Thankfully, the Veuling pilots are not trained in the Rhodri Thomas school of Orienteering so the Badgers arrived in a sunny Alicante in relatively good order and on time to begin their biennial international adventure of 2019. Their accommodation in the hotel Eurostar was perfect for a team of varied tastes with a long sandy beach a stone’s throw across the promenade on one side and the historic old town on the other with a small but perfectly proportioned bar conveniently located adjacent to the main entrance lobby on the corner of the medieval plaza.
Because of the time difference the first evening began at 3.30pm as one section of the bar terrace was populated by a pink shirted cohort of customers who drew both admiring and disapproving glances from the passing population. In one way or another this journey of self-discovery was continued through the night and the following day in preparation for the main event of the tour: A cricket match between the Alicante Intellectuals and the Badgers C. C.
The Saturday morning broke fine and sunny and the temperature rose steadily as the appointed hour approached. Kit was hastily gathered together and a fleet of taxis arranged for transfer to Bonalba golf club a short distance out of town where the game was to be played. Lynn was the only no show as he felt it prudent to remain in confident reach of reliable sanitary ware. On arrival and without sign of our hosts the Badgers naturally congregated in the bar to reassess their strategy. However, before any damage was done Laurence stepped out of the pages of a Grahame Greene novel, immaculate in manners and attire the very image of our man in Alicante. With the casual urbanity of the diplomatic corps he greeted the tourists and steered the muling crew in the direction of the playing field. The Intellectuals were gathered in the shade of an old driving range shelter impatient to start the game. The Badgers were less so.
It was hot; not quite the searing heat of the Badgers previous Italian adventure but enough to require the chilled beers and iced water provided by our hosts. Tim, the Intellectuals captain made himself known and the coin toss was soon completed which Dave won and decided to bat. As the opening pair of Dave and John approached the batting strip Tim was barking orders to his team. He was a rougher diamond than Laurence ( you can take the man out of Builth…) but maybe needed to be as his team composed mainly of players originally from the subcontinent shared an undisciplined exuberance for the game that needed to be channelled. He eventually managed to set his chattering field on the bar billiard surface with unexpected hollows and bumps and play commenced. The Badgers openers had a combined age of about 120 which the opening opposition bowlers acknowledged with a spell of short of a length deliveries at a pace not normally encountered on a cloudy Thursday evening in Underhill Park. However, Dave started to find his timing and John charitably gave him most of the strike. Runs were hard to come by and the clumps of heather like grass gripped the ball when seemingly on their way to the boundary. Together they frustrated the efforts of the opening attack signified by the increasing volume of Serena Williams like grunts at the release of the ball. At first change it was an opportunity to go for some quicker runs and John immediately went lbw giving himself out before the umpire had raised his finger seeking the refuge of cold beer and a chair in the shade. Unfortunately Dave followed shortly afterwards for 31 after finding the middle of his bat and the hands of square leg – a captain’s innings nevertheless. A Badger speciality followed with a speedy middle order collapse rapidly moving the score on from 46 for 1 to 52 for 7. The chairman, Ian, Alex, and Simon politely did not inconvenience the scorer and Rito and Alyn rudely interrupted the flow with one a piece. Characteristically, Rito demonstrated an entertaining pirouette while chasing a wide one and pausing for applause failed to ground his bat while well out of his ground. At least a stumping gave variety to proceedings. Steve Lisle then came out to join Chris at the crease who had already collected a couple of singles looking calm amid the carnage. Steve set about his task as if he was in the nets clubbing every delivery he faced for runs. His 21 off 8 deliveries was in stark contrast to anything that had gone on before. He was aided and abetted by Chris who made a creditable 9 , Tony Bidder who remained not out on 4 and Dave Bratley who for the second international tour running was given the poisoned chalice of facing the last couple of balls of the innings.
91 all out in 20 overs was never really going to be enough.
The Intellectuals opening batsmen were their opening pair of bowlers and they set about their task with the same belligerent intent. However, Gareth, rising Lazarus like from his sick bed and Rito had some welcome success. Gareth removed one opener as the batsman heaved across the line of a straight one. Throughout a rapid second wicket partnership Rito stuck to his task and after some close shaves trapped the other opener lbw. Hassan had scored a quick 33 containing 3 maximums until a straight ball pinned him in front of all three. Rito not only appealed but loudly informed both batsman and umpire that he was out. However, despite another quick wicket each the damage had already been done. Ian Wright also peaked early with a wicket off his first delivery as Simon managed to keep awake during a two over spell. Nadeem finally saw the Intellectuals home with a solid unbeaten 44.
A welcome break ensued for lunch taken in a local bar 100m up the hill. A splendid buffet with paella, cold meats, bread and cakes accompanied by frothing jugs of beer repaired morale and refreshed the wilting bodies before the second postprandial 20/20 match.
