas day, this presented the ideal opportunity for the ABC to take me to task.

    “Of course bears hibernate, dipshit. What do you think they do all winter? Duh.”

    Bears hibernate? Really? Shit. Have I just made myself look like a complete wilderness novice and effectively excluded myself from all future nature arguments? Should I double up and bring polar bears into the equation?

    Sister: “Alexa…”

    Too late.

    “…do bears hibernate?”

    Like the accused waiting to hear the verdict from the court clerk, I turn and face the cylinder-shaped voice of death. There is a pause…a last second before innocence, or in my case credibility, is ripped to shreds.

    Alexa: “It is a common misconception that bears hibernate during the winter. While bears tend to slow down during the winter, they are not true hibernators. Black bears, Grizzly bears and Brown bears do go into a deep sleep during the winter months, known as torpor.”

    Hang on. What was that Alexa? Did you just say that bears don’t hibernate? I am pretty sure that’s what I heard. It appears that I haven’t become the Daniel Baldwin of the family after all and indeed it is I, Ches, that shall carry the smug grin of a James Ormond for the remainder of the festive period.

    “Bears don’t hibernate, they just take a bloody nap you bunch of Chris Packham `wannabies’. Oh, and while we are at it, Quokkas don’t hibernate either, unless the snow exceeds 10cm on Rottnest Island and that hasn’t happened for something like 20,000 years. So, there you have it, Ches officially wins Christmas 2018 you muppets.”

    And breathe.

    As you may be able to tell, it was a long old winter this year, with very few highlights, apart from the Quokkas presentation evening (Jordon stripping up to the waist during the karaoke didn’t really happen did it?), finally seeing Chekhov’s The Seagull and officially crowning Australia as the world’s most useless cheats (who’d of thought that if you shipped criminals, caught because they weren’t very good at committing crimes, half way round the world, leave them to breed on an Island for 230 years, they’d turn out to be underhand sportsman without the ability to conceal it). So, when the call went out for the first Quokkas game of the new season, never mind the fact I have developed tennis elbow, hardly moved from my work/armchair for six months and had promised to look after the niece/nephew that weekend (I hear Alexa is free), I was a `yes, count me flipping in Skip’. Eight other Quokkas came out of their hibernation to face the Whalers too and with a break in the rain and the standard three jumper weather nowhere to be seen, it was game on.

    With Skip, suffering from a torn calf brought on by excessive stretching to retrieve dropped cake, it fell to The Quokka’s most successful and tactically astute captain, The Egg, to lead us to victory.

    The End.  [Ed: Aye? What do you mean `the end’?]

    You really want me to wax lyrical for the next ten minutes about an Aussie breaking the Quokkas scoring record, getting two caught and bowled wickets and claiming the first five points in the bestest and fairest competition?  [Ed: When you put it like that…]

    I’m only kidding. When you’ve just witnessed an innings that requires Norris McWhirter’s attention, the last thing I’d ever want to do is gloss over it completely and just talk all about me for 934 words. So, let me try and picture the scene. For those Quokkas unable to frequent the Kings House Sports Ground on Sunday, what we witnessed was a complete and utter demolition of the Whalers bowling attack on what was a slow, tricky, pudding of a pitch. Pulls, drives, cuts, more drives, lofted drives, and some lofted right out of the park drives, all interspersed by some solid defence and shot selection, patient stroke play and for once, some half decent running too. Faggie, you may have been replaced by some random hipster on the Wren Kitchen adverts, but I can’t imagine Conor Short scored 125 not out (a new Quokkas record) this week. [Ed: at the time of going to press we are waiting to hear back from his agent]

    DSC_0461I was fortunate enough to watch a large part of the innings from the bowlers’ end [Ed: and helping towards a partnership of 171 runs, a new Quokkas record) and it was tremendous entertainment. Not just the sixes to long on and long off, but the timing of the cover drives too. Credit where credit is due, he got his head down, didn’t offer a chance throughout and thoroughly deserves this 161-word sarcasm free section of the match report. That part is now over though, which means I can stop gritting my teeth. Most importantly, from a Quokka point of view, this fabulous innings helped set a huge total of 251 (another new Quokkas record), giving us every chance of avoiding defeat.

    Without Skip, cake was plentiful, but having to brew your own cuppa from a teabag drew minus points from me. Over said tea we discovered that Binman would be in touring to Berlin on his own, there was a gout epidemic and there was some ludicrous notion that Ronnie had gone tea-total. As fun as it is to imagine Roland now spending his accumulated free time pottering about in the garden, building Airfix models or painting with watercolours, we had a game to win.

