Melton’s Bank Holiday tour saw an assorted legion of Roman emperors,  gladiators and foot soldiers travel further North than ever before to take on the might of Leeds Modernians and Bradfield Village Fellowship.  Two very nice grounds, two good games that brought a victory and a defeat, hospitable hosts, a comfortable hotel in the centre of Leeds and all the usual beer-swilling and and its attendant hilarity meant that a good time was had by all.  The verdict: ‘best tour ever’ was testament to the organisational skills of Matt Clarke & Nick Mackenzie and the camaraderie of the tour party.

Day 1

Tour virgin, James Robb, was the first in the ‘fines book’ for arriving late at Thickthorn but, fully costumed, the legion headed up the A47, A14 and A1 stopping for a decent ‘full English’ before reaching Cockridge, just North of Leeds, the home of Leeds Modernians.  Swapping toga’s and swords for cricket whites and bats, Chefy (aka Martin Cook) and Dobbie (Daniel Hayward) got us off to a solid start with 32 on the board before Chefy fell for 24 – all in boundaries.  Clarkey followed for 3 but James McCloy strode confidently to the wicket determined to make an impression on his first tour.  He duly delivered…the first ‘duck’ if the tour being even more special as it was a ‘first-baller’ and greeted by rapturous applause by his teammates anticipating the post-match “walk of shame”.  Things got worse when Dobbie (6) and the Chairman (7) were also sent packing leaving Melton in some trouble at 59-5.  Fortunately Tim Hales (49) and Sam Mann (47) rose to the challenge with a partnership of 81.  Joey Greenslade (12) and Jambo (10) added a few more runs but Melton’s innings closed on a slightly disappointing 183 all out, with 4.5 overs still remaining.

Joe Kent (31) and Matthew Marshall (23) saw off Melton’s opening bowlers Robb & Ryan Hayward with a fifty partnership and, with number 3 Richard Brearley scoring 25 and Feral Asghar a big-hitting 36 (retired) Modernians never really looked in trouble.  The Chairman took two wickets for 10 in his 3-over spell to provide a flicker of hope but 26 not out by Lucus Sefton meant that the hosts reached their target with 5 wickets and 3 overs to spare.

After the Chairman had survived a chemical attack in the communal bath, we were then introduced to the hosts’ bizarre drinking game involving a pint of tomato infused snake-bite and a Twix bar but our choice of contestants proved to be flawed as Ryan was still trying to complete the ‘first leg’ of the contest as our opponents third player was half-way down his pint!  Despite the best efforts of Manny and Connor White it was our second ignominious defeat of the day.  Ryan had much to answer for but it was the Chairman and Tim Hales – last in the ‘feet-off-the-ground” race – who accompanied Jimmy McCloy in being made to carry the cross around the ground.

After that we headed for the ‘Discovery Inn’ and then, having been joined by Widge,  out into Leeds – very lively indeed for a Sunday night.  Our first bar choice was a bad one – they called time and started clearing chairs and tables before we could down our first pint.  Perhaps they’d been pre-warned that Connor Stearman, according to him, was already on his 20th!  We moved on.  Jambo entertained us with his dancing despite only having a mere sniff of alcohol when Nick Mac accidentally spilt some of his cider in Jambo’s J2O; Sam felt a little the worse for wear and headed ‘home’ but couldn’t find his hotel room so returned, wandering around aimlessly outside the bar, claiming he’d got his “second wind”!  Ryan, surprisingly after last year, was going well but a few of the “old gits” whose blood pressure may have been affected by streets full of scantily clad females, headed for their beds at around 1.30 a.m. leaving the night to the youngsters.

Day 2

We feared the worst in the morning but, happily, all arrived for breakfast looking remarkably lively (ish) – apart from Connor White who was incommunicado!  It was the first sight we’d all had of Leeroy’s Roman costume – he’d gone for the full Roman warrior look complete with breastplate but spoilt a little by the fact he was still wearing his normal (for Widge) black shoes!  After breakfast at ‘The Black Prince’ we were joined by Connor who announced he’d only had an hour’s sleep before falling asleep on the coach (no surprise there) within a mile of leaving Leeds.  There ensued an entertaining  game of ‘Connoroo’ and more beer before arriving at the picturesque village of Low Bradfield, near Sheffield.

