Participants: Naveen (Nav) Arunachalam, Craig Barrett, Tony (The Bunt, Bunty) Blades, Phil Bowes, Jon (JD) Deverill, Matt (Fudgy) Fudge, Veith Gattinger, James (Jabez) Kantor, Igor (The Gore) Sestan, Praf Toke, Dan (Westy) Weston. “Gores Tours”.
As I stand here now up on the deck of the Vis to Split Ferry trying to counter the pitch and yaw, it reminds me of many previous tours. I’m not good on boats and this motion is making the two bottles of unpronounceable wine I ordered with dinner last night seem like they may be an investment with instant returns. This, my only pang of regret on what has been a memorable and well organised addition to what I now know to be the affectionately titled “Gores Tours”. Arriving In Croatia.Below deck is a scattering of MCC littering the floor, trying to claw their way back to sleep after a 5am clamber to make the ferry back. A disheveled troop, wending its way home.
The trip from Split to Vis had been bathed in glorious sunshine. Having rallied at Terminal 2, Munich – 8.15am – Friday, introductions were made among those who didn’t already know each other and old partnerships resumed for those who did. It transpired that two of the party had insider knowledge of the twin prop aircraft that was to take us over Italy and on to Croatia. “Fudgy” has an intimate knowledge of desk fans and propellers whilst Craig displayed a “nerd-like” affinity with it because his company had built it! The only casualty at this early stage was “Bunty” Blades, who had an air of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” about him, having contracted a serious dental infection the day before. Antibiotics had been administered and “The Bunt” was clearly displeased at the timing and a bad nights go. Was this at the forefront of people’s minds when the voting began on certain criteria for the tour…? A hearty lunch in Split bought about the notion of a tour-based spread-bet. Most: Runs, fours, sixes, wides, catches, ducks, “thanks for coming” (overall most statistically shite player) and a “C*#t of a Tour” award (For one who maybe didn’t have the best of times on and off the pitch?). Having selected our candidates for each category it was time to jump on the ferry, but not before a walk past the historic Roman Villa in the old town centre and a foray into the market stalls for hats, glasses and “thongs”…MCC is a splendidly cosmopolitan constellation of cricketers, hailing from all “corners” of what is an essential “round” planet.
Just as an American declaring that he has “bruised his fanny” after a fall will induce a fake coughing fit from an Englishman to hide his amusement, so will Daniel Weston declaring “Oh no! I’ve left my thongs behind!” Some images, once thought, are harder to erase than others and I’ve never really seen the appeal of flip-flops….Naveen had regaled himself in a particularly fetching sailors cap with “Captain” emblazoned on the front. Praf opted for a white plant pot.Once aboard a game broke out and the first ball was lost before the engines had even started (Bunty Blades’s lofted back-foot drive over mid-on and in to the drink for six – backyard cricket rules apply – Out!). It was at this point that we encountered the enemy for the first time. A Croatian named Ivan who had been studying the MCC gameplay, introduced himself. He’d taken a wild stab that we may be the touring side he was travelling to Vis to play and was immediately handed a beer.The crossing was blissfully easy and only Praf, who’d never travelled by ferry before, was mildly underwhelmed by the experience. “Is this as fast as it goes!?”It was indeed a serene pace. A two hour journey over the waters during which another match broke out, but this time with a far more impressive barricade of bags, cases and rucksacks arranged to ensure that no ball could ever make its way in to the Adriatic again. So it was that the second ball was quickly lost (Westy’s clip to fine leg magically evading every bag, case and rucksack to splosh into the sea for four – backyard cricket rules apply – Out!).
Finally the ferry rounded its last islet and into Vis harbour, producing a flurry of photography, for it is a handsome scene. A steep sided cove causing the dipping sun to throw a shadow over the bay and illuminating the west side of the town in a warm orange glow. An auric moment I shall enjoy for all time. What a start to a tour! Disembarkation and a march up the hill took MCC platoon to our apartments and home for the weekend. Roommates were divided off and nesting completed so that we could venture in to town for Pizza and a drink. Three of us chose a nice glass of red, which hit the pallet like a razor blade and gave you an instant migraine. Christ knows what a second sip would have done, but they’re still there if you want to go back and find out?!Pooped but enthusiastic for the next day’s unfolding, it was back to the ranch and dreams of double centuries, stunning catches, huge boundary hitting and improbably close finishes on the pitch tomorrow. Surely none of which would be possible? Would it….?