    Opening our bowling attack was The Attack, fresh from his self-imposed five-year sabbatical (he mentioned something about a marriage and kids). With a half tracker nearly taking the opening batsman’s head off and requiring Slick to scramble to 5th slip to prevent four byes, it was as if he never had been away. Once he found his usual `just short of just short of a length’, the first wicket became inevitable, with the opener caught in the covers. At the other end, to Slick’s relief, Hank bowled at the actual stumps and prospered when cleaning bowling the number 3. The third wicket soon fell, this time to Dac and again caught, leaving our opponents 49-3 after 14 overs and with considerable work to do.

    DSC_0455Unlike my family gettogethers there is not a lot of sledging of the opposition in Sunday cricket. It’s all very friendly and to be honest that exactly how we want to keep it. Sledging our own players is a different matter, and with no opportunity to slight Faggie’s bowling yet, I was left with no choice but to point out that Binman looked every bit of his 50 years when chasing one to the boundary. My superiority looked misplaced when later he had to assist me getting the ball back to the keeper from the same boundary due to my failing arm. I think it’s fair to say that we are not getting any younger as a team, but there was no lack of effort and a fair amount of skill showed by our opening bowlers. That continued when Jatin and Fruity came on to bowl beautifully, with both taking a wicket, including that of a very stubborn opening bat. But, with neither able to dislodge Khalil, who made a solid 50, Faggie came on and claimed two excellent caught and bowled wickets in his three over spell, to add to his fine century.

    With overs running out for the Whalers, The Egg increased the pressure by bringing himself on to bowl and he could have had several wickets, including a leg before that could only have avoided the stumps if it had gone under them. Not satisfied with bamboozling our opponents with his tunnel ball, Egg brought Binman on at the other end and he immediately found a rhythm. A slow one, granted, but an immediate length and line that troubled the batsman. I for one was disappointed to discover that we had completed our 35 overs and wouldn’t get to see more of the Binman’s bowling.

    The Whalers innings ended at 165 for 7 with the Quokkas earned themselves a fine victory. At this point I usually try to link the concluding text back to my opening section, but I’m no Mark Waugh and no matter how good Faggie’s innings was, I’m certainly not going to mention him in the same breath as Steve Waugh. Thus, I’d better insert something else, so here is my half-finished review of The Seagull, starring some fella called Jared. Bat, bowl, field, act. Is there anything this lad can’t do?

    Why a Seagull?

    With the play of the same name set by a lake, would a gull not be more appropriate, or perhaps some other bird completely? I find myself pondering this question for far too long, when really I should have been carefully considering the symbolism of Konstantine delivering the shot bird to his lover’s feet during act II. Perhaps something was lost in translation and The Seagull should actually be The Gull or maybe the sea bird just ventured inland and suffered tragic consequences. My failure to move on from this potential glitch threatens to ruin my enjoyment.

    For those unfamiliar with The Seagull, the first of Chekhov’s four major plays, it follows a Shakespearean look at unreciprocated love and tragedy. Tragedy is not something that tends to follow rejection these days and trying to empathise with Konstantine’s woes is a stretch for someone with only the memory of being ignored by the best-looking girl at school to work with. Despite unreturned infatuations, I struggle to appreciate the level of pain that leads to him taking his own life. That’s not to say that, after a rather nervy opening, a promising young Constantine didn’t bring some very realistic emotional toil and lost hope to the role, but in a `swipe left to see the next fish in the sea’ type world I found it very hard to place myself in his shoes.

    Jared_seagullFortunately, audiences don’t frequent the Theatro Technis for another dose of reality and although this comedic tragedy failed to inspire me into greater emotional awareness, my lack of compassion doesn’t prevent me from embracing this late eighteenth century classic. That is especially true when the production ventured to offer some much-needed humour, delivered delightfully by Semyon. But sadly, such occasions are too infrequent for my liking, although a lack of timing throughout may have hidden them from me. There is certainly erstwhile and genuine passion displayed by some of the ensemble cast at times, Arkadenia doesn’t hold back during arguments, but one or two conversations by Yevgeny and Pjotr are delivered without conviction and even lost behind the crackle of toffee wrappers being opened. Critically the performance flowed, with assured performances from Trigorin, Andreyevna and Nina, allowing the audience to be immersed in the inevitable love triangles that can be found at every turn.

