• 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.

    They do get excited about Spiderman swimwear though

    They do get excited about Spiderman swimwear though

     

    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.

    It also has a nice wind turbine that gets right up the nose of onion-eating Prime Ministers

    It also has a nice wind turbine that gets right up the nose of onion-eating Prime Ministers

     

    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.

    Also, this sign

    Also, this sign

     

    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?!?”

    magic

    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.

    bin

    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.

    The man is an excitement machine.

    The man is an excitement machine.

     

    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.

     

  • Match Facts:

    Saturday, November 11

    Rottnest Island Primary School Oval

    Rottnest Island, Western Australia

     

    Time:

    11.30am Start

     

    The Big Picture:

    Well, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Some 15 years since the Quokkas were first created in West London for an indoor cricket team, their name being inspired by the overtly friendly and predator-less Marsupial that is native to Rottnest Island.

     

    What other animal could resemble the fear that we strike into the hearts of our opponents?

     

    No, it had to be the Quokka, and the Quokka it has stayed.

     

    After moving home from London in 2009, The Rev (club co-founder), pieced together the Australian interpretation of the Team, which has blossomed in-line with his grey hairs.

     

    Having played tour games in Launceston, Adelaide, Nerrena and Sri Lanka, the Quokkas are finally visiting the home of the Quokka; Rottnest Island.

     

    Their opponents for the match will be the local team that, delightfully, share the nickname. This may end up being like that Monty Python sketch where everyone is named Bruce, or simply called Bruce to save confusion.

     

    Form Guide:

    The touring Quokkas are coming into the game having won their first two games of the season so far, unprecedented as this almost equals their total wins for the last two seasons combined.

     

    The visiting Quokkas have chased scores of 170 in their last two matches in about 23 and 22 overs, so have the opportunity to get a big score once they get started.

     

    They have, though, been impacted by the customary withdrawals from the game, so have had to perform the also-customary ring-around to pull in some ringers.

     

    The home Quokkas have requested a T20 game, with no bowler to come off more than 3 steps, which should play right into the hands of the visiting Quokkas highest wicket-takers; Ed and The Big Dog.

     

    The home Quokkas haven’t played a game since the decline in the mining boom out West, so should be in similar form

    In the spotlight:

    A late and welcome inclusion for the game, Radar has been in awesome form so far this season. Opening the batting against the Launceston All Stars, he retired with 30 from 22 balls, then bowled 2 overs for 1 wicket and 1 run.

     

    Radar is 6th for total Quokka appearances (36) and ‘kept up to the wicket like a young Tim Zuehrer in the last match, something that will be very useful with the 3-step limit.

    The great man

    The great man

     

    Team News:

    It wouldn’t be a Quokkas match, particularly a touring match, without a few changes and change is what we have.

     

    Thankfully, we also know people in Western places so 4 new faces come into the team, as well as one highly-anticipated debut.

     

    The team, at the time of writing, is:

    1. The Rev (c)
    2. Vince
    3. Ed
    4. Dale
    5. Big Dog
    6. Ivan
    7. Jay
    8. Radar (w/k)
    9. Karl
    10. Cat
    11. Max Nichols (vc)

     

    Pitch and Conditions:

    The pitch is the only cricket ground on the island and in surprisingly good condition given the amount of sports that it hosts, as well as the backpackers and (actual) Quokkas that do *things* on it throughout the year.

     

    Looks a treat

    Looks a treat

    It being November in Western Australia, we are expecting a dry day of about 24 degrees with blue skies and plenty of debate about whether the Eagles should have let John Worsfold go / whether Bancroft will be opening / keeping wicket for the First Test.

    Its really not terrible here

    Its really not terrible here

     

    Stats and Trivia:

    • This being a T20 match, the stats wont count towards player records (apart from appearances)
    • This will be Jays 23rd appearance for the Quokkas, bringing him equal with Alex and Chef, and only 3 behind The Phantom (26)
    • This will also be Cats 16th appearance, bringing her level with previous B&F winner Rowdy and 1 appearance ahead of another B&F winner; Gladys
    • The Quokkas have NEVER WON a tour match, so there is absolutely no pressure to change that now

     

     

     

     

  • Battling a 140km+ howling gale QCC strode on to the Fairfield ground for this the first pub league match of summer ’17/18.

    Old foes the Terminus Hotel rocked up a few minutes before the scheduled start time, set up a barbie, grabbed a beer and reclined to watch the show.

    Meanwhile, the powerful Quokka attack is put through its “paces.” So many choices, so many great (or formerly thought to show promise of greatness) bowlers. After I assured almost everyone at the club that they might open the bowling, in the end, there was only really one clear option – the stocky Kiwi Swing Machine, Chef in tandem with the pinpoint accuracy of James “Frothy” Gow.

    Not the start we were after; The first 4 overs going for 6/15/10/12.

    To the bowlers’ credit, good balls were being dispatched left right and center from what was the Termo’s designated batter/s. Chef supported his opening counterpart by dropping two difficult catches in quick succession in “Frothy’s” second over, all adding up to a what could only be described as an a-typical QCC shit show.

