A report on the Blackheath Vets annual cricket tour from Des Diamond:
The next chapter of the Blackheath Veterans Cricket Team has been completed. For those not aware the team has been on an annual European tour playing in Pezenas, Toulouse, Gibraltar, Bordeaux, Milan, Nice, Malta, Alicante and this year in Porto, Portugal. Despite only 1 victory in Malta, the squad travelled with much (misplaced?) confidence. Two pre-trip net sessions, overseen by a current county cricketer, had pushed optimism to a new high.
The team stayed in the clubhouse accommodation of the Porto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club which has colonial overtones having been founded in 1855 by the new wave of British port barons such as Sandeman, Dow and Warre. Cricket, tennis and swimming facilities are all ranged around the clubhouse, so all very convenient.
The match was, at the insistence of the opposition and to the alarm and dismay of BFC, to be played over a full day with lunch and a declaration around tea-time – new ground for the intrepid visitors. Porto won the toss and elected to bat. With 18 of the BFC squad available for selection the skipper had some tough decisions to make; this was eased by our opponents agreeing for us to rotate fielders on and off as needed – which, not surprisingly, was a regular feature of our time in the field.
We always go to great pains to explain, long before we travel and play, that we are a very old team, average age 62, and as such would welcome our hosts to turn out an appropriate side to make a game of it. As usual our pleas were ignored.
With the game underway and your heroes in the field, our captain, tactfully though not tactically, employed 12 bowlers, many of whom made a good fist of their overs. Some, (perhaps they had missed the pre-trip nets) had trouble finding the desired length or line, mostly both, at the same time and the batsmen cashed in. As a result, and with only 1 dropped catch, the veterans staggered off for an early tea having held the opposition to a total of 297 for 2 declared – oh dear!
After tea we had 2 hours to bat before the last 20 overs were to be called at 6.20pm. The optimists in the team immediately began to work out our required run rate(What!!); the pessimists were wagering we would not even make it to the last 20 overs if their bowling was anything like their batting. It was. We soon lost a couple of early wickets; however with a fine piece of “Not Out” umpiring in reply to a string of LBW appeals we managed to see off the very pacy opening salvo.
Our score crept along and come the last 20 overs we were 105 for 3, no hope of victory but within sight of an emotionally uplifting draw. Needless to say back comes the pace attack; 3 batsmen were hit on the foot as our rear-guard tactics were successfully employed, again with the support of our umpire, who remained resolute and could utter no more than a succession of “Not Outs” as the LBW appeals rang round the ground.
So it was, as the shadows lengthened and the overs slipped by we finished with a creditable 147 for 6 at 7.30pm. Bowed but not broken the stories, the fake news and tales of daring-do got all the more embellished as the evening wore on. The match was over – relief all round – and the third evening of celebrations continued with relish. Where to next year?
Nigel Birrel, Rick Bodenham, Tony Crust, Des Diamond, Marcus Evans, Tim Fenby, John Fuller, Doug Hursey, Chris Kibble, John Legge, Paul Matthews, Kenny Purchase, Del Rutter, John Slater, Danny Vaughan, Peter Vaughan, Dave Wells, Ian Williamson, John Wishart, Andy Wolstenholme,