Evolution is a helluva thing. It isn’t simply about something changing to ensure its survival, its about something fundamentally changing, down to its DNA.
The Quokka is a good example of how evolution can sometimes not play-out as you’d expect, or then again, perhaps its evolution playing out EXACTLY as you’d expect.
Living on Rottnest Island without a natural predator in the world, these tiny marsupials hop about the place in a relaxed fashion that would make rastafarians look positively anxious.
Without any threats whatsoever, people are not allowed to so much as feed or touch them, Quokkas have become so placid that they are (apparently) confused by changing weather conditions – with large rain falls often resulting in many of them dying from cold.
With this in mind, the Victorian branch of the Quokkas Cricket Club headed to their spiritual home of Rottnest Island last weekend to take on the local “Rotto” Quokkas CC.
While the Victorian Quokkas have evolved considerably as a club, developing a range of opportunities for different parts of the community to come together and have a game, they haven’t changed much in regards to Tour matches having never won a single one.
More on that later.
Rottnest Island itself is as beautiful a place as you will find in Australia, girt by white sandy beaches, with no cars allowed and the friendliest / most gaumless marsupials you will ever find hopping about.
The local cricket ground was situated between the beach, the school and the golf course and was of a size that made postage stamps look big. Early examination of the ground led to conclusions that a big score would be needed to secure our first Tour victory.
With the customary drop-outs before the game, phone calls were made and emails were sent, with Dale, Ivan, Karl and Vince being found available and willing to make up the numbers. Dale and Vince were also good enough to volunteer the fielding services of their kids, who were to later put us all to shame.
Still, Radar, Ed, Big Dog, Jay, Rev and tour specialist; Cat, were all ready to fire.
Jonesy, Captain of the Rotto side, pulled out all the stops in getting the ground ready. The club room sign was re-painted, the Quokka flag was flown on the flagpole, the bar was stocked and the music was pumping.
Going the extra yard again, Jonesy pulled out an Australian penny (pre 1966) for the toss of the Coin, which the Rev politely lost, giving the touring Quokkas plenty of time to get used to the ground while standing in the baking West Australian sun.
Not having played a game in 10 years, the local team was nervous, so The Rev decided to open up with the heavy artillery early; by bringing on the Big Dog.
The tactic paid off, with the opening batsmen only hitting one boundary in The Dogs two overs, and their consternation at his deliveries being audibly heard by the fielders nearby at deep long off; “What sort of trick is this?!?”
Much like one of the Dogs water pumping stations, the pressure was kept level by Vince and then Jay, who evolved his run-up from 38 steps to just 8 and bowled one of their openers through the gate.
The excellent bowling continued, with Karl and Ian both going for not many and having the other opener unluckily given LBW by his own umpire.
The rigors and pressure of the game began to show as the Rotto number 4 had to retire hurt, while their first drop retired having scored his 30 before drinks.
It was this penultimate over before drinks that was telling for the visitors, with the new batsman Scotty dropped twice and managing to find the boundary twice.
At 3 for 60-odd at drinks, the visiting Quokkas were overcome with that awfully stomach-cringing feeling of confidence, the kind that inevitably comes before a fall.
Resuming after the welcome break, Scotty provided the Quokkas with the solid bit of granite which they normally fall on, smashing 25 convincing runs off The Rev in a punishing display that will surely see the spiritual leader put his ‘offies’ in the bin for good.
Taking his cap from the umpire, The Rev spotted the islands ambulance on the side of the pitch and briefly felt like leaving his cricketing career in it, only to be told that it was being used to bring more beer to the bar.
Well played Rotto, well played.
Needing to evolve to meet the changes in the game, The Rev brought on some young blood and they immediately delivered. Ethan, and Levi bowling their self titled “pace” to dry up the runs and even claim a wicket.
Ed was brought on for some of his famous death bowling, which evolved into something that worked; bringing the retirement of Scotty, a wicket and only 10 runs in 2 overs.
Radar was also relieved of the gloves, which had been relatively drowned in the sweat of his success behind the stumps (he really did a cracking job) and were worn gleefully by the Dog.
Radar continued his dominance, taking 2 quick wickets, though this did bring Scotty back to the middle, allowing him to belt two more sixes – bringing his total to 50 for the match and Rottos total to 166
The innings break provided a welcome reprieve to the visiting Quokkas, many of them resembling the wicket-keeping gloves by this point, or perhaps evolving into some sort of jerky.
Needing to beat a score of 167 off 22 overs, The Rev knew a good run rate was needed and had a lot of confidence in the players at his disposal, but more confidence in himself.
The Rev is going through an evolution as a batsman, having scored 50 runs off 43 runs so far this season, so decided to open the batting. He knew that real class was needed to go with his ‘close your eyes and swing’ approach, so Cat strode out with him.
The move paid off initially, with 8 runs coming off the first over before Cat faced a lifter which she had a go at, resulting in a gloved catch going to the (very) agile Sandgroper behind the stumps.
This brought Ed & his beard to the crease. Ed used to be a nurdler, then evolved into a swatter & is now someone that likes lifting the ball from outside off over the fine leg boundary. He tried it on his first shot, failed, and then started fours everywhere else around the ground, including a 6 over cover.
He and the Rev put on 33 in very quick time, before The Rev got impatient, playing a cut shot to Jonesy at long off, rather than into the bar.
Still, only 4 overs had gone and the run rate was as healthy as a young Shane Woewoeden.
Jay came to the crease and started to score immediately, he and Ed taking the score to 73 before Ed was the victim of evolution, bowled through the gate by a ten year-old.
Radar managed to make it out to the middle, an admirable effort considering the work he had done so far, but wasn’t able to add much more to the scoreboard.
Coming in for some badly needed drinks, the Quokkas were 4/87, with more runs than Rotto had at the same juncture for the cost of only 1 more wicket. The traditional collapse was well on track.
Jay retired soon after drinks, bringing Dale and Karl to the crease. Both pushed the runs forward admirably, but were brought undone by the suddenly swinging ball. It hadn’t evolved, it was the famous Fremantle Doctor making a house call on the weekend.
The Big Dog came and went for only 2 runs, but did the most Big Dog of things and walked when the umpire didn’t give him caught behind. Western Australia is a long way to drive for 2 runs, but your life can be a long one to lead in shoes you don’t feel comfortable in.
Vince then came to the crease and started belting the ball to all corners, bringing up 25 in quick time but started running out of partners. The local policeman, Duncan, was the last man out there for the Quokkas (though Jay was padded up and sweating enthusiastically in the shade) in his first game of cricket ever.
20 was needed off the last 2 overs, which became 16 off 1 which finished with the visiting Quokkas ending up 6 runs short of victory in a tense game that was enjoyed by all.
It is funny to think that the Quokkas started as an indoor team that evolved to play outdoors against English village sides and is now helping Australian villages start their own sides, enabling visitors to learn more about this great brown land and admire the dim-witted (but cute) marsupials that roam it.
Many thanks to Jonesy for organising the game and being so hospitable, the entire Rotto team for the game and Jeremy for his great work behind the bar.