The Tigers enjoyed a highly entertaining and successful weekend on their visit to Porto, winning both games, though the home side could have ended victorious in the second contest had they held their catches. Stars of the trip were Chris Wright, with an unbeaten century in the first game; Ian Porton, with scores of 36 and 88, as well as keeping wicket in both matches, and John McGirr, who bagged 7 wickets for 68. Two other veterans, Phil Hill and Steve Bignell, also successfully resurrected their bowling careers. Rowan Allerton safely pouched four catches in the outfield, and in fact everybody contributed something positive during the course of the weekend.
In perfect conditions, the tourists were invited to bat first in Saturday’s game, which developed into a proper game of cricket – lots of sumptuous food and wine punctuated by brief spells of play. Openers Stewart Taylor and Ian Porton did well to negotiate a fiery burst from Premal Rajani and Vikram Gupta on the fast, bouncy artificial pitch, but once the batsmen got their bearings they settled in nicely, Ian playing some powerful strokes and scoring 36 from the first wicket of 59. Simon Warren missed out, strangled down the leg side, and Chris Wright took 20 balls before his first scoring shot as the bowlers briefly regained the initiative. Stewart looked back to his best, batting throughout the first period for 48 before unluckily dismissed on the stroke of lunch (132-3) slicing a high full toss to point.
However, the afternoon session belonged to Wrighty, as he progressed to an excellent century from 102 balls, including 13 fours, assisted by skipper Richard Burgess, Rowan Allerton and Steve Rennie. Despite going to school with Mike Atherton, Richard is not a disciple of his tactics, delaying his declaration by a few balls to allow Chris to reach his ton.
Porto’s innings never really got going, with only skipper Premal showing any real resistance with an excellent 69 from only 55 balls. The batsmen had no answer to John McGirr, who bowled 11 consecutive overs, taking 4-44. Stewart weighed in with two wickets, as did Phil Hill, including the vital dismissal of Premal as he threatened to take the game away from the visitors. The Tigers had sharp claws all weekend, barely dropping anything. Jimmy Carter took two specials, both one-handed (the other being hors de combat).
Sunday’s game reverted to limited overs (40), Porto taking first dig on this occasion and getting off to a good start of 40 for the first wicket before Steve Bignell was introduced for his first bowl in two years. After inducing Weeks to fall on his own wicket, he so bemused Patel, the other opener, that he barely scored a run for half and hour! For Steve it must have been like bowling to himself! In fact; Patel limped to 27 runs in 86 balls before offering a return catch to Simon Warren. Meanwhile, McGirr was claiming more victims as Patel needlessly ran Graham out and Premal’s frustration caused him to hole out to Rowan on the boundary. Only ‘keeper Simon Dixon showed any profit with the bat, hitting 44 in a sixth-wicket revival of 68. The last pair added a useful 24, but Wright (3-32) and Warren (2-41) cleaned up the tail to leave a target of 168.
Premal’s fast left-arm was too much for Rowan in the first over, but Chris Folley and Ian Porton put together a steady partnership of 50. Ian rode his luck, being dropped or missed on endless occasions as he struck 12 fours in his 88 from 93 balls. An impressive Jimmy Carter (24) helped compile a further 66 for the third wicket, and although wickets began to fall as victory approached there was plenty of batting in reserve, Taylor hitting the winning runs in the 37th over.