It is impossible to describe to the uninitiated the powers of (If I ever go to Kenya on safari, there’s no way I’d spend a night in a tent. It’s NUTS! I just don’t see the appeal?) concentration required to bat a really long innings.
Test match cricketers who’ve done this have often returned to the pavilion several lbs lighter, because (Believe it or not?) thinking burns up (I believe it, because I looked this up beforehand. Chess players burn a surprisingly high amount of calories during a game. Perhaps that’s why some people claim it should be categorised as a sport and included in the Olympics? Imagine buying tickets for the Olympics and then watching chess for hours? Screw that!) a lot of energy.
The “golf ball” drinking game was probably not the best preparation the night before our big game on the Saturday of our tour to Portugal? This hadn’t really occurred to me, as I walked out to open the innings with Philip Bowes. Although his dash back to the pavilion to take a dump, just as we were about to step forth, was (Looking back) an indicator that perhaps all was not quite as well as it could be?
The previous night’s festivities had brought us in to contact with many of the Coimbra Knights’ players, including one by the name of Colin. Colin (A shy, retired naval engineer, built like shed and with the occasional opinion on absolutely anything) had been challenged by Bowes to a drinking race. Bowes had necked his caneca in less than 6 seconds, leaving Colin high and dry. Technically the winner, Phil immediately burst in to a technicoloured conversation with a wall before returning to the party. Hiatus concluded, we strode out to the middle…
There were some of the opposition we had never met before. Most of these resembled ringers flown in especially from India. Phil (Now quite puce) had informed me that I was definitely facing the first ball as he simply couldn’t. We were playing at the same venue as the previous day, on the same BRAND NEW FLICX TRACK THAT HAD PLAYED SO WELL THE DAY BEFORE (That’s odd. I wonder why I typed that in bold, italic, capital letters?). Yesterday they hadn’t had any quick bowlers, but today one of the “ringers” was opening, and he looked whippy. Also, yesterday I had (perhaps unwisely) left a dead straight full toss and only scored three runs. Nobody wants a duck on tour. I have to sleep with these people! I was feeling unnerved.
The guy ran in. His arm whipped over. My eyes tracked to where the ball should be in accordance with his arm speed and I played a shot at thin air. The ball then bumbled past, on its way to the keeper. Ill Phil might be, but wise he was. The Golf Ball had clearly found its way in to my glass too often too and I was struggling.
The third ball was a juicy short ball and I was able to hook it for four, losing the ball for long enough to allow Phil to chunder more of last night over the boundary edge. Sweaty, pale and having lost the best part of himself from either end of his anatomy, Phil said “I’m not good, but I’ll be fine.”
The complexity of this statement was rather lost on me, but he was every bit true to his word. By the time I departed for 17, Phil had already begun a ferocious onslaught of boundaries. It was like watching a knackered, pale Ghandi rise from hunger strike and beat the hell out of Mike Tyson. It was vindictive and vicious and completely out of context with the outpatient I’d opened the batting with.
I don’t know what the score was when I got cleaned up, because the scorebook was not being done. Which on a serious note – Is poor. They had a guy scoring and he didn’t know how to do it. We had plenty of guys who could and should have gone and helped, but didn’t. I’m guessing it was thirty-something in the sixth over?
Wembo to the crease and the book says he started with a 7. I don’t know if I can trust the book, I was in the changing room taking my pads off when it happened? What I do know is that Wembo had the box seat for Bowes’s magnificent fireworks display which ended on 41 in an over that I cannot distinguish as somebody has used “w” for both wides and wickets. It was a sparkler of an innings however. 41 and only 19 balls faced.
Actually more impressive to me was that Phil walked off, removed his pads, bought three pints, took them over to the scorer and his mate who was updating the scoreboard and immediately started doing the book (And drinking beer). Now, I hadn’t thought of doing this, but in my defence I had gone out to umpire. So if this makes any tourists feel guilty? Rightly so!! Brilliantly done, Phil.
Arise Sir Jonty! The two Aussies set about their task of instilling some order to a game which had thus far produced both quick wickets and even quicker runs.
It was a treat to be umpiring during this partnership. The pair used the time between overs to talk tactics and settle on a plan to each bowler. It was almost as if they’d played before?
Wembo in particular seemed to be in determined mode. His first fifty came off 72 balls. His second, just 22. Jonty made a run a ball fifty and was caught on the 51st.
Jonty left to rapturous applause, followed by the silence of anticipation as Naveen took strike, facing a double duck. I have a lot of respect for Nav, and the prospect of him getting the C.O.A.T. award for failing miserably is not a happy thought. Still, everyone likes a good beheading, so all eyes were on him.
Before he’d gone out to bat, Nav and I had chatted and he had said to me “I don’t care what else happens, I just want to make a run”. He returned with his wish fulfilled. Clean bowled for one, second ball.
The Anzac’s were at play as Jabez threaded his way to the crease. The show continued as Wembridge started hitting the high notes of his innings and Kantor joined in with a heavy onslaught of boundaries too. Wembo clocked up 6 sixes in his second fifty before being bowled. Having reached his tonne he had attempted to run himself out, in a bid to win the “Who would be involved in the most runouts” category (Wembo had voted for himself in every billing. Some might say he’s competitive?). The New Zealander, ever watchful of his teammate’s antics had sent him back, not wishing to play such silly games. A fabulous innings concluded, Lord Wembridge left to the applause of all those watching and that of Lady Wembridge, who had had her back to the game throughout.
