Quokkas CC 143 all out (Garlic Bread 21) beat Wantage & Grove CC 105 all out (Evil Dave 3-30, Ches 3-19, Garlic Bread 2-7)
I made the ultimate sacrifice earlier in the year when turning down a ticket to watch Saints in the FA Cup Semi-final at Wembley, in favour of accompany Mrs Ches on a long-planned pilgrimage to South Wales. For someone who got his first season ticket in 1984 and only seen my team play twice at Wembley since, you’d imagine that it was a very tough call. In actual fact, my longstanding love of the game has diminished somewhat in recent years – the Southampton football business’ (I can’t bring myself to call it a Club any more) decision to charge fans to park their cars in the empty stadium car park when buying tickets or travelling on supporters’ buses to away games was the final straw, so it wasn’t quite as painful as you might think.
And I was glad that I did join the out-laws on a trip down memory lane, otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that my father in-law [no, I have got married Skip, it’s just easier for the story] had represented the Navy against Yorkshire, Boycott and all, whilst stationed in Gibraltar. Or that his family home in Caerleon sat immediately above a yet to be discovered Roman fortress and accompanying baths. The house itself is still standing, but the back garden is now an impressive museum housing frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium and natation once used by the Second Augustan Legio in AD 75.
OK, so Caerleon doesn’t have the ornate mosaics of the lavish Fishbourne Roman Palace in my neighbouring town of Chichester, but we are talking about one of only three permanent homes for the Roman army in Britain and a damn sight more impressive than the old brick works my house apparently sits above. What an amazing discovery, the father in-law had his suspicions of course (was it the cassis and gladius poking out of the flower beds that gave the game away Ron?), but then again, these Roman artefacts seem to unveil themselves in all manner of strange places. You will probably all be aware of the Roman bath house discovered under the Carlisle Cricket club when rebuilding the cricket pavilion.
Wantage, more famous for being the birthplace of Alfred the Great, was itself a small Roman settlement, with impressive tower granaries probably used to store grain before being taken as taxes to feed the Roman army. Whether there is an undiscovered amphitheatre hidden under their cricket square, I am unsure, but with the club always offering Quokkas a tea fit for Emperor Hadrian himself, it was certainly worth a trip just in case.
On arrival at the ground there were no obvious signs of aureus lying in the outfield, but it appeared that Skip had unearthed some gems, with The Juggler making his first appearance on a Sunday and the reappearance of Garlic Bread and Jerry the Grey, both having been buried under schoolwork for the previous two years. These fresh-faced gladiators were joined by the usual fossils such as myself, Evil Dave and Slick, creating a formidable side, if perhaps light on numbers.
With half of the team lost somewhere near Oxford, perhaps attempting to find the North Leigh Roman Villa, we took the obvious decision to bat. The Yak and Faggie were sent in, resuming their undefeated partnership, that saw us to victory in the corresponding fixture last season. They set off at a tremendous rate again, looking both assured in defence and ferocious in attack. Sadly, Faggie was out 93 short of another fabulous century, but with some lusty blows from The Yak it was certainly a decent start.
From then on, the runs continued to flow, with Slick, The Juggler and Evil Dave hammering balls to the boundary, only interrupted by those damn straight wicket taking balls. A fine spinner at one end then turned the screw, bamboozling all but Garlic Bread, who displayed a wonderful straight bat, testudo-type defence and some quality cricket shots. The Skip looked to have recovered from his UDI (unidentified drinking injury) that kept him out of the first game, but showed every one of his 43 hard years, when running three consecutive twos. When he was eventually bowled around his legs, our total looked a little short, but with Jerry the Grey and Dave, the Wantage Chairman, he had seen us to a defendable 143 all out.
Over the most wonderful of teas (gin jelly and chocolate orange marble cake being just two of the highlights) we pondered whether we really wanted England to win the World cup thereby creating the possibility of Henderson, Lingard and Deli Ali being handed knighthoods, whether the sex dolls business requires a sex establishment licence if they provide a `try before you buy’ offer, and why there is such intense scrutiny of meat content in sausages but a rather lassie fait attitude towards the mini cocktail versions? Gripping stuff, but with a Brazil World Cup game later that evening, we have a batting line up to conquer.
Evil Dave, now located a pilum’s throw from Verulamium, opened the bowling. After his usual slow first delivery, he found equal amounts of rhythm and venom to help garner three crucial wickets, helped by some tidy catching in the field. At the other end, Garlic Bread, who I would guess spends much of his spare time finding tesserae, pot sherds and tiles near to the Roman trackways passing through Harpenden, bowled a tremendous spell. Despite already steaming in, he was encouraged, after very ball, to bowl “faster” and “faster” by Skip. He duly obliged, much to Slick’s chagrin behind the stumps, who took several for the team, including one in the face. Not to be outdone, The Juggler decided to trap a ball headed to the boundary with his mouth and Evil Dave swallow dived onto the concrete-like square attempting an impossible catch.
Those positioned in the slips were in equal danger of injury due to the pace of the bowling and the varied bounce. One fast, full length delivery from Garlic Bread caught an edge that flew through the cordon at lightning speed (well that’s my excuse). My failure to grab it brought unsympathetic encouragement from The Yak, which brought a wry smile from Skip. However, further breakthroughs were not long coming, with Jerry the Grey finding a troubling length immediately and grabbing himself a well-deserved wicket.
We were on top, but with the fine spinner revealing himself to be equally competent with the bat, the game was far from over. He calmly carved several balls to the boundary and intelligently picked gaps in the field. Just as it looked like the tide had turned he was triggered by his own umpire from another beauty from Garlic Bread.
With our opponents now facing a proverbial `pollice verso’, Skip turned to very slow bowling to ease the pressure. After an inauspicious start, I borrowed a ball from The Egg’s back catalogue, which managed to eek out the stubborn opener, thanks to a fine catch from Evil Dave. I then claimed, with huge exuberance, the prize wicket of the 13-year old that had clean bowled me earlier. My overenthusiastic appeal for leg before wicket (in the end unrequired because he was bowled) may have been mistaken for celebration, but I feel no shame whatsoever [he’s out, it’s in the book and there’s no `under 13’s’ Asterix on the Quokka top trump cards that I’m aware of].
The Yak, held back because he is just too damn good at cleaning up the tail, was eventually brought on to bowl. At the other end, a bruised Juggler, showed me what spin bowling is really meant to look like. Predictably they took the remaining wickets in emphatic manner, both unplayable, as always.
With another gladiatorial contest over, the quorum of Quokkas decided to celebrate the win with a few cerevisiae in the glorious late afternoon sun and discussed ways in which we could somehow put a team out to challenge the Leigh empire next week. That is what a `club’ is all about.