• 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.

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    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.  

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    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.

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    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!

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

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

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

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  • 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

  • Leigh CC 266  (Kanna 3-38, Jordan 2-45) beat Quokkas 209-9 (Jordan 101no, Evil 29) by 57 runs

    Cricket fans in Leigh, Lancashire, take to every vantage point possible to see the Quokkas.

    Cricket fans in Leigh, Lancashire, take to every vantage point possible to see the Quokkas.

    Whilst Ed Sheeran was preparing for the most underwhelming Glastonbury headline performance since Shakespear’s Sister were unbelievably given top bill on the Pyramid stage ahead of The Breeders in 1992, the Quokkas were offering their own brand of mediocrity (Ed: Jordan apart) in the form of batting, bowling and fielding against Leigh Cricket Club. Like me, you are probably all aware that Leigh is the only town mentioned twice in KLF’s song `Grim up North’, so you will have been somewhat surprised to see the venue listed on a Quokkas fixture list. Fortunately, we gave Wigan’s ugly neighbour a miss and ventured into the Surrey countryside instead. And what a cracking cricket club it is too, not that having a fully functional bar-b-q and beer on tap would sway my assessment in any way.

    I’ve often wondered how the Quokkas T20 side had become the 63rd best in the world and now I know why. The Quokkas are evidently bolstered by a smattering of some of the best Leigh Cricket Club players. Or to put it another way, there is just enough Quokkas representation to ensure that the Leigh T20 side don’t have to travel to Champions league games abroad…yet. Whichever way you want to describe it, there is a fair degree of crossover between the Quokkas and Leigh, which we were thankful for on Sunday, as we failed to muster 11 players again, with Kanna and friend Euwie supplementing the eight Quokkas on duty.

    Fully knowing the task at hand, and with the loss of Garlic Bread from our bowling attack due to illness (all be it offset by Faggie being unavailable) Skip lost the toss for the 88th time in a row and we were out in the field. We opened the bowling with Euwie (or EU as I mistakenly called him all afternoon) and Evil Dave, fresh from 33 minutes sleep, in support down the hill. With 34 runs conceded from our first four overs (Ed: Just the 2 runs coming from the EU overs. Just saying Evil. Don’t hung draw, quarter, burn and terrorise the messenger), Skip quickly turned to The Mouth, who helped to reign the batsman in, with some proper spin bowling.

    The highlight of a decent first spell was to eventually dislodge Alex via an Anthony Rizzo-David Ross type juggling extravaganza from the D.O.C. After blazing his way to 69 in short time, there was genuine fear in Skip’s eyes at the thought of another 20 overs of Alex hitting. So much so he seriously considered a `pile on’ to help prevent any video ref from identifying a potential drop. Thankfully it stuck, in the knee roll of his pad, just.

    Skip himself then came on to bowl and continued his good form by clean bowling the other opening bat. One had become two, but it didn’t become three until the 31st over, whereupon early `bestest and fairest’ contender, Jordan, grabbed two wickets in four balls. By then the score had moved on to 196 for 4, but the 40 over format meant the home side still had time to pile on the runs. Thankfully a returning Kanna and Evil, refreshed from chasing balls to the boundary from my spell, claimed four wickets between them to ensure the score didn’t accumulate to Sri Lanka Tour-like proportions. A rare spell from Bow Tie also helped `restrict’ the home side, but chasing down 266 would be `challenging’.  

    In the field, we offered our usual array of enthusiasm, determination and obvious lack of talent. Conan seemed naked without the gloves, blaming the wind for his failure to catch a skier. Shub blamed his `inability to catch’ for his inability to catch a dolly. Actually, Shub seemed to be like some sort of ball magnet, albeit not a very strong one, perhaps something more akin to one of those novelty items you buy on holiday that you can barely use to pin a takeaway menu to the fridge (and with that a nickname is born: Fridge Magnet).

    Unlike most of us old-timers, Jordan seemed keen to put his body on the line, helping to prevent a series of long hops from me being smashed for four. Needless to say, Locky’s bloodhound ability to find a lost ball came in very useful throughout the afternoon. Satan really liked the Berberis Thunbergii Atropurpurea hedgerows surrounding the boundary that encouraged fielders to stop the ball or risk being ripped to shreds retrieving it. Evil.

    A vast tea, without the merest hint of fruit or vegetable, perhaps lacked the je ne sais quoi of a Wantage spread, but more than made up for it in terms quantity of pork pie. As a frequent visitor to the top table for seconds and thirds I have only one word to describe it: tremendous.

    The Guy Jones Library, Leigh CC

    The Guy Jones Library, Leigh CC

    During the break in play we tried to establish what the initials `SP’ stood for that were embossed on an old bat taking pride of place in The Guy Jones Library.  We also discussed IBM’s secret nuclear bunkers and the US’ decision to land on the moon having realised that nuking it would be too complicated, questioned how someone that doesn’t like pork pie can be allowed to captain a cricket club and briefly pondered the merits of writing for Plastics and Rubber Weekly magazine. Fascinating stuff, but we needed to knock those runs off quickly to ensure that we could catch at least one or two of Ed’s songs about Lego and the A-team (god, give me strength. George Formby has more stage presence).

    Jordan and Locky strode out confidently to the middle, but the Aussie openers were to have differing days with the bat. Three balls into the innings and our task became somewhat harder when Locky was caught out having top edged a climbing delivery as he looked to pull. The Bow Tie Barbarian was next in, fresh from his dazzling display on the main stage, but both openers were pinned down by some high-class bowling.

    One run scored from the first five overs gives you an idea of what we were up against, but both batsman showed great patience and fortitude. The runs eventually came. Five of them to be precise, before Conan’s desire to smash became too much to bear, edging a decent delivery though to the keeper. A hard task had therefore escalated into one comparable with deciphering what Tom Yorke was mumbling on about on Friday. The D.O.C. soon followed, whereupon Kanna was welcomed to the square with the kind of respect a deserting captain is normally offered. The shouts of `rabbit’ were still heard echoing across the ground as he sent an uppish drive straight to mid-on, who promptly `dropped the ashes’. His reprieve was not to last long, as he was “triggered” by D.O.C. when caught in front of all three stumps. The innings of Shub, EU and Skip also came and went too quickly, the latter not seeing his first ball of the season go through the gap and take off peg.

