Antibes Allstars no match for Viviera

Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, France, Saturday 8 October 2022.

Riviera CC 250-9 (35 overs: Roomi 66, Ben 50, Paul Burgin 2-17, Nick Chadwick 2-34, Joe Silmon 2-48) beat St Anne’s Allstars 151 all out (32.2 overs: Sheahan Arnott 33*, Gren Thompson 29, Vivek Seth 3-23) by 99 runs.

Report by Sheahan Arnott – Photos by Pete Cresswell

From Marie Antoinette’s iconic suggestion for a good tea to winning silver at the 1900 Olympics to Philippe Edmonds’ wife’s tour diaries, our cross-Channel neighbours’ affection for willow and leather is matched only by Warwick Davis night at the local BDSM dungeon.

No doubt our first foreign fixture played at more than 500m above sea level during the reign of a king would have been an auspicious occasion anyway, but there was additional auspiciousness given it was all of those and a tour match 2 years in the making. Two smartly-branded Allstars minibuses took us both by surprise and to our game, navigating the winding, wending roads of Route Napoleon with only a couple of post-stall hill starts required. 

We crossed the 700m altitude marker – making this the highest game in club history until we tour Amsterdam – and then, after our drivers got lost right at the end, navigated a perilous 5-minute walk along rocky alpine trails before arriving at our destination: a paddock with more shit in the outfield than Manchester United’s starting XI. Undeterred and over turd, we were ready to bring our brand of cricket to Riviera CC.

I correctly called “Brandenburg Gate” as we tossed the Euro and elected to field, hoping to give our fast bowling battery the best use of the then-dry conditions and to enjoy two helpings of what I was sure would be a good afternoon tea. 

Riviera’s captain Kaleem Sheikh generously suggested we play a 12-a-side game to ensure everyone got some cricket, and Vivek Seth – having heard what Riviera had done to his other club the Zambuca Tigers the previous weekend – volunteered to join our opposition almost immediately in true French fashion.

It was fantastic to see Allstars old and less old join together on the field, as Paul Bowman – playing his first game for the club in almost two seasons – bustled into the crease to open the bowling. It was fantastic to have KP back with the new cherry, a moment that wouldn’t have been possible without the grace and generosity of the captain. That’s not for me to say though.

It was Gren Thompson who struck first, removing Riviera skipper Kaleem without scoring. It was an odd choice to shoulder arms to a yorker on middle stump, but you can write your own joke about the French easily surrendering here. The broad-shouldered Ben D came to the wicket and runs began to flow quickly as his power paired with Ninad’s grace like a Provence rosé paired with a smooth, rich cheese.

Joe Silmon, also making a welcome return to us for the first time since Portugal, started his spell like a German band, luring Ninad down the wicket, only to be left groping air as Sam MacDonald completed the stumping. It was a great piece of bowling and a huge wicket, and shrewd captaincy to throw the ball to The Silverback in the 9th over of the game, though that’s not for me to say.

Nick Chadwick started slowly – maybe due to his long time without any cricket, maybe due to needing to collect Pablo from the airport at 11pm the night before – but soon found his range. It was Joe, however, who got the next breakthrough, bowling Phanee for 28 almost immediately after the day’s first rain delay. For most of his spell, Joe looked likely to take a wicket 4 or 5 times an over, with his spin even wrong-footing Gren fielding on the boundary twice in one over. Picture a baby giraffe on rollerskates.

Paul Burgin then got his first wicket of the day, cleaning bowling the dangerous Ben shortly after he reached a quickly-compiled 50. Pablito had cunningly lured him into a false stroke by barely hitting the pitch for the first few balls, before using post-rain slipperiness to slide one onto the batsman. This brought the dangerous Roomi to the crease, and he and Tony Bloom added 33 to the score in only 4 overs before Tony edged Pablo through to Sam MacDonald behind the stumps. At 140/5 with 13 overs remaining, I was confident we could restrict Riviera to a manageable total.

Roomi began to hit out before retiring at 66, and was ably supported by Nik, Nazir and Waqas who were more interested in hitting the boundary than running between the wickets. Chadders returned to the crease and posed a Top 5 risk to the batsmen as he claimed both Nik (to a sharp catch at gully by Pete Cresswell) and Nazir (Sam Mac’s second stumping of the day) to finish with 2/34 from his 6 overs, an excellent return to Allstars colours after a long drive from Switzerland.

