Lumberjack written by The Chancellor
Chapter 1 Prematch
The short time between the crushing defeat of the Hot Dogs in the semi-final and Leisure’s date with destiny against Dulwich in the penultimate match of the season brought some strange rumblings on the Leisure Basher’s blog.
There were numerous murmurings about subjects that were not directed at the key tasks that lay ahead on Sunday; batting, bowling, fielding, sledging, drinking, fines, winning. There were complaints about the eligibility of Dulwich players and about the weather forecast and about the SCC and about the weather again. We even had one forecast of “sun, clouds, lightning and Nazi SS”! (thank you Birdie).
Another pending issue was that apparently a stage and campers had materialized in the middle of the rugby club ground casting further doubts on play.
Many worried comments that if the game could not be completed, either through the weather or the presence of the stage, we would be eliminated from the finals without the opportunity to display our cricketing brilliance.
And there were strange happenings in the lead up to the game as well; a training session was organised (though that seems to be a violation of a cardinal Leisure rule of not practicing, or preparing); rumours that Spanner had been lost to us through unnamed action in Hong Kong; Sharapova, Rash and Tampon running a 10km race the day before the game; Fruitbox smashing his leg in multiple places the day before the game and pleading for a 12th man (unfortunately already used up by Spanner’s mystery injury). And the night before the game there was strange advice about getting home early, not drinking too much, getting to the Camel/Ground early (especially Parrot), required attire, etc, etc.
Chapter 2 Pregame
The morning broke and slowly Bashers started to come alive on WeChat signaling their status and the count began to see if we had twelve to go into battle. Plus there was Fruity squealing for people to bring as many pain killers as they can lay their hands on.
So the lead up to the game had taken its physical toll on our intrepid band of fine physical specimens;
Spanner out with a broken wing, Fisty out with his single status smashed and Fruity in doubt with the worst broken leg/ankle in modern medical history. The omens were not promising.
Messi manfully joined up late to fill in for Spanner, so we had the full compliment (compliment of numbers that is, not necessarily of skills). From the victorious semi-final side Spanner, Fisty and Hardon were out, Sharpova, Birdy and Messi were in. The revised side certainly better looking and more athletic though we did seem short of an opening pair.
Fruitbox turned up walking without a limp, it turns out that it wasn’t your normal smashed leg, more of a flesh wound kind of smashed leg! He would play, brave deeds from the boy from North London, or complete bullshit about the injury in the first place. You can decide dear reader.
Save for those who were going direct, all were present except Parrot (again). The pies were warm, sliced and on board as was the very welcome support team of Skiddy, Bambi and Bhenchod. Ten minutes after our scheduled departure time Parrot finally arrived and boarded the bus to a loud round of applause. Parrot thinking that his minions were saluting his presidential greatness, waved to the throng in front of him and gently bowed completely unaware that the applause was utterly sarcastic through his inability to get to the bus on time for the second game in a row. Finally we are off, ten minutes late but 15 /20 minutes earlier than normal.
It was confirmed that Spanner had injured his shoulder diving off a boat, rumour was that he dived onto the dock side rather than the water side of the boat.
Tunnel beers were imbibed. Expectations were high.
Much discussion was had regarding what the strategy should be if we won the toss, especially with the weather threat hanging over us. Tampon had hatched a brilliant plan, now he needed to execute it once we were at the ground.
Much instruction was being received from (the absent) Fisty. Then we received a photo of his hotel breakfast (noodles, curry, beans and blue cheese) and suddenly the slices of pie from The Camel were looking like haute cuisine and a lot of people were feeling nauseous and extremely pleased that we didn’t have to smell him later on in the day.
At the ground before eight am, very un-Leisure like. Paps and Leppa both present meaning that we had a full team, ready to go.
There was no sign of any stage, or campers, on the ground so the first potential barrier to our march to victory was avoided. The weather was looking ok, no sign of any rain, so the day was looking good. Tampon’s brilliant toss strategy was finally revealed, lose the toss and let them decide what to do. And executed exactly as he planned, Dulwich win the toss and put us to bat.
Chapter 3 Batting
With our regular opening dynamic duo sidelined by very different ailments, into the void left by their absence stepped Omega and Parrot. And they began in a very bright and encouraging manner with 23 runs up in the first 3 overs before Parrot was run out, again. Seems like the President is late for everything the last couple of games. Late to the bus as well as late to get to the safety of his crease. Omega had hit a couple of boundaries and was looking good but he was then out next over and we had slumped to 2/32. Paps and Fruitbox were now at the crease and steadily built their partnership and put us in position to build a very competitive score. Paps dismissal the ball before drinks took some of the gloss off but 81 runs at drinks had set a good foundation. Fruity toyed with the emotions of the Dulwich players but getting caught off a no ball but was then bowled for 32, top scorer for the innings. The Chancellor promoted up the order showed the folly of that move by the skipper and we had slumped to 5/93 off 15. Pope and Tampon were now occupying the crease and steadied the ship over the next 7 overs but runs were proving hard to come by. Rash was next in and showed some late innings flair scoring 13 off 14 before being out to the last ball of the innings. Tampon remained not out having scored all of his runs via a cross batted shot to full length balls on or outside the off stump where the ball is flayed in the region between square leg and mid wicket. In honour of this unique approach the team determined that this shot should henceforth be called the “Tampon”, taking its place in the game alongside other classics such as Drive, Pull, Hook and Cut. History being made at the SRC ground.
