- Match Report
- Photos 1
- Photos 2
PART-TIMERS STAR IN ASHES TRIUMPH
by Ian Gason
A decades-lost cricketing tradition was revived Saturday at Fuji, as British Embassy took on Tokyo Wombats for the inaugural Hardys Tokyo Ashes. Competition between the Aussies and the Poms will always bring out the best in combatants, and so it was at Fuji, as the Ashes were won by The Aussies in a hard fought contest fitting of such an occasion.
Dramas began early as a bleary-eyed driver made some minor renovations to the side panels of the Wombat wagon, moments after loading in the days refreshments. Best to get it over done with early I guess. Seating 12 Wombats, 4 eskis of beer, a case of Hardys, and cricket gear into a 10 seater was the next challenge, but somehow we did it, and with light traffic, we arrived at Fuji in plenty of time. An abundance of green and gold and Aussie flags greeted the British boys.
With regular captain Courtney Jones injured in a freak goldfish bowl accident, stand-in skip Steven Burke lost the toss, and Embassy sent us in. Andy King sent down the first delivery in modern Tokyo Ashes history, but one ball later Steven Burke sent out the first six in Ashes history when he hooked the England quick backward of square. Under clear, sunny skies 4 stalwarts of the game battled hard: Burke and Shearer batting for the Wombats, and King and Envall giving it their all for The Embassy.
At the car-park end, David Envall suffered a case of the yips. Struggling for line, his first over went for 12. Wombat openers kept the scoreboard ticking over at 6s and 7s, but the British bowlers showed no signs of giving up. Some of the best competitors in Japan were dueling it out, and no Wombat was taking anything for granted.
The gods turned on some typically Aussie weather, and on the sidelines the Wombats turned on some typical Aussie ingenuity. The Jarrad Shearer Stand still in temporary reccess, the boys set about turning a couple of Y100 tarps into a shelter, and in the blink of an eye, had a truely first-class erection. So impressed with getting it up, the engineers set about making a traditional Pitjanjantjara humpy by slinging another tarp up to the back of the practise nets. All that was needed was a V8 ute, a blue heeler and a pack of Winnie blues. A marvellous day to be Australian.
Meanwhile back on the pitch, the bats continued to hold the upper hand. The contest was by no means one-sided, as both bats were beaten several times, by pace and off the pitch. Veteran keeper Tom Goodwin grassed a chance from the Aussie skip, who would then go on to rack up his 500th run for the year just after passing 50.
King, saving himself for a second shot at my teeth, was spelled, but at the car-park end Envall soldiered on unchanged in the heat. Despite recovering from his intial yips, he toiled without reward, for 0/52. Half of those runs came from his first and last overs, his middle 6 a much more respectable 26. Chris Thompson had a crack at the boys, but couldn’t get the break. Spin was introduced at the car-park end, and after a maiden over of reconnaisance, the scoreboard resumed ticking over.
At the very welcome drinks break, Wombats were 0/113. Embassy was fielding a perky young lass at mid-off, so given the choice to sit in the humpy sipping Hardys, or return to the middle and umpire 20 more overs, Cap’n Goldfish Courtney Jones chose stay out in the middle, enjoying the spectacle.
The second session saw fortunes change, as the Embassy fightback began. Brent Kinnimont got the breakthrough, Jarrad holing out to Chris Thompson for a gritty 23. David O’Carroll made his 40 over debut at number 3. Steven Burke was caught hooking Kinnimont for 78, so the debutant David would take the reins. British captain Warren Daley took over at the car park end. The scoring rate slowed, and then stalled, with 3 maidens in a row at one stage. From the drinks break score, we stumbled along to 3/150 from 30.
Zulu picked up the run rate in a brief but important partnership with David, hard running between the wickets helped things along. The two lads from Tamachi, Axe and Wookie also made valuable contributions to the score, as Wombats aimed for the psychologically important 200 mark.
With 3 overs left finally I got to have a go, and with Andy King operating at the nets end, this was a moment a few people had been waiting for. (Last time we met, Andy copped me in the gob. A bit of claret was spilled, and after the tied game, 5 stitches required.) We should have run a sweep on what he’d greet me with, cos I’d have cleaned up. As the big Brit came steaming in, he denied his natural instinct to bounce me first up. Unfortunately for Andy, I’d figured the bouncer would be too predictable, and as expected it was the slower ball, well directed at the toes, but ultimately unsuccessful.
It was now run at anything time, and Chunky was first to go, when I called him through for one that landed at my feet. The Freak came out for the last over, and I was next to go. When Rayos rocketed one out of the middle I was backing up too far, and the cover had the ball back to the bowler before you could say ‘thanks for coming.’ Tassie’s newest hero sent the last ball to the long-off fence, and the Wombats’ score was 9/190.
Losing the toss was a blessing for our skip, who wanted to bat first anyway. At the break the typical Aussie (Darwin maybe?) weather turned into typical Melbourne weather. The mornings’ sun was replaced with clouds and wind, meaning we had got by far the best of the conditions. The Poms had sweltered in the hottest part of the day, and we’d get to field in the cooler, cloudy afternoon. (For our Melbourne readers, yes, it did rain later on!)