This time Steve Lisle and Dave Bratley opened the attack and in terms of run rate were the most successful. They also combined to secure the first wicket when Dave coolly held on to a skied chance to end a cultured innings by Laurence as several fielders converged around him. After 7 overs the score had been restricted to 40 for one at less than 6 an over. With the first bowling change came the change in gear. Despite Tony Bidder securing a wicket with his first legitimate delivery, well caught by a hard working Alyn at deep mid wicket , Ishmael had unleashed his harpoon and charged headlong after his Leviathan. Tony secured a second wicket with a catch taken by Steve but he could not stem the flow of runs from the other end. Peter too suffered as the relentless pace was maintained. Captain Ahab also joined in the fun with a fine hard hitting fifty. It is a rare achievement in 20/20 matches to reach a century and rarer still to reach that milestone without a slice of luck. This was provided by the champagne moment of the match when Alex fielding on the deep mid wicket boundary steadied himself under a steepling pull from Ishmael and took an outstanding catch. However, the momentum of the ball and the action of taking the catch toppled Alex onto the boundary rope. The expression of surprise, delight, triumph and despair crossed his face in rapid succession – a magnificent effort! Tim and Ishmael retired undefeated and the innings resumed a more sedate pace. Rito managed to pick up a wicket late on and confirmed himself as the man most likely to. Alyn managed to find his line and length where Simon had mislaid his compass. The final score for the Intellectuals was 228 for 4.
The distant target was not a realistic one as the Badgers commenced their second innings. However, Simon scored 8 runs off the first three balls to set the run rate but then still suffering from jet lag did not run fast enough off the fourth. Ian too set off quickly but was then bowled. Steve Lisle and Anthony Coles then threatened to steady the ship with Steve again seemingly scoring at will. However, the vain promise was soon dashed as Anthony was bowled followed by Alex and Alyn for a couple. Dave Bratley and Rhodri came together after Steve was unexpectedly caught behind for a fine 18. Rhodri briefly threatened mayhem in his inimitable style but was run out (apparently not his fault). Rito loathe to step out of the limelight discovered a new way of getting himself out. Having again completed a balletic pirouette and hit the ball towards fine leg he continued his circular motion to demolish his own stumps in emphatic style. Gareth then came in swinging and connected against some more diplomatic bowling and joined by the skipper remained 47 not out. 135 for 9 on another day would have been a decent score.
The two teams returned to the bar up the road for refreshment and a debrief. Laurence presided and handed out awards to the obvious MOM contenders – Ishmael and Rehan for the home side and Steve Lisle for his all round performance for the Badgers. The chairman responded and presented a pink touring shirt to a delighted or horrified Laurence in recognition of his efforts in organising the day. Chander was also praised for being that person that every club needs who carries out the thankless tasks and now deserves our gratitude. Dave Smith thanked our hosts for their hospitality and introduced the mandatory entertainment of the Badger choir. Calon Lan went down well and was particularly enjoyed by Tim who joined in with gusto. Quite why a ‘pure heart’ has become associated with the Badgers is unknown it may simply be an aspiration. From a Badger point of view the cricketing performance had been a little disappointing probably down to the preparation being a tad too intense. It cannot simply be coincidence that England’s most successful post war captain is a highly qualified psychiatrist.
With the sun settling on the horizon and mosquitos devouring bare Badger legs transport arrived to carry the tourists back to Alicante for a last hurrah. Taking advantage of the Badgers absence for the day the townsfolk had organised a festival and the Badgers were greeted with streets full of parading ‘Spanish Ladies’ in traditional costumes and marching bands with flutes and drums. The final evening was spent amid the colour and sounds of the Entrada de Bandas heralding the coming of summer and a week of celebrations. Alicante had been an eye opener to many of the Badgers and some like Alex explored the beguiling streets of the city extensively. Although time had called a halt to the fun the Badgers packed away some vivid memories alongside their cricket kit. A weary but contented crew set off for home having survived their Spanish inquisition.
Post script: culling attempts remain unsuccessful. The conspiracy to thin the herd by arranging suffocation in wet suit (N.B. never guess or lie about weight when ordering wet suit), rock climbing, leaping off cliff face, drowning, battering by opening bowlers, lengthy fielding duties as sub for sleeping colleagues, scoring, umpiring excitable opponents and forced infusions of alcohol has not born fruit. Rasputin like your scribe survives – however, this report has been prepared by a single pulse.
Underhill Park, Mumbles, Swansea
CAPTAIN - Dave Smith 07941 255846
VICE CAPTAIN - Simon Jones 07590 677504
Guildhall Pitches - 3.30-4.30pm - 635411