Centaurs Tour to Shanghai 2009 Tour Report
By Steve Brammar
Centaurs Cricket Club
("Vinimus, Vidimus, Saltimus in Jacuzzi")
Over the last decade any time you put more than one Centaurs player ina smoke-filled room and added beer then, as sure as 2 wide long-hops ina James Anderson over (or as eggs is eggs), a plan for a tour hashatched. Ordinarily the nestling tour has been collected up in anash-tray or dumped with a kebab wrapper by the evening's end, and plansto play at the Allen Stanford Stadium, to take on Lashings CC, to beatthe Pat Pong Ping Pongs, to sort out a fixture with Cheltenham LadiesCollege or to see if we can book the ground at Hogwarts are forgottenuntil the next time more than one Centaur gets a collective whiff of abarmaid's apron. Such fantasy touring had become, if not a tradition,then at least a habit ("I was doing the Alcatraz tour last week andI'll swear they've got an all-weather strip and the birdman bowledwobblers, you know - got some swing when the tide was in, apparently","My cousin's built a cricketing field of dreams in rural Australia -we've got to go, perhaps Bradman'll be there, or at least MikeWhitney", "I dreamt I was in the desert when Lordy appeared in just hisjocker, told me we had to tour New York, essayed an air swipe to leg,shouted 'Take that, bowler' then disappeared in a puff of whitepowder").
So it was a mix of healthy scepticism and pointless enthusiasm thatgreeted Skips' suggestion we tour Shanghai. The sceptics were safe inthe knowledge that there was no cricket in Shanghai, the enthusiastswondered if we could play a 3-day game against a team captained byJiang Zemin ("he bowls wobblers, you know - gets some swing when thepollution's bad, apparently"). The sceptics had not reckoned with theorganisational powers of Lily, Skips' dynamic care-giver, whosingle-handedly introduced cricket to Shanghai, booked us 2 games from aselection of clubs she had founded, issued the Centaurs with passports,arranged the flights, flew the plane and generally performed themiracles necessary to ensure that 11 players familiar so far only withthe type of cricket tour which takes place on a bar stool arrived inthe Vue Bar at the Hyatt on the Bund by 9pm on Friday. This felt justlike one of our usual virtual tours on a bar stool except that (i) ithad a view of the Bund, (ii) on virtual tours the friendly Russianladies in the jacuzzi (which are a feature of all virtual tours) aremore welcoming of Skips' suggestion that they hutch up a bit("Nazdrovia, ladies, mind if I join you in there? Yes, wobblers, youknow - get some swing when the whirlpool jets are on full,apparently"), and (iii) we really were supposed to play 50-overs a sidethe following morning. Since most of the Centaurs have a concentrationspan conditioned by the NOW cricket channel to a maximum of 90 secondsbefore we can de-focus while the adverts promote itchy-sweaty-crotchcream and the use of turbaned men with excellent dentistry instead oflight bulbs, 8 hours of cricket seemed a little bit daunting.
So, at the wonderful setting of Dulwich College, Shanghai, in the coldand drizzle, we devised a plan so cunning that it could have beenthought up by Baldrick (who bowled wobblers, you....[that's enough, Ed.]). Win the toss, bat first, roll over for 73, bowl the usual filth,field like clowns, back in the jac by noon. It was a simple plan andshould have worked, but instead:
Skips and Ex-Skips expertly took the shine off the new ball(translation: groped around for a few overs but weren't good enough toget an edge, or were, but it was dropped, or we pointed at our shoulderas if to say it wasn't a thick outside edge, it deflected off ourcollar-bone by virtue of some cricketing version of the magic bullettheory), before having our stumps re-arranged. Steve Lowe played some(OK then, 2) glorious shots in a jaunty knock before his stumps toowere splayed. Chaps prevented his stumps from being splayed bystopping the ball with a size 11 boatsman's loafer, and was clinicallydispatched by Umpire Merlin, bringing to mind a vet called on tominimise suffering during an outbreak of myxomatosis.