     

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  • As I approached the end of my final year at one of the great universities (at least according to Captain Blackadder), I actually considered joining the forces, as an officer. I actually used to do some physical exercise back then and having met Mrs Ches several years earlier, I was already well accustomed to being told what to do. The one thing that held me back was the film Platoon, specifically Lieutenant Wolfe’s failure to gain any kind of respect from his three Sergeants. Critically he lacked knowledge and experience, which, when ambushing NVA close to the Cambodian border counts for a fair bit. In fairness it was actually Wolfe’s lack of character and incompetence that gave root to Barnes and Elias’ failure to recognise his leadership, but what I took away from the movie was that to lead well you had to have put the time in with the grunts before you could effectively lead.

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    Coldharbour on a lovely day

    Having played my first game for the Quokkas back in 2009, I think its fair to say that I have spent more than enough time with the grunts deep in the outfield, so when given the opportunity to repeatedly instruct  Faggie to move three feet to the left or right and stand with hands in pockets at second slip all day, like all good cricket captains do, I embraced the opportunity. Yes I’m talking about the Quokkas captaincy here (Skip second honeymooning in Venice – probably the only place with more water than Coldharbour) and after a very long and very hot summer chasing dispatched long hops, my time had finally come.  

    Said summer had started for me watching Pete Tong and Jules Buckley conducting the Heritage Orchestra perform Ibiza classics. It peeked when consuming a fourth bottle of bubbly on the Solent celebrating my mums 70th and when Evil caught the International Cricketer of the Year off my bowling. More recently the summer months have revealed the band IS Bliss (three Southsea shoegazers that amalgamate Adorable with The Verve – Storm in Heaven, pretty much everything I could ever want from a band) as well introducing me to Tesco’s Finest chorizo burgers. But with Virgin Media’s annual price hike letter received through the post and my car’s dual mass fly wheel seemingly on the wane after trawling around the M25 all season, Coldharbour CC, the final fixture on the Quokkas 2017 calendar, would seem to point to where it would end.

    As with Pete Tong’s musical collective, with the long summer sun on our back, the Quokkas have performed to a standard perhaps never seen before. Runs, wickets, even the odd catch have contributed towards a decent, if all be it condensed season of cricket. But now as the last game of the season approached, and with the weather emulating a Vietnamese monsoon, the question quickly became: can the Quokkas do it on a cold Tuesday evening in Stoke? Or should I say, a cold and very rainy Sunday afternoon in Coldharbour? When your Quokka blazer fits you snuggly due to the four jumpers, the opposing skipper comes out to bat in a gillet and post rain storm mist is so thick that the batsman can’t see the bowler at the point of delivery, you know the summer is all over. But the game still managed to provide a few more highlights to my summer.

    On discovering that I was to be the captain I immediately turned to my copy of Mike Brearley’s book “The art of captaincy”, to gain insight into the role. His talk of sacrifices and social cost were hardly inspirational and to be honest I’m more of a Jackie Moon type leader (Semi-Pro – check it out). As Jackie said, `I’m not really an X’s and O’s guy. I’m not a tactician. I’m more of a motivator in the classic sense of the word. You know, Lombardi, Charles Lindbergh, that nun over in India’.

    Which is just as well as I was quick to discover that the real challenge of cricket captaincy is getting a side out. Very much like Quokka calling, players are in, out, yes, no, maybe. It’s very much like herding cats only Quokkas are more slippery. Despite this, using my motivational skills and desperate pleas, I managed to rope in The Professor and gratefully accepted the offer of a spare Coldharbour player. Come wind, rain or more rain, the game was on.

    When you have just eight Quokkas available, the last Whatsapp message you want to read half hour before play is that Evil Dave and The Egg are still in St. Albans. It could be worse though, two further players could go completely missing, only to eventually reappear on the outskirts of Reading just as play is due to start. Acton, West London to Coldharbour Cricket Club, Surrey is about an hour and 20 minutes’ drive on a good day. It takes somewhat longer if you go via Cold Harbour, Reading, Berkshire though, as Kashif and his trusty `navigator’ Faggie discovered.

    I thought asking to borrow three Coldharbour players was taking the Michael, but I was now faced with the prospect of asking for seven. Fortunately, Coldharbour CC has a skipper named Beer, with a relaxed attitude to match, and with a deluge expected around 3pm, we agree a 20 over affair (anyone else instantly minded of the Kiwi and lemon flavoured fortified wine when 20:20 is mentioned) and he was happy for us to bat first.

