SCCC tour to Menorca
22th – 26th September 2016

Team in Menorca 2016

Tour Report by Richard Seeckts

The eighth Cryptic European tour was a roaring, fun-filled success. Applying the winning formula of Rod’s expert organisation, a day’s non-cricket ‘team building’, two new tourists rising brilliantly to the ‘kittybitch’ role and glorious pink tour shirts, little could go wrong. Except the weather. And the pre-tour cry offs and injuries. And everyone making the unconscionable 4.30am meet at Gatwick. All of which threatened to disrupt and were overcome.

4.30am at the airport

Skippered to a Saturday victory with thoughtful dexterity by Paul Bridges, it barely mattered that Sunday’s game was washed out.

Los Naranjos hotel / holiday apartments was the best Menorcan accommodation yet. Billeted in four apartments of three allowed for a senior pro taking the single room in each and a pair of relative juniors the twin room. The exception was infant debutant Seb Roberts who, too scared to share with anyone old enough to be his father, grabbed a dog basket.

Seb (24), the closest we could get to a like for like replacement for the injured PAJA (older than Noah) slipped more comfortably into the tour loony role, previously played by Messrs Moore, Blamphin, Scottie and Gazzola, than any of the borrowed tour shirts he tried. Such a wildly out of place body shape has never before graced a Cryptic dressing room.

Thursday’s traditional teatime bowls tournament (no winners, just sunset) was preceded by making thorough acquaintance with the poolside bar, its staff, other guests and the pool volleyball facilities. (That’s a fence defining the kids’ pool, you fools, not a volleyball net!) Rod Edwards morphed quickly into Red Odwards under the sun, seemingly unaware of the three ginger boys’ extreme precautions. A WhatsApp tour group chat was created; 24-year-old proving a vital link between middle-aged farts and technology.

playing bowls

on the catamaranFriday spent on a catamaran off the north coast was a delightful escape from the real world for all except Gav, whose nautical ambition extends no further than his bath. Blessed with very light wind, he survived, mostly lying amidships with his eyes (and mouth!) closed. Others took full advantage of the Mediterranean, the skipper swimming ashore and climbing a cliff at one point to enjoy the view. Local gin flowed, with post-lunch port provided by the four lucky single roomers. Except that Gossy left two bottles in the hotel, and Rod’s bottle required a (missing) corkscrew. Resourceful crew member and screwdriver to the rescue, and your correspondent drenched in vintage port.

Keith and Hugh, tour virgins and thereby appointed joint kittybitches, managed events as never before, recognising the futility of taking us beyond a short walk for dinner and, in Hugh’s case, speaking the local lingo to great effect. His advantage was the ability to manipulate orders or, in Scottie’s case, cancel them. Taxis and all other arrangements worked without a hitch, the Pup’s absence from the tour even allowing for a kitty rebate on the homeward journey. The much frequented bar has been raised.

scottie and crispin the inflatable crocodileOn Friday evening, the team was joined by a large inflatable crocodile (Crispin), though Pippa remained adamant it was a seahorse (Cedric). All the result of sending Scottie 20 yards to buy a football. Whoever, whatever, he became an integral member of the party and is looking forward to the 2017 season. Scottie later enhanced his shopping prowess when we found the bar closed late one night. He marched to a nearby hotel, returning sharply with more beers on one tray than seemed possible, perfect chasers for the previously missing port.

In an era of burgeoning support staff of cricket tours, Stu’s primary function was that of skipper’s minder and wine taster. When off duty, he generally made mischief and honed his Freddie Mercury lookalike. His one mistake was to allow Seb to ease some back pain, a rib crushing process that left him in far greater pain.

Saturday dawned……time for some cricket.

Game One 24 September
SCCC 227-8 (40 overs)
Menorca 188 all (9) out (38.2 overs)
Won by 39 runs
SCCC won the toss

rod showing his all black pantsJust sometimes, games go according to plan and everyone ends up reasonably content at sunset. This was such a game; ten Cryptics batted, nine bowled, nobody got a duck. Menorca ebbed and flowed, ultimately they ran out of steam. Captain Paul Bridges was able to maintain the tradition of giving non-bowlers an over or two (regardless of how reluctant Keith was) and, needless to say, collectively they took a wicket and got tonked for 47 runs in five merry overs.

Menorca were not at full strength, but their relentless efforts to recruit eventually got them to ten players for Saturday and 11 for Sunday. Coincidentally, the Cryptics were not at full strength either, Scottie travelling “off games” with a broken finger, PAJA ruled out of the tour by injury and Tommy’s tummy trouble rendering him unable to bat or bowl and somewhat subdued and grumpy, not that many noticed a difference in his manner.

Bridge elected to bat first and banked on the shampoo shy veterans, Wright and Edwards to get us off to a flyer. Pippa anchored in traditional manner while Rod played all the shots, rarely connecting with the ball. Such entertainment as there was came from spectators wondering how long Rod would bat unaware his trousers were at half mast, exposing his All Black underwear. About nine overs, by when we had reached a modest 26 against some exemplary tight bowling from our hosts who knew what length to bowl on the artificial strip.

