• Harpenden Dolphins CC 185-9 (Smruti 3-18, Harry 2-25, Mike 2-34) beat Quokkas CC 184-7 (Seagull 52, Faggie 48, Tugboat 40)

    It was a weekend of birthdays. Paul McCartney made it to 80 and The Yak is slowly catching him up. Both seemed to enjoy the celebrations. Neither seem to age. The similarities possibly end there unless Tom is also carrying pictures of Chairman Mao that I wasn’t aware of.

    Paul may have been seen to break up the fab four when he wouldn’t delay the release of his solo album and then gave an answer to a journalist’s question that “The Beatles no longer existed”, but the truth is John Lennon quit the band some time previous and then they all kept quiet about it until they got their (tax) affairs in order. I’m no expert, but Yoko may have had something to do with John’s decision and maybe George’s desire to have his song writing skills recognised would have seen him jump ship if John hadn’t got to the punch first. 

    What I do know, is in the proceeding decade, they produced music that will probably see no equal and despite my desire to continually discover something new, it’s great to return to The Beatles every once in a while. I got to enjoy a lot of their songs, brilliantly reproduced for a BBC Radio 2 show, `Friday night is music night: The Beatles Orchestrated’, during my drive home from the game on Sunday. It’s funny how much more enjoyable being stuck in a traffic jam can be when Hey Jude gets going. Certainly stops me blowing my mind out in the car. The standstill on the M25 also gave me time to consider who wins a fight between a lion and an alligator, python and honey badger, dolphin or Quokka? The first two are obvious, and the third? Well, that may depend if Snorky is among the pod of dolphins (Ed: Is that from The Simpsons – Night of the Dolphin?) or they have a first team batsman hiding at number 10. (Ed: That’s one hell of a segway Ches)

    To celebrate Tom’s birthday we hit the Harpenden drinking dens, and it was a hard day’s night consuming the entire top shelf before retiring to chez Bradley to watch the College World Series until 3:30am. Not the ideal preparation for a cricket match, but certainly a good warm-up for the tour. Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. My hangover was eased by a wonderful continental breakfast in the glorious Harpenden sunshine, followed by a fabulous barbecue. They do look after you well at the Bradleys…I wonder if he will still be feeding me when I’m 64? 

    Skip had the pre-match nutrition well in hand, but logistics less so, as we set off and arrived at the new ground in St. Albans about half an hour late. I’m pleased to say the new pitch came with a mower. I think the groundsman may work for Dulux, as he had prepared the wicket with the thickest white lines I’ve ever seen. Now was a good time to ask whether having your entire boot on the line was still out. 

    Here comes the sun. Thankfully, on a hot day, Skip won the toss and put us in. Take note Seagull. Unfortunately he asked me to open. Skip’s advice to `be more selfish when batting’ quickly came back to haunt him. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot and another dot. Solid start Seagull, but “get on with it.” 

    There were actually 27 dot balls, a four and two singles in the first five overs, as Tugboat and Seagull made a very `cautious’ start, all be it against some extremely accurate seam and swing bowling. Skip was slightly concerned and at drinks he reminded me that there was `plenty of batting to come’. We did eventually get going and put on 64 for the first wicket – Tugboat being caught in the deep. Faggie, not known for his patience, stepped things up with an immediate four and he carried most of the weight on his shoulders. It was a good partnership, with some excellent calling. Faggie said “Yes”, I said “No”. He said, “Stop” and I said, “Go, go, go”. Together we put on another 68 runs in short time, with Seagull getting his half century, before being caught in the `not so deep’ from a tired looking shot. 

    Faggie, just shy of his own fifty, joined him in the hutch a few overs later, but by then we had some runs on the board. The Yak and Arunav continued to keep things ticking over nicely despite a slow outfield, finding the bowling to their liking and one or two gaps in the field. Both fell to simple catches though, which provided the opportunity for the next generation of Quokkas (Harry and Haydon) to demonstrate their batting skills. When Haydon was bowled not too long into his debut, this allowed Skip and son to see out the innings in much the same way as we started, with a couple of dot balls. “Get on with it.” 