    Only Evil hung around, showing a total lack of respect for anything short, slightly short, just behind a length, on a length and indeed full, but was eventually out and when I was run out at the non-strikers end a few overs later it looked like all was lost. Fortunately, as we were a man short, Skip was given a second chance, which was to prove crucial. Not in attempting to win the match, I must point out, by now that ship had sailed, but in ensuring that Jordan had enough partners to see him home to his century.

    What I like about Wikipedia is its comprehensiveness. Take for example its description of `one hundred’: “100 or one hundred, is the natural number following 99 and preceding 101.” Thanks Wiki. I can’t wait to expand the Quokkas knowledge by shoehorning that nugget into my match report.

    Of course, I needed to research the word `century’ because it’s not something someone like me, with an average of less than 10 thinks about much and of course due to a wonderful innings from Jordan, our latest Australian `recruit’. Which gives me the perfect opportunity to impart onto those unfamiliar and yet to use it, the Quokkas the impressment programme. It’s not part of the official Quokkas cricketing handbook, but when tendering for a possible new player it goes something along the lines of:

    Don’t argue, you are going to Bucharest on tour, whether you like it or not

    Don’t argue, you are going to Bucharest on tour, whether you like it or not

    Current Quokka: “Where ya from mate?”

    Future Quokka: “Sydney, stralia”

    Quokka: “Nice. Play cricket?”

    Future Quokka: “Well, not since…”

    Quokka: “Great. You’re in.”

    Future Quokka: “Oh…er, righto mate.”

    Quokka: “Bat?”

    Future Quokka: “Well…er, I guess I used to bat a little…’’

    Quokka: “Great you can open. Bowl an ‘all?”

    Future Quokka: “Well, er, I’m more of a ba…”

    Quokka: “Nice. We need a good strike bowler. See you tomorrow at 12.”

    Future Quokka: “Er, righto mate…”

    It’s not often you get to witness a Quokka century, (from the latin centum and the roman numeral C, by the way). Skip of course found some bowling he liked in Sri Lanka, but before that it was Mantis, probably against some under 11s side, and you’d have to be as old as Binman to remember that.

    What was most impressive was his ability to not just pick the bad ball (frequent any Quokka net and you can learn pretty much everything you will ever need to know about shit bowling there), but to spot the good ball when it came. There were quite a few of those early doors, with the openers being of a high standard. As the bowlers were rotated there were a few more opportunities to score, but the art to a long innings, so Binman tells me, is being able to defend the good ball when it comes along.

    (Ed: Sorry, I need to pause here whilst I regain my composure. Just the thought of Smithers providing batting advice has me laughing.)

    “Yeah, I batted a bit at school.”

    “Yeah, I batted a bit at school.”

    That’s not to say that the Quokkas and I didn’t appreciate the fine stroke play both through the on and offside. There were some fine hits and even a spread field was unable to prevent 14 fours. I can’t recall him ever looking in much trouble or offering more than the hint of a chance, except when he played too bloody straight leading to my run out. I think the only concern was whether he would run out of partners and then overs, with Skip doing his best to steal the strike towards the end.  

    He didn’t and having scored 40 not out in the first game and now 101 not out, his infinity batting average is going to make him a tough card to beat within Quokkas Top Trumps (not sure `Buzz Lightyear’ is going to stick Skip, but a third not out in a row and who knows). Thankfully, he only has a 1% chance of being able to play next week, so see you at Imperial Sports Ground on Sunday. You’re opening the batting and bowling.

    Oh, before I forget, let me allow Tony Greig to provide you with the answer to our earlier cricket bat brand quiz:

    tonyGreig

    My thanks to Leigh CC and Kanna for arranging the game. The drive back over the South Downs was fantastic and I look forward to the fixture next year.

    Ches

    Tags:

  • Wantage&Gove CC 133 (Skip 4/12, Ches 3/35) lose to Quokkas CC 134 for 0 (Faggy 78no, Yak 28no) by 10 wickets

    starwars2

    Despite the tremendous victory for the Quokkas in the opening game of the season, my mind wasn’t really on cricket last week. Instead it was focused on creating a fancy dress costume for my nephews Star Wars-themed 7th birthday party. In all honesty, I’m not one for fancy dress. All that effort for a two second acknowledgement that you indeed are dressed something like a famous person or character is not for me. However, a few years ago I did seriously consider entering the birdman challenge dressed as Wedge Antilles and jumping off the end of the Worthing pier in a Papiermâché X-wing fighter. I came to my senses of course, but not before Mrs Ches [who as I recall seemed very keen to see me to risk my neck for her amusement] had acquired an orange boiler suit and motorcycle helmet from ebay, which would form the basis for that costume. Thus, I was already half way there with an outfit, just the chest box, strapping, flight vest and helmet decals to focus my attention on.

    Pull out wedge, you're not doing any good back there

    Pull out wedge, you’re not doing any good back there

    As you can see I looked a right plumb, but having been run ragged by a bunch of seven-year old Jar Jar Binks, the movie was still very much on my mind as I travelled up north (as us members of the Peoples Republic of Southsea refer to Oxford) for the second match of the season. My car doesn’t quite make the leap to hyperspace these days, so on the long journey to Wantage I started to ponder whether there were any similarities between the Star Wars characters and the current Quokkas – I know I moan like C3PO and take your pick which sith Evil Dave best mirrors.

    I also wondered if the match themselves ever bore any resemblance to the original storyline. I’m not convinced, but some of the exchanges during matches do resonate. You be the judge.

     

    Anyway, I’ve got ahead of myself here. The night before the game Skip was still desperately trying to put a team together. Having scored 40 not out last week and looking like a Jedi with the bat, Jordan was his first target.

    Skip: You must learn the ways of the Quokkas and come with me to Wantage.

    Jordan: Wantage? I’m not going to Wantage. I’ve got to go home. It’s late, I’m in for it as it is.

    Skip: I need your help, Jordan. We need your help. I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.

