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Tour match 1 (1st scheduled) 2017: March 17

Lanzarote Cricket Association International T20 Tournament

Strollers go large in Lanzarote
posted: March 27, 2017

Harsh wins Player of the Tournament in Lanzarote

Woodford Wells vs Pimlico Strollers

The prospect of competitive cricket arrived on our calendars unusually early in 2017, with an invitation to take part in the Lanzarote Cricket Association’s International T20 Tournament over the weekend of 17th—19th March.  Never ones to shy away from an overseas jolly tour, the Strollers had been only too happy to accept.

However the preceding weeks were beset by a rather depressing flurry of ‘will-they/ won’t-they?’ emails as several members of the touring party were blighted by personal injuries and pressing health-related family matters that clearly demanded precedence. As such, when the planes took off to the Canaries from Luton and Gatwick the day before the tournament, only 8 Strollers were on-board.

Nonetheless, those that made up that first wave of Strollers remained bullishly undeterred and, upon their arrival in Puerto del Carmen, made their way directly to a local seafront restaurant for a spot of freshly-caught seafood for lunch and a leisurely beer that constituted the first round in what, in all honesty, amounted to a non-stop four day bender with intermittent cricket-like activities thrown in.

The itinerary for the Thursday night involved Gav — taking the helm for one final outing — and vice skipper George attending a 90 minute ‘technical meeting’ with the LCA and opposition clubs at Eliro’s Bar (official sponsors of the tournament) where they did their best to fathom the myriad local rules by which competing teams had to abide — the definition of above-the-waist no balls, free-hits and inclement weather were to remain hot topics of debate amongst all participating teams and umpires throughout the weekend.

In the meantime the remainder of the Strollers made fast inroads into acquainting themselves with the bright lights of the old town, gaining familiarity with the seemingly infinite number of Irish bars that populated the area …handy with St. Patrick’s Day strangely coinciding with the staging of the tournament. Amongst other notable attractions, just a short walk up a stone staircase from our hotel, was what was to become known as the ‘Five-Two’ square which in turn became perhaps the most frequented location of the tour, popular as it was to be with many of our number. The reasons why are, frankly, unpublishable.

But cricket was, at least nominally, the reason we were all here and after a rousing first night of the tour on Friday morning we piled (with not a few sore heads) into the minibus to take us to Puerto del Carmen’s football ground — for the next three days transformed into Lanzarote’s equivalent of Wankhede Stadium to play host to some 66 cricketers and onlooking supporters. The tournament itself was to be contested by six teams, five from all corners of England plus the local LCA side, itself comprised of members of the four cricket clubs on the island.

The six teams were to be divided into two groups of three, each group’s teams playing a round robin against one another over Friday and Saturday before a day of play-offs on Sunday. In short, we were to play three matches in three days — a tall order at the best of times made even taller given (a) these would be against ‘proper’ cricket clubs often including 1st and 2nd XI standard players, and (b) we each imbibed a tank-load and barely slept.

Thankfully, despite our limited numbers, Jack Talbot — head honcho of the LCA, fixer-in-chief and all round good egg — had taken it upon himself to ensure we had a full XI and supplemented our threadbare ranks with three local Lanzarote players of which two (Deepak and Naresh) were handy Indians and the other one John Horton, (a former Pimlico resident!) now in his seventies and retired to the Canaries. All were delightful gents and, in John, we had amongst us no less than a former Sussex CCC Under 19s star, though admittedly those glory days were by now several decades behind him.

Furthermore our spirits were lifted when, ahead of the toss ‘Webby’ the affable skipper of Woodford Wells CC (our first opposition, hailing from Essex) admitted to Gav that with his team having spent the previous night on the lash much as we had, their tour might have already peaked. Nevertheless, he was smart enough to call correctly and opted to bat first.

We didn’t start well. Gideon and Davey G, opening the attack, were punished for some loose stuff early on and, when they did manage to find their line, were punished more as a quick succession of no fewer than four skied catches were haplessly put down — that this was our first match in almost six months was plainly all too evident. Woodford raced past 50 in under six overs and concern mounted that we may be in for a hammering (and not just in the head).

Fortunately Deepak, brought on at first change, restored some control which incited Bereh to try marching down the track to Gorton at the other end only to miss and allow Dave ‘the Kitten’ Couldrey to smartly whip off his bails and notch up our first wicket of the tour. This was quickly followed by another stumping when Scott similarly attempted and failed to heave Deepak out of the ground.

This prompted Gav to introduce spin by bringing Harsh on at the Football Ground End (just wanted to say that to sound like we were playing at Headingley — Ed) and was almost immediately rewarded when he himself pouched his opposite number Webby with a Sturm-esque catch taken in the midriff at mid on. The Kitten took a third and final stumping to dismiss Richards, notching up Joshi’s second wicket.

However despite our admirable counter-attack in the middle overs, Woodford found their second wind as Murphy and James set about the Strollers attack to carry the oppo past 150. Spencer was brought on for the final overs and bagged a couple with two faster and fuller deliveries finding their way through but, by the time Woodford closed after their 20 overs, they had amassed a sizeable 181 which clearly would take some getting.

Still, Gav remained unflustered as he padded up and marched out to the middle with George to get us underway. However he returned to the hutch shortly thereafter fully flustered, having been done for pace without scoring on only the third ball of our innings sent down by Woodford 1st XIer Ellis — whose speed was later estimated given that Webby, now keeping, was standing almost a pitch length behind the stumps. Brown, having edged a cheeky four, was sent packing in much the same way when Goodlet got through his gate. Spencer, in at three, fared little better when he looped one to Scott. This didn’t look good.

From here progress slowed up for a few overs until our hopes were lifted when returning hero Harsh (making his first Strollers appearance in two years) and 2016 Batsman of the Year Tim got their eye in and mounted a spirited fourth wicket stand, both spanking the ball back through the V to the short straight boundaries. But with the required rate rising and rising and around 100 still needed from just six overs Sturm chanced his arm once too many, miscued and, on 25, saw his stumps clatter.

By this stage the game had clearly gone, but with run rate being potentially a deciding factor in our final standing in our group, frustrations set in when Naresh was pegged down at one end, the Woodford attack offering nothing. Eventually he was run out as Harsh eagerly endeavoured to move us on with a two that wasn’t there. The Kitten, having hit a promising cover drive for a couple, sadly went in similar fashion having given himself too much ground to make when returning to offer Harsh the strike.

However this made way for John Horton who promptly rolled back the years and showed his class as he nonchalantly clubbed a straight six back into the football stand. Entertaining the onlooking crowd (many of whom he clearly knew personally), Horton eased himself to double figures with some fine strokeplay, matched by Harsh who finished on an unbeaten 40 as we closed on 128-6, sadly some 53 runs adrift.

But whilst we had clearly been somewhat outclassed there had been some signs of promise and, having at least avoided outright humiliation, we returned to the old town that evening with a sense of optimism, boosted in the knowledge that we would be joined the following morning by reinforcements in the shape of Matt and Simon, due to fly out from Gatwick first thing. Or maybe the reason for our jollity was simply down to the fact it was Friday, Paddy’s Day, and that we were in sunny Lanzarote with the prospect of a big night out on the town ahead of us.

Later, having swum, supped and made our way via several bars to the harbour, where around 2am a plausibly close-to-the-mark U2 tribute band was winding down what had been a rousing set before a merry St. Patrick’s Day crowd, we repaired to yet another bar and gazed into our goldfish-bowl size goblets of Vodka Fanta to ponder what awaited us on the morrow. If indeed we could wake up… (or get any sleep in the first place for that matter…).

Gavin Richardson & Simon Boughey

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