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…. The William Hoste Cricket Club. From Vis it’s a zigzag climb up the steep sides of the bay to the plateau that tops the island. Here is where you’ll find the Sir William Hoste Cricket Club, our hosts. Settled immaculately amid the vineyards and backing on to a disused WWII landing strip, it was crested with blue skies generating a very pleasant 25°C as we arrived. The farmstead is owned by Oliver Roki, cricket lover and host extraordinaire. It’s a truly unique and wondrous location to play some cricket.Founded in 2009, the club is named after the British naval captain who brought cricket to the island during the Napoleonic wars. The words “Remember Nelson” * are humorously displayed on the backs of their shirts.This is smallholding farm country. An ancient landscape that has seen little change, for centuries. You look down from the dusty parking area on to a newly mown field in the centre of which is a hard, super flat all weather surface. At the far end is a scaffold tent structure with a white tarp cover. This is the general purpose/changing area. To the right of it two large wine casks have been cleaved in two from top to bottom and have found new purpose as the scoreboard. Here ends the list of amenities…. It’s bare, brash and beautiful.As you walk out to bat from the changing area, the scoreboard is to your left beneath the shade of a tree three metres in from the boundary. You walk to the nearest set of stumps and the strip is almost side on to changing area. Beyond the boundary on your left and right sides are immaculately kept vines in early springtime leaf. The mid on/off boundary ahead marks the start of a rocky bank that climbs up two metres to a thorny scrubland. Behind you there is a long strip of mown grass 100 metres wide and half a mile long, with large cigar shaped concrete pillars, two abreast every 20 metres and standing twelve feet tall. This forms what remains of an old WWII landing strip. You can learn all about the club by visiting their website: http://www.viscricket.com/The Game.
We were given a hearty welcome on arrival by a not-yet-complete-team consisting of Croat, Croat/Australian, Australian and English men. Three members of the side were expected to arrive on the 1pm ferry. Skipper Weston wisely gave the undesirable duty of the toss to “The Gore” and the latter was smartly convince by Craig (Opposition captain and star player) to let them bat first as they didn’t have enough fielders.This was a tricky solution, as we were starting at noon and the trip from the ferry would mean that the other three players would arrive nearer to 2pm. If things went well with the ball, they might run out of batsmen and the game would become a very low scoring affair.Choosing to smash a ball around for forty overs against an eight man opposition was simply not an option, so this was the risk Captain Craig had to take. MCC did not hold back the hounds, opening up the attack with Igor from the airstrip end and “The Bunt”, out of the shrubbery. “Bunty” (now rested and with drugs administered) had an appetite for some early inroads and was soon rewarded. Part way in to the third over he removed the opening bat, bowled off his legs with the score on a handful.While number three walked out, number five was padding up with three onlookers taking notes on how to put the things on. The pressure was squarely on Captain Craig…Yorkshire born boy who’d made his home in Lancashire, he was hewn from the right kind of background to take on adversity. A prophetic comment before the innings began had been made – “Take whatever Craig makes and add 80” the number three batsman had said. Number three’s resistance was strong and lusty blows were struck, but he and all of Craig’s men fell with scores of:9, 8, 11, 6, 15, 0, 1 and 1. Extras added another 16, but in total only 67 had been amassed by the time the last wicket fell (Just ten men were mustered once the ferry had arrived).
If Captain Craig had not scored a sublime 203 Not Out, the game may have been a predictable and simple task for the MCC. Not so! Despite the figures I’ve just given (I can only go by the scorecard I have!) 279 runs were on the board and needed to be chased down.9 bowlers had been used, including:Igor Sestan – 4 Overs, 0 Maidens, 1 Wide, 39 Runs, 0 WicketsBunty Blades – 7/3/0/27/2Craig Barrett – 8/1/0/52/1James Kantor –4/1/0/12/0Phil Bowes – 4/0/2/52/0Praf Toke –2/0/0/25/0Veith Gattinger – 2/0/0/12/0Jon Deverill – 4/0/0/27/4 **Matt Fudge – 3/0/0/24/0It was indeed a courageous innings and there had been the usual mixture of glorious and inglorious fielding – Phil Bowles’s direct hit run-out from the boundary being the pick of the fielding and JD’s long barrier, only to see the ball bobble straight past him, being at the other end of the scale.Lunch. Lunch was in the courtyard of the main farmhouse. Cool and shaded, you could imagine how it would provide perfect rest bite in the middle of summer. So it was for us too. Bowls of goulash were ladled out to willing recipients and chilled beers cracked open. The opposition were probably the keener of the two sides to leave the safe haven of that courtyard and face the challenge ahead.MCC Reply.Naveen and Weston strode out and Naveen strode back again three balls later without a run on the board. Our reply had begun with a wicket maiden – Nav, ominously clean bowled.Dan and Praf started to fire and when the skipper fell, (caught behind) a momentum had been built. Praf was looking sublimely at ease whilst Westy had scored a 23 ball 56.Matt Fudge got off the mark with a boundary, but fell after a quick-fire 16, having been cleaned up by the opener that had already got both Nav and Westy.A horrible mix-up saw Veith run out on 6.