    Jordan: I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like Londinium. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.

    Skip: That’s Binman talking. Learn about the Quokkas, Jordan.

    Jordan: Look, I can go as far as Oxford. You can get a lift there to Wantage or wherever you’re going.

    Skip: You must do what you feel is right, of course.

    After some reflection and on learning that he had missed the family bar-b-q, Jordan gave Skip some good news.

    Jordan: OK, I want to come with you to Wantage. There’s nothing here for me now. I want to learn the ways of the Quokkas.

    Buoyed by this success, Skip then tried to add to his numbers, but could only get voicemail. Unfortunately, he also seemed to have got the wrong number.

    Skip: Help me Adrian Chesney. You’re my only hope.

    Tom: What is that?

    Belinda: Skip says he’s after Adrian Chesney, a resident of these parts. And it’s a private message for him. Quite frankly, sir I don’t know what he’s talking about.

    Tom: Well, I don’t know anyone named Adrian, but Ches lives out beyond Southsea dunes. He’s kind of a strange old hermit.

    Tom thought it wise to mention the call to Ches, in case the message was for him.

    Tom: Ches, I found this message. It for an Adrian Chesney. Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who he’s talking about?

    Ches: Adrian Chesney… Adrian? Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time… a long time.

    Tom: I think Skip knew him. He said he was dead.

    Ches: Oh, he’s not dead, not… not yet.

    Tom: You know him!

    Ches: Well of course, of course I know him. He’s me. I haven’t gone by the name Adrian since oh, before you were born.

    Tom: Then the message does belong to you.

    Ches: Don’t seem to remember ever owning a message. Very interesting…

    On hearing that Skip was chasing players, Tom decided to call him and let him know that he might not be available in the coming weeks.

    Tom: Skip, I think those new Quokkas you have found are going to work out fine. In fact, I, uh, was also thinking about our agreement about me playing another season. And if these new players do work out, I want to transmit my application to the US this year.

    Skip: You mean the next tour before the Quokka Ashes?

    Tom: Sure, there’re more than enough players.

    Skip: The Quokka Ashes is when I need you the most. Only one more season. Your Dad will make enough on the harvest, so will be able to hire some more hands. And then you can go back to the US next year.

    Skip: You must understand I need you here, Tom.

    Tom: But it’s a whole ‘nother year.

    Skip: Look, it’s only one more season.

    Belinda: Where you off to Tom?

    Tom: It looks like I’m going nowhere. I have to finish cleaning those whites.

    With time running out, Skip’s recruitment drive for the game required some tough bargaining, so he took Evil Dave with him to the Mos Eisley cantina to try and get a bowler.

    Skip: Australia. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

    Dave: Do you really think we’re going to find a bowler here that’ll bowl out Wantage?

    Skip: Well, most of the best bowlers can be found here. Only watch your step. This place can be a little rough.

    Faggie: I’m `Millennium’ Fagberg. Dave here tells me you’re looking for a bowler to take to Wantage.

    Skip: Yes, indeed. If you’re a fast bowler.

    Faggie: Fast bowler? You’ve never heard of Millenium Fagberg?

    Skip: Should I have?

    Faggie: I’m a left armer that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs! I’ve outpaced T20 batsman, not the local bulk-cruisers, like Kanna mind you. I’m talking about the Special K’s now. I’m fast enough for you, old man. What’s our team like?

    Skip: Only passengers. Myself, Evil Dave, two bats, and no questions asked.

    Faggie: What is it? Some kind of local team?

    Skip: Let’s just say we’d like to avoid an innings defeat.

    Faggie: Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? And it’s going to cost you something extra. I want to open the batting and bowling.

    Skip: Batting and bowling? We could almost hire our own team for that!

    Faggie: But who’s going to captain it, kid! You?

    Dave: You bet I could. I’m not such a bad all-rounder myself! We don’t have to sit here and listen…

    Skip: We can give you five overs, plus a decision on opening the batting when we reach Wantage.

    Faggie: Okay. You guys got yourself a player.

    Faggie: Batting and bowling. Those guys must really be desperate. This could really save my neck after two T20 golden ducks in a row.

    Kanna: Going somewhere, Faggie?

    Faggie: Yes, Kanna. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see Locky. Tell him I’ll get his runs.

    Kanna: It’s too late. You should have scored some runs when you had the chance. Every bowler in Londinium will be looking for you now. I’m lucky I found you first.

    Faggie: Yeah, but this time I’ll get the runs.

    Kanna: Locky’s through with you. He has no time for all-rounders who give up their wicket the first ball from an octopus bowler.

    Faggie: Even I get out sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

    Kanna: You can tell that to Locky. He may only take your place.

    Faggie: Over my dead body.

    Kanna: That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to bowling you out you for a long time.

    Faggie: Yes, I’ll bet you have…

    On the day of the match Skip, Evil Dave and Faggie were travelling to the ground together, but Dave was having a few problems with his old R2D2GPS system.

    Dave: “Where are you going? Well, I’m not going that way. It’s much too rocky. This way is much easier. What makes you think the ground is over there? Don’t get technical with me. No more adventures. I’m not going that way. That malfunctioning little twerp. This is all his fault! He tricked me into going this way, but he’ll do no better. I should have known better than to trust the logic of a half-sized thermocapsulary dehousing assister…”

    In fact, they were not only running late, but they were lost.

    Dave: What the…? Aw, we’ve come off the motorway into a contraflow. Some kind of diversion. It’s not on any of the charts.

    Skip: What’s going on?

    Dave: Our position is correct, except… no, Wantage!

    Skip: What do you mean? Where is it?

    Dave: That’s what I’m trying to tell you, kid. It ain’t there.

    Dave decided to call the Wantage captain Pirate Steve, to see if he could get some directions. However, the thought of three Quokka bowlers being removed from the attack meant he was slightly hesitant.

    Dave: Don’t play games with me Pirate Steve. I want to know where your ground is. I’ve lost the directions. Now you are my only link to find the ground.

    Skip: Steve will die before he tells you anything.

    Dave: Leave that to me.

    Faggie: Evil Dave, the directions are not aboard this car.        

