Rovers week 2018
The cast (in order of appearance): Hector Loughton (Hec), Tim Mackenzie (El Presidente), Benji Williams (Benj), Robin Frean (Freano), Ali Hares (Haresy), George Holman (The Holmanator), Matt Clarke (Clarky), Aden-Jay Wood (AJ, SPOTSC), Wilf Aylett (Wilf), Steve Crosby (Disco), Joe Naughalty (The Welsh Wizard – honorary Rover), George Welsby (G), Yosef Salameh (Yo), Johnno Cobbold (Johnno), Nick Ballamy (The Worthing Express, Ballers), Ryan Maskell (Mask), Jack Dawling (Jack), Felix Aylett (Fee), Henry Gane (Ganer), Will Edgerler (Wedge), Mike Brainerd (Mikey B), Rob Wakeford (Wakers), Ed Clarke (Clarky), James Allen (Jallen)
This was the first Rovers Tour in living memory to consist of six fixtures, Sunday to Friday, and came hot off the heels of the ‘Massacre in Monmouth’. We would entertain two new teams, The Ivy Cricket Club and Oundle Rovers, the latter making up one of the three opponents we would face who were through to the Cricketer Cup quarter-finals this year, it would be a tough tour.
Sunday – Old Malvernians
Well it didn’t start out too tough as unfortunately the OMs couldn’t get a team out. This meant that the advance party could get down the Amsterdam Inn a little earlier than planned, and acquaint themselves with Maggie the boss, and Jess the barmaid, oh, and the Sunday menu. As it turned out, the Hunter’s Chicken and Roast Lamb Shank became firm favourites with the troops. A chilled evening was enjoyed by all before retiring to the old Sussex Pad, our base for the week.
Monday – The Sussex Martlets (Declaration)
And so to our first game, against a team that a few of our guys currently play for. We had a fine XI on paper, but when the umpires rang the bell Jack Dawling on debut, failed to debut, the skipper, and keeper was feeling decidedly under the weather, probably having something to do with his somewhat circuitous route to Lancing from South London via Edinburgh, and even worse, the Worthing Express, due to take the new ball, was lying prostrate on the changing room floor in just his boxers complaining of chest pains and paralysis of his left arm. In hindsight perhaps we should have done more, but El Presidente fulfilled his 12th man duties, and took the field instead.
Hec opened up from the Ladywell End, and when Freano was thrown the ball for the 2nd over, El Presidente had to step in, no way was he going to allow a part-time leggie open up in Rovers Week and took the new ball himself. With figures of 5-3-1-6, including the first wicket of the tour, that would appear an inspired decision, unfortunately the three overs sandwiching those five went for 32! So the Rovers ploughed on on a very hot day with 10, Hec bowled very well, finishing with 13-5-1-16, and after relinquishing the keeping duties to AJ, the Holmanator finished with 6-1-1-31 much to everyone’s surprise. But the real damage was done by our two leggies, Freano and Haresy who bowled in tandem. Haresy finished with great figures of 14-0-2-53, but Freano stole the show finishing with 5-49 of 8.1 overs, including three in seven balls to finish off their innings. So the Martlets were all out for 223, thanks to an impressive 113 from their opening bat Richardson.
The Welsh Wizard popped in during the luncheon interval, presumably looking to scrounge a beer or two, but found himself roped in, and batting at 9. So Clarky and AJ opened up and put on 46 for the 1st wicket before Clarky departed for a customary 30! Wilf strode purposefully to the crease and enjoyed a stand of 58 with AJ before heading back to the pavilion for a beautifully crafted 2. Disco was next up, and he and AJ saw us home in some style, finishing with 60*, and AJ a fantastic 105*. We had chased down the total in 16 fewer overs just two down, a great start to the week. So we enjoyed a number of beers with the oppo, then headed to the Dam to celebrate. A number of the younger members of the squad then headed to Brighton for Trash Monday, and the Worthing Express head to his local A&E to try and sort out his heart attack!
