Harty hitting in vain

Kerkyras (Corfu Town), Saturday 24 September 2011.
GE Kerkyras (222-3, 35 overs; Vasillas 65*, Bodos 65), beat St Anne’s Allstars (194 all out, 32 overs; Harty 110) by 28 runs.
By Garreth Duncan

A year on from our breakthrough overseas win in France, could the Allstars continue the tour winning streak in Greece?  In the end it just proved out of reach, but we all owed a huge sovereign debt to Steve Harty, our guest Aussie from the Village, who almost bailed us out with a breathtaking hundred.
GE are one of eight cricket clubs in Corfu, the game having been introduced by the British in the 1830s.  Their ground is surely one of the most iconic we’ve ever played in: right by the Esplanade in the town centre, in the shadow of the fort.  It’s almost certainly the first time the Allstars have played a cricket match in at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temperature in Corfu exceeds 30°C well into September, and on a baking hot day, losing the toss and being asked to field first didn’t make me the most popular member of the touring party.  Paul Bowman began with a lively spell from the fort end, finding some awkward, uneven bounce.  But a recently flooded storm drain made the artificial wicket slippery at the other end, all the bowlers at that end finding it difficult to keep their footing.  Paul “Crazy Horse” Nicol initially battled to find his rhythm, but then grabbed the first wicket, pinning Mokas lbw.
Unlike most of the opponents we’re played on previous overseas tours, GE’s team consisted mainly of local Greek players rather than British ex-pats.  They proved a strong batting unit, Bodos and Vasillas seeing off KP and a useful spell from Tony Grant, before beginning to unleash their shots against the change bowlers.  We gave them both a couple of lives as a number of catches went down in the outfield, and even the usually reliable keeping gloves of James “Tarka” Hindle shelled a skier.  The partnership was worth 135 before Nick Chadwick, who had missed the beginning of the game as he slept off his hangover, finally got the breakthrough, Crazy Horse showing us how it’s done by catching Bodos at cover.  But with plenty wickets in hand, GE put the pedal to the floor as 89 runs came off the last 8 overs.  KP took a deserved wicket in the last over, Steve taking an excellent catch at long-off.  Even then, we still fancied our chances of chasing 223.
Rob Jackson, who had already picked up his customary tour injury (a smack in the mouth during fielding practice) began positively, taking his customary aerial route before being shot down by a lethal yorker from Muhammad Agha.  But this brought the moment we’d all been waiting for as Steve strode to the wicket – could he live up to the pre-match hype that even Simon Cowell would struggle to match?  We got the answer almost straight away as he launched into the GE attack with three massive sixes over square leg.  Tarka kept him company in a partnership of 85 before he was run out in a daft mix up.  
James Abrahams looked solid before he picked out backward point, and KP was bowled almost immediately afterwards.  But seemingly nothing could stop Steve at the other end, as he continued to pepper the cafes on the Esplanade leg-side boundary, as well as thumping square cuts through the car park on the way to his second successive Allstars hundred.  You could say he owed us it after hitting us all over Chiswick the previous Saturday.  With Paul Nicol providing sensible support, while Steve was at the wicket, another tour victory was tantalisingly within our grasp.
Sadly for us, GE had other ideas. The returning Agha produced another perfect, inswinging yorker to blast out Paul’s stumps, before Steve, much to the relief of the café owners and Corfu Town Health & Safety, finally played his favourite shot once too often and was caught on the square leg boundary.  Still the Allstars refused to give in as TG, Chadders and Richard “Rocket” Stephenson all continued to carry the fight, Rocket playing the shot of his Allstars career, a sublime pull shot to the boundary.  But the tail had been left with just too much to do, and the GE bowlers finished the job.
Man of the Match: Steve Harty.  A monumental innings that did not deserve defeat.  Can you play for us every week?
Champagne Moment:  Rocket’s cracking pull shot – showing the master how it’s done.

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