    Having agreed on 20 overs, my immediate thought was that the shorter form of cricket brings with it risky batting and quick wickets. Not something you want when your scorer is padded up and the umpire is next in. I was also worried the innings would be half over by the time The Egg and Evil arrived, and the match completed by the time Kashif re-programmed his sat nav.

    Despite the earlier offer of a Coldharbour player to join our ranks, I found that they were all slightly reluctant to desert their team, but I tempted Dan by offering one of the opening batsman sots. He later informed me he was a bowler, but he certainly looked competent with the willow, providing us with the solidity we needed whilst garnering 42 runs carrying his bat over the full 20 overs. At the other end The D.O.C. started pretty slowly, offering the opener a maiden. I had informed the others of the reduced game length, right? But he was quite right to be cautious as the opening bowlers found a terrific line and were also gaining considerable movement through the air. Lesser players would have struggled to survive and once the opportunity arose the D.O.C. produced some of his effortless cover drives. 40 runs from the first seven overs was certainly a very good return and things were going, so well in fact that I almost forgot our lack of numbers, that is until a beauty of a ball clipped the D.O.C.’s off peg. Scorer, umpire and batsman musical chairs thus commenced.

    Tom the Yak was next in and he got off to a brilliant start, striking four fours from his first six balls and making light work of the slow track and very good use of the short straight boundary. The next six overs went for 43 runs, with both players demonstrating excellent timing and choice of shot.

    By the time Tom was bowled for 28, our ranks had swelled, allowing The Egg to grasp the scorers pencil and Evil Dave to stride to the middle. Keen to ensure the pace didn’t drop he immediately struck three more fours from his first five deliveries. The brutal attack continued with several trade mark smashes and a bludgeoned six that pretty much split the Slazenger Victorious ball in two. When bowled for 26, almost forty more runs had been added in just four and a half overs.

    Dan informed me as I made my way to the middle that a score of 150 to 160 was respectable. To be honest, I was just happy that we’d made it this far without losing the five wickets we had, but nevertheless we continued to attack. Following Dan’s lead, I pulled two short balls to the boundary and then sent a beamer over the club house roof. 15 from the over, followed by nine more in the next and then 19 from the last (including a big six to end the innings from Dan) took us to a very healthy 169 for 3.

    Keen to complete the game before the heavens truly opened, there were murmurings of an immediate turnaround, but a vast array of superb sandwiches, a proper cream tea and numerous iced cakes provided us with the perfect reason to delay proceedings. As the third scone went down the hatch, Kashif and Faggie duly arrived, which would save us from having to search for lost balls deriving from my lollypops. With the rain continuing to fall, we discussed the attraction of the Hamburg Reeperbahn, Wren Kitchen’s appalling radio advertisement and Gavin McAlinden’s next stage production. Fascinating stuff, but with the weather closing in we had a winning season to, er, win.

    Despite my desire to take all pace off the ball, a frustrated Faggie (not quite a car broiled Evil, but certainly a man ready to unleash hell) presented the ideal opening bowler up the hill. I immediately regretted not having a first slip in place to catch an edge off his second ball. As all woeful captains do, I reposition my field to where the ball just went, but my failings matter little as the opener is cleaned bowled by Faggie two balls later. At the other end, The Professor brilliantly clean bowls the number 2 bat, but he reminds us that we made the exact same start last year, only to find the real batting talent was down the order. Maybe this time it would be different and when my excellently placed first slip caught a gloved Faggie bouncer, it certainly looked that way.

    As the rain hammered down I was minded of a comment from Mrs Ches: “Do you cricketers not play in the rain because you are worried your little white outfits will become see through?”. She knows which buttons to push, but The Professor did start to look like one of Take-That in the Back for Good video [Ed: All respect for your musical taste instantly gone]. I digress.

    We were very much on top, so the perfect time to bring both Kashif and The Egg into the attack. Egg proved pretty much unplayable, taking two wickets [Ed: it could easily have been four], including having their skipper stumped from a beauty. Kashif, was equally unplayable and he also took the key wicket, sending it cartwheeling towards the D.O.C. in fact.