Tuesday – Uppingham Rovers (40 overs)
And so to the Upps, a team we haven’t beaten in yonks, we had been incredibly close in recent years losing by the odd wicket or off the last ball, but couldn’t quite get over the line, and when we had them 10-3 after just 4 overs, we really thought this might be the year. G did the damage with a couple of shocking deliveries in his first over, after Hec again opened up. Fortunately, the two rank long hops were hit in the vicinity of one of our gun fielders, the Welsh Wizard, who swallowed them up with aplomb. When Yo came on first change and started with three maidens and a wicket, the Upps were teetering at 51-4, unfortunately the next wicket didn’t materialise for another 108 runs, had the opportunity gone? We chipped away though, the Welsh Wizard bowled 8 overs of left arm seam up, Disco bowled three very part-time overs off off-spin, but Johnno came on and did the business, cleaning up with 4.3-0-4-29. So once again we had bowled out the oppo, with the Upps finishing with 219. It should be pointed out for the purposes of this story, that at this point El Presidente was himself heading towards Worthing A&E to get a dislocated finger put back in…
And so to our reply. Clarky and AJ opened up and put on another fine stand of 75 before Clarky departed for, you guessed it, one of his thirty-odds. But AJ kicked on, supported by a fine 36 from Disco, and 39 from Hec. Alas, from a position of ‘relative’ strength at 168-1, we were now 181-4, but still not only in the driving seat, but a couple of laps ahead, you couldn’t back the Rovers with the bookmakers at this stage! And then it kind of went a bit Pete Tong, amidst the occasional lusty blow, wickets were tumbling, 181-4 became 207-5, but at 217-5 needing just THREE runs for a famous victory, it all fell apart. I won’t elaborate too much, but we lost four wickets for no runs, and with the President still absent hurt, lost the game by 2 runs!
By the time El Presidente had returned to the scene of the crime, everyone had vanished, the post-mortem went on long into the night…
Wednesday – Steyning CC (40 overs)
Unfortunately, due to England’s World Cup semi-final, Steyning couldn’t get eleven men out either, and had to cancel/forfeit the match. In the grand scheme of things this was no bad thing. Obviously we would have preferred to play, but it gave us a chance to enjoy a leisurely day in the nets, kicking a few balls around, driving the skipper to Worthing A&E for meds, having a BBQ etc, before heading down to the Dam ourselves to enjoy England’s victory! Once again, the younger generation headed in to Brighton so they could throw beer over each other when England scored, but due to a ‘technical’ hic-cough with tickets, they were all back in the Dam by kick-off. Ballers had re-found his mojo too, as he polished off a Classic Combo Platter on his own, which consisted of southern-fried chicken breast, goujons, pigs-in-blankets, chips, beer-battered onion rings, nachos, Heron Bay breaded scampi, garlic artisan bread, ale BBQ sauce, and ‘dips’…maybe his heart knew what was coming and decided to get in first on Monday!
That England sat back and invited the equaliser came as no surprise, and extra-time at least gave us something to talk about down the Dam as we looked ahead to Oundle the next day.
Thursday – Oundle Rovers (40 overs)
So a new fixture, certainly in the last thirty years or so anyway, and they were up for it having booked a minibus to take them home after beers and a barbie, good on ‘em. Skip won the toss again and we decided to have first crack with the bat. Clarky opened up, this time with Mask, unfortunately the latter departed for 8 which bought Jack to the crease, finally making his debut albeit four days late! Jack went for a fine 38, having put on 81 for the 2nd wicket, during which Clarky received a standing ovation when he finally got out of the thirties. AJ and Disco came and went, both failing relatively speaking, going for 35 and 45 respectively, Clarky had by this time tonned up, and what a ton it was, but he wasn’t finished yet. He was finally caught, fifth man out, for a magnificent 156, well batted son. A few late lusty blows from Fee, and a fine 0* from Ballers, the Rovers finished their 40 overs on a stupendous 330!
To be fair to Oundle they gave it a right good go, and with G unable to repeat his heroics from Tuesday, at 180-1 in the 24th things were looking decidedly iffy. I’m not sure how Disco got away with an eight over spell, but Freano and Mask saved us. The former had their number two caught by AJ for a superb 91, then Mask bowled Bishop for 79, that was effectively game over. They lost five wickets for just 18 runs and we ran out victors by 62 runs. Freano returning figures of 8-0-3-65 and Mask 6-0-4-40. Jack ‘The Debut Dodger’ also picked up his maiden Rovers’ scalp with just his seventh delivery.
So we partied long and hard into the night with the oppo, a good bunch, and hopefully the fixture can be cemented for some time. We did still managed to squeeze in a couple of hours down the Dam of course, and looked ahead to our second new fixture of the week.