Rod’s trousers eventually restored to full height, he swung from the hip until missing a deadly straight one on 45 in the 15th over. Hugh joined Pippa in a flurry of dots and singles (78-1 off 20 overs), found his range with a couple of boundaries and promptly perished for 22. Enter Kittybitch No.2, Keith, who played his best knock of the season, 48 off 35 balls, waking the multitude of spectators which included Henry and Valeria Blofeld, having a break in Menorca and solving the mystery of what cricket commentators do on holiday.

keith top score of 48When Pippa fell for a steady 41 in the 29th over, runs were required from both ends. Seeckts ran himself out for the cause on six, making way for debutant Seb Roberts who, we thought, might give it some tap. He had a look at the first three (swung and missed? – Ed), opened his enormous shoulders to smash 26 off the next seven balls including two mammoth sixes, missed a straight one and walked off beaming, “that was the best fun ever”. His stand of 43 off 23 balls with Keith, who was also clearing the stone walls by now, set us up for the final thrash. Stu, Gossy and Bridge enjoyed quick turns, Gav scored his first runs abroad off the final ball and Tommy wasn’t required. A respectable total, but Menorca’s 40 over scores this year have included 426-2, 363-1, 350-5, 313-6 and 297-5. No room for complacency, then.

Captain Bridge led from the front, with pace and accuracy only seen on his best days. Castling the dangerous Cockroft in the first over fired us up, getting Barker in the third thanks to a blinding, yet nonchalant, catch by Tommy at point was a bonus. Veteran Williams did a Pippa for Menorca while captain Cotton tucked into anything loose for a rapid 48, ended by a Gossy timber rattler. From 90-3, wickets fell at regular enough intervals to ensure the win. All catches were held, the bowlers mostly kept to the tight line and length demanded by the surface, anything short needing fetching from afar. Roberts’ much anticipated spell (those who had once faced him in a net suggested he was as quick as his distant cousin Andy) ended prematurely with blood on the pitch alright – his own nosebleed, no harm done.

scottie umpiringStu (7-1-25-2), Rod (7-2-21-2) and Seeckts (3-0-11-0) all bowled better than usual to put the game beyond Menorca’s reach. This allowed the specialist batsmen their turns with the ball before Bridge came back to poach a bunny and finish with a well deserved 3-30. Bells jingled modestly in the bar, for we knew Menorca’s wunderkind James Davies would be along next morning.

Scottie had umpired throughout, obviously itching to be playing but amusing himself by filming us batting, making frequent video posts and pithy observations on the now indispensable WhatsApp group chat, drinking beer and taking full part in the banter while we fielded. He fluffed the one decision he had to make, awarding Rod an LBW after a clear inside edge, the verdict quickly overturned by skipper recalling the batsman. Thanks for coming.

Game 2 Sunday 25 September
Menorca 22-0 (4 overs)
Match abandoned due to rain
Toss by negotiation?

Hardly a game, but technically worthy of a cap for the XI and thus a report. The morning had been filled with concern that we’d struggle to get 11 on the field. Tommy was still below par, Seb’s youth and inexperience of touring had caught up with him and the skipper’s runs came in the wrong form. Locating Imodium among the group and achieving rapid delivery was, for some, the first known benefit of ‘social media’ ever. Others showed more durability; all made it to the ground on time.

After protracted negotiation between the captains as to how the game would be played under the unwritten laws of Sunday cricket, we were underway. Seb’s medical supplies were set out on the boundary near where he would field (gnarled skippers of yore would have immediately sent him to the opposite side of the ground) and Gossy steamed in at young James Davies. In 2012, the 13-year-old Davies scored his first 50 against us, showing much promise (and the value of a close relationship with the umpire – Ed). Since then he has developed into an excellent player, breaking most records in Menorca and setting new ones where none existed. Two double centuries in the season, anyone? And so it goes on.

He hit only three boundaries in the time available, but we saw enough to know that it might have been a long afternoon.

rain stopped playBridge, now in control of his guts, took the new ball at the far end, but midway through the fourth over, the rain started, at the end of it we departed for the pavilion.

It rained so hard that even to dash from the bar to the dressing room round the back was out of the question for an hour. Scorer Jenny was stranded in her box at cow corner with no-one daring to rescue her for quite some time. Spirits were kept afloat in the time-honoured manner and the evening’s curry rescheduled for a little earlier.

As in 2002 and 2012, Menorca CC’s hospitality was first class, lacking only the absent friends from previous trips. Of 17 Cryptic matches abroad since 2000, this was the first to be weather-ruined. Can’t really grumble.

Back at Gatwick on Monday morning, 11 Cryptics scattered back to reality, leaving Gossy, proud possessor of an Aussie passport, in a long queue for aliens trying to enter the UK.