    Skip: Pirate Steve must have hidden the directions. Call Ches. See to it personally Evil Dave. There’ll be no one to stop us this time.

    Dave: Until the Quokkas are fully operational we are vulnerable. Wantage are too well equipped. They’re more dangerous than you realise. And what of Pirate Steve? If he has obtained a complete technical readout of our batting line up, it is possible, however unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it.

    Skip: Any attack made by Wantage against the Quokkas would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained. This team is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it!

    Dave: Don’t be too proud of this team you’ve constructed. The ability to get opening batsman out is insignificant next to the power of the Wantage’s bowling attack.

    Skip: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Evil Dave. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up a five-wicket haul, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Wantage ground…

    Dave: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    Unlike the guys from Harpenden, I found the ground easily and just as I arrived Tom pulled up next to me in his old Peugeot with Conan and Jordan.

     Ches: You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.

    Tom mentioned that my attendance must mean that I received Skips message. I hadn’t, but when I checked my phone I found it:

    Skip: Ches, years ago you played well in the Quokkas Ashes. Now I beg you to help us in his struggle against Wantage. I have placed information vital to the survival of the Quokkas batsman into the kit bag. You must see this bag safely delivered to Wantage. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Adrian Chesney, you’re my only hope.

    Whilst waiting for the others to arrive, I did my best to keep the true identity of the Quokkas hidden from our latest recruit Jordan. After somehow winning a game last week, we didn’t want to ruin that façade.

    Jordan: How long have you had those whites?

    Tom: About four or five seasons.

    Ches: They’re for sale if you want them.

    Jordan: Let me see the Quokkas scorebook.

    Ches: You don’t need to see the Quokkas scorebook.

    Jordan: I don’t need to see the Quokkas scorebook.

    Ches: These are not the Quokkas ties you’re voting for.

    Jordan: These are not the Quokkas ties I’m voting for.

    Ches: He can go mark his run up.

    Jordan: You can go mark your run up.

    As you recall it was a very hot day on Sunday, so Conan and Tom decided to wet their whistles in the Wantage clubhouse whilst we waited.

    Wantage bartender: We don’t serve their kind here!

    Tom: What?

    Wantage bartender: Your Australians. They’ll have to wait outside. We don’t want them here.

    Tom: Listen Conan, why don’t you wait outside. We don’t want any trouble.

    Wantage man at the bar: He doesn’t like you. I don’t like you either. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence in five counties.

    Conan: I’ll be careful.

    Wantage bartender: You’ll be dead.

    Tom: This little Bow Tie Killer isn’t worth the effort. Come let me buy you something…

    With the match start time rapidly approaching, only myself, Matt, Tom, Jordan and Conan had arrived at the ground. Somewhat shorthanded, we wondered if we should get changed and go out and do the toss.

    Jordan: Is there anything we can do?

    Tom: Well, not unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest, or bowl at both ends

    Jordan: I don’t think so, sir. I’m only a batsman and not very knowledgeable about such things. Not in this country, anyway. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure which country I’m in.

    Conan: Well, if there’s a bright centre to the World, you’re in the country that it’s farthest from.

    Jordan: I see, sir.

    Their skipper popped his round the dressing room door. We suggested Tom do the toss, but we had to decide if we would bat or field first if he won it.

    Tom: Can you open the batting? We’ve got to get out there before the Wantage return.

    Matt: I don’t think I can make it. It’s too hot. You go on, Master Tom. There’s no sense in you risking yourself on my account. I’m done for.

    Tom: No, you’re not. What kind of talk is that?

    Ches: Robin. Robin Bradley. Boy, am I glad to see you!

    The Harpenden party had arrived, just I the nick of time.

    Skip: Where’s the toilet:toilet

    Matt: Head for that small moon.

    Skip: That’s no moon…It’s an air vent.

    Ches: I have a very bad feeling about this.

    Skip: Pirate Steve, before we beat you today I would like you to be my guest in the middle at a tossing ceremony that will make this game operational.

    Pirate Steve: The more you tighten your grip, Skip, the more chances will slip through your fingers.

    Skip: Not after we demonstrate the power of this team. In a way, you have determined the choice of the batsman that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with a batting line up, I have chosen to test this teams destructive power… on your opening partnership.

    Pirate Steve: No! We have no regular opening batsman. You can’t possibly…

    Skip: You would prefer another target? A middle order batsman perhaps? Then name the openers.

    Dave: I grow tired of asking this. So, it’ll be the last time. What is your batting line up?

    Pirate Steve: Fazal and Porter to open, with Bramley in at 3…

    Dave: There. You see Skip, Steve can be reasonable.

    Dave:  Continue with the game. You may open the bowling when ready.

    Pirate Steve: What?

    Dave: You’re far too trusting. Your openers are too good to make an effective demonstration. But don’t worry. We will deal with your tail end soon enough.

    Before starting we get some quick fielding practice in and Matt turns his arm over a few times watched by fellow `spinner’ Ches.

    Faggie: Hokey religions and ancient spin bowlers are no match for a good fast bowler in your side, kid.

    Matt: You don’t believe in Legspinners, do you?

    Faggie: Kid, I’ve bowled from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful legspinner controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of Googlies and nonsense.

    Faggie: I call it luck.

    Ches: In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck, apart from when you take a wicket.

    Faggie: Look, practicing in the nets is one thing. Going up against real batsman in the middle? That’s something else.

    Matt: You know, I did feel something. I could almost get some spin.

    Ches: That’s good. You have taken your first step into the larger world of legspin.

    Just before we went out to bowl Skip provided the perfect team talk.

    Skip: The run up will not be easy. You are required to manoeuvre the ball straight down the corridor of uncertainty and skim the surface on a decent length. The target area is just outside off stump. A precise delivery will start a chain reaction which should destroy their entire batting line up. Only a precise delivery will set up the chain reaction. The batsman has a ray-shield-like defence, so you’ll have to use a googlie.

    Tom: That’s an impossible delivery, even for a Quokka.

    Ches: It’s not impossible. I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-sixteen back home. They’re not much bigger than a stump.

    Skip decided to open the bowling with Evil Dave and Faggie, who both charged in under a blazing hot sun.

