- Match Report
WOMBATS CRUISE PAST SHARKS IN JCL PRELIM
by Alex Vakil
With the train once again the preferred form of transport for this, the biggest game of the Wombats’ season, the usual motley crew (minus new boy Fuller, who once again missed the rendezvous) assembled at Shinjuku for the more painful than usual departure time of 7:24. Some Wombats seemed more “refreshed” than others and the level of chat on the train reflected this disparity. Hitchman mysteriously vanished from the group about 20 minutes into the journey, only to be found pinned against the door by a 60-odd year old Japanese woman. If only she had had a shirt to sign, eh Dino?
Excitement amongst some of Wombats was at fever pitch as the AFL playoffs were in full swing. Vakil and Patmore mused about Geelong’s form and pontificated about the wisdom of backing the Swans. There was even hope that Adelaide might finally come good. The pair would spend the rest of the day distracted, constantly checking their phones for updates of the latest “behind”, much to the annoyance of the rest of the team.
Arriving at Tatebayashi in the usual accompanying sweltering heat, Koolhof met an old friend outside the kombini, namely the drunk Japanese pensioner who once wisely proclaimed to Koolhof that he would “remember his face”. Feeling the need to share out his usual anti-gaijin abuse, the drunkard decided to have a dig at Dino. Realising that he had picked the wrong wombat to pick a war of words with, he quickly returned to his box.
The Wombats would be playing the Chiba Sharks on the pitch where they had earlier in the season suffered a defeat to Sano and they were keen to ensure they wouldn’t suffer a similar fate in this must-win match. The Wombats were treated to a text-book warm up routine by Chiba, who in their slime green striped kit proceeded to show the Wombats what a pre-match routine should look like.
Skipper Beef, remembering the previous victory against the Sharks, was tempted to bowl first. However, the remaining 10 Wombats convinced him that he should “do a Ponting” and bat. The coin came down on the right side and a wave of relief struck the Wombats.
Patmore and Beef got proceedings underway with Reggie volunteering to umpire at square leg. Patmore took guard before glancing round at the field when he spotted “square leg umpire” Reggie casually standing at mid-wicket. “Reg, what are you doing?” exclaimed Patmore. “Sorry mate, I forgot you were a left-hander,” replied Reg, only for him to walk across the pitch to extra cover. Confusion addressed, play began.
Patmore, who averages more in the Yorkshire league this season than he does in the JCL (obviously the standard in the JCL is higher), was the first Wombat to fall: an unfortunate inside edge onto the stumps being his downfall. Traditional opening pair, Dino and Beef, were reunited at the crease. Beef caressed a lovely cover drive to the longest part of the ground and called Dino through for three. A three, on a Japanese pitch? thought the Wombats. Dino set off for the third without hesitation only to be given the big, “no!” when he was half way down. Having the turning circle of the Titanic did the big man no favours and Dino was unable to make his ground. Dino took the mix-up with great spirit and professionalism that only he would be capable of and the Wombats and the opposition were disappointed not to see a classic Shearer dummy spit.
Vakil joined Beef as the Wombats started to rebuild. Limited sleep and copious sake the night before combined with the searing heat meant that Vakil wasn’t too bothered about being out there and would much rather have been sitting in the hutch chatting Aussie rules and telling the same stories for the second time of the day. However, a few swipes across the line and dropped catches from the fielding side got him to 50. Beef seemed confused as to how Vakil had managed to bring up his 50 first, only to find out that he was actually on 70 and a classic Koolhof scoring mis-hap had meant his fifty wasn’t acknowledged by the excitable Wombats in the hutch.
Vakil fell to a well-taken skier and was replaced by Brooks who was keen to get stuck in after sitting with pads on for 20 overs. 1 ball later, Angus was heading back to the pavilion. Ev and Reggie came in for a bit of a blast and supported Beef well. Reggie in particular hit some great genuine cricket shots – an unusual feat for a Wombats’ middle order batsman. Angus continued his contribution to the game by using Dino’s performance enhancing amino acid solution to soften the ground for the stumps. To say Dino was angry would be an understatement.
Beef looked like a man who was about to keel over at any minute. He decided that singles or any sort of running were not the order of the day as he swiftly moved past three figures: a great performance from the skipper. He carried on to record a whopping 146 – a captain’s performance if there ever was one, although Dino would maintain he only got 70 odd: half his runs going to his colleague who he ran out!
