- Match Report
WOMBATS GRUNT AS LIONS ROAR
by Daniel Mugen
As Sunday rolled around, the signs looked ominous we’d even get a game with an 80% rain likelihood forecast. Nevertheless, the Wommies were undeterred, showing up in force at 8:00 at Takadanobaba to chew the fat and share the footpath with Baba’s finest residentially challenged.
Before long we were all aboard the mean machine and on the way to Gunma. Chucky, keen to avoid last week’s musical mayhem, was quick to get Zep on and off we went to the sounds of Dazed and Confused, while Smoker, after a contemplative sojourn the night before, was looking just that.
The journey passed quickly despite Nikka’s detailed descriptions of colonic treatment and Axe, located in what has now become the ‘drop-ya-guts’ chair, acting upon the philosophy of better out than in.
It was one of the strongest sides the Wommies had ever mustered, bar the absence of Curly, who was to miss his first ever game so he could be with his Grandad in Oz for his centennial debut. Congrats to the Gason family.
Thanks to the trusty directions of the JGC web site, we managed to reach the ‘distinct bridge’ (distinct for its perfect resemblance to a million other bridges around Japan), and were soon at the ground. Enthusiasm abounded as many of the blokes climbed the crest of the hill in anticipation of their first ever match in Gunma. But gasps of awe and excitement were soon replaced with ‘ohhh, f@x?, and the like as we gazed upon the pitch, or rather, the entire squad of Gunma fireman, their trucks and paraphernalia occupying it for a round of ‘shoot the hose at the giant scoreboard’. After discussing the idea of lighting a bloody big fire somewhere to get rid of them, our despair turned to hope as we discovered there was another ground in the vicinity, and yes the opposition was already there. Back to the 7-11, now a Gunma landmark for catering to a van load of hungry gaijin, and a rendezvous with the umpire in his foul-smelling Hi-Ace. After a set of driving maneuvers worthy of the Italian job, we finally arrived and lugged our gear over to prepare for the match ahead. Perusal of the pitch and surrounds gave rise to a few concerned looks, but beggars can’t be choosers so the roller was rolled, the mat laid and the toss won by Chuck, who after a bit of discussion with the lads, opted to bat first.
Burko and Rich opened the batting in what was to become one of the finest displays of quality stroke play the Wommies had seen. The lads peppered the ground with a vast array of text book drives, cuts and glances as the run rate pushed towards four and then five. Burko made the most of the loose balls cracking two sixes, the most impressive being off a square cut, Gilchrist style.
Richo was the first to go as he got a leading edge that shot the ball skyward and into the hands of the mid wicket fielder. Captain Chucky was next to step up, and after a cautious start was soon hammering the deliveries around the ground with a series of powerful strokes. The patchy outfield and a curious knack of the Lankan fielders being in the right place at the right time meant that quite a few top shots went unrewarded however.
Nonetheless, the fearless duo put on a noteworthy 79 partnership before Burko fell next trying to chop at a lower ball that moved back and claimed his off stump. A great innings for the Burkster, just 6 runs short of his half tonne. Prez Dino then made his way to the crease and was quickly off the mark, a reassuring accompaniment to Chucky, who was now in his element cracking huge drives to the outfield or into the arms and legs of any Sri Lankan lads mad enough to get in their way.
On a fighting 37, Chucky’s run came to an end when he was bowled by the Murali-like offy after to trying to cut a ball that spun back a mile. With the overs slipping away, Nikka got the call to get out there and do some quick damage, a Nikka forte and a decision that seemed ideal as he dispatched his first ball to the fine leg boundary for four. Alas it was not to be as old sparring pals Dino and Nikka agreed to disagree on the calling. Shouts of ‘yes, no, wait, make up ya f@x!in mind’ filled the air and Nikka was found short of his crease despite a mad tooth and nail scramble worthy of a Boggo Road escapee. Smokin’ Pete filled the void and looked set to create another sturdy partnership with Jarred before being caught off a deceptively low delivery which crashed into the stumps. Yours truly got the call next, and managed to push a loose one to the boundary to get off the mark. Grumpy made sure the runs kept coming and impressed many a Wombat with his uncharacteristically fast trotting between the wickets. Chucky’s earlier advice of relax and ‘swing away’ must have found its mark coz I managed to get bat on ball, although most were inches short of finding a fielder, and hardly orthodox.
Jarrad’s gutsy run ran out trying to put one over the top in the dying overs, and I was joined by Shacksey. No stranger to the willow, Shacksey was quickly pushing the score along, including a superb glance which rocketed down to the fence. Shacksey ran between the wickets like a man possessed before getting caught doing what he had to. The Umpire, character that he was, decided to keep Shacksey at the non-strikers end for the last ball to save the hassle of bringing Bretty to the crease (who was raring to go, mind you). All done, the Wommies managed to post a repsectable total of 154 off an abbreviated innings of 35 overs.
A ten minute lunch break on the back of the approaching storm clouds and we were out there again, fired up and ready to wreak havoc on the Lions. Pidgeon opened the account for the Wombats, unfortunately with a slightly leggish ball which was quickly clipped down to the boundary. The shot was symbolic of how the Lankan boys played the entire innings, picking the gaps with ease as the frustrated bowlers struggled to get one over on them. Despite a few pearlers, Smoker too felt the wraith as the right-left combination punished anything loose.
After a head-shaking ten overs, Al finally struck with some deceptively clever bowling, trapping the man in front so plumb that even the Character shot his finger up in an instant. The Russian had got his revenge!! It wasn’t too long before Al got his second victim, the first drop trying to disrespect a top nut that sent his wickets splaying across the turf like a rummy’s teeth in a barfight.
The wickets began to trickle through, but to their credit, the Lions, didn’t back down an inch, smashing the looser ones to the boundary or over it, and miraculously avoiding our fielders on each occasion.
When the wickets did start to fall, it was almost a matter of too little too late. Nikka played with the batsmen’s heads and then threatened to knock them off. One inspired stint (well, lets says so for the story’s sake) saw Nikka send down deliveries pitched shorter than a Joshi Koko’s skirt and then blitzed the wickets on the third. All done, the Nikka had procured a three wicket haul at the cost of less than a run a ball.
Cap’n Chuck, always trying to get inside the batsmen’s heads, varied the field and mixed up the bowling, turning next to Shacksey, Richo, Axe and Burkey, who were unlucky this time as the opponents were quick to fire off anything not nailed down.
In the end, a gutsy effort by the bowlers and the Wommies in the field just wasn’t enough to get us past the line, the Lions getting over in just 21 overs at a remarkable run rate of 7.4 an over, all for the loss of just five batsmen.
Grubby and weary, the Wommies made their way back to the van, but pity the heathen that thought the trip home would be a somber one. An esky full of brews and a few rounds of highlights had the boys back in good spirits and even more determined, to quote Cap’n Chuck, to open a can of whoop ass on our next opponents. Congratulations to Burkey for a top knock of 44 which earned him this week’s Man of the Match and a bottle of Hardy’s chardonnay. Congratulations also to the Axeman for his first appearance for the Wommies this season. We look forward to seeing him in action again.