Friday 8th April, the start of the very first MCC tour to Rome. Members were using various means of transport to get there, five crammed into a car, some were flying –one of them directly from China – but I chose to travel down by rail wanting to see the spectacular views. I had been on the train to and from Bologna several times back in the eighties when we played them in the Brenner Challenge, but always at night. Also driving down doesn`t really allow the scenery to be admired. The trip through the Alps was incredibly beautiful and for the first time I could appreciate the engineering marvels of the Brenner autobahn viewed from the train. It always amazes how spring is so much more advanced when descending into Italy. The trip from Bologna to Rome was a little disappointing as I had hoped to get some good views of the Appenines but it was a high speed train and ran mostly underground. The time to Rome was 110 minutes and the highest speed reached was 297 Km an hour. We arrived in Rome at around 1845 and a 12 euro taxi ride brought me to the hotel in Christopher Columbus Street.
On checking in at the hotel I established that Aranachalam had checked in earlier in the day but that a certain Jonas De Beer had also checked in claiming I had made his reservation and taking the one single room I had reserved. Who on earth could this be? Was it the rather fat Boer of Scottish descent with whom I had an altercation at the test match in Cape Town back in 2009 seeking revenge? No one else was expected to arrive until the four aviators turned up around midnight so I went to a Pizzeria for Pizza and Vino, watched a rugby match from Kiwi-land on TV and was about to retire around 11pm when a knock on the door revealed Jonas De Beer, disguised as Deverill. He had collected the room keys for the late arrivals as the entrance door closes at 10:30 pm and a special coded card is needed to open it. As it happens this was a load of cobblers because the door stayed open all night – more on this later.
The next morning seven of us gathered outside a small café for café latte grande and croissants costing all of €2.50 total per person and enjoyed the warm Roman sun.
Suddenly there appeared to be another bright sun rising in the west but on closer inspection it was seen to be Wembo, colourfully dressed as always, particularly the shades, lumbered with two cases having flown in to Rome directly from China.
We left the hotel in two taxis at around 10:45 having already crossed the Rubicon fully armed with bats and balls and ready to face the might of Rome. The trip took us past the famous Roman catacombs, along the Appian Way towards the racetrack in Capanelle. There was an incredible amount of Wisteria to admire – it seems to grow wild and in great profusion here, rather like the Buddlia in England- as well as the spectacular Stone Pines which are almost a trademark for Rome. The entrance gate is signposted and obviously a touring team`s selfie magnet and, after passing through, there is a 250 metre walk along a horse running track to the pavilion area.
Wembridge pulled out his portable ghetto blaster and graced everyone with Paverotti`s Nessun Dorma as well as Frank Sinatra`s “three coins in a fountain”. I imagine the hosts had heard it all before. There was an immigrants and refugees T20 tournament taking place when we arrived and we saw the final innings of the tournament and the subsequent presentation.
It is a very smart ground, surrounded by Stone Pines and they even have a boundary rope. On a hilltop in the distance one can see Castel Gandolfo where the pope has his summer residence and where our hosts used to play before they moved to Capanelle, possibly because of complaints from visiting teams of being disadvantaged by the local support.
Captain Ayub was awarded the toss and chose to field first against another Roman team, Stone Tower. As we unpacked our kit bag the German Cricket TV stickers were noticed and admired by the Romans who “watch it all the time and it is very good”. Kiwi Colling opened the bowling and, in true MCC tradition, the first ball was a wide. Aranachalam was the second new ball bowler and his first ball was a wide too, spoiling what would have been the only maiden in the match. In the fifth over with the score on 37 the first wicket fell, bowled by Colling. After six overs Bhat came on, determined to defend his wide boy prize and opened with a wide too, immediately followed by a wicket ball with the score on 45. Two runs later he got his second. Konchada was the second change bowler and the only one not to bowl any wides although there were a few boundary balls in his armoury. The fourth wicket partnership of 44 was their highest and they were all out for 147 in 19 overs.
Altmann and Deverill opened for MCC and really enjoyed themselves, Altmann finishing on 50 and Deverill on 56, both getting out when they started to go really big. Bowes and Toke saw the game out, Bowes facing 7 balls without a dot and Toke not out having faced a grand total of zero balls.
