Tour Diary: Day 1 (Sunday 28th May)
As 17 men aged 18-65 assembled at Thickthorn services dressed in orange boiler suits members of the general public could be forgiven for thinking that it was some sort of B & Q works outing. In fact it was the start of GMCC’s 2017 Tour with Melton’s ‘young offenders’ and a few old lags on temporary release for three days around Baldock, Watford & Borehamwood. After on-coach entertainment – songs courtesy of the 9 tour virgins – we had to persuade Matt Clarke to remove his Hannibal Lecter mask – which clearly disturbed the manager of the Little Chef – before we had any chance of a full English en-route (Leroy had already removed his as it seemed a little small for his face!). By then Aslam was on his third whisky (with ice), there was some bravado about the beer drinking and Matt was still in full flow with the list of rules, procedures and punishments. Having picked up Chefy at Redwings (Hotel not Horse Sanctuary) and, after Graham, our coach driver, had given us a taste of things to come by demonstrating his reversing skills, we arrived at Woodside, the home of Watford Town Cricket Club for our first game.
Our opponents looked slightly concerned as our opening pair, Hayward brothers, Wayward and Dobbie, walked to the crease – but not as concerned as us! We expected early wickets and were duly rewarded but only after a sumptuous cover drive from Daniel (8) and a couple of boundaries from Ryan (11) who, it has to be said, ‘peaked’ the moment the second four crossed the line – it was downhill all the way after that! Tim Hales with a solid (but boring) 34 gave the innings some backbone and Chefy smashed his way to 51 as only he can. There were brief flourishes from Aslam (15) and Nick Mackenzie (14) as we were dismissed for 175 with Connor White and Steve Clarke suffering the ignominy of the black-hooded boundary walk for failing to trouble the scorers – Connor receiving a surprise soaking as he returned to the pavilion, which woke him up…briefly! Usman Ahmad (8-1-30-4) was the bowler who profited most from our middle order frailties but 175 looked a challenging score.
So it proved despite a 3rd wicket partnership of 68 between Jodat Shah (38) and Syed Ali (33). There was a late 52 from 9th batsman Ahsan who dealt mainly in boundaries…most of them of ‘Fivehead’ Hales, but with wickets shared around between White (1-11), Henderson (1-21), Mackenzie (1-23), Cook (1-28), Wayward (1-10), Dobbie (2-22) and Aslam (1-1-2-0) Watford were dismissed for 156. Aslam, was taken off after one over, for fear the game might end even earlier and the cricket was punctuated at intervals with the sound of the prison klaxon indicating everyone had to seek higher ground resulting into a mad-cap dash for any vertical object and resulting in the champagne moment of the tour as the normally surefooted Steve Clarke fell off a wall in full view of everybody. As he landed in an ungainly heap a small child remarked, “what’s that man doing?” No-one knew! This – and his duck – undoubtedly helped Steve be judged the ‘pants performer’… with Sam Mann who scored 5, fell over a lot and fielded like a man with no hands (as did Chefy but then he has an excuse!)
A tour victory – by 19 runs – was celebrated with more beer and burgers provided by the hosts then the prison bus safely dispatched us in the lush surrounding of Redwings where we organised our cells and made ourselves ready to hit the town. Taxis were obtained, eventually, thanks to Widgett who persuaded a friend of the hotel receptionist to take on the role of taxi driver and whilst the “lifers”, Aslam and Bickel, who “had a headache” not undeservedly as he’d already given everyone else one, were happy with a few pints in Baldock, the youngsters headed for Stevenage…and the carnage began!
