I’ve made no secret of my disdain for London Gatwick Airport. But I will say that it has improved considerably from days gone by.
Proof that if you apply enough money, you can polish a turd. Clearing security with a minimum of probing, I enquired as to the whereabouts of the brethren and was met with this exchange:
Phil seemed to be trying out a new call sign and I expected to find him in aviator glasses and a bomber jacket. Thankfully his only major innovation was an app that meant he didn’t have to get out of the chair to order drinks. Oh if only he’d made use of that later on…
The Tiger faithful were once again joined by Plums regulars Chris Folley and Jim Shea as well as first time tourist Damien Stafford. McGirr as always flew the Sunderland flag and new recruit Had Luff from Blackheath had been brought in via Wrighty. And so the Black Plumderland Tigers were created. Average age calculated at 48.2.
No matter how hard you polish a turd, it remains a turd. Hence why we sat on the runway at Gatwick for a full hour after boarding. Arrival in sunny Porto made me glad that this year I’d packed warm clothes. Does it ever get hot here? The Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club (established 1855) once again welcomed us with open arms and Super Bock on tap.
Friday night’s dinner was the traditional meat filled offering, although we were a couple of bodies short for most of the meal. There was some sort of football game going on that seemed significant for reasons I don’t quite recall. In any case, when Stu and Phil joined us later it transpired that Flying Horse 91 had leapt out of his chair with so much enthusiasm after one of the blue men scored a goal that he had done himself a serious leg injury (no, really) and would take no part in the weekend’s cricket. If only he’d used that app instead.
Saturday morning brought gin fuelled hangovers and … rain? Seriously, isn’t this place meant to be hot? A savage downpour just ten minutes before the scheduled start put a delay in the morning’s proceedings and a wet layer over the already very lush outfield.
Forty minutes later though, Stu had won the toss and elected to bat in a timed game. Porton and Shea went out to face the new ball. The scoreboard didn’t exactly explode to life as the openers took a measured approach to their task. It wasn’t helped that the long wet grass tended to hold onto the ball and shots that should have reached the boundary (all Porton’s) turned into twos at best. But 10 overs 18-0 (again, all Porton) isn’t that bad a return on tour. In fact the openers made it all the way to 59 before the first wicket fell, when Portos unwisely shouldered arms to one that nipped back in. LBW for 30. Skipper Taylor came and went for just 1 after completely misjudging a full toss and Wrighty made his way to the centre to join Shea.
The last time this pair batted together in Porto they put on a 147 run partnership and Chris went on to score 116. Could they repeat it today?
No. Of course not. However, much to the surprise of everybody who has ever seen him bat, Shea did hit the first boundary of the day somewhere around over 27. The shock was too much for him and he was caught shortly after off the bowling of Mr Graham, of the port fame.
I took my turn to bat with Wrighty, taking things to lunch at 3-100. Then came the OCLTC’s greatest weapons:
Having learnt my lesson last year about the perils of getting caught BUI, I eschewed the temptation of Mr Graham’s finest 10 year old tawny and restricted myself to little more than a three course meal.
Which proved to be a bloody waste of time because not long after lunch with my score on 13, said Mr Graham bowled what can only be described as a rank long hop, which I met with what can only be described as an even more rank slog, which deposited itself directly into the hands of mid on. Shit.
The Renster at 6 failed to add to the score, another lunch victim; bringing virgin tourist Damien into partnership with Senhor Wright. If you’ve never batted with him, you won’t know the particular joy of running between the wickets with Wrighty. Damien learnt the hard way that with Wrighty, “No!” doesn’t mean no. A situation that saw him crawling on all fours and desperately in need of a new pair of trousers. What happens on tour… Still reeling, he shortly after became Nerenda’s only scalp for 5.
As the wickets tumbled though, Wrighty had cranked the scoring up about 15 notches. Finding the boundary with increasing ease, he was well past 50 and heading for three figures, now being supported by Folley (8). When the Plum became Patel’s third wicket, Luff came to the crease and showed some solid technique. Wright rode his luck, giving a tough chance that was dropped and a much less tough chance where he benefited from the Portuguese refusal*. Luff made it to 7 before a refusal of a run and a refusal to turn and go back into his crease saw him run out. Simon Warren (2*) managed to hang around long enough though for this to happen –
Wright 103* (7 4’s, 4 6’s) made a feast of the local bowling. Particularly Ravid, whose one over went for 18. He also scored his third century in three consecutive Porto tours, #flattrackbully. Innings declared 223/8 off 51 overs. Not too shabby. Only Webster, the perennial number 11 didn’t get a swing. But after a short break he opened the bowling in typical miserly fashion and atypical wicket taking fashion, snaring Sanadth in the first over. OCLTC 0/1. And shortly 7/2 as Warren bowled Elvin for 2. The day was looking up. For a while.
Opener Patel and Porto captain Chambers steadied and started to turn over the score. Chamber’s first three scoring shots were boundaries, which was an ominous sign of things to come. They reached 86 in the 26th over before Patel (24) square drove one into my sternum off Taylor that I managed to smother on the rebound. The bruise lasted two weeks. Number 5 Pravin and Chambers then went on a tear with a 54 run partnership until Luff took one of the most spectacularly casual reflex, left-hand, backhanded caught and bowleds you’ll ever see.
But Chambers was unstoppable. 17 4’s and 4 6’s saw the BP Tiger’s target draw closer and closer. As the overs ticked down, Webster, Luff and Taylor all took more wickets to put Porto at 204/6. But with a brace of fours and two whomping sixes, Chambers hit the winning runs in the 50th over. It could have been different when earlier he top edged one behind square and fielder and keeper couldn’t quite decide whose it was. Keeper stayed put and fielder failed to hold onto it. Ah what might have been! But let’s not point fingers. Wickets were shared around with Taylor, Luff and Webster taking two, Warren getting one and Rennie and I not striking. I would point out though that only Simon and I went for less than 4 an over. A narrow loss in a close fought game. Chambers was the difference between the two sides, showing why his name is on a club house records board once or twice.
And so that night the very well dressed Black Plumderland Tigers had an amazing meal at the club. While Portugal won Eurovision I was struck by the total apathy the locals had for that result. We had a much more important contest in the snooker room. We learnt two main things – 1. Watching Jim line up a snooker shot is as tedious as watching him bat; and 2. Two bottles of port does make up for a dropped catch. Whatever would day 2 bring?
That’ll do pig. That’ll do.
*Portuguese refusal – to see a high ball coming toward you and decide that, all things considered, it would be much easier to let it bounce before attempting any sort of contact with it.
Match scorecards and roundup can found here
Read part 2 here…