continued from tour diary 1…
Awoke reluctantly feeling like Sunday is a good day to sleep until 1pm. What’s the point of staying within walking distance of a cricket ground if you’re going to start a match at 11am? Also clanging headache. Could be port related. Definitely port related.
The OCLTC team for Sunday looked significantly younger than the Saturday side. And leaner and fitter. The Black Plumderland Tigers on the other hand looked very much like a group of middle aged men fighting off the effects of a lot of port. The day did not bode well. The decision was made to pretty much reverse the batting order. Partly to give the tourists who didn’t bat Saturday a crack and partly (I strongly suspect) because Stu was still half cut from the night before and didn’t fancy it. In any case, a 40 over match was declared so no timed game shenanigans. In spite of the opportunity to face the much younger and fitter attack, there seemed to be a lack of eager volunteers to pad up once the skipper had won the toss. I volunteered on the basis that: a. I generally score more runs at the top of the order; and b. if it didn’t work out I could hit the port hard at lunch. Warren may or may not have been following similar logic, but alas he failed to make it past the third over, falling to the very lively Aftab prodding at one going through at chin height, neither of us having yet troubled the scorer.
Thus entered the most unorthodox number three to grace a touring team for some time – The Renster. Striding in to face two accurate quick bowlers on a bouncy artificial wicket, what could go wrong? Well not much actually. With some quality defence, leaving the ball (deliberately even!), well educated nurdles and even the odd full blooded drive, the openers were seen off. The OCLTC changed to spin. Fantastic! Time to score some runs!
Off-spinner Sahba’s first over went for 3 runs and a wicket, his second was a double wicket maiden and his third a maiden. Bloody spinners. Boden (12), Rennie (10) and Folley (0) fell in quick succession. Two caught behind and Folley falling out of his crease on a less than well balanced forward defence.
Stafford was joined at the crease by Webster, suffering a nosebleed from being placed so high in the batting order. Clearly the site of blood upset Damien and he became the third duck of the innings. BP Tigers 26/5. A partnership then formed between Webster and Shea, entering the fray at number 7. Jim would have been higher in the order but was far too busy checking out the women’s tennis. The pair saw their way to drinks with the score on 39/5 off 20 overs. The port was winning.
Shea of course is just the man to steady the ship. Then again there is a line between steadying the ship and dropping the anchor, lowering the sails and bringing out the deck chairs. Just saying. The odd single was spurned much to Webster’s consternation. Words were exchanged and Shea, always one to listen to advice, called a single. Webster run out for 12.
Day 1 centurion Wrighty just had time to get his eye in before lunch. 69/6 and the fog of last night’s port had lifted just enough to make today’s port look very attractive. Don’t mind if I do. And it’s just possible that others may also have imbibed. My suspicions were aroused a little later when the words “Boders can you take over, I’m too hammered to do the scorebook” were slurred in my ear.
There were high hopes that Wrighty would cut loose and things looked promising right up until he got out, caught off Bors, the 9th bowler used by the oppo. Shea and Had Luff put on 21 before Jim’s resistance came to an end. He scored 20, although his scorecard had so many dots it looked like morse code.
Porton then troubled neither the scorers nor the fielders with a golden duck and at 104/9 the skipper strode out. Actually strode might be too strong a word, let’s go with ambled in the general direction of the pitch. But he made it to the middle anyway. Meanwhile Had was finding the fence with regularity, finally giving the Porto youngsters some balls to chase. With the skipper’s support he made the top score of the innings – 37*. Stu reached 7* by focusing on the middle one of the three balls coming toward him and after 40 overs a modest total of 136 was on the board. Not much, but something to bowl at. With the strong Porto side, including yesterday’s centurion Chambers, this would be all over soon.
The OCLTC (est 1855) sportingly followed a similar logic in their batting order to the BP Tigers and elevated one or two to the top order who probably don’t feature there often. Although given the youth and depth in the squad that wasn’t saying much. Webster opened up with a tidy first over, then Stu decided to roll an arm over himself. Once someone had let him know which direction the pitch was in, he let a few go. And began the innings with a double wicket maiden. I believe there is still discussion within the ranks of WADA about the performance enhancing status of tawny port, but with Stu’s figures after 5 overs reading 3 maidens, 5 runs and 3 wickets, there may be a move to restrict its ongoing use during games.
Porto however seemed unfazed. They knew they had the game in the bag and batted accordingly. Captain Chambers had dropped himself down the order in presumed hopes of catching up on his non-existent sleep for the weekend. Irritated at having to pad up, he immediately set about taking up where he had left off the day before. The Tigers were wondering how much retrieving of balls from trees was on the cards.
The tea break can be a funny thing. Batsmen get distracted, bowlers tighten up, fielders can have a glass of wine and a little snooze. It can bring many things, but on this day it brought redemption. First ball after tea Warren bowled down a straight one and Chambers failed to make contact. Out LBW for 5. Danger batsman gone and the slightest thought of a victory began to occur to the weary tourists. Unfortunately OCLTC bat all the way to number 11 and Captain John of Easyjet fame looked to have a disturbingly good technique. But the perfectly safe hands of Warren came to the fore after he was enticed to mis-time a drive straight back to the bowler, giving Simon his third wicket for the innings.
All that remained now was to apply the coup de grace. Ragho (33*) was still offering resistance but he was rapidly running out of partners. The heavyweights were brought on. McGirr and Luff took it on themselves to clean up the tail. Slightly ironic for Hadley given the state of his own tail, but let’s not go there. McGirr can still land the ball on a sixpence and took two wickets (4 overs 2/15) and when Had (3 overs 2/5) knocked over the home side’s tenth man, the most unlikely of victories had been achieved! And there was much rejoicing! Well, within the physical limits of the team anyway.
With the cricket at an end, it was time for the traditional Sunday night shenanigans – seafood and karaoke. Last year’s fish feast at Tito2 had put several species on the endangered list and a little more restraint was shown this time. Only half an aquarium was BBQ’d for us. And a steak for McGirr of course, whose aversion to fish goes on in spite of this happening every year. Then off to the karaoke bar to watch Stu try to pretend he isn’t counting down every second until he can get back on stage. But the horror! The Black Plumderland Tigers were hit with the Portuguese refusal at the door.
“Closed for private party”
Begging, pleading and yes, bribery, were all tried to no avail. The team were left to find a nice bar in the city centre and wax lyrical about Portuguese cigarettes and the impending rise of the proletariat to overthrow our evil masters until the very small hours of the morning.
Monday was the traditional visit to a Port Lodge. In this case Grahams. My first time being surrounded by 7,000,000 litres of port. Lovely lunch, a great view and then a trip to the airport. I still hate Gatwick. Seriously the only reason I got myself this red passport was so I didn’t have to queue up with the foreigners and can breeze through immigration. Not at Gatwick. Ah well.
A win, a close fought loss and a lot of fortified wine. All in all, an excellent tour.