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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by iain @ 9:15 am

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