+Altmann, 50, caught, 2 catches
Deverill, 56, caught, 1 catch
Bhat, DNB, 2 overs, 0 mdns, 21runs, 2 wkts
Amin, DNB, 2overs, 0 mdns, 23 runs, 0 wkts
Wembridge, DNB, 2 overs, 0 mdns, 11 runs, 2 wkts, 1 catch
Colling, DNB, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 26 runs, 2 wkts
Arunachalam, DNB, 3 overs, 0 Mdns, 20 runs, 0 wkts, 1 catch
*Ayub, DNB, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 23 runs, 4 wkts, 2 catches
MCC, 148 for 2 in 15.5 overs beat Stone tower, 147 for 10 in 19 overs by 8 wickets
MCC MOM: Altmann
Before the second match against Capanelle over forties we were given lunch of some Italian pasta followed by some gorgeous Sri-Lankan style pasta. Meanwhile the trotting races were in full swing with strict instructions to stop playing cricket when the horses were near.
MCC chose to bat first and opened with Toke and Bowes, who left after making 16 with the score on 19, having wastefully had a dot ball to face this time. In came a very nervous Alagh not wanting to figure so prominently in the duck race this season. He made 14, part of a useful partnership of 37 with Toke. In came the infamous Jonas De Beer, he of diamond renown, to be run out by Toke without facing a ball having previously informed his partner that he was knackered after the first match so no quick singles. Toke was unmoved and began to sing “diamonds are forever” as Amin entered the fray. Konchada joined the duck race, Bhat scored 18 off 13 balls without a single dot and MCC finished with 142 for 9 down in 20 overs.
Altmann had suffered a damaged finger when he took a catch (not given) while keeping and required plentiful applicatons of Rescue Remedy to sooth the pain so gave up the gloves to Bowes. Colling and Arunachalam opened the bowling for MCC but were fairly tonked and replaced by Altmann and Ayub. The first wicket, a run out, occurred in the 5th over with the score on 57. Their opening bat, Khalif, a young Italian player, definitely not over forty, scored 53, no-one had a duck and they finished the game with seven down in the 19th over helped by the 26 wides bowled.
Toke, 33, bowled,
+ Bowes, 16, caught
Alagh, 14, caught,
Deverill, 0, run out,
Amin, 9, caught
Wembridge, 17, stumped, 3.4 overs, 0 mdns, 32 runs, 2 wickets
Konchada, 0, caught
Bhat, 18, caught, 1 over, 0 mdns, 9 runs, 0 wkts
*Ayub, 21*, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 25 runs, 2 wkts
Aranachalam, 2, run out, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 32 runs, 0 wkts, 1 catch
Alltmann, DNB, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 15 runs, 0 wkts
Colling, DNB, 2 overs, 0 mdns, 30 runs, 0 wkts,
MCC, 142 for 9 in 20 overs, lost to Capanelle Over 40`s, 143 for 7 in 18.4 overs by 3 wickets.
MCC MOM: Ayub
It was now 18:30 and the plan was to return to the hotel, shower, then head downtown. However is seems impossible to get two taxis to come when you need them. The first one arrived on time leaving De Beer, Wembo, Amin and me to wait and wait for the second. Finally we gave up and De Beer ordered an Uber which was five minutes in the coming.
This meant that it was pretty late before we arrived down town in three taxis to a bar called public something or other discovered by Jonas the night before. The service was slow and relaxed to put it very politely but the waitress was rather voluptuous, particularly from behind, the front somewhat marred by the two pearl studs in her nostrils. After everyone else had received their chosen beverages she finally brought mine and made Colling`s ears really prick up by referring to it as a “rum and cock”. At around 22:30 we left but only after an Italian sat at the bar told me I reminded him of Sir Alex Ferguson which was meant to be a compliment. We headed for Fontani di Trevi to join the hordes of tourists taking selfies at the famous fountain then split to patronise two different restaurants, most of us returning to the hotel just after 1 am.
At the café latte grande the next morning Altmann and Bowes told us that they had entered into a conversation with some ladies of the night and were informed that our hotel was where they took their clients for thirty euros. This explained why the supposedly closed and locked entrance door in fact stayed open all night.