It's at this point that Baldrick's plan went awry, as Dicko, who was nodoubt giving loud, authoritative instructions when the plan wascommunicated, batted like a balding ginger Michael Bevan with man-b00bs.With a succession of willing helpers, the Moobmeister carved amagnificent 81 not out, taking the total to 216 for 9 off the full 50overs. In a rope-a-dope style counter-attack Rakesh, Merlin, Daniel JO'Connor, Royce and the team eski (Emile, promoted above Damo in thesearch for quick runs) combined with Dicko to put Centaurs in a moreconfident moob. Leaving the field, after leading such a valiantrecovery, Dicko was moobed by his team-mates. Asked how he felt aboutmaking his top score as a Centaur, Dicko commented: "I'm over the moob"and in response to the suggestion that the innings had started tooslowly: "That's a moob point. Shanghai's bowling early on was hostile- in fact one of their openers reminded me of the Lancashire and Englandstrike-bowler, Sajid Mahmoob" [that's enough man-b00b gags now, Ed].
So, with Shanghai Dragons needing 217 to win the inaugural Opium Bowl,Royce and Rod opened the bowling in the cold and rain. Shanghai put on90 in quick time before Merlin was brought on to stem the runs andimmediately struck. My recollection as to exactly how is sketchy, butthere were some runouts, an LBW, a caught or 2 and Shanghai's bestbatsman had hurt his hand fielding a waft from Skips earlier in the day.Encouraged by Merlin's success, Skips moved Steve Lowe from wicky tobowler, where his filthy "off-breaks" also met with success in some formor other. To cut to the chase, Shanghai's last wicket partnershipneeded to score 20 odd to win. Encouraged by some reversedouble-psychological mental fortification sledging from those wilyCentaurs with 4 to win ("Just one shot for the Opium Bowl, now, whydon't you slap one over mid-wicket? Oh nice shot, well played, see younext year”), Shanghai squeezed home.
As Skips might have remarked at the awards ceremony, it was a fantasticgame of cricket which eveyone who played in will always remember (exceptme - as you have read, much of the detail of fielding in the drizzle hasalready escaped me). Awards were handed out, including a Shanghaicricket shirt for our MVP (Dicko for batting like a God) and Centaursties for Shanghai's Captain, and their MVP, and a Centaurs tie for ourguest player, Rakesh. Speeches were made, caps were doffed, backs wereslapped, Shanghai hosted a superb BBQ and beerfest at a local pub, Chapsand Dicko had a Jaegermeister-fuelled grapple, and before we knew it wewere back at the ground on Sunday for the inaugural 20-20 Silk Road Cup.
Centaurs fielded first. Sort of. A combination of 50 overs in thefield the previous day and Chappers' Jaegermeister experiment leftspectators wondering whether the ICC had changed the rules overnight tooutlaw the use of hands by the fielding side. Only Rod behind thestumps and our guest, Desmond, found respectability with 5 dismissalsfor Rod and 3 for 9 for Desmond.
Shanghai nurdled their way to 135.
The 'Taurs reply took a while to get going. Some abject flailingeventually brought Steve Lowe to the crease, who caned a magnificent,Dickinsonesque 70 not out to ensure that Centaurs were the winners ofthe inaugural Silk Road Cup.
More making of speeches, doffing, slapping, shaking and awarding andbefore we knew it we were on the flight home, with the Silk Road Cup andalmost no other passengers, taking part in the inaugural Shanghai toHong Kong Centaurs Mile High Drink Up and Trivia Quiz. Happy Days!
The Shanghai players' hospitality was superb and the tour could not havebeen more enjoyable. Special thanks to Shanghai captains John andDenzil and all the Shanghai players for such tremendous hospitality.Massive thanks also to Lily and Keith for their huge organisationaleffort. And to Sarah, Kaki and Stephanie for putting up with us all(especially Chappers) with such charm and good humour.
The above does not represent the views of Centaurs CC, the author oranyone else who knows him. It is largely a work of fiction and anysimilarity between the events and characters portrayed above and actualevents or characters is entirely coincidental. Except the bit about themoobs, the wobblers and how well we were looked after. But especiallythe moobs.