Friday – The Ivy Cricket Club (40 overs)
And so to the last day of Rovers Week, although we still had the Cricketer Trophy semi-final to look forward to on Sunday, and Ralph Brunjes’ outfit, resplendent in their blazers, not quite as jazzy as ours, but bloody smart nonetheless. Technically Ralph, and his brother, being OLs, should have asked the Rovers’ Committee for permission to play against the club, but we’ll forgive them on this occasion. The day started off interestingly, with the skip declaring he had a 70% feeling that he would win the toss, now I don’t know what school he went to but…and of course he lost! So of course we found ourselves in the field, and another Rovers debutante with new ball in hand, Wedge. He bowled a tidy six over spell, also taking his first Rovers’ wicket, 1 for 33. He was joined by the Welsh Wizard at the Pavilion End, who contrived to ruin Ralph’s day with one of the rare ‘proper’ wickets of the week, getting him to glove one to slip, where rather surprisingly Clarky held on. Joe finished with fine figures of 4-17 off six. All the bowlers chipped in, Mikey B bowled an over of indifferent seamers before immediately choosing to swap to something a little more pedestrian, totally fooling the scorer Midge, who had him down as two different bowlers. Ganer bowed tidily for his 1-28 off 8, and Freano was tidy during his 7 overs. But Disco found some form, and somehow took 2-9 off six. Second top scorer for The Ivy was Harry Brunjes, who apparently had only played a couple of times before, didn’t look it during his fine 36*, much to the annoyance of his brother I suspect. Anyways, The Ivy finished up on a nice round 160 off their 40 overs, game on.
The author adjourned to the pub at this point!
Disco finally got his request to open the batting, and strode out with AJ, and to be fair, killed the game off. So much so that the skip had to order them to get out, easier said than done. AJ was the first to succeed, caught for a sprightly 57 with the score on 131! Disco did finally hole out, after numerous attempts, for 67, well batted chaps. Freano and the Welsh Wizard saw us comfortably home with twenty overs to spare to complete an almost flawless week.
After a fantastic day’s cricket with great company, a few of the elder statesmen headed off into deepest wildest Sussex as they were very kindly invited to a party from one of their sponsors, Hayward & Green, who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. A 60s themed event with live bands, a marvellous bar menu, and a million prawns on the barbie, thank you very much Jez.
Saturday – Day at leisure (24 hours)
Due to the cricketing commitments of others, El Presidente decided to conduct a fact-finding mission to Brighton for future tours. The first fact is that he stopped off at Coalition, the venue for Monday night’s shenanigans, he then found the Lion & Lobster, Crown’s, The Victory Inn, Molly Malone’s, Yates, Wetherspoons (it felt dirty), Quadrant, Beelzebub, Idle Hands, The Queen’s Head, The Railway Bell, and The Nightingale Room before returning to the Dam, where the Welsh Wizard was in attendance. The upshot is that it was a very successful and useful fact-finding mission.
Sunday – Old Georgians (50 overs)
And so to the Cricketer Trophy semi-final against the side we beat in the final when we won this competition, they thrashed us the next time we played them mind. The Holmanator won the toss again and we had a bat to try and put them under ‘scoreboard’ pressure. Unfortunately they had a prior engagement at Weybridge CC, so were missing a lot of players, but you can only play the side that turns up. Young Jack and AJ opened up in glorious conditions but could only take the score to 21 before Jack holed out for 3, bringing the boy Disco to the crease. These two just carried on as they had all week, and both brought up their half centuries, and at 100-1 after 14, another Oundlesque score looked on the cards. AJ was the first to go for 52 and Disco for 59, sandwiching Ballers’ lame 14. But we kept ticking away, even though our projected total was coming down all the time, and 24 from Clarky (Ed) plus a run a ball 41 from Hec got us up to a respectable 248 from our50 overs.
So Hec and Ballers took the new ball, and kept things tight enough, although after 20 overs the OGs were bang on target at 92-2, with Jallen making the crucial breakthrough, bowling their opener for 46. However, this brought the ex-Derbyshire pro Tim O’Gorman to the crease, and until Freano tempted him to run past one and get stumped for 47 the match was very much in the balance. The Rovers could sense blood and when the openers came back on it was a completely different game. They lost their last five wickets for 20 runs, leaving us with a 36 run victory, and a place in the Final against the Old Millfieldians. Jallen finished with a great return of 10-0-3-56, Hec 8-0-3-35 and Ballers finally came good with 7.1-1-2-29.
What a week, two runs away from becoming ‘The Immortals’. We’ve still got the small matter of the Cricketer Trophy Final at Gerrards Cross on August 5th, but what a great past month we’ve had. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to George Holman for all his work getting the teams together, and liaising with the College, everyone who turned up to play & support, it was great to see Peter Robinson and David Debere back at the College, the catering staff, Shawn and his fellow groundsmen, Sarah in the Foundation Office, and the Bursar Mark Milling, who all contributed to one of the greatest tours EVER.
Up the Rovers!!!