The run rate was ok, but we were sinking under the Sir William barrage. 122 for four off 16 overs. Praf was still looking the part and building toward a handy 50. Enter Phil Bowes… I’m not sure, but the MCC acolyte – Bowes, may have been sharing some of Bunty’s antibiotics? For he too was full of vim. Phil plundered a four straight away and continued to pick off the bowling with regular boundaries, proving the perfect foil for the Goweresque Praf. Praf rattled past his fifty and the two were bringing the game into our half when Bowes was caught on 22. Enter Jabez…By now something was flowing through the collective veins of the MCC party…. It may have been adrenalin and it could have been the crate of beer that the opposition had cunningly left in the changing area for our general pleasure. At any rate, James seemed to be buoyed by one or the other and he set about dismantling the 87 needed from last 13 overs with aplomb. Even playing a cheeky bastard reverse sweep.Praf finally fell just seven short of his ton. He was gutted to have been caught with the job still not done, but had played quite sweetly. His cover drive for six was for me, the shot of the match. Not to worry….I walked out to bat knowing that Jabez was hurtling along and he warmed my heart by informing me that we only needed seven an over off the last four overs. He was then promptly bowled on 36. In walks Craig Barrett….I’m not picky with bats, but I do have biggish hands and I prefer two or three grips on the handle. I’d been eyeing the new Puma because it seemed to have a bigger grip than the bat I’d picked up? Seizing my opportunity I greeted Craig and asked if he liked the bat he had?” I don’t know?” he said, not taking the bait.He took guard, got a juicy full toss and smacked it for four. “Yeah, I like this bat.” He said.We scrimped and scratched along, but with two overs left we needed 16. One ball later we needed ten from 15 as a lucky swop earned me six of the best. A wide ball later and I managed to get hold of another one outside the off. It screamed out of the screws and tracer-like straight at our host, Oliver Roki at cover. It was a moment of “surety that I’d just struck a decisive blow toward victory” that turned to “Surety that I’d killed Oliver” and ended with me walking off having been caught, most bravely. I doffed my cap to him.So I had failed and left the task to The Gore and Craig, needing 9 from 9. By the final over, we needed 6 from 6.Craig on strike and two dot balls followed. Was Craig buckling or was this extreme confidence? He found his willow and took two of the next, and the next. Two needed from two, but what next!? Igor returning for the winning run of the penultimate ball is run out and we only have one wicket remaining with one to get of the last ball!!! Surely it can’t be a tie!!??…The Evening.All I can say is that we had lovely time, in great company and in the most agreeable of settings. The opposition spoilt us rotten that evening, with dinner in the farmhouse restaurant. We ate a feast including lamb and octopus that had been cooked for hours during the game in large cast iron pots, buried in charcoal. We drank wine from the very vineyards that surrounded us and mostly talked bollocks (Which is the cricketing ideal) until we finally went to wend our way back down the hill to bed.The fact that the last ball was smote for four and that Craig will live forever in the annals of cricketing history is merely by-the-by.The End….?If you ever go to the small Island of Vis, take your whites. If you meet Oliver, shake his hand for me. I would not be surprised if he winces.By the way, you can watch the final over of the match on the club Facebook page, as recorder by Westy.What followed the on the final two days of tour, I leave to Mr. Bowes to recall. TBC……….*Nelson is a piece of cricket slang terminology and superstition.The name, applied to team or individual scores of 111 or multiples thereof (known as double nelson, triple nelson, etc.) is thought to refer to Lord Nelson’s lost eye, arm and leg; however, notably Nelson actually had both of his legs intact, and the third missing body part is mythical.Longtime cricket historian and scorer, Bill “Bearders” Frindall once referred to it online as “one eye, one arm and one etcetera”, implying that Nelson’s alleged third lost body part was “something else”, however this is equally mythical. In the 1939 film of Goodbye, Mr Chips a schoolboy refers to Nelson in these terms: “One arm, one eye, one destiny”. Umpire David Shepherd during a radio interview to mark his retirement explained it as “One arm, one eye and one lump of sugar in his tea.” (Taken from Wikipedia)** JD benefitted enormously from the retirement of Captain Craig, who having slapped him straight back over his head for yet another six to reach his double century, then retired and allowed those who had been taking tips on how to pad up to come in.
Days 1 & 2 Written by JD.