7 wickets down for 148 was the total. The team feeling that this was defendable with good bowling backed up by solid fielding though probably 15-20 runs short of what we liked to have scored. To be truthful though, our overall batting performance was disappointing with 55 of the 148 coming in Extras (49 wides!).
Chapter 4 Bowling and Fielding
The physical misfortunes of the team continued as Tampon had done his hamstring while batting and our beloved leader was unable to lead his charges onto the field. Messi took the field in his place and Fruitbox assumed the heavy mantle of Skipper.
No breakthroughs were made by the opening bowlers but then Paps came on to bowl and immediately removed the opener who was looking dangerous; LBW was the decision of the umpire though the batsman was not impressed and left the crease only after grass had started growing around his feet.
A couple of overs later Paps had his second (caught by Omega) and from no wicket for 30, Dulwich was now two down for 36, game on. Leppa was brought into the attack and in his first over had the Dulwich #3 brilliantly stumped by Pope; 3/47 and their run rate now down below 5 per over. Things were looking good but the two batsman at the crease could clearly bat, this was the partnership that needed to be broken and quickly. Alas this pair put on 49 runs in 6 overs and the tide was turning against the valiant Bashers. Leppa brought that partnership to an end by having a ball smashed to the midwicket boundary where The Chancellor held the catch; 4/96 off 16 overs. Fruity had brought himself on to bowl by now and one over later had his man bowled; 5/102 off 17 and the Bashers were working themselves back into the game with the run rate nearly back to a run a ball and the top order removed, except for one batsman. Unfortunately he didn’t look like getting out and 6, 4, 6 brought his innings to a halt via retirement. Those quick boundaries had put Dulwich in the driving seat but Fruity and Omega applied the brakes to the scoring again with only 8 runs off 3 overs, Fruity and Pope combined for a run out and Dulwich needed 21 runs off 4.2 overs. Paps came back for his last over and picked up his 3rd wicket caught by Parrot which left 11 runs to get off 15 balls
This last wicket brought a youngster to the crease, barely taller than the bat, and Basher hopes lifted again. But the young fellow dug in and worked the ball around. Dot balls were turned into singles, and singles into twos. Bashers were flying around the field but unable to stop the runs.
To the last over with Dulwich needing only 1 run to win. A couple of dot balls raised hopes but then a nudged single and Dulwich win with 3 balls to spare.
Chapter 5 After game
So game lost and handshakes offered, the next decision was where to have the fines session, watching the Pleasure Grand Final, or at the bar. As the Pleasure game was not due to start for anotherhour, the team withdrew to the bar for the fines session. And a question hung in the air as to what kind of fines session it would be after the incendiary session after the semi-final win.
Into the breach stepped Birdy with his calm and experienced persona. The “fines” session was to be a positive fines session, no negatives allowed. Everyone present had to say something positive about each and every fellow Basher. Tributes flowed, hearts swelled and peace and love descended upon the team. Stingray and Spanner joined us for the fines but unfortunately Stingray could not join in the drinking as he was observing Sober September which meant no wanking, no beer and no coffee (in that order, apparently). As the lovefest slowly oozed toward its conclusion, plans were made to load up with many jugs of beer and move to support our Pleasure brethren in their Grand Final battle. Once there though, the feeling of love and peace was broken by Rooty deciding to incite the entire Southern Asian cricket population of Hangzhou into an outbreak of threats, insults, bat waving, etc. But that is a story for a different Lumberjack, or not.
Alas, Pleasure also managed to be second best and a day that started with so much promise for the Basher nation, ended on a downcast note.
Some of the Leisure team drifted away, most rode the bus back to The Camel with Swoop conducting the fines session.
And the curtain fell on another season with thoughts of what might have been and of the promise of the next season to come.
Chapter 6 Miscellaneous Ramblings
For the second year in a row our season finishes 1 game short of the big dance. This year hurt more given that we didn’t play that well and still came within a few balls of beating the team that would go on to win the title.
That said, it was a season of fun, camaraderie, exploits, drama, great performances and poor, silliness, and above all a lot of drinking. In summary, a great Basher season.
In a tradition that the author started 1 year ago, of announcing that he would be leaving Shanghai with work and finishing his Basher’s playing career, I make the same announcement this year.
Good luck and best wishes to those of you playing on next year.
See you then?