- Match Report
WOMBATS DISSECT EMBASSY TO BID FAREWELL TO DOC
by Chris Mortimer
‘Get me my Ipod’ screamed Pacific League J1C debutant, Jaideep Bedi, ‘I had enough talk of gangbangs!’
The Wombats’ newest recruit had scored the spacious door seat for the drive up the Tomei, but, finding himself in close proximity to TWCC’s Mark Ainslie, took objection to the young Australian’s standard Sunday morning gutter talk. Pup continued undeterred, whereas Bish tuned out and kicked back until Fuji. Bedi’s outburst energised the usually sedate outbound journey and set the tone for an unforgettable day. With Oasis’s Supersonic blaring through the vans’ speakers, the Wombats pulled into Fuji aiming for a third consecutive JIC win.
Nothing escapes the TWCC statisticians and the encounter with British Embassy’s motley crew of ambassadors, diplomats and attaches represented a personal landmark for two of the club’s finest servants. Firstly, Bjorn ‘Doc’ Peterson would don the cap for the final time in a short but glorious Wombats career. Secondly, the appearance of skipper Courtney ‘Chuck’ Jones would be his 50th.
’50th … birthday?’ chirped a junior Wombat when the news was broken during the huddle, before receiving a swift clip round the ear from Chuck. The venerable captain had won the toss, had elected to field and was about to deliver his rallying call. With no runs, no wickets, and an hurrendous misjudgement at long-on, the occasion would appear to be a forgettable one on a personal level for the Wombats’ bespectacled leader. Yet in his skilful manipulation of a bowling attack which embarrassed him for riches, and in his ruthless pursuit of TWCC’s first ever ten-wicket victory, the skipper once again exhibited the personal qualities which any Wombat who has played under his tenure has come to know.
‘He’s gone the wrong way on the Shink’, explained Club President and long-suffering gloveman Jarrad Shearer when questioned about the lateness of the match official. And it turned out the umpire was Japanese. It was Gason who got the game underway in earnest and the vice-social secretary embarked on a remarkable spell which would earn him the Hardy’s Man of the Match award. Displaying the parsimony of the nominated match fee collector, and the stamina of a man who alledgedly hasn’t touched a beer for a decade, the Quizmaster asked all the right questions and was rewarded with soccer match figures of two wickets for five runs. Mortimer, sweating out a night on the sauce in Shibuya, toiled away at the other end in a tight but wicketless spell. The result – after fifteen overs the run rate was hovering around one.
Indeed, the Embassy’s batting was the complete anithesis of TWCC’s discliplined performance with the ball. Although their burly Aussie opener, Anton, made some statements of intent, Embassy looked from the start a team defeated. Singles were missed, misscommunications occurred and only Simon with a doughty 33 in the middle order offered resistance of note. Anton asked for treatment for one point, although nobody knew what for. It cannot bode well for Japanese cricket that such a reputable club is struggling and the Embassy’s plight contrasts sharply with the fortunes of the Wombats – who are more worried about breaking the news to talented cricketers that haven’t been picked, than about getting eleven for the weekend.
‘What’s it like batting with Geoffrey Boycott?’ sledged Pederson, embodying the prevailing mood. The Wombats sensed an early kill. The Doc was referring to Anton’s beleaguered partner, who had been stuck on zero for 27 balls. Soon after, Doc swooped at midwicket and, to the astonishment of his teammates, cocked his arm over his shoulder, before throwing down the stumps from ten yards. Not bad for the man who can’t throw overarm. Although, as fate would have it, Pedersen would not have the opportunity to wield the willow in his final TWCC appearance, the effortless class with which he executed that run out left his signature on the fixture.
