Blue Dawn in Nanjing: The Rising Suzhou Menace, or The Story of the Camel Bashers at the Nanjing Rural Sixes 2015
On a sultry Friday night no fewer than 14 of the Bashers finest assembled upstairs, at the HQ station BK, full of enthusiasm and confidence to retain the Shield of Dreams. There were cold beers and whoppers (“tasteless” according to Omega) on the tables. Thanks to Sharapova and Omega for organizing the train tickets, and special mention must be made of Cranky’s custom leather jacket (although this was the last time we saw it as temperatures remained at comfortable jacket free levels).
Somebody must have had some sort of accident, because the aromas wafting around the carriage were not at all welcoming, actually down right distasteful, and left us gasping on boarding the train. Hardon responded by handing out beers and rearranging the furniture, and Long Dong put on his headphones and zoned out.
Immediately on arrival to Caketown, we lost Shara-Pope-a and Hardon, as Shitshoes confused “East” with “West” in his directions. But a scenic taxi ride, and an even more scenic tuk tuk ride, saw us arrive at Nanjing’s new spiritual home, Brewsells, just in time to see Hammer finish the last few drops from the free keg. The 2 for 1 ribs were some consolation, and welcome drinks continued jovially into the early hours (except for the Prez who was throwing things at the Squeezer from Suzhou).
The bus was organized for 7.45am at another “nearby” hotel, which turned out to be a good 10 minute taxi ride away, instead of a quick walk. A handful of Bashers made it to breakfast, with Messi particularly coherent and conversational, but when the time ticked around to 7.30am only Shit Shoes was in the hotel lobby. Messages were exchanged, and eventually, the bus was detoured to the Bashers hotel and picked most of us up. In the meantime, Hardon arrived looking extremely pissed off, and in a few coarse words explained he’d lost his phone the night before. He took out his rage on an innocent electric bike, so we boarded the bus to the warning sounds of an alarm. Cranky made it down just in time, and we left Post-op sleeping peacefully after what must have been an epic birthday that he probably won’t remember.
The new “dustbowl” ground was fantastic, hardly dusty at all, except it was in the middle of nowhere. There were even gardeners grooming the field throughout the day. There was a pavilion with seats and a box of drinks (ice was yet to come). The pitch wasn’t quite up to standard as there were no pegs for stretching out the matting. The ball didn’t bounce above anyone’s knees (even Hammer’s low knees) until about 4pm, and even then it was still just barely bouncing. I must also point out that the events of the day are clouded with some haze, so I have put this report together mostly based on the wechat records and the videos on my mobile (video is being edited to premiere soon).
Game 1: Camel Bashers vs Bogans
The Camel Bashers opened up with Shit Shoes and Mouse, and had a slow start that matched the pitch. Shoes managed to hit Sharapova’s car, which was parked at cow corner. Then Hammer, keys jingling in his pocket, removed Mouse and Omega in consecutive deliveries, both bowled (and if the pitch wasn’t so low and slow, probably they would have been hit for boundaries). The Bashers posted a score in the 40s. Hardon and then Shit Shoes bowled well, but Omega missed a top edged catch with a slow dive. Messi, after carefully noting the lack of bounce, threw up some juicy full tosses that were dispatched into the basketball court, before a length delivery that didn’t bounce and claimed a victim. Sadly, the runs were chased down before Sharapova could even get a bowl.
The Brewsell’s BBQ (or deep frier) arrived, so most Bashers took the chance for a chip and meatball sandwich. Fortunately, by this time in the morning, there had been a delivery of ice, so we were able to enjoy some cool, refreshing beverages (mostly bloody marys). Paps, Pussy and Bilbo appeared out of nowhere, and immediately joined in the festivities with Pussy almost involved in a fist fight as umpire within 20 minutes.
Game 2: Camel Bashers vs Nongmin
Shit Shoes won the toss in the absence of Sharapova and chose to bowl first. Sharapova arrived back in time to bowl superbly, and earn player of the tournament, with what clearly was the play of the day. One over, three wickets, all bowled, no runs – it doesn’t get better than that! Shit Shoes chipped in with a wicket to have Nongmin at 4 wickets down, no runs. They scraped together a score in the mid-teens. The Camel Bashers used a reverse order, and weren’t much better with the bat. Hardon’s chip to longoff for 2 (and then runout) were the only runs to show for the first 4 wickets. Enter the Prez, under enormous pressure, as he blocked out a wicket maiden and then Boom! He dispatched the next bowler for a big 6 and a couple of 4s to take the Camel Bashers to their only win of the day.
Game 3: Camel Bashers vs Xiamen Typhoons
Xiamen hadn’t won a match, but they won the toss and put the Camel Bashers in to bat. Unfortunately, the Bashers had a bit of a wobble in the batting, combined with some good Suzhou bowling, and we never got going. Only some last minute hitting from the Prez took us into the 30s, as everyone except Hardon had a go with the bat. We hadn’t really got enough runs, and Xiamen soaked up the pressure with some cautious batting to ease past the required total. The main highlight was Messi’s celebration after yet another bowled!
Sharapova can probably explain what happened next better than me, as she was part of a 20 minute argument and debate over who was going to play in the “finals”. It was decided that the top 4 teams would play semi-finals, and then a final, in a complete change from the schedule in the program, which showed 1st vs 2nd, 3rd vs 4th, and 5th vs 6th playoffs. At this point, Post-op arrived with a sour look on his face, and as only the Kooka Bashers were left in the competition, he changed teams to replace Pope in a contentious selection decision by Parrot.
The Kooka Bashers won the semifinal and made the final, where upon we all moved to the boundary line to support the team. They posted a score in the 40s, which was about par for the difficulty pitch, but it could’ve been more if Postop hadn’t broken his bat and been caught. The Suzhou team was chirped heavily from the sidelines, with one particularly rousing rendition of “Stand Up if you hate Suzhou!” echoing all around the rural stadium. Unfortunately, the Suzhou side got the runs off the last ball after an epic final, so the Shield of Dreams was presented to the team in blue. Sharapova’s good form was recognized and she was awarded Player of the Tournament.
The games were over, the gear was packed and loaded onto the bus loaded. It was an intoxicated bus ride for an hour as the bus driver avoided the main highway and caused us to miss the train back to Shanghai by 5 minutes, as well as miss KFC being open for dinner by 5 minutes, and eventually arrive back in Shanghai late in the evening.
It was a fabulous tour, and well done to the Nanjing boys for putting on such a great event! We’ll be back stronger and hungrier (for cake) next year! The Kooka Bashers report from Pope should make interesting reading if he can remember anything.