- Match Report
MILLENNIUM ENDS WOMBATS’ DREAM
by Ian Gason
Millenium CC have taken out Japan’s premier cricketing prize, The Kanto Cricket League, defeating Tokyo Wombats by 3 wickets in a hard fought, low-scoring game at Fuji Sunday. What is heartbreaking for the Wombats is a milestone for Japanese cricket, the first time the KCL has been won by a Japanese team. Whilst the win was made possible by Pakistani Razzaq’s spell, it was acheived by an unbroken 8th wicket partnership by two local lads.
The day began ominously. Clearly the boys at Nippon Rentacar aren’t the superstitious type that cricketers are. Grand Finals are not the time to be breaking traditions, and I was stunned to fnd they’d given me a new model for the day. Where was our old Wombat Wagon?
Arriving at Harajuku, there was Pete’s old wagon, one foot in the vehicular grave, and all the Wombats and supporters, including Mum and Sister Hosking, all the way from Carringbush. The weather was superb, the tourists were treated to uninterupted views of Mount Fuji, as both vehicles made an uneventful run into the ground.
Courtney Jones pulled up second in the pre-game toss-off, and Millenium fancied themselves as chasers. Chuck rallied the boys for one more win, to want the win, to be the best team, to take that one last step to take the prize. Dave O’ and Steve went out to open, as Zulu began his Golden Thong Tour of Fuji City (and surrounds.)
Unlike Zulu, our openers seemed to be in control, slow but steady 3 to 4 runs an over. It did take Steve Burke a couple more than usual overs to launch a hook shot into cyberspace for 6. The partnership was broken by a bold personality all the way from England, who had had just the semi final appearance coming into this game. Miyaji got Steve caught behind chasing a wide one, with the score in the 30s.
Chuck was his usual circumspect self, but when he found his feet, he took 10 from 2 balls with a massive pull over square leg and superlative drive next ball. Dave O’ got caught, and then the wickets bagan to fall. Chuck dragged one on for 20. Tim Whiskas played a couple of magical cover drives, before being adjudged caught behind down leg.
I had the Dinosaurs heart-beat racing on the last ball before drinks, when I called him through for a run that a fitter, younger man would have made….just. The throw couldn’t beat the dinosaur, and we went to drinks 4/not enough, with a grumpy Prez and a still absent Zulu.
Seems Tokyo’s favourite Queenslander had had a ‘which station’ situation, and topped it off by taking a wrong turn and then using Boy Scout logic in a Japanese city. “If I just keep going, I’ll hit a main road,” he said. And yes, you probably would have, but it’d have been in Nagoya, mate.
Back on the pitch, me and Bugs went out to play through the remaining 20 overs and set a target to bowl at. Like Zulu’s road plan, it didn’t happen that way. Razzaq honed in on the soft, fleshy bits between me pad and the thigh pad, whizzed one past my shnozz, then squared me up, found the glove, and after a quick, hopeless, desperate look to square leg, off I trundled.
Hamburger Hill copped one on the beard, then one through the gate, and Reggie Dawson was at the crease in the 21st over. He made some beaut drives, unlike Zulu, who was still going round in circles, before he too was castled. The veteran Paul Shax joined the Prez, and the pair set about constructing what amounted to the only partnership of significance for the innings. The two seasoned campaigners took the score from 7-70 through ten dangerous overs. Jarrad finshed top score (30-odd) and helped himself to at least one over the ropes. With 5 overs to go, the old boys had to change the pace, but this proved the Prez’s undoing, and he, unlike Zulu, was soon back in the shed. The Grumpy One made his innings of the year even more memorable with a Level 2 Code Of Conduct breach, giving a stump a bit of a nudge as he left. The score was up over 120 at last, and there was something there for us bowlers to bowl at. The last 2 wickets fell cheaply, and the Wombats were defending 127.
Etsuko’s communal egg sandwiches put some fire in the Wommies’ belly, and Zulu picked up the scent and aimed the Clubhouse Wagon in that general direction. Millenium had ideas about an early return to Tokyo, but the Wombats did too. Like fellow Sandgroper DK Lillee, Chuck knew that we could f**king win this, and that no matter how few 128 might be, the Wombats would make them earn each and every one of them.
Zulu finally returned to bolster the aural assualt coming from the Jock McCale Stand. Rayos weaved from the carpark end, and I did me best from the scoreboard end. After a few big shots from both ends, Shax was brought in, and I just got pissed off. I gave the young Japanese opener a work-over in one over, and had him bunny hopping out to sqaure leg. With 2 left in the over, I decided to load all me eggs into one last basket, and sent a fourth ball short into the body, and offered him a bit of batting advice, suggesting in the politest of language that square leg was possibly not the best place to take guard. Now or never, last ball of the over, back on a length, but not really on line. Still, me bunny was hopping out to leg, got his pads in the way and the castle came down. Shit, I was happy.
