Kevin Costner was towing a light gang mower over the outfield putting the final touches to the ground he had prepared. The touring Badgers arrived down a dusty trail cutting through the fields tall with densely planted maize. `Build it and they will come' The legends of Lodi transported in the shuttle bus provided by the friend of one Luciano Molinari, hotel owner and enigma, gazed around them in wonder at this little Eden created amongst the dusty fields and irrigation ditches that formed the outer reaches of the small medieval town. It was hot! Too damned hot! It was a day from the deep south of Burl Ives in a white suit and a steaming Elizabeth Taylor. The boys of the Idle cricket club showed that southern hospitality and greeted their guests with enthusiasm and beer. They were a cosmopolitan lot and in keeping with the Badger experience of international teams abroad a mixture of nationalities with representatives from India, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Italy and of course ex pats from the UK. In such circumstances there is always that air of mystery in the collection of so many back stories brought together by something so banal as a cricket match on a foreign field.
However, Dave, our skipper, was the coolest dude present - Like Alistair Cook he doesn't sweat like the rest of Badger kind. He won the toss and elected to bat. Quite rightly, leading from the front he opened the batting with Steve Long as the first of the 35 overs began. The innings got off to a pretty good start with runs coming at a reasonable pace. The bowling was fairly friendly but the artificial pitch presented a few difficulties with its variable bounce. To a team used to playing at Underhill Park this is not an unusual problem. Steve was the first to go, unfortunately run out with the controversial help of Roger our square leg umpire in a swirl of heat crazed mirages. Simon joined his skipper at the crease and started to show the form that had deserted him earlier in the season hitting cleanly and with some power. Even an eccentric delivery that flew off the shoulder of his bat and into his chin did not unsettle him. He was caught when going hard at the attack for a rapid 16. Rhodri then joined Dave who was scoring freely in his usual untroubled way and gave us a cameo that we have come to expect. A change of bowler brought a change of pace and with the quicker deliveries Rhodri found his timing hitting a couple of sixes over Daisy's head and a consummately struck straight boundary for four which was the shot of the day. As is so often the case when two batsmen are going well both Dave and Rhodri fell in short order with Dave being bowled going for a pull off a full straight one for a fine 36 and Rhodri in similar fashion for a characteristic 39. Every Badger batsman contributed with Gareth scoring a rapid and hard hit 26, Chris, on his day off from the greengrocer's didn't hang around for his 10 runs (he claims 14 but look in the book) Steve Lisle, Alex, Alyn, Iago, John, and Dave Bratley all helped to push the score up to 187 which seemed a good par score in the circumstances. Curiously, there was no not out batsman at the end of the innings a fact that the combined wisdom of our travelling umpires Lynn and Roger could not explain.
Tea was taken between innings and was a fusion spread of pizza, curry, cooked meats and cake well complemented by bottles of beer. The temperature reached 35degC + even in the shade of the large gazebo and tea was for survival rather than refreshment.
The Badgers took to the field with confident step as the Idle innings commenced. Peter opened the attack determined to add to his tally of wickets for the season. It is generally agreed that the British are the supreme masters of irony yet the founders of Idle Cricket Club might have a claim. The opening assault by Sunny 1 the first of three players by that name lent the match a slightly different perspective as 13 runs came off the first over with three fours crossing the line with one bounce. The battery continued unabated for several overs until he was eventually stumped by a typically lunging Chris Price off Iago's mysterious spinners. He had given chances but rode his luck with the ball dropping tantalisingly into gaps in the field. Steve Long tried to hold on to a violent hit to deep long on and received a bruising ricochet to the chest which resounded round the ground. The listening medics proclaimed the echo proved a sound respiratory system. Fielders were melting in the fierce heat but retrieved and ran with surprising commitment with the occasional descent into the drainage ditches at the boundary edge to fetch the ball. Tony Bidder with a nagging line and length was the first to make a breakthrough with Steve Lisle taking a smart catch to remove the other opener. Gareth has become the go to bowler of recent times and produced again here taking two wickets the first caught by Iago and the second bowling the new batsman for the only blodger of the match. Alyn joined the party bowling another Sri Lankan middle order batsman for 51. The early scoring rate had been too rapid for the Badgers to claw things back and with the eccentric Italian, pipe smoking wicketkeeper (what is it about wicketkeepers?) watching at one end another batsman from the subcontinent finished things off with 19 off five balls.
It was a hard days cricket for the Badgers but enjoyable nonetheless as the game was played in the right spirit and new friends were made. Even the mayor elect of Lodi who was the club president made an appearance. The hosts had been generous and considerate. They provided a shower fed by a hosepipe at the boundary edge to combat the searing heat. As the temperature climbed dignity dissolved and Badgers of all sizes were to be seen cavorting in their underpants through the cooling spray. There would be dancing in the streets of Lodi tonight.
The reality of domestic cricket now returns to bring us down to earth so in the words of the enigma that is Luciano Molinari `Bye bye'.
Underhill Park, Mumbles, Swansea
CAPTAIN - Dave Smith 07941 255846
VICE CAPTAIN - Simon Jones 07590 677504
Guildhall Pitches - 3.30-4.30pm - 635411