    Dave: I’ve been waiting for you, Pirate Steve. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the batsman; now I am the master bowler.

    Pirate Steve: Only a master of evil, Dave.

    Dave: Your powers are weak, old man.

    Pirate Steve: You can’t win, Evil Dave. If you bowl me out, we shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

    Pirate Steve to Conan: Aren’t you a little short to be a Quokkas?

    As is so often the case Faggie beat the bat often, but invariably was nowhere near the stumps.

    Skip: If he bowls as fast as he’s boasting, we ought to do well.

    Tom: What a piece of junk. Pitch it up.

    Faggie: I may not look like much, but I’ve got it where it counts, kid.

    Skip: Listen Faggie. I don’t know who you are, or where you came from, but from now on, you need to bowl straight. Okay?

    Faggie: Look, your worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from one person. Me.

    Matt: Why don’t you outpace them? I thought you said you were fast.

    Faggie: Watch your mouth, kid, or you’re going to find yourself walking home.

    Ches: How long before we can take you off?

    Faggie: It’ll take a few overs before the batsmen start coordinating the ball to the boundary.

    Tom: Are you kidding? At the rate they’re scoring?

    Faggie: Bowling fast isn’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations the ball could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip to Wantage real quick, wouldn’t it?

    Tom: What’s the problem?

    Faggie: We’re losing our ring of steel. Go strap yourself in, I’m about to be taken off and Ches is first change!

    Both Quokkas toil away in the searing heat, Faggie eventually getting his reward with a couple of wickets, but as their number 4 made his way to 50, Dave started to tire.

    Dave: This is ridiculous. Even if I could get some bounce, I’d never get past the outside edge.

    Skip: Leave that to me.

    Faggie: Damn fool. I knew that you were going to say that.

    Skip: Who’s the more foolish… the fool or the fool who follows him?

    Ches: The number 4 bat has a lot of force with him.

    Skip: You’re right, he must not be allowed to get away.

    Ches: Escape is not his plan. I must face him alone.

    Skip: OK next over this end Ches?

    Ches: This is not going to work.

    Skip: Why didn’t you say so before?

    Ches: I did say so before. I have a very bad feeling about this.

    As the batsman start to get away and we labour in the field, mercilessly its drinks, whereupon Conan makes an important discovery.

    Conan: We found the score book, sir.

    Skip: Take a look. We should be able to see their entire season showing us their strengths and weaknesses.

    Conan: I’ve found the main batsman that’s holding their team together. I’ll try to make the precise location in the batting line up. Their number 4 has every shot in the book hitting the ball to seven locations. A slower ball with turn bowled just outside off stump will allow the batsman to leave.

    Skip decided to make a double change, bringing both me and himself on. After I was hit for a few fours and a six, the ball starts to turn a little and a double bounce yorker has the batter in all sorts of trouble.

    Faggie: What the hell are you doing?

    Ches: Somebody has to save our skins.

    An appeal for no reason whatsoever is followed by a ball tossed up that the number 4 bat fails to read. Although the ball disappears high into the sky, Jordan makes a terrific diving catch. A pivotal wicket perhaps.

    Faggie: If we can just avoid any more of Skip’s advice, we ought to be able to get them out here.

    As is so often the case, one wicket brings another and Skips full and straight deliveries rip through our opponents’ middle order. With seven wickets taken by Skip and myself the damage has been done and Matt and Jordan are brought on to clean up the tail.

    Jordan: I’ve analysed their attack sir and there is a danger. Should I remove the slip?

    Skip: Evacuate? In out moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!

    wantage_teaAfter one or two looseners, Jordan then found his range enabling him to grab the last wicket with a straight full pitched delivery. Our opponents have managed to score 133.  Possibly the finest tea this side of Totooine (pavlova, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes on sticks, vodka jellies and the best chocolate cake ever tasted) gives us the time to discuss boat trips to Rottnest Island, Romanian `discotheques’ and inadequate father days. Fascinating stuff, but with the alcoholic punch all but gone we must get out to the middle to bat.

    Skip: “Tom, open the batting will you. I want those runs knocked off before dinner.”

    Tom: “Awww Skip, but I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters…”

    Jordan: Tom’s just not a cricketer Skip. He has too much of a farmer in him. 

    Tom is joined in the middle by Faggie, both resplendent in the new man-size Quokka baggy caps. They both start well against some very accurate spin bowling and pacey cutters. Tom keeps out several Yorkers, whilst Faggie plays a measured game, by his standards, offering only the odd half chance. Eventually as the bowlers tire, Faggie starts to open up his shoulders, carving the ball to all parts of the ground.

    Faggie: “Not a bad bit of batting, huh? You know, sometimes I even amaze myself.”

    Tom: “Nice kid, but don’t get cocky”

    Having seen off the opening bowlers with a series of fine cuts and drives, the Wantage skipper turned to his slower bowlers. A young lady at the far end was immediately underestimated by Faggie, who, having failed to get to the pitch of the ball, looped an aimless shot high into the midwicket area. Fortunately, it fell just out of reach of any fielder. 

    Faggie: “Everything is under control. Situation normal.

    Tom: “What happened”

    Faggie: “Uh… had a slight bat malfunction. But, uh, everything’s perfectly all right now. I’m fine. We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?”

    Tom: “Conan’s padding up”

    Faggie: “Uh, uh, negative. We had a talent leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak… very dangerous.

    That minor scare apart, the home side failed to trouble either batsman and Faggie continued to pile on the runs, breaking the clubhouse TV arial with a six. Several well-timed fours through midwicket see the scoreboard race along, with Tom adding to the home team’s woes with a brilliantly timed four to the third man boundary. Two further bowling changes fail to break up the partnership, which now threatens to smash all Quokka records. With just 3 needed it fell to Faggie to hit the winning boundary.

    WantagepitchWe had reached out target in just 18.1 overs without losing a wicket. The successful batsman were of course met with the usual Quokkas congratulations as they left the field.

    Skip: Batting paradise. It’s the only explanation for the ease of our victory.

    Faggie: Easy… you call that easy?