The remainder of Embassy’s innings witnessed Chuck working through his wide range of bowling options. Reggie replaced Mortimer and bowled with the confidence of a cricketer in fine form, whereas Ainslie at Gason’s end exhibited his usual menacing pace. Then came the debutant, Bedi. ‘Bish’ plays with the aura of a cricketer who has mixed it with the best, and, as he phlegmatically positioned his field, the anticipation heightened as to what he would serve up. Channelling his thoughts away from Pup’s randy banter, the off-spinner loped in and worked through his repertoire with poise and control, extracting turn and bounce, varying flight, and effectively employing a barely-disguised but arrow straight quicker ball. It was an education for the inexperienced Japanese batters in Embassy’s lower order, one of whom was bowled by a cunningly flighted full toss which had Anton on his feet demanding ‘no-ball’ be called. Bedi put in a class performance and fully deserved his three wickets, demonstrating the potential to terrorise J1C batsmen as his namesake did in the Test arena. He could have it all – but how much does he want it?
A tweaker approaching the other end of his Wombats career is Paul Shackleford. Sporting blue footwear and a hefty bandage on knee protecting a gash sustained in fielding practice, the Embassy batters may have fancied some quick runs when the wily spinner was thrown the ball. But ‘fresh’ from Kobe, Shacks flighted the ball expertly, teasing three of Embassy’s batsmen into submission. His 28 runs conceded include four from a classic Sydney Harbour Bridge effort by Doc, clearly not wanting to be forgotten, at long on. Meanwhile, Kyal ‘Hamburger’ Hill was brought into the attack from the Fuji end and continued on where he left off at Engineers with a wicket to wrap up the innings.
The Embassy batting effort, which spanned almost the full allocation of 40 overs, garned a mere 89 runs. However, it was illuminated by two pieces of fielding brilliance from Wombats player-coach, Steven Burke. First, displaying the remarkable agility and defying at least one of Newton’s Laws, the prolific opening bat snaffled a sharp, low chance at slip off the bowling of Bedi. Think Matthew Hayden circa 2000. Not satisfied, Burkey leapt to his right after HIll found the outside edge, and contorted his body to pluck the ball out of the air as it sped towards third man, to take Embassy’s tenth wicket. Think Mark Waugh circa 1995. Burkey gained a bottle of booze for his efforts.
But there was more. Was Burkey in a rush to get back to Tokyo? Child-minding duties perhaps? Whatever the motivation, as the Wombats commenced their pursuit of 90 to win, spectators were treated to a gem of an innings. The coach pinged a cover drive to the rope in the first over, and went on to exhibit a range of strokes all around the wicket. One highlight was a forcing shot / cut off the back foot powered over point for six – the kind of shot a club cricketer sees Ricky Ponting play on TV, and can only shake his head in awe, admiring the stroke and lamenting the fact he doesn’t play on faster pitches. It emerged later that ‘Stavros’ had been locked in an email exchanged with his opening partner, Dino, during the week, with Burkey concerned about an apparent lack of form. Yet his batting was completely unworried. He looked a class apart.
‘We don’t deserve to finish the game!’ proclaimed the Embassy skipper, as TWCC exceeded the target. And so it was decreed that the victory would go to the wombats although the game would continue for practice with a revised target. One couldn’t help feeling sympathy for the Embassy players, tired and demoralised, with a hutch full of hungry batters with nothing to lose, looking to hit a couple of lusty blows before cracking open a cold one. And lusty they were, courtesy of the willow of Bish, Doc, Morty, and Hill. Pup struck three sixes, one mammoth pick-up to wrap up another win in the practice game, a timely reminder of his swashbuckling batting ability.
Back on the bus, the boys were feeling supersonic after a resounding team performance, and the beers flowed, as did the tributes – some sporting, others more mischievious – to our departing Wombat, Doc. Progress was slow on the Tomei and stops were frequent, inspite of Bish’s protestations – ‘Is this legal?!’ Talk inevitably turned to realising the dream, a burning ambition which any Wombat who has been on the bus will be familiar with. In a U-turn of sorts, even Bish warmed to it, stating ‘If someone leads, I will follow…’