Just over two weeks has passed since the Old Actonians men’s senior tour to the Republic of Ireland I’ve just about recovered! Not only from the couple of pints of Guinness consumed but also from our first two games of the season and trying to keep up with Arjuna Upasena’s dance moves! All good things to practice before our forthcoming season I hope!
We left for Ireland on a glorious Friday afternoon (11th April) with excitement, smiles and a second hand ping pong ball (more on this later). Shockingly nearly everyone turned up on time or even early however a couple (Messrs Upasena, Long and Smith.K) did not heed my call for prompt time keeping. Arriving late meant the 3 tourists were the first in the fine book to the tune of €5 each, the first names of many it would turn out!
Having made it through security un-scathed we met for our first brief team meeting and a well deserved pint, congratulating ourselves on turning up in one piece. The room allocations were announced and the one and only rule of the tour was decreed – if a tour member successfully threw the second hand ping pong into your beverage it must be consumed, this was a genius idea that attempted to improve both our spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.
The ping pong ball was released to the tourists and we boarded the flight. Upon arriving at Dublin we made the swift journey to the hotel for a team meal and our first official meeting. At these meetings we discussed the team for the next day, our social movements for that day and we rattled off any fines that the tourists had incurred (this was always the longest part!).
On the Friday evening we visited Malahide C.C for a welcoming drink. The club chairman showed us the ground and what beautiful venue to play cricket it was – no wonder Cricket Ireland have chosen the club as one of their International host venues.
After chatting with a selection of the Malahide contingent and getting them involved in our little game of Ping Pong we ventured into town for a little exploration. The focal point of our evening was a venue locally known as ‘Cougar Town’… safe to say Arjuna, Bob and Clifford were in their element! Playing what I can only imagine to be the top 10 from Sepetember 1983, the lads whacked out their dance moves and showed the locals how the men from West London move. The night wound down and we sensibly capped it off with a Jameson’s night cap and a planning meeting ahead of the important game the following day…this finished at 4 am.
Day two started with a full on Irish breakfast and a chance to discuss the night before and the big match ahead. After breakfast we headed out for a team-building stroll along the beach, taking in the beauty and hoping the sea-breeze would clear our heads.
All set for the big game we headed to the ground which looked even more glorious under the Irish sun. The lads headed out for a warm up whilst captain for the day Chris Falconer, looked after the toss. Old A’s won the toss and elected to bowl first, attempting to take advantage of the breezy Irish conditions overhead.
Sandip Patel and Kier Smith took the new ball and bowled the first balls of the 2014 season. The openers started spritely but came against a Malahide opening batsmen with real class. Reinhart Strydom (ex Ireland international!) raced to a beautiful 50 in fewer than 10 overs before retiring back to the pavilion…I presume this was due to him not being able to withstand our witty banter and well directed sledging. With Strydom bantered out Old A’s took on the momentum and the ‘second’ wicket quickly fell, the other Malahide opener bowled by a peach from Sandip Patel that cut through his defences like a knife through black pudding.
The bowling remained tight from that moment on with Steve Smith, Jin Patel and Clifford Pile all contributing with wickets. Whilst being backed up well in the field on a chilly Irish afternoon Malahide were eventually bowled out for 209. A fantastic effort from Old A’s on their first outing of 2014.
The batting line up took shape over a well-deserved lunch with Arjuna ‘Dilshan’ Upasena and Matty ‘the sauce’ Robinson leading from the front. The two started well against the swinging ball before both falling in quick succession to what can only be described as ‘early season shots’. Captain for the day Chris Falconer came in at 3 and looked comfortable against the high calibre opposition. Chris was kept company with partnerships with ‘cymbals’ Rob Long and Junior (Jin) Patel. Falconer looked in touch before smashing one straight to Mid-Off which left the As 4 down and the situation looking precarious. Tour manager T Byrne offered very little before getting bowled to a rank half tracker which brought Senior (Sandip) Patel to the wicket. The brother’s Patel then took the initiative against Malahide and offered some fireworks before Senior was out trying perhaps one shot too many.
The tail then fell away without too much of a wag leaving J Patel stranded on a very good 20 odd not out! Old Actonians were bowled out for 90 and the game lost. Given the strength of the opposition and the fact that it was the team’s first outing of the year there was no shame in the defeat. Positives particularly include the performance with the ball and in the field.
