SCCC v Mosman Vets Friday 14 November 2003

MOSMAN 145 all out (39.3 overs)
SURREY CRYPTICS 150-8 (38.3 overs)
Won by 2 wickets

Team v Mosman Vets
Simon Davidson, Ross Greenwood, Bill Wilkinson, Greg Andrell, Douglas Lamont, Richard Seeckts, James MacDonald, Robert Briggs, Richard Morrow, Warrick King (absent Denis Till)

November 2003 was a tough month for the Australian sporting public. They barely had a chance of keeping Martin Johnson’s hands off “our Bill” once the stuffing had been knocked out of them in an equally well contested nail-biter between the Surrey Cryptics and Mosman Veterans (that’s Sydney, Australia).

GreenwoodConsiderable effort had been made by Ross Greenwood (left) to organise the match. His own idea back in August, it nearly foundered on a series of logistical problems but he overcame each obstacle, driven by an innate sense of self-preservation when reminded that the Cryptic team was collectively travelling in excess of 100,000 miles for the game.

We played 100 km north of Sydney on the picturesque ground of The Primary Club of Australia, thus discovering that some Australians admit to having made a duck. The pavilion is heavily decorated with memorabilia and pictures of top class charity games at the ground since its construction in 1975. The pitch is partly enclosed by bush prompting a warning from a local that if the ball went over the far end boundary, “Beware the snakes and spiders near the creek.” No place for a Greenhough to bowl.

Seeckts at The Primary Club of Australia
Seeckts at The Primary Club of Australia, New South Wales

Sydney ‘Masters’ rules applied, 40 overs per side, maximum 10 overs per bowler, 6 bowlers to be used by the 30th over, batsmen retire at 40 and can return when the rest of the team are out. We were spared fielding circles but it was more than enough for a jetlagged captain to think about. Even so, it didn’t take long to realise that getting a team all out was not necessarily a good thing.

Shockingly, the Cryptics turned up with 12 players; London based Kiwi Dennis Till (this year’s Peter Moore) appearing out of the blue, so we were able to lend former Victoria stalwart Tony Hargreaves to our hosts. The final Xl included seven genuine Cryptics and two further Englishmen. Four of the side had travelled from England, Greg Andrell arriving in Australia on the morning of the match. Mosman would have matched any Cryptic side for age but included an impressive array of former Sheffield Shield (that’s what it was called when they played) and first grade players whose competitive edge had not deserted them.

Mosman won the toss and batted, a little bemused at first by the Cryptic captain’s pre-match proclamation that he would attempt to get everyone involved in the game regardless of their cricketing pedigree, age, injuries or hangovers.

BriggsRichard Morrow and Greenwood, who first worked together in the 1970s, found themselves opening the bowling together for the first time, the former defying his comfortable physique in a splendid display of swing bowling while the latter leaked runs liberally at first. Incensed when Andrell stood up to the stumps, Greenwood unleashed the perfect bouncer, aimed at the wicketkeeper rather than the batsman, and thereafter had a fine day on the field. Pym blasted 41 and retired, opening the way for Robert Briggs (right) to take 3-15 in six overs of utter dross. It was his lucky day; good catches being snaffled by Davidson, Greenwood and Morrow off a series of long hops. Guest Bill Wilkinson bowled tidily (7-1-21-1) until his knee gave way, and Davidson, Seeckts, Warrick King, James MacDonald and Andrell contributed 11 overs between them, largely earning undue respect.

Even the wicket keeping was shared, our guest from Follies Farm, Douglas Lamont, taking over from Andrell after 20 overs and immediately making a stumping off Davidson. The day had started early for Lamont when he failed a 4 a.m. breathalyser test and was banned from climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge. But he can keep wicket alright and is reputed as a batsman too.

If the heat might have caused the jetlagged and the weary to wilt, we were spurred by the constant encouraging chirping of James MacDonald), who was relishing being back in the Cryptic fold until he dropped a skier and remembered what it’s really like. Mosman were restricted to 145 all out in the 40th over, the slow outfield (different type of grass down under) helping the fielders, and we thought we had reached lunch, at 3.50 p.m. in the driving seat.

Andrell out for 3 – not bad without a bat

After a fine lunch, Davidson and Andrell set out to knock off the runs. Suddenly it looked rather trickier as Sandy Morgan and Craig Hambleton strangled us with classic veteran bowling, nagging line and length with just enough variation to keep the batsmen honest. Davidson missed a straight one on 0, Andrell managed a tortured 3, and Lamont got a quicker 0. 24-3 after 11 overs with Seeckts already striding to the wicket must have galvanised MacDonald.

The gritty MacDonald took to his task cautiously at first, and the captain stroked half adozen while keeping him company as they put on 30. King, playing his first game since schooldays, enjoyed his briefstay for 2. MacDonald reached 40 and retired soon after Greenwood came in. MorrowWilkinson made the Cryptics’ third duck before Morrow joined Greenwood in a cavalier partnership of 50 that brought us back from the brink of humiliation. Eyes often closed and front foot firmly forward the old muckers heaved the ball to all parts until Greenwood (22) was given LBW by Andrell to a full toss, prompting much debate for the rest of the day. By this stage Till had left the ground as inexplicably as he had arrived in the morning, leaving only Briggs and the reintroduction of MacDonald to see us home. Morrow (left – better than he looks) sliced one to cover on 34, then Briggs oozed unwarranted confidence as he turned a series of 2s and 3s into 1s with his laid back approach to running between the wickets, causing nerves to fray in the pavilion.

MacDonaldSomehow we reached 144 with 10 balls remaining and MacDonald (right) on 49. He clouted the next ball high over long on, into the aforementioned snake infested creek and a thrilling victory was secured amid unabashed glee from the Cryptics. An excited rendition of Jingle Bells drifted over the southern hemisphere for the first time.

Most of both teams then trekked back to Sydney for an evening chez Greenwood. The hospitality was superb, first rate barbecue fodder being served up by a former Miss Tasmania while liquor aplenty ensured that by midnight there had been some truly outstanding individual performances during the day. MacDonald was chuffed to have sneaked past Andrell to the top of the career batting averages, something about which we will hear plenty more.

Our hosts from Mosman had provided the perfect setting and just the right sort of contest, and will be welcome to play for the Surrey Cryptics should any of them be in England in summer. Was there ever a doubt that the Cryptics would prevail? Well, with a Greenwood and Wilkinson in the team we need hardly have worried.

Opera House...?