    So, two games into the season and having won both handsomely the Quokkas can feel pretty content with their efforts. On the long drive home, I reflected on the day’s action, but struggled to find any correlation with the Star Wars film. Perhaps Quokkas matches have more in common with the Raiders of the lost ark, Airplane or Goodfellas. I’m not sure. Certainly, some food for thought there. Until the next episode…

    Ches

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  • Harpenden Dolphins 89 all out (Garlic Bread 2-17, Ray 2-7, Jerry 2-12) lost to Quokkas 92 for 3 (Jordan 40 n.o. )

    Uncertainty analysis

    In quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known. What is certain about a Quokka match that is proceeded by an evening with Skip, is that I will have similar levels of tiredness to that of a parent coping with teething or a cattle class traveller making his way to New Zealand. And this, the first game of the 2017 season, was no different. The Saturday started with a few beers in the glorious sunshine listening to the Aussies being taken to the absolute cleaners, before rolling smoothly into Sunday morning drinking Glayva and watching Lee Griffith become famous for something other than his ludicrous hairline. Luckily though, a gaggle of young children keen to learn the fine art of leg spin ensured that my lie in was brief. After three showers to remove the smell of smoke, from Skips fire-pit, from my pores, we are ready to rock and roll.

    Normally, when it comes to the fundamental limits of the Quokkas bowling a cork particle covered in leather, there doesn’t tend to be much precision, but there is a hell of a lot of complementary variables. But this wasn’t you average opening day of the season type affair, with us chasing the ball to the boundary all day before showing we are unsure which end of the bat to hold. It was different, a complete role reverse in fact, and felt something akin to one of those films where there is a lightning storm overnight and you wake up in the body of another person. Actually, never mind Freaky Friday, this was more along the lines of Skip finding a Zoltar machine, pulling the power lead out and wishing for an opening game victory. The result of that wish was the Quokkas following the Nerdlucks lead by purloining talent from somewhere (perhaps the Aussie ODI side, if their display on Saturday was anything to go by), which enabled us to bowl the opposition out for 89 before knocking them off with ease within 18 overs.

    It was as an assured display and comprehensive a victory as you will ever likely to witness in the history of the Quokkas…of that I am certain. Think England destroying the Aussies in the ICC Trophy in June 2017 (I had better mention that here in case you missed the reference to it in the previous paragraph. And if you missed the match itself, here’s some Aggers commentary: “Smash…oh I say, that one has gone into outer space…it’s actually into the third tier…the Aussies are getting some tremendous tap here from the English batsman). Quite simply the Quokkas were like, well, the Quokkas T:20 team, only longer in the tooth, better looking (in my case) and slightly more interested in the type of cake being served at tea (Mr Kipling’s Country Slices made a rare outing if you were interested).

    On a pitch offering a little pace and varying bounce, Garlic Bread prospered early on, beating the bat continuously, but without success until Bow Tie Killer provided the complementary variable to the pair. When you think of Quokka reactions in the field, the formation of rust springs to mind, but fuelled by a bar-b-q hosted by our very own Al `Skip’ Czervik, Conan showed the reaction time of an explosion to snaffle one of the finest catches you will see (or miss if you blinked) all summer. Not to be outdone Skip grabbed an absolute beauty at first slip, thankful at completely ignoring Roger-Roger’s observation, from his dreadful position at long on, that the slip cordon was too deep.

    At the other end, Tom the Yak delighted Skip with an almost metronomic display of precision bowling that kept the opponents star batsman away from the strike and the run rate below two an over. We’ve been here before though, well maybe not the less than two an over part, the opening spell is decent, but with a change of bowling the accuracy, velocity and certainty then emulates the Seneca Effect. Jerry, one of several debutants and the latest Quokka to be born this side of the millennium had other ideas, overcoming his initial struggle with the 1-in-3 climb to the crease to keep up the momentum. Having accepted some words of wisdom from Skip, hopefully on the merits of avoiding leaving black socks in washing machine rather than tips on fashion or how to bowl, he claimed a pair of wickets, thanks in part, to a remarkable grab, at the second attempt, by Hairdresser.

    At the other end, Ray (another debutant) came thundering down the hill to put the fear of god into the Harpenden batsman. As you all know, the quality of a Quokka is not measured in talent alone, which is just as well as we don’t have anyone that knows how to use a micrometer, but here we are graced with one of the most self-effacing cricketers you are ever likely to meet. “I used to bowl the odd over” proved to be somewhat of an understatement. A lack of whites often lulls you into a false sense of security, but as anyone familiar with the Lagrange–d’Alembert principle will know, when you have acceleration and a small mass bowled with huge force, you get a delivery that whistles past a batsman’s ear. As you can guess, his efforts didn’t go unrewarded, taking a brace before Skip offered his opponents some much needed respite.

    It wasn’t all about velocity I might add. There is no finer compliment for a slow bowler than being described as “a spinner” by your opponent, even one so obviously unqualified to make that distinction. But filling in for The Egg, Matt offered some excellent flight and a certain degree of uncertainty to trouble both batsman and grab a wicket of his own. The last time we saw Hairdresser he was performing post-modern expressionist dance routines with a black leather belt tied round his neck (Ed: thanks Ches, it’s taken me until now to get that terrible picture out of my head), but having spent the morning bowling beamers at his three young daughters, he instantly reaped the benefit by clean bowling their number 9 with his first delivery. Roger-Roger, resplendent in half mast trousers and secret service sunglasses, presumably to prevent blindness from his colourful footware, cleaned up the tail, leaving the home team with just 89 to defend.

    We spent tea arguing the merits of emu burgers, mulling over leylandii arboriculture and discussing the need for soundproofing in caravan toilet walls. Fascinating stuff, but as some of us are losing hair by the hour these days, we need to press on. Jordan our debutant Aussie (they’re the ones that lost to England on Saturday) and Hairdresser are thrust into the middle to see us home. And it was looking very much that way until the fine opening stand was broken by Hairdressers’ inability to ground his bat, or run fast, or call, or make a half decent decision about when to run or not. It did little to stop the flow of runs as Jordan hit the ball repetitively to the boundary with some genuine cricket shots (probably got some tips from the England batsman on Saturday). We did wander whether the playing down of his ability during the pre-game meat fest was a ruse. “Not played cricket since school”, doesn’t quite have the same meaning if, as we discovered, you are employed as a school teacher (probably of cricket).

