SCCC tour to Ljubljana, Slovenia
13-17 September 2007

Game 1:
Ljubljana 135-7 (35 overs)
SCCC 136-6 (22 overs)
Won by 4 wickets

Game 2:
SCCC 256-4 (35 overs)
Ljubljana 127 all out (32 overs)
Won by 129 runs

Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, has a population of around 300,000. Not one of them was seen wearing a football shirt during four days of Cryptic occupation. Nor, sadly, 22 wearing a cricket shirt. Charming city, happy people, beautiful mountainous country thick with forest. The hardest Cryptic destination to spell, Ground and mountainsbut the easiest to beat at cricket. Talking was a closer contest, both sides being blessed with Australian bulldung in equal measure.

Or so we thought. It turned out that Harley (Canadian passport), Cupit and Gazzola (both UK) aren’t 100% okker after all, but the English Public School educated Goss is. Stick them in front of an England v South Africa rugby match and the identity crisis grows further.

Eight 2005 Malta tourists came back for more; Pow, Seeckts, Ware and Wright were making their fourth European tour, the latter assuming the role of Father of the Tour in the absence of PAJA. Dwight Cupit had arranged everything in advance, including hotel rooms with an interesting toe-to-toe bed configuration, appropriate clothing and Easyjet from Stansted, an error to be learned from.

Boys and bishops?The Cryptics arrived gradually. Skipper Paul Goss travelled five days early with wife and child, both neatly dispatched back to England on the plane that delivered the hardcore. Tommy Hope-Dunbar escorted new tourists David Grindrod and Paul Harley late on Thursday, with Ed ‘indispensable at work’ Dyson turning up midway through the carnage of Friday evening. The trip was brimful of event before a sniff of cricket. Meeting some of the opposition late in the day may have convinced them that half a team would be sufficient to beat us.

Rising in varying degrees of disrepair on Saturday, we headed for the ground in taxis, a trip of about 15 miles made with two stops that our drivers were only too happy to make. The setting was fabulous, in open country surrounded by hills made for Julie Andrews and the von Trapp children, and the weather perfect for both games. Bowlers gasped atrackt how narrow the concrete / green carpet pitch was and outfielders got their excuses in early by pointing out rabbit holes and general bumpiness.

Trouble was the lack of opposition, seven of Ljubljana including two debutants and only three established cricketers. They batted first in the hope of reinforcements arriving. They didn’t. Paul ‘I never bowl no balls’ Goss started with two enormous over-steppings. Ljubljana President, Brad Eve was dropped by Ware on one and went on to make the first fifty of his life, celebrating in the manner of his batting hero, Jason Gillespie. (Had he connected every time he played his peculiar scoop / sweep, he would have made 200 like Dizzy too). Goss’s captaincy was necessarily generous, using 11 bowlers and setting fields, which on other days, would have marked him down as a madman. A passing American cyclist was overheard speaking English to his pedalling wife and instantly dragged from the road and recruited as their eighth man. Even in the Thompson year the Cryptics never stooped quite so low.

Both teams

Skipper Tom Furness failed with the bat, leaving only also-rans and Aussie Rob Crawford to set any sort of a target with his compatriot, Eve. They mustered 135 in 35 overs. Beer and pizza on the boundary was followed by a haphazard chase as Cryptic minds struggled to focus on such a contrived game. Wright volunteered to drop down the order, coming in at 58-5 to prevent the last of the wheels falling off. By then Eve and Crawford – SCCC flagalso the only recognised bowlers in the Ljubljana side – had finished their spells, and the change bowling was easily dispatched with victory coming in 22 overs. Ware will not find a more cruel way of being out than caught by Nick Pow at cover. What with having to supply batsmen, waiting batsmen, two umpires, two fielders and a scorer, Harley did well to sleep through the Cryptic innings.

And so to the bar, a picturesque lakeside location perfect for romantics, ornithologists and about 18 unwashed village cricketers. Our sporting hosts could not have been more hospitable or welcoming. We were promised a full opposition for Sunday. Thankfully, we got one.

No messing second time. There was a toss. We won and elected to bat with an eye on something over 200 in the 35 overs available. 256-4 it was, with differing knocks from Wright (69), Harley (72), Cupit (43) and Gazzola adding 55 with Hope-Dunbar from the last four overs. Ljubljana had to field with 10 for half of the innings while Furness went in search of lunch, the pizza shop having closed for the day. The first player to score a century on Slovenian soil, he deserved better, but cricket can be harsh, and it served him a duck later on.

Goss and FurnessNick Pow bowled through his seven overs without luck. Grinders and Goss couldn’t break through either. Drinks after 18 overs saw Ljubljana 51-0 and facing a task requiring 12 runs per over. The game was safe enough to give Seeckts and Gazzola a bowl, and suddenly Dyson was taking wickets at will the other end. The spin triplets shared nine wickets, and a most enjoyable end of tour dinner rumbled on into the night. Bells were jingled – there is a verse before the chorus now – club ties were worn, and Slovenes looked bemused.