    Radar and Monty into the attack, the retirement of the designated batters, and a general lift in the field saw QCC slow the bleeding before the break.

    A sustained attacked of quality medium pace from Rev, Snipper, and Jay (Me) held the home side to 1/90 off the opening 12 overs. Rev snaring the only wicket of the opening session through a confidence building catch from the little Kiwi legend – Chef.

    After the break Ed, Dutchy, Pup, Roley (on debut), Gaz all contributing to what has to be said was some very tight second session bowling.

    Some excellent wickets coming from Dutchy, Ed, and Roley at critical moments. The Quokkas applied some solid pressure (resulting in 2 run outs) and pulled up the Termo to an innings ending 7/170.

    Lunch was just fantastic.

    Snags and Chicken, few dogs around. Some reggae (some 10CC).

    QCC feeling quietly confident.

    Snipper and Ed were sent out to the crease to open the Quokka account. Snipper went to town, scoring 32 off 15 balls. Ed, playing a masterful opening slot with 33 off 25 balls. Monty and Gaz both doing a great Job at 3 and 4, before both being run out (Sorry Monty). Jay (me) smashing 36 off 20, and Rev coming in to hit 29 not out off 25 balls saw QCC take what felt like an inevitable victory at Fairfield, which to be fair, is a field.

    Great keeping all day from Dutchy and Radar!

    Impressive bowling and sweet times from the new teammates Roley, Gaz & Monty (formerly Burner).

    Perfect start to the pub season.

    Strong boys. Very Strong.

  • Match Facts:

    Sunday, October 29

    Fairfield Oval, Fairfield

     

    Time:

    1:30pm start

     

    The Big Picture:

    This is the first YPCA match for the Quokkas this season, after hosting (and winning) their season opener against the touring Launceston Pub League All Stars last week.

     

    The Quokkas opened their last season against The Terminus in a game that they won in freezing conditions, courtesy of Snipper hitting a 6 off the last ball of the game.

    Wild celebrations followed

    Wild celebrations followed

    The Terminus always play the game in the right spirit(s) and the Quokkas are very much looking forward to this ‘contest’.

     

    Form Guide:

    The Quokkas are coming into this game having won their last match, so are (statistically) likely not to win it…or any other games this season.

     

    That being said, the incumbent men in maroon seem to do much better off the pitch (recruiting new players) than on it, with new Quokkas Stewart, Gaz and Robbie (aka. Burner) all impressing on debut.

     

    Jay, Captain for this game, has a swag of bowling options available to him and some of them are even decent.

     

    The Terminus are hosting this game, so Jay will have the ability early to emulate a 19th century textile factory owner, and test out his seamers.

    Jay, overseeing the team

    Jay, overseeing the team

     

    In the Spotlight:

    After losing the highest wicket taker mantle to the Big Dog last week, Ed has the chance to reclaim it while the Dog is uncharacteristically absent; geocaching on the Nullarbor.

     

    Ed has cost the Quokkas the devils number (666) in runs conceded but has taken 36 wickets at 18.5 and only costing 6.27 runs per over. The Captain may do well to open with his economical breaks. Some would argue they are economical as they don’t break.

     

    On the subject of economical bowling, Radar shook the very ground he walked on last week, taking 1/1 off 2 overs and retired hitting his 30 off as many balls. One suspects a new child and no sleep could be helping him along here.

     

    Team News:

    Its all cheers and guffaws at QCCHQ this week, as the team pats itself on the back after getting the annual win, so plenty have already signed up for the next game.

     

    This may well change by Sunday morning, but the XI (at the time of writing) is:

    1. Jay (c)
    2. James Gow
    3. Snipper
    4. Radar
    5. Chef
    6. Gaz
    7. Roley
    8. Burner
    9. Rev
    10. Dutchy (w/k)
    11. Ed

     

    Pitch and Conditions:

    Fairfield Oval is sentimental favourite of the Quokkas, with several highlights of seasons gone by occurring there, including the time that Ed ran out of the toilets to wave his little master around.

     

    The ground is in pretty good condition since the new drainage facilities were installed by the council, though the junior soccer program that ran there over the summer has ensured it meets Quokka ground standards. For those wanting to know more about Quokka ground standards, simply Google “cabbage patch”. Or Ask Jeeves, whatever.

    So many options

    So many options

     

    We are expecting a sunny day with a top of 29 on Sunday, so quite different to last years match & something that may impact our ageing lists ability to make it through the afternoon awake.

     

    Stats and Trivia

    • Snipper made his debut against the Terminus and has a batting average to match his appearance order (52)
    • The Big Chef is only 11 runs off 250 career runs for the Quokkas and averages 23.9 per game, so should get there in the first over he faces

     

  • The Quokkas win, Rev plays a switch hit (and pulls it off) and The Dog bowls the 25th over, all pretty standard for one of our games…..

    With the outfield and the tourists still sozzled from the previous night (one got barred from the Gaso) we had them on the ropes at 6/85 with all the debutantes (Gazza, Robby & Stewart) getting a wicket on debut to go with Jay rattling the castle and the now normal 2 wickets in an over from the reigning B&F who now adds club all-time leading wicket taker to his life achievements.