    For a New York Second, I did manage to make it look like Jordan wasn’t a ringer, but, so excited at getting the ball off the square, I decided to dance down the wicket like a man that knew what he was doing, only to discover he was mistaken. It mattered not, as Conan emulated his English ODI batting heroes (did I mention the crushing defeat of the Aussies the previous day?) by smashing inferior bowling to the boundary, shortly before emulating the South African’s running between the wickets. It therefore fell to Roger-Roger, who promised not to leave anything in the dressing room, to see us home. And he did just that, demonstrating a fantastic eye and some unorthodox footwork when carving the bowling through midwicket and hitting the winning runs via a lofted drive over long on.

    A great start to the season and a terrific weekend in Harpenden, which is perhaps why I am struggling this morning to write an article for my client about `uncertainty analysis’, but I’m sure, no, I’m certain I will find some inspiration from somewhere.

    Ches

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

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

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

    It’s a fair fight

    An actual pavilion

    An actual pavilion

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

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

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

    Scandalous

    Slick enjoys Scandal's low ceiling

    Slick enjoys Scandal’s low ceiling

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

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

    Match made in heaven?

    Athletes raring to go

    Athletes raring to go

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

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

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

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

    The Quokkettes are seduced by the electronic scoreboard

    The Quokkettes are seduced by the electronic scoreboard

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

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

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

    Ches.

    I'll just leave this here...

    I’ll just leave this here…

  • No obscure 80’s (maybe even 70’s???) English references this game report since a majority of the Quokka players were neither English or Australian, with two playing cricket for the first time ever. Great thanks to Julian (French) and Laszlo (Hungarian) for coming down to Regent’s Park to try it out and create enough of a team, along with help of three of the opposition’s star players; Martyn, Rocket and Viv.  St Anne’s were just keen to play, almost too keen booking a Saturday game, causing a 12th hour panic when the Skip realised two days before leaving us with half a team. Nethertheless having the last game called off made us all eager and happy to play, a good sign for cricket and the Quokkas.

    Quokkas fielded first, meaning the newcomers could watch and learn, not worrying about how to bat… yet.  Tight opening bowling from Satan and myself were good signs at the start, Smruti showing his skills with three catches and Doc keeping wicket ‘proper’ keeping low and close.   I did drop one off the Skip, but the Quokkas were on a roll as he made a mends and caught and bowled one himself.  Martyn and Viv showed solid stoppage bowling but the surprise was Anand. After trying to excuse himself from bowling, he was convinced/forced to give it a try by the Skip and three solid overs of fast paced leg spin had us all wishing for more.  Unfortunately the overs ran out but the Quokkas were convincing – holding St Anne’s to 92 runs, a good team performance.

    After a lovely afternoon tea, Quokkas were confident of a win and gave our newcomers a chance, not hiding them at the bottom but working in at the top.  Gracefully the oppo realised this and didn’t bowl their best first up, but that didn’t matter as we all got ourselves out in one way or another. Holing out, run out and even a stumping for poor Lazlo (the keeper said he was out of his crease for the last 3 balls) meant that Quokkas were 36 for 5 after 12 overs.  Even with such frustration we were still tantalizingly close and on pace.  Smruti played some convincing shots with a high of 23 runs but unsurprisingly the collapse continued.  I went to help move the teas/tables back to the car and when returned it was all over.  76 runs all out.

    A loss for quokkas but a fun day for cricket and a whole new experience for a few. It reminded me of how I got into cricket in the first place on a trip to London, and part of that was a tour of Lords.  I didn’t understand the game at all but it intrigued me and I learned.  Sometimes it’s not about getting good players (it doesn’t hurt) but about making friends that are willing to give it a go.

     

    Tom the Yak

  • There was a time when I could answer almost every single question correctly on `A Question of Sport’. A love of all sporting activity, very little televised coverage and a pre-alcohol brain meant I’d be willing to `Go away’ with great confidence and could tell you exactly What happened next almost every single time. These days I couldn’t tell you who the team captains were, never mind identify the mystery sportsman simply from an obscure photo of their ear lobe.

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

    Ches and Skip get a selfie with David Coleman

    I put that down to three things; Firstly, I’d rather perform docking than watch Sue Barker play hard to get with John Parrot (Ches you really haven’t watched Question of Sport in a long time – Egg), secondly there is now far too much sport on TV to ever actually witness a lion attacking the golf caddy on the 9th hole of the Zimbabwe open and thirdly, perhaps most importantly, my increasing hatred of professional sports due to the participants mostly being utter tossers, on the juice or both.

    But as my love of professional sport diminishes at an exponential rate, I find myself growing increasingly in love with amateur sport. OK, so the Quokkas may be regarded as semi-pro in some Hungarian circles, but as I’ve yet to be paid it’s safe to assume none of us are doing blood transfusions, although I’m less sure about there not being tossers amongst us. That’s not to say I’m about to start supporting Fareham Town FC in the Sydenhams Independent Timber and Building Materials Wessex football League, but it does mean I take increasingly greater levels of enjoyment from Quokka trips to the likes of Harfield CC.

    Perfect cricketing weather

    Which is surprising, since there is not many laughs to be had following tractors and a triathlon bike race through the rain-soaked Surry countryside for two and a half hours only to find the heavens hadn’t finished opening when arriving at the cricket ground. But here I was immediately presented with the difference between us amateurs, desperately seeking a game of cricket, and the pros more concerned with whether the bad light might affect their image rights. Despite the heavy rain there were already players in whites putting boundary markers out, knocking in new bats and doing some scientifically proven to do you more harm than good warm up exercises. Rain? Meh.

    OK, yes, I know, I’ve got too nostalgic too early, but when you’ve been clean bowled by a man called Care Bear, who subsequently was dispatched for 21 runs in his next over, you had better start seeing the game in a new light or you’d be forced to give it all up. But I’m getting ahead of myself, there’s a complete cricket match to describe and bloody hell what a game it was.

