Format: 25 overs
Result: Lost by 9 wickets
Match Manager: W.V.P.Taylor
Tour: it is the best of times; it is the worst of times. It is the maker of men, the builder of bonds, and the creator of memories. Anyone who has had the honour of spending a long weekend with team mates, far from home, ostensibly to play sport, but really to do so much more, will attest to that.
Last year’s tour to the beauty of Hertforshire was widely lauded; how would IVCC’s answer to Magellan (a.k.a. Will Taylor) avoid a case of difficult second album syndrome? Answer: by taking us to ruddy Corfu!
Situated a few kilometres from the Greek mainland and its North Western border with Albania, Corfu is a small, rugged island mostly known for being a tourist destination. At its southern tip lies the resort of Kavos, the sort of place associated with television programs with “Uncovered” or “Gone Wild” in their name, where wild young Brits lose their clothing, dignity, and bodily fluids after a few too many Jagers. But Corfu is also home to another sort of shot: the former British protectorate boasts more than a dozen cricket teams and three cricket pitches.
And so on Friday 28th July 2019, a group of ten hardy Villagers set out for Greek soil for the club’s first overseas tour. Friday afternoon and evening gave a perfect insight into what was in store for the weekend: a short dip in the warm waters of the med, a few drinks, and a beautiful sunset from the hotel roof terrace were in order to get the tour rolling. The oft-anticipated First Night Of Tour carnage did not truly get going however, with most of the group downed by a surfeit of Greek food laden with melted cheese. A modest bedtime around 1am ensued, providing the group with plenty of rest before their first match on Saturday.
With temperatures around the low-to-mid 30s, the match start was put back to 5pm to ensure that no one expired in the mediterranean sun. This gave the squad time to ensure match-readiness through a strict regimen of beers, swimming, beers, club sandwiches, beers, swimming, and ice creams.
The first match of tour was played against GEK C.C. in the splendid environs of Gouvia Marina, at the home of the Hellenic Cricket Federation. The wicket - artificial, of course - looked in good condition, and the outfield was predictably hard, ragged and a little uneven. With Bill absent on a supermarket run to stock up on beers, Ferg stood in at the toss: to the relief of every IVCC player, he won and elected to bat, delaying the need for our pale English bodies to be subjected to the scorching heat for a little longer.
Ferg and Adam opened the batting and immediately found the artificial wicket to be slightly tricky going. Slow in place but offering tennis ball bounce off a good length, classical English front foot play was not really an option, and the Village had to get by on a diet of wides and singles for the first few overs.
Given the tricky start, it was perhaps no surprise to see both openers lose their wicket playing attacking shots, trying to break the shackles: Adam was caught behind off a top edge, and Ferg was bowled trying to drive. In fairness to them, the GEK opening bowlers were the stronger bowlers in the opposition side, although my readiness to admit that was softened somewhat by their insisting on mentioning this every 5 minutes after they were out.
The double breakthrough brought together IVCC’s most productive partnership of the innings, between Sam, and Fidel Morton. Sam had thankfully taken a break from talking about his airline status and looked in good touch almost immediately, hitting a well-timed top-spin forehand through extra cover for the first boundary of the innings. Shortly before the drinks interval, he smoked a massive six over cow corner via an immaculate slog-sweep. Another six followed a few overs later, but after scoring 14 in 3 balls, he went for one big shot too many and holed out to square leg, missing out on a maiden IVCC half-century to the amusement of absolutely nobody.
At the other end, Fidel continued in typically languorous fashion, dispatching the ball to the leg-side boundary at regular intervals, but was now joined by the skipper, who upped the ante in the running stakes somewhat with plenty of 2s and even a few 3s, previously thought unfathomable in this heat. Bill showed some of his usual biffing (I remember one particularly splendid top-spin slap over mid-off for four) before he was caught in the covers off a mis-cue.
With around six overs to go, Fidel was joined by Garr, and the two tried to continue the kamikaze running approach to building the total. This worked for a short time until Garr tried to push his luck a bit too much and found himself running from the non-striker’s end after Tim hit the ball straight back to the bowler; he was inevitably run out in comical fashion.
It was left to Alex to keep Tim company through to the end of the innings; Tim brought up his fifty in a calm manner while Alex was frantically swatting balls away back down the ground, including one particularly pleasing straight-swat for four.
The tourists finished on what seemed like a respectable - and defendable - 162 for 5 from their 25 overs. Our local contact suggested that this was a little below par, but unbowed, the Villagers headed out into the sun to give it a ruddy good go.
The Ellis boys opened the bowling, with Garr taking the first over from the City End. Bill - taking the gloves for the first few overs - duly placed all of his fielders in the slip cordon, prompting the home team umpire to enquire “what the fuck are you doing?”. Predictably, the first ball squirted off an outside edge and through someone’s legs for two.
Before the game, we had agreed to play strict leg-side wides. This induced a little panic in the IVCC bowlers, who feared having to bowl some rather long overs in the sun. It turns out that worrying about wide balls was rather like mowing the lawn while the house is on fire. The wide balls were not the problem; it was the straight ones that did the damage. The signs were almost immediately bad for IVCC, as Tim’s second ball was smashed off a good length into the marina, prompting a lengthy search for the ball. Sadly, we eventually found it and the game had to continue.
There’s a not a huge amount to say about the rest of the run chase. IVCC did not bowl especially badly, and aside from a couple of dropped chances later in the chase that would not have made a difference to the final outcome, we fielded with application and determination too. The Greek batsmen demonstrated a sharp awareness of how to bat on their home surface; it wasn’t always pretty, and some of the shots would not be found in any coaching manual, but it was mighty effective; they raced to their target in a little over 13 overs, with only one wicket falling when Tim Ellis took a good catch on the move off Alex’s bowling.
After this chastening defeat and an exchange of pleasantries and regalia with the opposition, the boys retreated to the roof terrace at Hotel Cavalieri for a debrief over a G&T. The night ended with the discovery of a wonderful retro-chic cocktail bar called Puppet, run by a charming Athenian called George, who plied us with outstanding Old Fashioneds and Espresso Martinis until the early hours. By 4am, day three’s match was looming, and all the Villagers retired to their hot water bottles and a cup of cocoa…