The car washes of Dhaid rarely embody the spirit of the exotic, but 7 km to the south east lies a beautifully green, quaintly rustic cricket field among plantations and gravel plains. It was an all-out, rural affair from the start with early, cunning home ground psychology at play.
Dusk enveloped the setting with flood lights being held back to ensure the Darjeeling wagon train realised it was no longer in glitzy El Dorado. Given James’s recent confessional email about a goat in the desert we feared he may never leave the area.
The captains toss, where adult men embrace their tribal responsibility and flick a piece of metal to decide who throws the ball at whom, was conducted in Dhaid’s muggy Autumn darkness by the light of a cellphone. It was our first loss of the night. The second would be Dexy, who after whistling down half an over of net-practice-like deliveries wounded himself and hobbled off the field to lie next to the boundary rope like a forlorn, beached Salmon.
The floodlights fired to life and with the neatly choreographed exit-right by the pre-game entertainment of five startled, foraging hedgehogs, it was game time. The unique opening bowling combination of Man of the Match, Will Gregori Rasputin Watson (a 4-fer on debut) and the shuffling Badger immediately baffled the opposition. George would later compliment Badger on his unexpected agility-to-weight ratio, an athleticism which may have also confused the batsmen.
As the loping left-arm mystic unleashed pacey, unplayable deliveries from within his ample beard, Badger looped in apparently terrifyingly slow turners. The batsmen capitulated to five down before long. The fielding effort was surprisingly suffocating given the Darjeeling reputation of generosity. Both Dorris and Scott held onto rippers, by our standards, and Ieuan proved a wicket keeping wall. However, there were notable efforts at big-hearted sportsmanship from an unnamed former international scrumhalf and then Ash, curiously, both using the white ball to demonstrate how a fat fledgling pigeon spills from a nest. A mixture of wides and ambitiously contrived overthrows were minor glitches supplementing the rare lusty blows that crept the opposition to 107.
Dorris, apparently still marveling at his catch and contemplating more stomach-crunches in response to witnessing the power of his batting partner’s guns, nudged an early, gentle catch back to the bowler. George continued to slap deliveries around the ground and grumbled like a poked bear at the incessant yodeling of appealing fielders.
The chorus reached its ambitious climax with a howl for LBW as a short, leg-side delivery was slapped for a boundary. George, tiring of the zoologists perpetual mistiming of strokes at the other end of the flat-rolled pitch, and pinching of strike, ran him out shortly before the composed, gentle downhill run with Laird to 107 for victory in the 12th over. George, desperately in need of protein-shakes after his flurry of wicket-to-wicket shuttle sprints avoided the post-expedition debrief at the Irish village. It would have been there he’d have heard the revelation by tribal elder and scorer, Nick, of a corrected mathematical glitch and the Hellyer maiden 50 not out.
Date: 11 March 2017
Venue: ICC Academy
On a glorious sunny day at the ICC, the eagerly awaited traditional monthly friendly against The Blighty Ducks produced a match winning performance by Darjeeling’s own Six-Machine, Carl ”Half-Giant” Fletcher, that will be remembered by all present for many years to come. After the humbling of Skyline CC up in Sharjah the week before, principally by Half-Giant, he was keen to keep reproducing his towering form and produce he did!
Skipper A. “Double A” Banerjee kept to his tried and tested method of losing the toss and being asked to bat first under a blue, sunny sky, on what transpired to be a slow-ish track, which although yellowish and hard in hue, it was thought would require batsmen to work hard for their runs (oh how Half Giant make a mockery of that!). “Half-Giant” Fletcher and Jamie “Sneaky” Smibert opened the Darjeeling innings with watchful intent and looked solid from the start, safely negotiating The Ducks’ opening salvos by the oddly effective pairing of moonball off-spinner Clive and medium-quick Rob.
Half-Giant Fletcher warmed up with a couple of scything blows to the leg-side boundary, which kept the scoring rate decent with Sneaky Smibert looking comfortable picking up singles and rotating the strike. Sneaky, however, with the intent of upping the scoring rate, nicked one to first slip, which he was rather surprised about and thus had to sneak off the pitch unbeknownst to his fellow team mates.
Realising that Fletcher was standing on his own, with Sneaky having snuck off, Ollie ”van den” van den Broek walked in at 3 and, expecting a loosener, was surprised by a rather well-directed bouncer first up by Rob, which caused him to produce an Olympian style double-pike tuck, which summarily landed him on his backside (Tom Daly would’ve been distinctly unimpressed!).
Half-Giant, on the other hand, tucked in to the Duck bowling of Clive and leg-spinner Allen by either charging down the pitch clubbing them over their heads or smoting the ball to the leg side with swivel pulls or flicks, keeping the run rate at a steady 6-7 an over. “Van den”, ridiculously thinking he could match his more illustrious partner, also charged down the track to Allen but only managed to successfully spoon the ball to long-off, thus ending a rather short and uninspired innings.
After Van den’s departure, in-stepped Carl “Conor – The Notorious” McGregor, fresh from dominating all opposition on the UFC circuit and wanting to now grapple with the more viscous and physical sport of cricket. With the atmosphere akin to his ring-side cage, The Notorious south-pawed his first ball for 4 with aplomb and then rope-a-doped a couple of singles around the pitch. Deep into the 5th over, Notorious decided to upper-cut a delivery to the off-side boundary but was undone by Allen’s “rear-naked choke” off-break and was forced to tap for submission. Notorious trudged off realising he had been outsmarted by the better f(l)ighter but was soon made aware of Floyd Mayweather’s announcement to end his retirement and fight Notorious for an estimated $100m fight in June this year, which cheered him up a bit.