Tour Diary: Day 2 (Monday 29th May)
Although just about everyone made the 9.00 a.m. meeting time in body not all of the tour party seemed with us on the journey to Wetherspoons in Hitchin for breakfast. We could only sit in wonder as another superb spell of coach reversing by Graham eventually got us into the town centre – well almost! Ryan, having spent most of the night hugging the toilet, also liked the look of the one in Wetherspoons while Sam picked at his salady roll and Connor slept at the table as Hendo laced his hair with mint sauce. On arriving at the Croxdale Road, Borehamwood home of Old Haberdashers another small spell of backward driving seemed to tip Sam over the edge and induced some pavement waterfalls! Ryan failed a fitness test and there was talk of funeral arrangements which Dobbie described as “an inconvenience” before a revitalised Manny was drafted into the batting line-up (albeit at number 11!)
With Joe Bickel dismissed early doors for 5, Widgett (35) and Matt Clarke (20) seized the early initiative for Melton but it was Joey Greenslade’s 56 assisted by some lusty blows from Woody Loines (16), Nick Mack (21) and Chefy (15) that helped us to 207 all out with Mick Shah’s 3-39 the best bowling figures for the home side. The sight of Daniel Hayward & Sam Mann opening the bowling undoubtedly troubled Haberdashers and, when Dobbie, eventually got the ball to only bounce once, he removed Iranga Rupasinghe for 7. At least Dobbie did get it to bounce – Widget’s 2 over spell hardly disturbed the grass at all and Jacobs (54) and Pavan Surepeddi made hay with a 3rd wicket stand of 52. Aslam (8-1-23-1) and Chefy (6-0-23-1) bowled controlled spells, however, to keep us in the game and, at 179-7, the result was very much in the balance. In fact, if Matt had not worn his Teflon gloves, we might even have been in the driving seat! In the end K.Manzoor with an unbeaten 41 took Haberdashers to within a few runs of victory and, despite good spells by Travis & Woody, Jenkins finished the game with consecutive boundaries with just an over to spare. The suitably handcuffed Hales/Hayward combination were pants performers although many felt it should have gone to the elder Hayward who, apart from a brief mid-afternoon mini-revival, was conspicuous by his absence, all day – and all evening – failing even in his duty to unload ALL the bags ESPECIALLY THE CHAIRMAN’S!
After being very well-looked after by our hosts at their local pub where the Chairman very unfairly got ‘pegged’ whilst simply performing chairmanly duties and socialising with the opposition, we enjoyed a low-key evening in a nearly-deserted Weatherspoons in Stevenage drinking out of plastic glasses, playing Aslam’s version of heads and tails watching Manny fall down some steps.
Tour Diary: Day 3 (Tuesday 30th May)
Another town (Royston), more reversing, another Weatherspoons and time to celebrate ‘Ryan’s return’ from the dead then it was off to Trumpington for the traditional ‘old gits’ (over 30s) V young guns’ (under 30s) football. With the groundsman sporting the judges wig, the usual no-holds-barred contest ensued, ebbing and flowing. A series of disgraceful fouls by the young guns saw more than a few cast-iron penalties awarded by the razor-sharp referee – and all converted! As full time approached a back-header by Sam Mann – wearing his full sumo wrestlers outfit – and a snap shot by Hendo seemed to have put the young guns on the cusp of a first victory but a well-taken own goal by Ryan and a last minute penalty following a blatant foul by Nick Mack meant the game ended 6-6 and went to yet more penalties. With German efficiency the old gits converted all their pens while Aslam made two fine saves to deny the young guns. It left Tim to convert the final penalty which the increasingly over-officious ref insisted needed to be retaken because the ‘keeper (Sumo Sam) had moved! Eventually Fivehead tucked it away to spark ecstatic celebrations as the gits maintained their unbeaten records against the odds. There were some glum faces in the young guns’ team and complaints of dodgy refereeing but another trip to the pub soon restored harmony.
All-in-all the tour was a great success with two good games of cricket and some hilarious moments. A very big thank-you to Matt and Nick for their excellent organisation. The Tourist of the Year award went to Sam Mann who was good value throughout and laughed uncontrollably every time “bum gravy” or Twixes were mentioned!
Plans are already formulating for next year so keep those standing orders in place and encourage a few others to join us. I’ve just about recovered!
The (one armed) Chairman