    The Bradleys provided us with a wonderful tea, including a chocolate birthday cake for Tom. This was supplemented by butterfly cakes, pork pies and sausage rolls. Basically food heaven. Over lunch we discussed long tossing, dollar shimmies and Thailand table tennis. Don’t ask. There was also talk of a third Bradley family member taking to the field, but Seagull’s offer to sit out the second innings wasn’t taken, which Skip lived to regret. A sizeable period of lunch was dedicated to a Michael Jackson number being reworked by Faggie and the Yak for Arunav. To be honest, as song writers, they are the Ringo and George of the Beatles, with Evil and myself taking the John and Paul roles, taking sad songs and making them better. And to prove a point I considered writing the entire match report using Beatles lyrics (Ed: I can see that you have sneaked one or two in already), but then realised I have a company to run, so have settled for this simple deviation from this classic: 

    Yesterday, all the short balls seemed so far away, now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in ducking away. 

    OK, so maybe I’m more Pete Best… 

    I digress. We’d set our opponents a healthy 185 to win, let’s see how they got them. Where do you want me to field Skip? “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.“ Righto.

    As I mentioned, a new generation of Quokkas are coming through, with Harry and Haydon adding some much needed youth, energy, and cricketing ability to the mix. The pair opened the bowling and showed us how to do it, with great lines and lengths. You know, the things we’ve been failing to find for the last decade. They took wickets too. Talk about a revolution. We slowly worked our way through the batting order. That was helped by a fabulous running catch by Tugboat (and great fielder placement by Skip), who steamed in from the boundary to claim a key wicket and another brilliant grab taken by a more stationary Skip. It’s getting better all the time. Fruiti put the home side under considerable pressure, claiming three wickets in a spell that included one or two balls offering some actual flight. At this point we looked favourites, although you may say I’m a dreamer. But I wasn’t the only one.

    Arunav’s slightly overexuberant celebrations did irk one Dolphin, who I had also annoyed earlier when enquiring whether his head high full toss might be no-ball.
    “No ball? Seriously? At my pace?”
    “Well, at that pace it ought to be easier to land it on the pitch.”

    “It’s a Sunday friendly.”

    “It certainly seems it.”

    At this point words are flowing out, like endless rain into a paper cup.

    “Let it be Seagull.” 

    “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friends.”

    I did mention it was hot out there? 

    Wickets for Evil Dave, The Yak and two from Haydon’s dad, Mike, put us in the driving seat, beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah, but with a first team regular batsman coming in at number 10, we knew the game was far from won. 

    As he came to the crease Faggie came on. Left arm over the wicket bowlers have been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. In his first over there were shades of the Quokkas Ashes circa 2019, as three shortish deliveries were dispatched into the strawberry fields forever. Nothing you can say, but I guess you can learn how to play the game Faggie. It’s easy! Have a spell.

    What we needed here was the Egg man, but he was off climbing the Eiffel tower, watching Nine Inch Nails or suchlike. Despite this onslaught, a few tight overs from Skip and Harry kept us in it and the game was up for grabs when a lofted straight drive failed to go the distance. Sadly, Seagull attacked it with the same vigour as his earlier batting, and found a reason for taking the easy way out. The catch avoidance trophy will look good on the mantlepiece. Through gritted teeth, Skip politely enquired whether perhaps that was catchable? I chose to avoid all eye contact and blamed the pre-match preparations. With that, the chance of victory was gone and not even Fruiti could prevent the inevitable, especially with two legside full tosses. 

    Make no mistake though, this was a very good performance by the Quokkas against an excellent Dolphins side with two or three very talented cricketers indeed. That fact it went down to the last wicket and penultimate over is testament to the two captains curating a terrific encounter. For those I’m not still avoiding eye contact with, see you at Hartfield.

    Seagull – in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

    Posted by iain @ 9:23 am

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