    Bowling tutorial

    It goes without saying Skip led us into the field having lost the toss. It rained continuously for an hour or so. Some serious underestimations as to the conditions left a number of Quokkas wishing they had received a club jumper instead of a water resistant towel during the last tour. Unperturbed, the Professor opened the bowling up the hill and provided a wonderful lesson, seminar or indeed lecture on how to bowl Ian Austin style dobblers in very damp and overcast conditions. He was almost impossible to get off the square and that gave us the perfect start.

    At the other end Garlic Bread entered the Guinness Book of records for slow over rates, but eventually found a rhythm after some `coaching without groping’ from Skip and started to cause the batsman a few problems. Wickets began to fall, with the Yak taking three in a fantastic spell before Skip took him off to prevent the Quokkas honours board filling up too quickly. Skip also bowled a few nice overs himself, but he’s not getting any younger and to make sure he had something left in the tank to consume serious amounts of cake at tea he stood aside for Kashif, Matt and The Egg to close out the innings. I mention them all with little commentary simply because I can’t remember who took what wickets when (I have post beer brain now) I can only remember the catches taken.

    I am mindful of Skips pre match rant requesting that the ball remain in the air to keep it dry. Strangely the Quokkas seemed to take notice of his ramblings for once, or maybe the threat of `press ups for failure’ was enough to scare the gym shy fielders into action. The result was that not only did we manage to return the ball back to the bowler unscuffed most of the time, but we also held some beauties in the field.

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

    The D.O.C. for example took a tremendous low catch to his right, after a slight bit of juggling, making it look almost easy.

    Garlic bread grabbed an incredibly tough chance over his head as he rapidly backtracked at long off. It must be noted that having hit the ground hard he appeared to dislocate his shoulder, but a 2.5 second verbal consultation from The D.O.C. was enough to conclude that he would live.

    Apart from some dubious umpiring, my only useful contribution this week was a one handed take above my head at extra cover that saw Hartfield six down.

    I think the best catch of them all though, was a wonderful running grab over his shoulder in the deep by Shrub. As he set off I don’t think he or anyone else thought he would snuffle it, but with ample encouragement he bagged it for his first Quokkas catch, or perhaps even his first ever catch, who knows? There may well have been others, but I am running out of alternatives to the word `catch’, so forgive me if I have left you out.

    It’s hard to put into words the quality of these efforts, but fortunately we were able to video all of them. Here’s that D.O.C. catch I mentioned and Garlic Breads take, my grab and finally Shub’s number. Nice! 

    With fielding like that it was little surprise that we had them at 80 for 7 at one stage, but unfortunately they had kept their ace batsman up their sleeve, who with some decent hitting enabled them to recover to 155 for 9 at tea.

    What is that warm glowing yellow thing in the sky?

    Tea consisted of small variety of rolls, a platter of sausage rolls and a rare blend of cakes. By now in glorious sunshine, the break in play gave us just enough time to discuss wheel chair tennis on grass, the merits of visiting the neighbouring Llama Park and the advantages of being a confectionary travelling salesman. Fascinating stuff, but we’ve a Euro2016 final to miss almost all of, so we are quickly into bat.

    Following his fine opening spell with the ball, The Professor did a bloody fine job opening the batting too, playing some Guru-esque cover drives I might add. At the other end Slick provided capable support in the face of some decent opening bowling. However, straight stuff has always been our nemesis and sadly wickets fell, first Locky, then the Prof, before Shub played a stroke described as `horrific’ by the square leg fielder. I concurred before falling to a leg stump yorker to a less than glamorous shot myself shortly after.

    This brought The Yak to the crease and he dismissed this so called `decent bowling’ straight to the boundary, several times, in the same over. By the time I appeared back from the changing rooms we had somehow raced on to 70 for four, from less than 10 overs. In between overs we got our first double teapot sighting of the season, but shortly after Tom fell attempting another big hit.

    We then lost Matt for not quite enough and Skip trying to tickle one past first slip after some solid blows. All this while the D.O.C. had been standing firm, before now opening his shoulders and piling on the runs. Front foot, back foot, no footwork at all. It didn’t matter as The D.O.C. seemed to have an answer to every question and eventually passed the half century. At the other end Kashif defended the good ones and smashed the bad ones. A trade mark cut brought the opening fast bowler back, who was then promptly pulled for four as the game got interesting. With the singles flowing the field was brought in to stem the tide, but The D.O.C. simply took the aerial route to our opponents’ dismay.

    Just as we looked to be cruising to victory we lost both batsmen in two balls.

    Cometh the hour cometh The Future and The Egg, who were by now the last men standing. Facing the best bowling seen this summer, they needed 12 to win, but just as importantly had to survive three overs to earn a very creditable draw. Nail biting stuff.

    Testing first delivery for The Egg

    First ball faced was just short of a length, angled in and both lifting and straitening. Needless to say The Egg didn’t get anywhere near it, but then again I am not sure who would. Five more good line and length beauties were defended well. At the other end The Future looked nervous, but his front foot defence was solid and he managed to keep the bowler out. Two overs and just one run scored left us needing 11 from the last. “Do I go for it?” asked a confident Garlic Bread.  

    In came the opening bowler…a single off the first, then a slash by Egg over point. “For six?” asked a hopeful Lord Frumpkin III on Whatsapp? No, for one. The future then drove smartly into the covers, but no run was scored, followed by another dot ball. Then from nowhere we grab four byes leaving just 6 to win off the last ball. Could The Future get it or would Harfield claim the last wicket to win the match themselves? In raced the bowler and it is crashed through point, but it’s not enough and the match is a draw.

    Reading my words back, as usual my commentary skills don’t do the game justice, but what we got here was five hours of competitive and spirited cricket that all came down to the very last ball of the match. No diving, no faking injury, no sleeve tattoos, no socks pulled up over knees, no berating officials, no EPO and definitely no crying. Just blokes playing a game hard with Emlyn Hughes like enthusiasm to the best of their limited abilities in a closely fought battle. Now that’s what I call sport. You know people might pay to see that sort of thing…no hang on.

    Ches

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