Leaving for the ground at around 11am, Diamond De Beer, still feeling guilty about nicking the single room kindly opened the front door of the taxi for me to sit alongside the 47 year old driver called Simone. The dark glasses took some 20 years of her age and we had an enthralling conversation accompanied by the gnashing of teeth from the rear seat. She was playing songs from her youth, the Spice Girls and Kate Bush.
This was the big one, the reason we crossed the Rubicon and we were asked to field first, opening the bowling with Colling and Konchada.
After bowling 2 overs Konchada was replaced by De Beer who took their first wicket in his first over with the score on 42. He got another in his second over with the score on 59. There followed a 33 run partnership before Bhat got a wicket with the score on 92, then a 36 run partnership broken by Amin with the score on 128. Arunachalam broke the subsequent 65 run partnership in the 28th over, Altmann took one in the 33rd over and Toke got the seventh in the 35th with the score on 219. Capanelle really went to town for the last five overs finishing on 280, helped by MCC bowling 38 wides.
MCC opened the batting with Aranachalam and Wembridge, whose voice was becoming more and more raw, through lack of sleep, jet lag and a probable cold coming on. Aranachalam was replaced in the second over by Diamond De Beer and they put on an excellent 52 run partnership seeing off Capanelle`s opening bowlers and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Wembridge went for 20 in the 12th over to be replaced by Colling who seemed to be in top form, middling everything and finishing on a thirty Euro Rum and Cock 69. Bhat was again a big hitter, just making his 50 before being out in the 39th over. From the 34th over onwards the two scores were just about identical right up until the end of the 39th. Unfortunately for us they scored more from the last over, Da Costa, a 70 year old slow left arm bowler, took 3 for 45 in 8 overs and Capanelle finished worthy winners of a superb match.
We presented Capanelle with an MCC cap, as we had done for Stone Tower and received a special Capanelle ball in return. Their president, Alfonso, was one of the prime movers along with Simone Gambino back in the eighties when we formed the European Cricket Federation in my office as we could get no help from the TCCB then. Alfonso related the troubles that they had to go through to set up Italian Cricket and getting their magnificent ground in the middle of the race course.
Aranachalam, 1, caught, 5 overs, 0 mdns, 42 runs, 1 wkts
Wembridge, 20 bowled,
Deverill, 22 bowled, 6 overs, 0 mdns, 25 runs, 2 wkts
Colling, 69 caught, 8 overs, 0 mdns, 73 runs, 0 wkts
Ayub, 16, stumped, 5 overs, 0 mdns, 29 runs, 0 wkts, 1 catch
Altmann, 9 caught, 6 overs, 0 mdns, 18 runs, 1 wkt
Bhat, 50, caught, 4 overs, 0 mdns, 33 runs, 1 wkt
Toke, 29 caught, 2 overs, 0 mdns, 15 runs, 1 wkt
Konchada, 8*, 2 overs, 0 mdns, 24 runs, 0 wkts, 1 catch
Alagh, DNB, 1 catch
Bowes, DNB, 1 catch
Amin, DNB, 3 overs, 0 mdns, 16 runs, 1 wkt
MCC, 268 -8 in 40 overs lost to Capanelle, 280 for 7 in 40 overs by 12 runs.
(Unusually for MCC we batted the full 40 overs)
MCC: MOM: Colling
With the sun setting over the Stone Pines it was time to say goodbye to Capanelle and head for the two taxis of which only one arrived again. The famous five crammed into the car heading for Munich and Amin had caught a flight to Munich leaving seven of us to return to the hotel which four of us managed. The others gave up waiting for a taxi and took the train straight down town where we met in a superb restaurant serving magnificent vino.
At the café latte grande the next morning it was pleasant to watch the young Italian ladies who stopped there on their way to work. It appears that chic black leather bloussons are all the rage in Rome this season
So a wonderful tour with three very good and close games came to an end. Capanelle were very complimentary saying we were the first club from the mainland to visit them. They get teams from England and Ireland regularly but these are usually disappointed being used to playing on proper grass wickets with immaculate outfields. We on the other hand were very pleased with the ground and the wicket and are welcome to return.