A pleasant surprise for me, as Andy King opened the batting with David Envall. Jarrad welcomed my foe to the crease, “This is Andy’s farewell game. Let’s give him a duck to remember it by” and he tried to oblige, cutting me high, but safely between gully and backward point. What followed was a great duel, as I beat the bat a few times, searched for the edge, and popped a few into the ribs for good measure. One that reared off the seam brought a smile to both our faces.
At the car-park end, Wombats’ unveiled their secret weapon: Luke Ray. His harmless looking array of dibbly-dobblies tied up the openers in a Wombat experiment gone right. Our aim was to deny them the pace, force an error maybe, and get a couple of overs out of another part-time option.
The Ray Project worked a treat. Both openers mis-timed and missed. Pads were struck, edges found, and the bats weren’t allowed to play themselves in. Visions of Aust v NZ at Port Elizabeth followed, when The Freak sent down an Andre Adams two-hop. Luckily it wasn’t Andy Bichel (who sent Adams into the crowd) but Andy King, who sent the ball straight to me at mid-on. Not quite a text-book catching lesson, but remember kids, fingers pointing UP when you catch. The ball popped out, but straight up, and I got it second grab, to close Andy’s Japan cricket career.
The Freak’s adventure finished at 6 overs 1-25. Well done Vanilla Ray. Killer Kelly took over at the nets end and soon had the Poms #3. His good spell was marred by a Gillespie-style 12 ball over, the first 4 being wides. Meanwhile David Envall was making like John Howard, hanging around showing no signs of going. It took a good low catch at backward point by David to finally send him packing. Before drinks, Shax had his second wicket when Jarrad grabbed a bottom edge from Brent Kinnimont. At the last change the Wombats were on top, but there was still plenty of fight left in the old bulldog, who we had seen earlier in the year bat down to the last man.
Wides were the major contributor for the innings (both innings featured an unusually high number) and that would become more pronounced as Zulu took the gloves and Jarrad took the ball. Big-hitting Japanese batsmen Irie was a danger man, and two bat pads were put in proximity. Figuring I’d used up all my bad-luck on the van door, I went in, and the big-man did his best to send me back. (Apparently his hard hitting has put 3 idiots like me in hospital!) At least 3 rockets went whisltling past me, but the plan seemed to work as the cow-corner shot which brought him so many runs our last game didn’t make an appearance.
Must have been a magnet at mid-on. Jarrad got his first and second wickets with catches there by The Freak, including one which cannoned from the bat of Irie. His second was a Dunstall style chest-mark which must have left a nice welt. It was perhaps the most oxymoronic spell of bowling ever, a perfect example of shit gets wickets. As the oversized sandgroper struggled for line, length, and line & length, wides flourished, and there would later be a confession from the Shearer’s mouth: it IS rocket science after all. Just as the bowling was beginning to draw sledges from his own team-mates, he found the 20 metre strip of green, and got a top-edge to Axe behind square. There was one last act before the Man of The Match winner would be unceremoniously dragged, when he held onto a caught and bowled offering so low that he came up with dirt under his fingernails. Amongst the catches off the year, I confess.
Embassy never gave up hope of stealing the game, and with 50 runs needed from the last 10, who can blame them? Axe was operating at the nets end, and he joined in the days wide-frenzy. The ones that weren’t wide were good nuts, but Robert Bruce Mann couldn’t get his man. One edge flew past a desperate skipper at slip. Others beat the bat, or were dug out at the last moment.
On the bench, the Hardys was flowing and Cap’n Goldfish let out an almighty “AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!! OI!! OIO!! OI!!” which was taken up by the fielders. Axe did get himself a wicket, and me and Shax were brought back to wrap up the tail. I had one edge that didn’t carry, but that would be my last roll of the dice. The Shaxinator grabbed an edge, but Zulu spilled the offering. The shame of dropping The Ashes was too much for Z-man curled himself up into the fetal position. He didn’t have to wait too long to redeem himself, as The Whyalla Warrior lured the last man out of his crease, and Zulu had the bails of before you could say “You little beeeeauty!!”.
The determined Embassy unit was dismissed for 150, Tokyo Wombats winning by 40 runs. The Poms had done well to restrict us to 190, after staring down the barrel of 230+. Tight bowling from Daley and Kinnimont vital there. Wombats however were hot in the field, a marked change from last time. We held all our catches, up til the last wicket at least, and conceeded few fielding errors. Dave saved a score of runs behind square. The Old Enemy was tough all day, and had we not held our catches so well, may well have run away with it.
Brent Kinnimont was awarded Hardys Best On Ground for Embassy, and the third Hardys award went to Luke Ray, just for being a freak.
The BBQ was top notch, and it was great of the Embassy boys to hang around and enjoy the snags and the drinks. Thanks to Craig and everyone at Hardys for getting behind this event, and providing an ample supply of beverages. The spirit of the game was right on: hard but fair, fun but serious. Everyone agreed that the Hardys Tokyo Ashes was a great success and that years of freindly rivalry will flow in years to come.
The long journey back to the spiritual home of the Wombats, The Clubhouse was – all things considered – a tame affair. Besides one Thong-worthy incident at the 7-11 carpark (involving Chuck, a sausage, nudity and a truck) and some passionate discussion about how we can get personally involved with women’s cricket in this country, it was just a routine drive. Honest.