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    Cloud Cricket

    The only thing that could prevent us winning now was the weather. Not the rain I might add, we had now played through that, it was the thick mist [Ed: also known as Fog, but I concede that ruins the Gorillas/Quokkas in the Mist headline] that had enveloped us as the rained stopped and the temperature fell. Perhaps bringing Evil Dave on when visibility was down to five metres was not the smartest move on my part, but he had the good sense to take the pace off the ball. It was actually the fielders that were in the most danger and not from the ball either. The damp conditions made it increasingly hard for the batsman to keep hold of their bats as they tried in vain to smash Dave out of the ground. Time for another change of bowler.

    If you want someone to take the pace off the ball, there is no one better than Tom the Yak. I’d held him back long enough, but in a brief spell he completely cleaned up the Coldharbour tail and in doing so, saw us home to a marvellous 50 run victory. This captaincy lark is a doddle!

    OK, so I concede that my leadership skills may have had little bearing on the final result, but as the rain returned and we celebrated in The Plough over pints of Crooked Furrow I still concluded that it was a great experience and certainly another highlight of my summer. It’s certainly not easy though and my respect for Lockie and Skip in the way they bring a team together has increased immensely. That said, should I ever be asked to cover for Skip on yet another honeymoon I might choose to ignore Mike Brearley’s advice of `find someone else to captain’.

    See you all at the annual dinner/quokkarokeeMrs Ches is a lucky lady

    Ches

    (Statistically speaking, now the most successful Quokka skipper)

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  • 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.

    Tags: , , ,

  • Whalers CC 94 (Yak 4/15, Evil D 2/19) lost to Quokkas CC 117 (Ches 33, Faggy 24)

    I’m sure you’ve all heard of Gustave Whitehead, the German-born Connecticotian that was the first man to fly a powered plane in early 1903, right?  (Ed: Ches, are you not thinking of Wilber and Orville Wright?  Oh wow, 35 years on and I just realise the inspiration for Keith Harris’ dummy)

    Well OK, perhaps the Wright’s claim is stronger, but is that simply because it is backed up by the Smithsonian’s, fearful of having the historic flying machine removed from their museum should they ever recognise that an alternative was `capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight’ before the Wrights? Who knows, but Whitehead’s problem is not just down to the might of the Smithsonian’s PR machine, it’s more attributable to there being no creditable witnesses, no drawings, no photographs and the only reports available merely suggesting that he was a romancer and a supreme master of the gentle art of lying.

    I’m inclined to tell the odd fisherman’s tale now and then myself, so in a hundred years it will be seen as fortunate that, along with The Egg, the Quokkas scorebook made a welcome return last week, otherwise there might be some doubters as to the remarkable Quokkas bowing performance on Sunday. An opposing team skittled out for 94 and The Yaks seven overs claiming four wickets for fifteen runs are the sort of pie in the sky figures that Quokkas can usually only dream of, or lie about. However, unlike Gustave’s efforts, this incredibly unimportant moment in the history of cricket has been recorded for prosperity and available for the whole world to see. Well, at least until we lose the scorebook in Bucharest during some alcohol-fuelled escape and then we will have to rely on the memories of 10 aging and very biased cricketers.

    quokka_whaler2017

    This ball is not round

    I was reminded of the Wright’s and Whitehead’s fight to conquer the skies by the seemingly endless aeronautical battle between plane and helicopter that took place above our heads all afternoon on Sunday. Airbus 319 was followed by Bell407, Boeing 747-8s by Marenco SKYe09s and MD-11 by Robinson R44. Why anyone attends the Farnborough International Air Show when the Kings House Sports ground hosts the most comprehensive display of in service aircraft is beyond me. As distracting or entertaining these aircraft might be (which depends on how devoid of a personal life you might have), the accompanying overhead conditions had a much greater impact on the match as a whole. Vast sways of stratus and cumulus nimbostratus, combined with the typical Londinium July temperatures helped create the perfect storm for medium paced swing bowlers. Which is something I quickly learned as I edged a ball straight in and out of their keepers’ hands in the very first over.

