Cryptics Tour to Malta, 2005
by Peter Andrew
Cryptics on tour in Malta
This was familiar territory for previous Cryptic tourists. Pippa was carrying an injury. Tom Ware was enthusiastic, dogmatic, reactionary. Fat piemen were a little older, greyer. Our opposition were welcoming and sociable. James Scott slipped so seamlessly into the Blamphin role of tour nutter that the Ulsterman was barely missed. Except that Scotty can bat. And throw. And catch. Sometimes.
Tour organiser Dwight Cupit put us into the best hotel yet, with pool, comfy chairs and night club. Eight of us checked in on Thursday; the bar was busy ten minutes later. Most then headed for the pool while Nick Pow – who was to excel at keeping us organised, and financially stable – found, quality checked and booked restaurants for the next few nights. Oh, and Greg Andrell, who chose to go off for lunch with some local and sell him a couple of gross of kumquat lippie.
On Friday, Ed Dyson, Paul Goss, Tommy Hope-Dunbar, who either couldn’t take the time off, or lacked the imagination to find an excuse to come earlier (talk to Dwight, guys, he’s the expert) arrived.
In the afternoon we had a net. Sorry Macca, we didn’t warm up, or down. The ground was a revelation. Here is a picture of it from the European Cricket Council’s web site:
It lies. The outfield might look like that after spring rain. It don’t look like that in late September, after four months of drought (see below). The outfield was browner than a very dry brown thing.
The track is “a concrete strip with an artificial mat (Wimbledon Unreal Grass) glued on top. This makes rubber-soled shoes a pre-requisite. Maltese limestone building-bricks demarcate the boundary and make up the large sight-screens”. So, no moving those when the bowler goes round the wicket, then.
Fortunately the pitch played with a more consistent (and generally flatter) bounce than the nets, and Valetta A&E was not troubled.
Saturday’s game against the Marsa Cricket Club was scheduled for 50 overs, a daunting prospect for those still carrying the remnants of the prickly pear liqueur. Seeckts lost the toss, and tried to hide his glee at being asked to field. Septuagenarian umpire and former Malta international Wally Glynn called play, and Goss got us the fourth Cryptics international tour under way (including the victory in Australia, the single biggest sporting event of 2003). These two would meet again.
A brisk start took Marsa to 32 from 5 overs, before Goss and Pow sent back the openers in successive overs. The change bowlers came on at 61 from 12, and pegged back the rate. A generous decision on a legside catch by Andrell from Goss, a couple of wickets for the ample dobber from the East Midlands, and an early strike from Scotty had them at 85 for 6, from 18 overs. A partnership between Ali and Dhandapani took them to 114 without further loss at the halfway mark, but at 120 the latter was well held by Dyson. The innings finally closed on 193 from 44 overs; the wickets were shared between Andrew (3), Goss (2), Scott (2) and one each for Pow, Seeckts and Ware. The total was boosted by 13 wides. Note this theme.
The Cryptics reply began cautiously (Pippa opened). Dyson fell first, for 22 in the 10th, with our total on 41. Hope-Dunbar twinkled all too briefly, and was gone for 11. Pippa’s demise, stumped for 30, brought Scott to join Dwight Cupit, and these two put on a measured 99 in 20 overs, when Scotty holed out for 56. At this point there wasn’t much left to do, and Seeckts watched from the non-striker’s end as Cupit did most of it. We reached our target in the 41st over. Dwight was undefeated on 63, Seeckts on 61 fewer, but delighted to lay the Captain’s Continental European First Ball hoodoo that has haunted him since the last century. There were 9 wides.
By Sunday, word was clearly out that these Cryptic chaps were not to be messed with, and a rather stronger Marsa side was assembled for a 40-over game. Word had equally clearly not reached the Cryptics, most of whom had not played on successive days since the Menorca tour in 2002.
Three nights of sleep deprivation and the odd half of shandy took their toll. Pow, ever alert to the main chance, declined to bowl at the outset, and the opposition were 59 without loss after 11, when an opportunistic run out by the ubiquitous Scott sent back the dangerous O’Brian for 30. Goss and Hope-Dunbar would tell you this was only due to a half dozen chances being spilled. They would be right. But some of us have lived with this for years; haven’t we, Jim?
150 came from 23 overs, with only a single further wicket when the No3 was bowled by Dwight. Honestly, it turned a mile. Off the concrete.
At this point, a delightful cameo. As we know, Cryptics are not natural sledgers (pace the Brigadier, who only played once anyway). We prefer to let our actions talk for us (viz. Greenwood pinning the yappy dwarf at Cobham).
However, at the beginning of his third over, the unassuming Ed Dyson moved Scott a bit deeper, advising him to stay awake (something Scotty had actually been doing pretty much full-time since he arrived in Malta). The first ball, a typical slow left-arm teaser, was patted back. Strolling down the track to retrieve the ball, Ed gently inquired of the batsman “are you not going to have a go, then?” Scotty swallowed the next one. Ho ho ho.
After the skipper had taken a bit of tap, and the run rate was nudging 7 an over, Pow allowed himself to be brought into the attack, bowling opener Naudi for 72 in his second over. With the reintroduction of Goss, the rate was pegged back further, and the innings closed at 232, with eight down. Goss, Dyson and Pow took two each. Pow’s came from 7 overs, at a cost of 25 runs. Smart boy. Extras were second top scorer, with 33; 24 of these were wides.
In touring tradition, the Cryptics innings began with Saturday’s dnb’s. Ware and Goss raced to 23 from 3, when Puppy was caught behind for 3. Enter the skipper.
Goss perished for 36 in the 12th over, dismissed by an international bowler. Well, former international bowler, now 74 years old, bowling lobs that make Jimmy Greenhough’s flight and guile look like Shoaib Akhtar on speed. By then we were 59.
The skipper’s run chase was then slowed up by the Father of the Tour, who refused anything remotely sharp on the basis that being old, fat and slow has its privileges. He was particularly aggrieved to be called for a quick run while flat on his back, after evasive action when the skipper drove the ball at him navel-high. Skipper was on 48, and not best pleased.
Seeckts perished on 58, irrefutably stumped, but sent on his way with some unnecessary verbals. At this point, we needed 66 from 11. A perfectly-timed run chase followed, the winning run coming from the fifth ball of the final over. Key contributions came from a remarkably restrained Hope-Dunbar (24*, with a single 4 and no 6s) and Scott (14*). Thanks largely to Umpire Ware, there were 32 extras, 26 of them wides.
Happy bunnies! A hugely successful tour. Everyone batted, and everyone scored runs. Nine of us bowled, and only one of these went wicketless. Scotty led the batting averages with 70, but eight averaged over 20. Goss headed the bowling, taking four at an average of 13. Ten catches were held, probably marginally more than were not. And we used three of the five wicket-keepers in the party. Greg even got to trot around the outfield on Sunday, albeit not as fast as the two female joggers.
And we did it all to the background of the two days of the Malta Air Show, with occasional interruptions in play when the Red Arrows display team made calling futile.
Plaudits are due to Dwight for his patience and perseverance in getting us all there, and to Nick Pow as ‘in-country organizer’ and all-round kitty bitch. When he temporarily lost control of the tour funds, rounds of strange drinks appeared and it could all have gone horribly wrong.