Woodbridge Oval, Albir, Saturday 4 October 2014.
Toss: Sporting Alfas.
Format: 40 overs per side; 8 per bowler; batsmen retire at 50.
By Garreth Duncan
Sporting Alfas are an institution in the town of Albir, 5 kilometres from Benidorm and home to a mixture of locals and British and Scandinavian ex-pats. They are a very professional outfit, playing over 100 games a year from February to November, a mixture of league fixtures and friendlies against a wide variety of touring sides. Their ground has come a long way since I last visited 15 years ago – while its primary function is still a golf driving range, the wicket is much improved and the outfield noticeably flatter, and they have added nets and an impressive clubhouse decorated with memorabilia from the many clubs that have visited them. Facing their 1st XI on the Saturday of the tour, we knew we were in for a tough contest.
Sporting Alfas’ captain Ben Fletcher won the toss and decided to bat first, though Maxie’s apparent determination to field first regardless of the toss or conditions caused some consternation to one of the tour party. Opener Joel Brook began with a flurry of boundaries, but George Metcalfe looked less certain as Nick Chadwick and Gren Thompson began to find their rhythm. Both had no luck in their opening spell as both Sporting Alfas openers were given a life, a tough chance at slip and a much easier opportunity at mid-off both going down.
After 10 overs the score was 75-0 and looking ominous for the Allstars, before an inspired piece of fielding from Vivek Seth off his own bowling gave us the breakthrough. Brook unleashed another powerful straight drive back down the wicket, only for Vivek’s fingertip to touch it onto the stumps with Metcalfe out of his ground at the non-striker’s end. Brook retired shortly afterwards having reached his 50, but new batsmen Christian Muñoz and Adam Alger continued confidently. Martyn Langridge put a brake on the scoring with consecutive maidens, but it was Neale Adams, also playing his first Allstars tour game, who broke the stand.
Maxie had minutes earlier moved Martyn to cover on the grounds “he was a better fielder”, and had placed himself at extra cover – precisely in the direction Alger’s shot flew. There followed an agonising few seconds as Maxie looked around waiting for someone else to call for the catch before he gloriously held on. This was the signal for Gren’s recall, and the third greatest living Yorkshireman (Geoff Boycott being the first, though Alan Bennett’s status as the second was hotly disputed over the weekend) charged up the slope, knocking Muñoz’s stumps over before bowling Jamie Roper off a bottom edge. Andy Dell (husband of our brilliant tour guide Katie) fared no better as Gren produced a perfect yorker to shatter his stumps. Gren’s second spell had yielded 3 for 7 off 4 overs, and the Allstars were right back in the game.
Neale soon struck again, finding Muhammad Shahzad’s glove for Chris Gould to take a juggling catch behind the stumps, and Sporting Alfas were 180 for 7. But their skipper Fletcher is a class act with the bat, and with Jack Perman also in good touch they repaired the damage and increased the rate towards the end. We had performed superbly in the field to restrict such a good side to 250 off 40 overs, but missing so many of our leading batsmen it was always likely to be a different matter when it was our turn to bat.
19 year old Roper looked sharp and was getting plenty of bounce out of the pitch, but Allstars openers Neale and Martyn bravely kept his first two overs out. Neale crunched a boundary off Kevin Laundon to set us on our way, but Martyn could do little about Roper’s scorcher that crashed into his stumps. Adam Alger, kindly agreeing to reinforce our batting, fared little better as he was taken at slip in the same over. Neale and Gren continued to battle hard against some of the quickest bowling we’ve faced in some time, but Roper ended Gren’s resistance in his final over as he was also taken at slip.
Brook struck in his first over as he bowled Chadders, but the Alfas opener’s day was to get even better. First, Neale, looking to attack after 14 overs’ stubborn resistance, was caught and bowled off a leading edge. The batsmen had crossed, and next ball Rob Jackson went for a big drive and was bowled. With the next ball, Chris Gould, batting with a finger injury he sustained while keeping wicket, was taken at slip. Brook had taken the first hat trick against the Allstars in our 14 year history – and his reward was to be removed from the attack. Richard Stephenson departed immediately after the drinks break, bowled by Metcalfe, and we were 34 for 8 and in danger of eclipsing our record lowest total.
A cheer went up as a wide took us past the critical 40 mark, but I didn’t last much longer as Andy Dell hit my leg stump. Our second local ringer, Damian Taylor-Lock, finally gave us something to cheer about as he went for his shots, Vivek Seth keeping him company in the highest partnership of the innings. But it couldn’t last, and Jack Perman ended the innings by bowling Vivek.
Against such overwhelming odds, we could still hold our heads high. We were eagerly awaiting our chance for revenge against Sporting Alfas’ 2nd XI on the Sunday, only for a spectacular thunderstorm to end the game with them 22-0 off seven overs. By the time the storm finished 90 minutes later, the playing surface was only fit for the ground’s large (non-cricketing) duck population. Still, 1 draw and 1 loss on tour is only bettered by our triumph in France.
Man of the Match: Gren Thompson. An inspired second spell from the White Rose.
Champagne Moment (as voted in our end of tour dinner): It could only be Maxie’s catch.
J Brook retired out 50
G Metcalfe run out (Seth) 15
C Muñoz b Thompson 42
A Alger c Haddow-Allen b Adams 35
J Roper b Thompson 0
A Dell b Thompson 5
M Shahzad c Gould b Adams 5
J Perman not out 24
B Fletcher not out 29
Extras (b28 lb4 w13) 45
Total (7 wkts, 40 overs) 250
Fall: not recorded
Bowling: Chadwick 8-0-39-0, Thompson 8-0-20-3, Langridge 8-3-34-0, Seth 7-0-59-0, Adams 7-0-46-2, Duncan 2-0-23-0.
St Anne’s Allstars
NB Adams c & b Brook 13
M Langridge b Roper 1
A Alger c slip b Roper 4
G Thompson c slip b Roper 4
N Chadwick b Brook 4
RP Jackson b Brook 6
RJ Stephenson b Metcalfe 0
+CR Gould c slip b Brook 0
GA Duncan b Dell 0
D Taylor-Lock not out 29
V Seth b Perman 2
Extras (w5) 5
Total (21.4 overs) 68
Did not bat: J Abrahams, *MJC Haddow-Allen.
Fall: 1-5 (2), 2-9 (3), 3-20 (4), 4-24 (5), 5-34 (1), 6-34 (6), 7-34 (8), 8-34 (7), 9-40 (9), 10-68 (11).
Bowling: Roper 5-2-13-3, Laundon 5-2-7-0, Brook 3-2-4-4, Metcalfe 3-0-14-1, Dell 3-0-15-1, Perman 2.4-1-15-1.
Result: Sporting Alfas won by 182 runs.