The Surrey Cryptics in Oporto 20-24 July 2000
Played 2 Won 1 Drawn 1
In spite of the considerable efforts of our Australian contingent to sabotage the trip to Oporto by not getting visas – two out of three failed to leave England – the Cryptics first overseas venture in what is now officially 25 years of existence was a huge success.
While England basked in a mini heatwave, Oporto offered the kind of warm, overcast, moist conditions that make mediocre English bowlers look like world beaters.
The finest English captains traditionally make the first net of a tour optional, but this one was different in that the captain turned up. Suddenly every player seemed to realise that the best justification for pissing up 5 days and a few hundred quid would be to win the cricket. Older readers may struggle with the thought of Cryptic warm ups and stretching as a team, proper bowling and batting in the net accompanied by constructive remarks, and unprecedented warm DOWNS, but it all happened under the guidance of James Andrew Donald MacDonald (“I’m not Scottish, I’m Australian”) twice! And it worked.
After 2 late nights, a day of bacchanalian utopia at Taylor’s Port Lodge including a fabulous lunch and a fair sprinkling of local produce, we took the field at an uncivilised 11am on Saturday.
On winning the toss of an 1861 penny, the Cryptics batted first on the unfamiliar matting wicket and rapidly put on 50 for the first wicket, Wright, bowled by Oporto captain Graham (of Graham’s) for 10. It could as easily have been Taylor, Cockburn, Warre, Delaforce but not (Robert) Croft. Andrell, who had farmed the strike effectively up to this point, then met his match in MacDonald as they both strove for ones and threes from the sixth ball of each over. A classy 59 from the kiwi gloveman was numerically eclipsed by the diminutive Australian’s 88, but MacDonald used all the team’s luck, being dropped five times and surviving a missed stumping. A middle order of Davidson, Seeckts and Ware did not produce much and I am obliged to report a captain’s first ball duck which seemed scant reward from the Gods for 8 months’ planning and organisation. (But read on, doubters….)
The veteran Peter Andrew smote 28* in belligerent style, and the Cryptics ended on 216-6 from 58 overs with the left handers outscoring the right handers by 175 to 27.
The Portuguese reply was aggressive from the start. Pow suffered the indignity of being carted onto his own bedroom balcony, but Blamphin hit the timbers in his first over. Ware and Andrell then combined to execute a vital run out and, with improbable catches being held and Greenhough bowling a tight line, the hosts slumped to 79-6 from 21 overs. There followed a tiresome partnership of 59, taking us to within 11 overs of an unsatisfactory draw. Thinking that bad bowling would probably achieve the breakthrough, the ball was tossed to seventh change Wright, and had MacDonald and Andrew not spilled chances from his first two balls, the game would have been over long before the eventual climactic last two overs. Greenhough returned to bowl the penultimate over with two wickets required and immediately scattered the stumps. The last over began with the unpopular Rogerson on strike having batted 30 overs for his 39. The fielders were round the bat and the round left arm PAJ Andrew switched back to bowling over the wicket. After one ball, Nick Pow took two paces forward at silly point, the ball popped off the bat into his hands and a glorious 54 run victory was chalked up amid jubilant scenes. No Cryptic, however, was daft enough to suggest ‘chairing’ the bowler from the field.
There followed a fine Dinner in the Club with some of our hosts and some wimmin, before some of the younger members of the party mustered the energy to gape at local totty.
On Sunday we won the toss again and elected to field. Pow and Blamphin had Oporto pegged back to 45-3 after 20 overs. Peter Moore took a remarkable catch, the ball wedged between his elbow and ribs, to dismiss a powerful opener. An over later Nick Pow inadvertently topped it with a catch from his own bowling that in retrospect he probably wished he had ducked, so fast was it travelling. Either side of lunch we tried to buy wickets with the flight and guile of Greenhough and Seeckts which was a partial success peppered with one or two drops from unusual quarters. With the captain prowling at midwicket and pouncing athletically whenever the batsmen dared to leave their ground, a spectacular direct hit run out was the catalyst for Davidson to wrap up the tail, finishing on a hat trick that will have to be completed in another country. Oporto were all out for 167.
The Cryptic chase began with a turgid 17-2 in 15 overs but accelerated after tea. Oporto would not lie down and took wickets at regular intervals to make the contest interesting throughout the last 20 overs. MacDonald and Andrell went for 10 and 15 and Ware (under orders to push singles) was caught at third man for 6. Again Andrew took the chance to show his all round strengths, playing a calculated knock of 29 after Seeckts was bowled by the only Portuguese player for a cussed 43 including 21 singles. The game ended with the Cryptics on 146-8, 21 adrift and with 95 years of experience at the crease in the form of Moore and Greenhough, denying Mark Blamphin the opportunity of adding to his career aggregate of 32 runs in 9 years for the club.
The hospitality at the Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club was excellent throughout. Our hosts seemed to enjoy our visit – at least they kept coming for meals with us and inviting us back, and the weather was comfortable if not baking up to Monday when we watched the rain from the safety of the clubhouse.
From a captain’s point of view we had a great bunch of individuals on the trip who made sure we all got on and behaved as a team on and off the field. I think that means we all ate the same and drank the same throughout. There was no whinging, everybody had a part to play in the games and if I had the opportunity of getting 11 players to the ground the night before each game, life would be far easier in England.
It is hoped that the next such trip will take place in autumn 2001 to somewhere in Europe. Wherever it is will have a lot to live up to. Watch this space