Viv eventually came to the wicket for the two final deliveries of the day, and missed both by the length of the drive to the game despite his best efforts. Sam MacDonald completed his 4th dismissal of the innings running out Waqas on a last-ball scrambled bye to leave Riviera at 250-9 from their 35 overs. I don’t feel as though the score was a fair reflection of how close the two teams were, or how well we bowled but late innings hitting can get away from you very easily – especially with slippery conditions making it hard for bowlers to find their footing and grip the ball.

Tea was an excellent spread of homemade Indian food, with our hosts forcing second and third portions on most of us as we scrambled to share what little protection from the heavy rain was available.  A trip to the adjacent supermarket proved less fruitful than Jono’s earlier mission to the same location to collect beers for after the game, and a goon bag of rosé to keep our American supporter base vocal, but it provided brief respite from the damp conditions. 

Thankfully, we didn’t lose any time due to the rain and the Duck-a-l’orangeworth-Louis was not required as Pete Cresswell and Rob Jackson headed out to open the innings. Rob didn’t trouble the scorers, but Jono Beagle showed his trademark classes he raced to 18 before nicking Phanee behind. Garreth Duncan and KP both scored a solitary run each, though KP could count himself unlucky after hitting a thundering cut straight to point first ball, before getting bowled by a short ball that rolled off his thigh pad onto the stumps, but it left us at a perilous 29-4.

Pete survived being given out LBW off the middle of his bat thanks to Riviera sportingly withdrawing their appeal. We never did find out what Pete had done to Gren to get triggered in such a way. Pete also survived a rather distracting moment of engineering boneheadery from the sideline as Neale Adams attempted to provide shelter for the scorers by stacking one table on top of another, which led to the table falling on Chadders’ head. 

Sam Perera and Pete added 25 for the 4th wicket before a classic oui/non/pardon mon ami mix-up led to Pete being run-out. These sorts of humorous language mix-ups can happen easily in foreign countries, though not normally between two people who speak the same language.

Sam MacDonald fell to the excitable Kaleem for a canard, and winning from 54-6 was certainly going to be ‘ken ‘ard. It was soon 54-7 when Sam P was bowled by Ninad for 16, and Riviera finally gave the increasingly well-lubricated-by-rain-and-booze crowd what they’d been waiting for – Viv at the bowling crease. Sam’s dismissal came as such a shock that Chadders could hardly believe we were 7 down and he needed to bat. Thankfully, The Silverback was prepared and claimed the batsmansraum left by the half-padded Chadders.

No sooner had we on the sidelines been discussing the shame attached to getting out to Viv, did Pablo do just that leaving a confused and Chadders finally got his chance to bat. But there was to be no fairy tale or bragging rights at the Burgin/Chadwick Christmas as Nick became Viv’s second wicket to leave the Allstars 68-9. 

My first order of business when walking out to the wicket was to get agreement from my opposite number that we could bat 12 to give everyone a go. Again, Kaleem graciously allowed it – if only because we were 9 down and still needed 190-odd runs in 14 overs. 

Joe continued his good game and raced to a well-made 18 before playing over a yorker from Viv to round out our 10 “official” wickets for 85. But like any bad Marvel movie, the post-credit scene is what everyone was waiting for.

Gren Thompson wasted no time showing those dismissed how easy the game is hitting Viv to the boundary twice in his first 3 balls. Gren and I made the most of our opportunity, racing to a 66-run partnership off only 42 balls including a towering 6 over the legside from our towering fast bowler.

Kaleem had clearly had enough and brought back his opening bowler Roomi who rearranged Gren’s stumps for 29 in the 33rd over and ended our record 11th-wicket stand, and our innings at 151.

Viv was awarded Man of the Match for his outstanding performance dismissing our numbers 8, 9 and 10 and scoring 0 runs, but no doubt cricket was the real Man of the Match with plenty of beers and laughs shared between the teams before the long drive back to Antibes, a rather messy and toast-heavy team dinner, and a few nightcaps at The Drinkers Club.

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