Damo was disappointed to have lost the faith of the skipper after one match as he found himself demoted from 5 to 10 but together with Koolhof, managed to carry his bat at the end as the Wombats closed on 264-9.
In the Wombats’ huddle, Beef lectured the team about the importance of not giving away easy runs with wides. Four wides in the first over from Fuller later, the Wombats thought that this might be a long session in the field. Fuller had previously declared that he could swing the ball both ways but could control it better when he was swinging it away from the batsman. Whichever way it was swinging, it certainly wasn’t hitting the stumps, or a set next to them or a set next to them. From the other end, Beef struck early with a plumb lbw to get the Wombats’ wicket tally up and running.
The Sharks got off to a flying start, being well ahead of the run rate within a few overs. Angus continued his strong contribution to the game by shelling a chance at slip – still, at least he’s good value on the beers. As Angus himself said, this wasn’t my worst performance of all time; I once got a golden duck and dropped two catches!
By drinks the Sharks had made a hundred and were looking in good shape. Dino had been throwing himself around in the field and was furious that he hadn’t pulled off a brilliant Jonty Rhodes style run out. But Dino shouldn’t be too hard on himself as he still moves around the field very well for a ’49 year old’.
Koolhof had so far bowled very tidily: an lbw and a smart catch by Patmore standing up got Koolhof two early wickets. The Sharks pair were looking set when Kale had a go at a Koolhof slower delivery only for Damo to take a spectacular catch turning and running behind him. He took it on the second attempt, but the Wombats didn’t care, as this was a crucial wicket. In the huddle, Beef decided to lecture the team on the importance of taking catches. “Boys, watch the ball into your hands,” said the skip. “Cheers mate, Dino said, in gleeful sarcasm.” Next over Dino managed to drop one followed by Beef a couple of overs later. Hard changes, sure, but it couldn’t have happened to more well deserving Wombats. As Shahir commented to Gav: “Catches win matches.”
Rocket Ronny came on to bowl and managed to take 2 in 2 balls in his first over – both expertly bowled. Could this be the first Wombats hat-trick? Unfortunately, Koolhof managed to jinx it by noting that there had never been a Wombats’ hat-trick, but Ronny himself finished with 5-21: another terrific bowling performance. The Sharks tail came in to have a wag but by that stage the damage was done. All that was left was a comedy run out attempt between Koolhof and Patmore with the former flinging a throw under no pressure at all on the half volley to Patmore who was unable to take it.
At the presentation, Beef decided that he couldn’t possibly award the man of the match to himself for the second week in a row and asked prez Koolhof to step in. Koolhof, wearing his tight lycra displaying all, proceeded to patronise the Sharks: “Yeah, well you beat us….once” as he continued to dig himself further into a hole. Needless to say, Beef won the award for the Wombats and continues to develop a nice little collection of miniature bottles of wine on his mantle piece.
Reggie once again took one for the team and ventured to get the beers in. Mates’ rates of 250 yen were charged per beer. Very reasonable we all thought, only for there to be a mix up with the numbers with Reggie making a healthy profit in the process. So that’s where the jag came from!
Evan and Vakil proceeded to make a balls-up of winding up the boundary ropes and, to their credit, were still the first to remain seated drinking their beer whilst the oppo sorted out their mess. Super effort that!
The usual highlights were dished out on the train to Kuki where the majority of the group went for yakiniku nomihodai. Dino was naturally the first to get the most pissed and offensive – the journey back would be fun!
A comment was made about a “woman” on the platform who was wearing a shirt that looked like it had been signed by various “university friends,” perhaps. One of the Wombats thought she needed a bit of extra praise on her shirt and proceeded to go over and sign his name. Well, that’s the story he’s telling the judge and he’s sticking to it!
So a great performance and another highly enjoyable day with the Wombats as the team marches further towards the grand final. As the author departs Japan for pommy land, I can only reflect on my time with the Wombats with fondness. I don’t think I’ve seen as many ridiculous cricket incidents in my entire cricketing life than I have in these 6 months: meadows for outfields, batsman batting in keeping pads (or forgetting to wear them at all) and sharing a practice facility on the roof of a sewage works with 2 five a-side teams to name but a few. It has been a great few months with a terrific bunch of blokes and I wish the Wombats all the success in the future. Once a Wombat, always a Wombat!