    After drinks, the tourists ring-ins Rev (21), Roley (Rev minus 21)  and the league president Fos (58 off 20) got them to a good score of 9/177 with the Dog, Jay and Radar grabbing more wickets. Jay 2/19 and Dog 3/24 sharing most of the spoils. Special note to Pup who took 0/1 in his 23 ball two overs.

    After another amazing potato salad and spread from the Dog (is there anything he can’t do?), Radar and Alex got us off to a solid start with 30* for Rohan and a Curtoesque 17* (16 singles) for Alex. The runs continued with Stewart 23*, Dutchy 36* from 14, Robby 27 and 23* from Gazza in the best quokkas innings ever played in a gray cardigan, plus he let the captain hit the winning runs.

    Quokkas 4/178 win with 11 balls to spare.

    Bring on the Terminus

  • Match Facts:

    Sunday, October 22,  Alfred Crescent Oval, Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy

    Time:

    1pm Start

    The Big Picture:

    Good day to you and welcome to another Australian Summer of Quokkas Cricket, a heady time of year for any fan of shambolic representations of the great game.

    This seasons first game is against the might of the Launceston Pub League (LPL), whose genesis began with the Quokka tour to play the Royal Oak at the start of the 2011/12 season. While the spoils of the day did not go to the Quokkas, it did lead to the creation of the LPL, making the great game more accessible to more people, which is (kind of) the point of the whole thing.

    And so the LPL have put a combined ‘All Stars’ team together, with a little assistance from the Quokkas and the YPCA and travelled north to kill their maker. Its kind of like the story of Oedipus, though the role of the mother is yet to be cast.

    Form Guide:

    Being the first game of the season, the Quokkas are in (arguably) their best form of the year. There is a cluster of new faces in the team, a cluster being the collective noun for diamonds, as well as some familiar ones that are a little less shiny.

    The game between the Quokkas and the Royal Oak back in 2011/12 ended with ‘the oak’ knocking over the 109 runs required in 12 overs for the loss of only 2 wickets. Highlights of the game included Eds mate Mark driving up from Hobart to get hit for two of the biggest 6s in history, The Big Dog smashing up some play equipment, Morts meeting some locals and Kathleen making her debut.

    The only Quokkas who played in that match who are available this time around are Dutchy, Big Dog, Ed and The Rev. On form, the LPL are looking good.

    In the Spotlight:

    After starting a bet with Local on who could do the best disappearing act, Pup returns to the starting XI this week to grace us with his left-arm swing bowling and powerful pull shots.

    Being one of the few Quokkas under the Pension age, there is a bit of pressure on the younger O’Donovan to do the parts of cricket that require running, so naturally Pup has brought a mate (Robbie) down to delegate this to.

    Team News:

    After spending much of the off season fretting about how they were ever going to get an XI together, the committee now finds itself with a cluster of Quokkas, whereas the LPL are a bit short. As a result, Roley and The Rev will be filling in for the LPL and possibly one more.

    The Quokkas XI, at the time of writing, is (in no particular order):

    1. Dutchy (w/k)
    2. Big Dog
    3. Pup
    4. Robbie
    5. Alex Gow
    6. James Gow
    7. Sean Scales
    8. Ray Jayner
    9. Gaz / Gary
    10. Stewart Denmead
    11. Radar
    12. Ed (c)

    The nickname sub-committee clearly has some work to do.

    Pitch and Conditions:

    Conditions have conspired to ensure that the nano-sized ground at Alfred Crescent be available for the LPL touring team, a welcome spot for any touring batsman who doesn’t mind culling a few trees while hitting 6s. The weather is supposed to be a bit cooler than the rest of the week (only 18 degrees) with some cloud cover, though the only movement expected through the air will be off the LPL bats at a great pace.

    Stats and Trivia:

    • This will be the Big Dogs 70th overall appearance for The Quokkas, still a club record
    • Interestingly, it will be Radars 35th appearance, though Im not sure if that makes him half the Quokka
    • Despite having a hand average of 22 with the bat and a high score of 37, Alex has only batted in 75% of the games he has played in; Im not sure why team captains may be afraid of winning
    • James Gow averages an impressive 1 wicket per match and will surely be a cornerstone of Sundays formidable bowling attack
    • Jay is only 10 runs off 200 career Quokka runs, hitting them at a healthy average of 31 with a high score of 38*
    • Despite only playing once every other leap year, Pup is still 5th on the all-time wicket-taking list with 20. He only needs 3 to equal The Rev.
  • 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.

    69d3368c63f3ad89f877f9f441c1549b

    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.

    mist

    Cloud Cricket

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

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

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

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

    Ches

    (Statistically speaking, now the most successful Quokka skipper)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Transylvania CC vs Quokkas CC

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

    ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    traditional_dancing

    Romania XI vs Quokkas XI

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

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

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

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

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

    binman

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

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

    stalker 1 stalker 2 stalker 4 stalker3

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

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

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

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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

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