Jabez returned for a run a ball 28 and Khalid didn’t hang around long, punching a four and a six. Both were caught attempting to heave more boundaries.
Veith, who had done so well the day before threw his hat in to the duck ring with a golden bird, but the damage had been done and when all 40 overs ended with Sam Cross Not Out on nine and Praf yet to score, MCC had made 287 for 8.
It had not gone unnoticed that opposition player Colin (Phil’s drinking outspoken partner from the night before) had contributed sod all to the game thus far. We had plans for Colin…
Lunch was a splendidly well-presented and I’m happy to lavish yet more praise on the hosts WAGS for their hospitality. They were absolute troopers!
Ready for phase two, we had noticed that the walking barn that was Colin had padded up to open the batting with the most athletic of the ringers, one Mr Vini.
MCC formed two rows for the opening batsmen to walk through so that Colin, an openly homophobic colossus, could be escorted to the crease to the sounds of the “Gay Bar”, by Electric Six. Manic dance-moves over, we prepared to begin our onslaught (At Colin).
We were mentally prepared for a fight. “These ringers must be here for a purpose” we reasoned, so we threw our heavy artillery at them from the off. Veith had Colin in all sorts for trouble, the big man playing a combination of intentional and not so intentional leaves.
Vini had a whole different approach and he set about smacking everything that came in to his half. Both Veith and Khalid were on his hit list, right up until Khalid found his rhythm and bowled him for 27 off of 14 balls.
Vini had set off at a good pace, but there was a gloom among his teammates as he walked off so early in the piece.
Colin looked on mournfully as the next three batsmen all left for naught. Khalid was having a field-day. Clean bowling two more and an LBW. The pressure was really on Colin as he was reminded ball after ball that he was still balancing precariously on zero. A strange tension fell before every delivery the big guy faced. I found myself wanting him to both fail and succeed in equal measure. He’d been the main source of entertainment for us for the past 36 hours, but would he win the bragging rights or not? Could we bear it if he did?
Finally the question was answered, as he pushed the ball in to space and took a single. MCC clapped and jeered the run and gave him the big “FO!” when he was the fifth of Khalid’s wickets, clean bowled the next ball he faced. Honours even.
The game was in trouble and so was Naveen. He’d amassed one run in two innings and hadn’t taken a wicket in two spells, thus far. Worse, Colin’s run had come off of him!
Captain “Military” (Manny had ordered a “medium” for a tour shirt, much to the amusement of all) had solemnly told Nav that this would be his final over. It took all six before the batsman finally drove one in to the back of his boot only for it to rebound back on to his stumps. A mightily relieved Naveen had just stepped decisively away from the C.O.A.T. award. His victim left in possession of the fourth duck of the innings.
Manav claimed a victim, Ali LBW to a creepy crawly thing that bumped in to the boot, second bounce. The umpire just nodded, presumably expecting the batsman to walk for an LBW? When finally he raised his finger, the batsman had lost interest and was preparing to face the next ball. Some exchanging of views ensued between the two and Ali trudged off to the dugout (This being a football pitch).
Cross and Toke returned wicketless from their spells, but the return of Veith yielded rewards. With one wicket remaining all eyes were on him to clinch the bowling award and surpass Khalid’s impressive haul, should he get it?
Get it he did as the last man picked out Jonty with laser precision on the boundary at cow. Veith finished with 3 for 20 off 4 and Khalid 5 for 14 from his 4. Veith claiming six for the tour to put him ahead. The Coimbra Knights all out for 68. It had all taken just 21 overs. Perfect for a thirsty touring side!
Drinks, grub and speeches done, we trundled back to our luxurious villas on the hill and changed in to our glad-rags for dinner with The Knights and WAGS in town. We had Lady Wembridge as our lone WAG representative, plus a Canadian stray who was dubiously linked to Jabez. Normally what goes on tour – stays on tour, but I think in this instance it is important to save any confusion and make matters quite clear. Despite both going missing for an extended hour before the start of the meal and she returning in a different dress (Returning the one Lady W had lent her ((which was immediately washed)) I have no doubts that the hapless Jabez’s intentions were completely honourable. The hapless Jabez proceeded to let her wreck the rest of his final night on tour, by vomiting herself all the way home with the gallant Kantor in tow. He missed the rest of the night, as we had moved on to pastures new by the time he arrived back at the restaurant. We finally hooked up with him again back at MCC Villas. He’d broken in (Not as difficult as it sounds when somebody leaves the door open) and was found sleeping in Khalid’s bed. If that isn’t flirting with danger, nothing is!?
It was Colin who had awarded Jabez with the C**t Of A Tour award. Not only had Colin pleasured us with his homophobic, big brash and bigoted points of view, but he had proved to be a seer, somehow knowing that Jabez was going to have an absolutely hideous night!
The night was still young for some of us, Phil, Jonty and I calling it a day at 7am. The following days saw a slow melting away of players in different directions as the season gently fell apart. It was an excellent finale of a tour.
It would be remiss of me not to add some thanks at the end of this report:
Thanks for organising the tour Praf. I hear that you may not be around next season? This would be a shame if true? You did a great job.
MCC is a club in permanent transition, with players past and present all over the world. I’ve loved being a part of the club in 2166 and all of the tours have been wonderful relief. It has certainly added just the right amount of insanity to my year to keep me sane and happy to live in Munich. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So thanks to all of the movers and shakers on and off the committee. It’s been (Fuck, are you still reading this!? How come you haven’t made more runs this season?) an absolute pleasure. X