The cricket ground was in the most beautiful setting, surrounded by dry-stone walls, stone-built houses and with the hills of the Peak District all around.  Sam was introduced to a seven-foot giant but even he couldn’t have laid a bat on at least 2 deliveries of Connor White’s 9-ball opening over!  It set the tone for Melton’s sleepy young student who had one of those unfortunate afternoons when everything went wrong.  Ten misfields and a dropped catch made him a shoo-in for ‘pants performer’ before another candidate emerged, another Connor!  Connor Stearman unloaded a head-high delivery that hit Steve Clarke square on the forehead!  When we’d all stopped laughing, we rushed to care for our blood-stained colleague but, having diagnosed no brain damage, he was patched up and joined the Shore Party who were busy drinking beer, eating ice-creams and amusing themselves with ‘ludicrous sextus’ self-fining – except they later couldn’t remember what they’d fined themselves for!

Tim went behind the stumps for the rest of the innings but it was hard work for Melton in the field.  Jambo (7-0-29-0) and Chefy (7-0-28-1) were the pick of the bowlers as Bradfield batted aggressively in the sunshine to amass 235-6 in their 35 overs, William Thom scoring 51, Tim Pearce 55 (retired) and Ian Anderson 48.

It was a tall order for Melton’s batters but they rose to the occasion. Woody Loines scored 35 and Joey Greenslade raced to fifty before retiring as Melton got to 90 in double-quick time.  Leeroy (22), Chefy (30), The Vicar (22), Ryan (15) and even the downbeat Connor, who hit a 6 in his quick 12, maintained the momentum to set up a perfect finish.  Joey, came back to join Tim Hales (19 not out) for a last-wicket stand that took Melton to their 236 victory target with 8 balls to spare.

The ‘feet-of-the ground’ race was lost by Daniel Hayward who joined the two Connors for the boundary walk but, ironically, Connor Stearman’s blood-inducing delivery was later given credit as ‘Champagne Moment’ as it was decided that Steve Clarke’s injury was the match’s turning-point!  He was later fined for ‘Audrey (sic) Harrison’ (wearing gloves for no apparent reason!)…and his replacement, Tim Hales, proved to be the match-winner!

It wasn’t to be the last incident for young Stearman.  Now claiming to be on his 40th pint, he first received a cooling outdoor shower before eventually succumbing to the first tour chunder on the return to Leeds.  Having reached the hotel, he didn’t reappear till the next morning and nether did Manny who, on this occasion, had no second wind!  With most of the Leeds eateries almost all closed the rest of us went for a curry.

Day 3

With fines now off, Matt thought it would be ‘a hoot’ to tell only Jambo and Connor S that it was breakfast in full regalia.  They duly arrived fully costumed, much to our amusement.  With Nigel, the coach driver, duly briefed we booked out and headed for Sconce & Devon Park near Newark for the traditional ‘Old Gits’ V ‘Young Guns’ football match.  And the old gits, who seem to get younger with every tour, proved far too good again, despite the best efforts of the groundsman, the ref with the Klaxon, to even things up.  Goals from Matt Clarke (5), Lee Whiddett and Martin Cook gave the gits a convincing 7-4 victory with the ‘guns’ replying through Nick Mackenzie (2), Connor Stearman and Daniel Hayward.  It was the usual rough and tumble with a few left nursing injuries on the walk to ‘the Water’s Edge’ in Newark for lunch – and after a long wait it finally came!

Sam’s ‘Adventures in Wonderland’ continued with a him meeting a tiny Mann-size pony (which seemed to take a dislike to him).  It went with his troubles in the crystal maze of the hotel corridors, his ‘through the looking glass’ incident at the bar in town and his encounter with the giant at Bradfield.  The fantasy was completed by a chicken impression whilst he was umpiring and some bouts of  unaccountable chuckling which, for the second year in succession, made him ‘Tourist of the Year’

Thanks Matt and Nick for a great few days.  All aboard for next year?

The tour scoreboards are here:

http://greatmelton.play-cricket.com/website/results/3242004

http://greatmelton.play-cricket.com/website/results/3680129

And here are the pictures:

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