In 2005, the Allstars took touring to a new level, as our first overseas tour took us to the holiday island of Menorca. It was to be one of our liveliest as we enjoyed a fabulous five days in the sunshine, cricket with some generous hosts and some, er, interesting nightlife. Club founder Maxie Allen tells the story …
The fourth Allstars tour, and for the first time, a foreign destination. The inspiration came from Garreth, who had seen an article in a newspaper travel section about Menorca CC in the Balearics, who host touring sides each weekend. I got in touch with the club, and the deal was on. It proved to be one of the easier trips to organise, and the combination of convenient dates and an attractive venue prompted a record-breaking tour party of no fewer than seventeen. As we looked ahead to the trip, we were all excited by the prospect – and we were not to be disappointed.
Most of us made an uneventful journey to the airport by train, apart from Garreth, that most natural of motorists, who decided to enliven proceedings by having his car break down on the way to Gatwick. You will notice that we are all wearing our Allstars tour t-shirts. These did not arrive from the screen-printers quite as envisaged. My idea was to stylishly combine the club colours by having a discreet red pinstripe run down the right side of the black shirt, in a way similar to the England 2002 football World Cup strip. This was rather lost in translation, and what we actually got was a fat scarlet oblong, which started somewhere around the nipple and ended above the waist. The effect produced was to make it seem as if we were all wearing our squad numbers, but each of us was number 1.
After we eventually landed in Menorca, we were very excited to discover that the minibus we’d booked turned out to an entire proper coach, enabling us to pretend during the drive to the hotel that we were some kind of real professional touring squad, or on our way to play in an FA Cup final. There then followed a startling scene at the hotel, when we walked into the lobby to be greeted by the sight of two hundred old ladies. It transpired that the hotel catered almost exclusively for people on Saga holidays. We were the youngest guests there by a margin of about forty years. It was as if we’d wandered on to the set of Cocoon.
Once checked in, we headed into the Menorcan capital Mahon in search of nightlife, only to find that almost everywhere was closed. We at length happened upon an interesting venue, in which we proceeded to enjoy one of the most celebrated nights in Allstars history. The in-house entertainment revolved around the simple axiom of taking it in turns to stand on a table and sing along loudly to rock songs. As you would expect, Jason Nixon was very much in his element, but it fell to Devers to steal the show. Atop his table, he led the way in a deeply moving rendition of the Smokie classic Living Next Door To Alice.
We spent an uncharacteristically civilised morning by the hotel pool, and after a spot of lunch headed down to the Saturday match. As 17 was far too many to fit into any one team, some of the tour party headed into town to watch the FA Cup Final – a snoozefest decided by penalties. More of those later.
The set-up at Menorca CC was very impressive. The club was formed in 1985, mainly from English ex-pats, and in 1992 opened their present ground in Biniparrell. In the process they have carved a lovely cricket venue out of what was originally a rocky field, and built a splendidly appointed pavilion and bar to boot. Much hard work and fund-raising has been put in over the years to maintain the facilities, which included a high-quality artificial wicket.
As ever on a gloriously warm sunny day, I lost the toss and we fielded. For most of Menorca’s innings, we bowled pretty well, especially Chadders, and took our chances in the field. At one point we had them 99 for 6, only to find, as if often the case, that the oppo had hidden their best batsman down the order. His name was Jeff Barker, Menorca’s captain, whose quickfire 46 from number eight helped the home side to a robust 40 over total of 215-9.
Sadly, our batting was a disaster. An early order collapse in the face of good bowling hastened us to an irrecoverable 17-4, and featured our trump card Chris Hipwell leaving a ball which took out his middle stump. Only Dave Halladay, with 43, made much of an impression, and after 40 overs we were 119-8 and had lost by 96 runs.
There was a nice little ceremony after the match, in which the Menorcans gave us a souvenir picture to take home.
Saturday’s team: (back row) Tristan Haddow-Allen, James Devlin, Mike Bovill, Adam Clements, Jason Nixon, Chris Gould, Dave Halladay; (front row) Nick Chadwick, Chris Hipwell, James Terrett, Maxie Haddow-Allen.
After drinks with the opposition, it was off to El Toro for the gala dinner. The meal closed in the traditional manner: the restaurant keyboardist struck up a sprightly version of Dire Straits’ Walk of Life, and we got up and danced hand-to-hand with the other diners.
On arriving at the ground for Sunday’s match, James Terrett, our captain for the day, had to choose a couple of players to leave out of the XI. Easy choice – I ended up playing for the oppo instead. The combination of a stronger home side batting line-up, and our bowlers’ collective hangovers, made for a tough session in the field for the Allstars. David Sheffield’s 58 and Morris’s 59 saw Menorca to a 40-over total of 224-5.
Menorca’s bowling was also stronger for this match, and their pacemen secured an early clutch of LBWs to effectively end the match as a contest within twenty overs. But pride was restored by a characteristically rumbunctious innings from Chris Hipwell – 64 from just forty balls, including ten fours and two sixes. The game was brought to a close by an entertaining little coda: with the Allstars nine wickets down, Menorca captain Russell Day brought me on to bowl, and with my seventh ball I had James Abrahams caught behind.
On Monday, we had a day to kill before boarding our evening flight home, and passed the morning around the pool and seafront. And then we went for lunch … after which we made our way to the S’Algar resort’s leisure complex, for a spot of pool.
The afternoon football match was a hearty affair, chiefly memorable for Garreth’s eye-catching goalkeeping. While awaiting our turn on the pitch, we’d watched some local youths play with great skill and not once allow the ball to ricochet over the perimeter fence into the trees beyond. When we played, we lost the ball four times in the first ten minutes. After one such occasion, when we’d finally retrieved the ball at great and painstaking length from the dense thicket, play restarted. There was an attacking move on Garreth’s goal, and the ball was punted towards him at some height. Garreth pinned his arms to his sides, and shot up like a jack-in-the-box – heading the ball some forty yards directly up in the air and then over the fence. It was a header of such genuine perfection, so truly and sweetly did his head connect with the ball, that it would have absolutely impossible to have done on purpose. But it was hard not to be puzzled by why he’d done it. “I thought I was out of my area”, he explained.
Deadlocked at 3-3, (like another game that month which we won’t mention…) the match went to penalties, with Roger’s strike sealing a win for his side.
We finished with a stirring tour awards ceremony at the hotel. And thus ended our first overseas tour. We’d got a taste for them now, and many more enjoyable overseas tours were to come.