Shax had the Japan representitive Munir soon after as he fed a catch to the Freak Ray. Our ol’ mate Saeed Rizzwan brought his big bushy beard out to bat, and found eleven noisy Wombats right there in his facial hair. Should have brought his earplugs, cos the umps weren’t interested in his appeals for help. Can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen was the call. He took the advice, spooning Killer Kelly’s first (legit) ball straight to me for the simplest of catches at fine-leg.
From 0-40, to about 3-50, Wombats had begun to put fear in the Millenium camp. The Hoskings, backed ably by Zulu, Spacey and Shizuoka’s David Boon Fan Club, were right behind us, sensing something special was on the cards. Shax had his second with another Freak catch at silly-mid-testicle.
In the gully I tried to pull off a Hand of God catch diving sideways at a cut-shot their #4 played at Reggie. It was one of those “what might have been” moments, but didn’t stick. Taking a leaf out Grumpy’s book, the hat got acquainted with the dirt, and the hills rang out with some colourful language. Reggie’s misfortune continued that over as the same bat found an edge that flew too fast for the aforementioned Grumpy One.
His 3rd pack of Marlboros getting dangerously low, Smoker was pacing the boundary and made the call, “ready Burkey” as Reggie Dawson steamed in. Big-hitting danger man Razzaq, with the equation at 6 wickets/50 runs, had to be got, and Burke got him. He drove at a quick ‘un from Reginald and the edge flew. Words won’t do justice to the catch, but that ball had 4 runs written all over it. The shinkansen looked sluggish in comparison, but somehow Burkey intervened leaping wide to the right. It was like catching a squash ball out of a rocket launcher. It was the break we needed to take us to drinks.
Reggie kept the dream alive after drinks, getting his second with a plum LB and then giving Millenium’s fine cotton Miyaji a corker through the gate. 7-90, all 3 Pakistanis gone, Japanese numbers 9, 10, and 11 to go. Wombats should have won the game, but cricket is not a game played in hypotheticals or on reputations. It is played in the mind and on the pitch, and those two Japanese lads played probably the greatest partnership of the entire KCL season.
As predicted they retreated into their shells, but did so with the clarity of mind needed to pick off the remaining runs. Reggie couldn’t dislodge them and Cap’n Jones sent down 4 overs of hand grenades. The score trickled through the 90s, past the Nelson as Chuck grenades lobbed higher. The rash shot we need didn’t come. The lads paced themselves, content to win however long it took, in ones and twos.
Reggie was spent and I was given one last crack with a dozen runs to defend. Every single Wombat gave every last ounce of heart that day, and the cricketing Gods were calling last orders. At times I thought the batsmen defended with closed eyes, but either way these two weren’t going away. No amount of on-field commentary nor a dose of sub-continentally ambitious appealling could do it. The lads had the strength of character and backed it up with limited but sound technique.
Ironically, with the scores level, their number 4, who witnessed a procession of soft dismisalls pulled out the ugly cross-bat hoik we’d wanted so badly. But he found the boundary, and his joy could be heard for miles around. Determination had won the day, had won the season. Congratulations.
Chuck Jones called us all in and spoke words which mark him as a great captain. As Duncan Fletcher has so inadaquelty demonstrated, how a man conducts himself in victory or defeat can mean as much as the result itself. His defeated warrior Wombats were praised for the gallantary they had shown, for the determination and doggedness displayed fighting to defend a sub-par score. The year’s affort were not enough this day, but our achievments this year remarkable, and that we had gone that far was something which we all must be proud.
After the Hardys’ Man of The Match Awards (Razzaq, Reggie and THAT catch by Burkey) we had the painful but neccesary sight of watching the Millenium lads spraying the champagne, enjoying a victory they deserved so much. Wombats have gone home empty handed, but the seed has been sown, the bar has been raised for the next big step in 2006. Tokyo Wombats left that field yesterday without the 2005 Cup, but with 2006 glory a clearly defined goal.
As I won’t be playing the post-season Pacfic Cup, I will take this moment to thank all the teams, all the adminstrators of the KCL. The umpires, not just David and Anton yesterday, but throughout the year must be thanked. Craig and everyone at Hardys Wines, your supprt has been terrific again. Pete at the Clubhouse, same goes for you. All the Wombats here and abroad, we were all in this together, and we will all be in together again in 2006.