Our thanks go to Rob, Brad, Tom and their team for making the cricket fun, and to Dwight, Gossy, Nick Pow (kittybitch) and each other for excellent organisation and endless laughter. Talk on the plane home was about where to go in 2009.

The report from LCC.

Team out at night

Player by Player Guide:

Paul Goss. Captained with the wisdom and cunning of a veteran in difficult circumstances. ‘Skippy’ showed good humour, using 11 bowlers in Game 1, rescuing what might have become a farce. Took his only opportunity to bat, top scoring with 24 but came home as one of three not to take a wicket on tour. Among the last to bed every night, he claimed to have had too much sleep. Disappointed not to rise when on the seesaw with his predecessor. It must be the weight of responsibility. (See below…)

Dwight Cupit. Tour organiser for the second time. Fantastic job done, even the tour pink shirts improved with age. Threatened to retire after first game duck but came back strongly with 43 in Game 2 after advice from Ian Chappell that he was ‘only one shot away from finding form’. Run ragged by Pippa, and run out but for yet another bit of benevolent wicket keeping. Can’t retire, he loves the craic too much and bride-to-be Lex is just as much a Cryptic.

Ed Dyson. Last on the scene, Ed caught up in no time, even taking a beer on the field when subbing. A quiet Game 1, but Game 2 was all go. Dismissed for a rapid two, he marched off for a prolonged huff, beat himself up and returned to take four wickets and three catches after the break and finish the day like a dog with two tails.

David Gazzola. Every tour needs one Gizz, but only one. Expectations were high that he would be a ‘good tourist’. There was no competition for the role of tour nutter previously played with distinction by Messrs Moore, Blamphin and Scott. Having met a young lady in bizarre circumstances, showed his touring naivety by thinking he could miss the gala dinner for a second meeting. An acrobatic dancer, Gizz showed overdue form on the field as well, taking 4-25 overall and smashing 26* (including a spectacular 14 off three balls from Eve) in Game 2. Dropped loads of catches, enjoyed everything Ljubljana has to offer, including mishmash, a foul mix of red wine and Fanta.

David Grindrod. Took to touring life like a teacher with a couple of days off. Celebrated his 50th Cryptic cap by opening with a wide of Harmison proportions. Floated elegantly around the field until faced with an approaching cricket ball, which often caused him to fall over in the wrong direction. Grinders, apparently known as ‘Where’s Wally?’ at school, tried to give us all a brief geography lesson, savagely pointing at a map six inches behind unseen glass. Result: one damaged finger.

Paul Harley. Peaked early, vanishing into the night on Friday and surprising all by waking up in his bed. Saturday was a write off, his only contribution being to bowl a string of full tosses at the American cyclist – the only baseball player in the game. Re-invigorated for Sunday, he plundered a thrilling 72 from 62 balls and spent the rest of the day at slip chirping a seedy theme, fortunately beyond the wit of most around him. Serious failure of the Tebbit test, any future application for a British passport should see him way behind the owner of Harrods in the queue.

Charles Hope-Dunbar. Arrived late and left early. Loud, opinionated, full of infuriating pranks. Tommy still won’t drink beer, preferring colourful things with umbrellas in them. Guilty of terrible stonedrift when fielding, he stood still only to let out the most unrepeatable (therefore often repeated) sledge of the trip. Struck the ball miles in two short knocks, bowled forgettable allsorts and fluffed a dolly run out. Proved his knowledge of whisky without feeling the need to buy one. Scottish to the core.

Nick Pow. The perennial Kittybitch performed better than ever. Superb, unruffled management of all things food and drink, Nick masterminded the extraction of cash and all team expenses seamlessly. A vital job on tour, it would be chaos in any other hands. Steady bowling (12-5-17-2) and a refusal to bat maintained his touring record, catching Ware while fielding sub crowned it.

Richard Seeckts. Former skipper now hugely enjoys the lack of responsibility. Raised a few Slovenian eyebrows by wearing the pink ‘n’ black blazer much of the time. On the field he rounded off a decent season with a cultured six runs, several misfields and a bout of bowling yips that bought two vital wickets. No balled for bowling a bouncer at Smith, who had just hit his first ever six.

Tom Ware. Now approaching middle age, our puppy’s tail still wags from check-in outbound to customs homebound. Never short of a crisp observation on matters foreign, “there’s a sniff of communism about the place”, Tom gets stuck into the local culture regardless, though he mourned the lack of Coleman’s mustard on this trip. Kept wicket like a good ‘un until breaking a finger, batted with customary gusto and brevity. Nattily dressed in a tailored Irish linen jacket for the gala dinner, Pup took umbrage to its immediate labelling as a tea towel.

Philip Wright. Father of the tour and best batsman with 20* and 69. Played the anchor role brilliantly, surviving several fielding howlers before getting out in 33rd over to avoid the humiliation of batting right though a limited overs innings and not scoring a hundred. As dependable a performer in bars as on the field, Pippa followed the teacher’s lead by tumbling off a stationary chair. Against all odds, remained injury free for a whole weekend.