This brought in Tom “Thumb” Mariadason and together with Half-Giant, with a fighting weight of 120kg himself, brought about a combined heavyweight batting partnership of 122.5kg with The Thumb just about reaching the height of Half Giant’s pad. Keeping bat and pad close together like forefinger and thumb, The Thumb looked good value. Unfortunately for The Thumb, he was out to his 3rd ball for 1 edging again, like his predecessor Notorious, to the keeper. Hard luck, mate!
Adam “Partially Blind” Benjamin, namesake of former 1998 Blind World Cup England Captain (http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1998-99/OTHERS+ICC/WC-BLIND/SQUADS/WC-BLIND_NOV1998_ENG-PROFILES.html– NB. category B1 blind, thus partially blind, not fully blind), was next in to accompany The Half-Giant at the 12th over with only 74 on the board realising that they had to up the ante.
Partially Blind (or PB for short), reminiscent of some of the West Indian greats with his relaxed, languid manner and resplendent in Oakley blackout glasses to maintain style and blind-ness, missed his first 6 balls whilst clearly being perplexed by not being able to hear the jingle of the ball as it was coming down the track. Realising this was a standard game of cricket without the audible assistance of bells, he was suddenly gifted with the power of sight and smacked one boundary and started rotating the strike beautifully to allow The Half-Giant to play his LARGE game.
At this point in time, the report must turn towards an innings of such magnificence, the written word cannot do it justice. In short, Half-Giant plundered and battered the opposition bowling with such ferocity and power that I am sure will have mentally scarred the opposition bowlers for quite some time. A humble man of few words, the Half-Giant very much lets his bat (or bats after splitting one in half during his mammoth innings) do the talking, smashing the ball to all parts of the ground for 154 brutal runs, which included some outrageous sixes and one particular strike nearly taking out a fielder on the neighbouring pitch as well as depositing several balls on top of the changing room’s roof.
There are several key facts and figures of note from this terrific knock…of Darjeeling’s total of 189, the Half-Giant hit 154 of them (for the statisticians out there, that is an incredible 81.5% of the team’s total) in only 62 balls, hitting 12 6’s and 12 4’s. From getting to his century to 150, he managed to do that in an astonishing 10 balls! Indeed, with Darjeeling on only 74 after 10 overs, the Half Giant-Partially Blind partnership proved an unstoppable combination, which would go on to yield 115 runs, ultimately taking the game out of sight (no pun intended PB). An awesome feat and quite outstanding knock by the Half-Giant, ably supported by Partially Blind. Bravo and hats off all round! With the team reaching a total of 189, it was felt that this was a more than decent total and one which Darjeeling knew they could defend well with a strong bowling line-up.
Apropos…Double A decided to open the bowling with Israr ‘The Academic’ and with the inspired choice of Badger “Badger” Badger at the other end. The Academic bowled tight lines to which the opening oppo batsmen had no answer and was unlucky not to add a wicket to his ever-increasing list of post-nominals. Badger, on the other hand, with his penchant for bowling beautifully flighted China(wo)men, beguiled the batsmen into playing rash shots by either spooning the ball into the air to the Darjeeling fielders or dancing down the pitch and missing the ball altogether, being expertly stumped by part-time keeper Digby “Dirty” Fraser’s filthily effective glovework.
Indeed, Badger ripped through the cream of the Ducks’ batting line-up, ending up with splendid bowling figures of 4-13 of his 4 overs and was unlucky not to get his Michelle if it wasn’t for a couple of dropped half-chances in the slips. Double A also deserves a mention at this point for his masterful manipulation of the field as skipper, which assisted in getting at least two Duck wickets. Indeed, Double A will tell you that his captaincy is inspired via the power of Jazz, which he will gleefully tell you about over a couple of G&Ts…a thoroughly enjoyable chat if I say so myself!
The opening Darjeeling salvo immediately quelled any chances of the Ducks staging a successful run chase as they were reduced to 37/4 after 8 overs once The Academic and Badger had finished their respective spells. The first change bowlers of The Thumb and Notorious supported the opening pair well with The Thumb bowling especially well ending with match figures of 2-15 off his 4 overs, which included a medley of leggies; googlies and flippers. Most impressive for someone of such youth!
Richard “Dexy” H and Double A wrapped the innings up as second change bowlers, whilst being very well supported in the field via run outs through a Partially-Blind / Dirty combo, which left The Ducks all out for 95 runs, thus providing Darjeeling with a rather dominating win of 94 runs.
So, a thoroughly enjoyable game was had by all, which included a gargantuan individual score, full of clobbered sixes, by Darjeeling’s Half-Giant; plenty of wickets by Badger and The Thumb and agile fielding by all to keep the Darjeeling boys as happy as a gaggle of Larry’s. Added to that, an enjoyable post-match drinks session was had with the Ducks to discuss the day’s play, which is what the game of cricket is all about. The hope is that this comprehensive win against a good side with plenty of talent of its own, will kick-start Darjeeling’s friendly side into a strong second half of the season. Cheers!