    No, I’ve not missed anything out here. With only five Quokkas present at the toss and an important part of my brain located somewhere in a field in Hampshire preventing me from finding a suitable excuse, I was opening the batting for the first time since 1991. Although a team of five (two batsmen, two umpires and a scorer) is ample to get the game underway, quick wickets could seriously undermine the longevity of our innings. So, with the ashes dropped, so to speak (Ed: Don’t make me laugh), I was given free reign to demonstrate my full portfolio of leaves and blocks for an extended period. As a result, it was a painfully slow start, but in Slick and I’s defence, we were facing some decent late swing bowling. Said swing eventually did for Slick when attempting to move things along. The innings of The Yak, in at a lofty three, never really took off and he sadly fell in similar fashion to Slick. Our opponents smelt blood. Thankfully by now re-enforcements had arrived, but the scorer won’t have been unduly concerned as to whether he had packed a spare pencil sharpener as next in Skip was also quickly undone by the `swing’, or as Fruiti remarked, `playing down the wrong line’.

    quokka_whaler2017_binman

    Quokka daycare opens for business

    We seemed to be hovering on the edge of the abyss, but the one run an over scoring rate was given a shot in the arm by Faggie, dispatching several over-pitched balls through cover. This encouraged me to try to get the odd ball off the square myself and between us we added fifty with little incident.

    Three dots balls in a row were more than Faggie’s patience could bear though, which led to his downfall. As skip opined that “he could get out here”,  Fagster attempted a lofted drive to a ball he would have been better off blocking. After that, wickets fell at regular intervals, before a daddy day care outing provided Snoop with a rare opportunity to strut his stuff in the middle helping us propel past the hundred mark.

    We eventually finished 117 all out, which DOC felt was about 117 runs short – we would have our work cut out.

    banana

    food for crows

    Over tea, which included the finest chicken sandwiches I’ve had in a long time, we discussed the wind tunnel tests to determine the appropriate conditions for swing bowling performed by NASA aerodynamic scientist Rabi Mehta (maximum lateral force is experienced at 112kmph with seam at 200 to the bowling direction and a backspin velocity of 11 revolutions per second, if you are asking), Jarvis Cocker’s northern authenticity, the slow emergence of Pulp and whether the total volume of 100 shots of beer was greater or less than five pints. All fascinating stuff, but with Skip correctly concerned that the crows were consuming his banana left out on the pitch, we needed to get this flying circus back in the air.

    Low scoring affairs are usually the most exciting games and we often play our part in creating such affairs. Ensuring our opponents also participate obviously relies on finding a Quokka able to bowl three or four consecutive balls with similar line and length. Without that at his disposal, Skip settled on Evil Dave and The Yak, who, fresh from two weeks of NTPA tractor pulling events looked keen drag us back into the match. As dog lovers the world over know, `Friends don’t make friends wait in the car’, but a thirty minute `sauna’ in the back of Skip’s Audi provided the perfect warm up for Evil. Fired up and ready to burn his foe, Dave proceeded to bowl a truly terrible first over. Thankfully that was not indicative of what was to come, which as it turned out was excellent line and length stuff that continuously troubled the openers. At the other end, The Yak took the pace off the ball, enabling him to provide the accuracy needed to pin down the batsman. As pressure built, wickets fell, first one (Ed: that’s how it usually starts), then a second, a third…you get the idea. At 21 for 4 we seemed to be in the driving seat, but keen to sniff out any quality batsman hiding down the order, the two completed their spells, eventually taking 6 for 34 from 14 overs between them. A simply marvellous display of bowling that had left us on the verge of victory.

    Which was all but assured when Skip grabbed the key wicket with a super delivery caught beautifully by Faggie at first slip. Skip then showed some generosity to our opponents by bringing on Faggie, but even he managed to bowl a straight delivery which had the number 8 “plumb” in front. A late rally, including the first four of the Whaler’s reply from `Special K’, kept the Quokkas on their toes, but a wicket from the equally frugal Fruiti and the killer blow from a wonderfully flighted ball from The Egg, saw the Quokkas home to a famous victory.

    qantas

    Giant Quokka seen rampaging at Heathrow!

    The drive home would now fly by, but beforehand 7-up shandies all round gave the Quokkas the chance to discuss Qantas’ inevitable sponsorship of the Rottnest tour – the airline having recently named one of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners after us. The opportunity to host Ronnie’s attempt on David Boon’s drinking record is bound to lift them to the upper echelons of aviation world.

    Aviation has come a long way since Clément Ader’s managed to gain significant distance, but not altitude, in his self-propelled aircraft in 1890 and the Quokkas seem to have progressed nicely too since being bowled out for 23 and losing by 236 runs during their first season. Three wins, one draw and a solitary defeat would normally be seen as very unQuokka-like, but in a season where Quokkas are flying so high they threaten to give NASA a fright (sorry Mr Ashcroft) maybe we have found our level. See all of you highflyers at Luton Airport…

  • 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

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Recent Comments

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