The lads then enjoyed a couple of post-match beers with a selection of the Malahide players and fans before making their way into town for another evening of Guinness-sampling. The evening began in Gibney’s, one of the four main bars in town, and the team spirit carried on throughout the night. Ping pong balls were flying, Bob Coutts was on major form with the locals (until a certain Mr Guest threw some spanners in the works) and Arjuna decided to teach Ireland how to dance…again.
A few of the lads then accepted the invitation of some of the Malahide players to venture to the local night club – Tamango’s. To say it was quiet would have been an understatement but that didn’t stop the Old A’s lads who danced into the wee hours before another 4 am meeting in the hotel bar – talking tactics ahead of the big match against Rush the next day of course.
Day 3 started slowly, as you may expect, with a number of the party racking up fines by late attendance to breakfast – not surpising! None the less another full Irish was demolished and the boys prepared themselves for match 2 against Rush CC just up the coast.
Having arrived at the ground greeted by 2 X1 Rush skipper Eoin the lads under Robbo’s leadership (who may I add went to bed at 8 pm the night before in preparation of his first Old A’s game in charge) embarked on a rather disjointed warm up.
Tour manager T Byrne and Chris Falconer were ruled out of the match after both failing late fitness tests – still not being able to walk in a straight line was not conducive to decent cricket apparently.
The lads took the field on a cold and blustery Irish morning and got of to a flyer with Senior Patel making inroads with the new ball again. Rush fought back however and quickly counter-attacked to build a solid start.
Trying to stop the rot skipper Robbo brought on the wiley spin of tour MVP Bob ‘the hitman’ Coutts. Cold fingers or not Bob soon had Rush in his spiders’ web and took a couple of much needed wickets.
The cold finally took its first victims however with dropped catches from Bob and son Danny Coutts resulting in a broken finger apiece. Although some might say they should have caught the bloody things, you can’t mark the lads down for their efforts.
Rush, taking advantage of a rather small ground and local pitch knowledge (it was an artificial pitch) finished their 40 overs with a flourish finishing on tantalising total of 280-?.
Over lunch it became apparent that Danny Coutts was unable to bat and so Tommy Byrne, already 2 warm up pints down, was required to step into the breach and open the batting.
Byrne and skipper Robbo took to the field and got the A’s off to a very watchful start containing the conservative bowling of the Rush openers. Robbo eventually fell to a miss-timed drive caught at mid-off bringing Jinesh ‘I’m so cold I’m wearing a woolly hat – Junior’ Patel to the crease.
Rush continued to bowl with relentless accuracy and after 20 overs Old A’s had just managed 80, albeit only 1 wicket down. The lads pushed on after drinks with T Byrne finally being put of his misery caught at cover for a very slow 36. That wicket brought new life to Junior however and he finally utilised the eye it took 25 overs to get in and made the Rush bowlers pay. With wickets tumbling at the other end JP speedily raced to 50 with Chris Falconer (the other half-cut sub) providing further fireworks from the other end.
The A’s eventually finished their 40 overs with a very respectable 220, a score to be proud of in any pre-season fixture. Having enjoy a couple of post-match pints with Rush, the club where Eoin Morgan first learned the beautiful game, the lads ventured back to Malahide for the end of tour meal.
With further fines dished out, unfortunately some too racey to be discussed, the eagerly anticipated end of tour awards were announced. The winners were:
King of the dance floor – Arjuna Upasena
The Jonty Rhodes fielding award – Hitesh Patel
Player of the tour –Junior Patel
Tour MVP – Bob ‘the flash light’ Coutts
After a final night cap at the hotel bar the boys hit the hay after a rather eventual couple of days.
The final day was social day and the lads were allowed to relax and the enjoy Ireland before the evening’s flight. Some of the party chose to stay around Malahide and breathe in the sea air where a few of us travelled into Dublin to wander around the city centre of the nation’s capital. The Dublin lads, of which I was one, travelled the sites and ventured to the Guinness factory where one last pint of the black stuff was consumed. After a thoroughly enjoyable and tiring day we all met up and ventured to the airport to travel home.
We all arrived safe and sound at 8pm Monday night to draw an end to a long but bloody enjoyable 3 days. It was great to be out on the pitch again playing the game that brings us all together but it was equally brilliant to spend some quality time together with a fantastic squad of guys.
As you can imagine the party all got to learn a bit more about each other along the way, here are few things that we learnt:
Shaun Qamar is definitely a vegetarian
Danny Guest’s favourite bird is a sea gull
Bilal’s favourite shot is the ‘block’, and
Bob Coutts is very hand with a flashlight!