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.

Allstars dig for victory over Gardeners

Greenwich Park, Sunday 25 September 2022.

St Anne’s Allstars 143-3 (22.5 overs: Sam Perera 41* ret, Rohan Vodapalli 38, Stuart Bruce 3-17) beat Salmagundi Gardeners 142 all out (32.4 overs: Stuart Bruce 30, Vidhu Singh 2-17, Gren Thompson 2-22, Vivek Radhakrishnan 2-31, Samer Hafiz 2-38) by 7 wickets.

Allstars Debuts: Vidhu Singh, Rohan Vodapalli, Conor Aspel.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell

Although it’s only our second season playing the Salmagundi Gardeners, we’ve made such good friends with them, and so many of our players have made guest appearances for each other’s teams, they’re already firmly well bedded down in our fixture list. In our inaugural fixture last year, we mowed them down for 75 to win easily. This year, on an equally difficult Greenwich Park pitch, they dug in for a much greater fight – but we ultimately coasted to victory once again, with more than 12 overs to spare, to finish our regular 2022 season in fine style.

With an ever-growing list of injuries, we only had 8 Allstars available, and we were grateful that the Gardeners had grown a surplus and lent us Rohan Vodapalli and Conor Aspel to become Allstars for the day. On a cool September afternoon, and a pitch as green as the opposition’s fingers, Allstars skipper Pete Cresswell had little hesitation in asking the Gardeners to bat first on winning the toss. Gren Thompson quickly settled into a superb line, so fine that our friend Stuart Bruce could only watch in frustration as he couldn’t lay a bat on many of them. But it was Sheahan Arnott who struck first, as he drew an edge from Dave Hollingsworth for our third debutant, Vidhu Singh, to take a stunning, and most un-Allstars-like, catch at slip. Mayank Kalbande looked dangerous as he crashed his first ball for a boundary, but Gren then justly got his reward as Kalbande edged to Sam Perera behind the stumps. After 10 overs Gardeners were 17-2 and stuck in a ditch.

Stuart and Tim Richards upped the ante, dispatching Samer Hafiz’s first over for 10 – but Samer quickly found his rhythm and bowled Richards as he attempted another big mow. Stuart continued to mix swishes with shots of real authority, and planted the roots of a good innings together with their skipper Richard Higginbottom. Gardeners had taken the score to 82 – but it was one of their own who dug Stuart out, as he shovelled a full toss from Conor into the leg side, and Vivek Radhakrishnan took a stupendous, running catch at mid-wicket. A moment of that old Allstars controversy threatened, as the square leg umpire initially thought it a no-ball for height – but the bowler’s end umpire was unmoved and Stuart was on his way for a well made 30.

Brother Graham was next in – and the Australians amongst us would have been disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to see Bruce batting with Bruce – but Vidhu’s fine debut continued as he bowled Graham with a ripper. Higginbottom still looked handy, but Vivek ended his resistance with a peach that moved in and hit the top of middle stump, before Vidhu grabbed a second as Bob Hillman was caught by Rohan at cover. Nick Duckett was aptly named indeed, as he put up little resistance as he missed a straight one from Samer, and Vivek quickly dispatched David Guy. Shubham Kasar provided some late fireworks, bravely supported by Jason Amesbury – but it was Gren who returned to deservedly finish the innings as Kasar skied to Vivek at cover.

After a splendid tea – including some delicious home-grown grapes, we faced a target of 143 – but even with a decent Allstars batting line-up, it looked far from straightforward on a pitch that still had a lot of variable bounce in it. But Rohan, delighting in batting against his own team mates, gave us a rocket of a start, blasting Kasar’s more than useful left-arm seam back over his head for two fours in the opening over. Pete was content to nudge singles and feed him the strike, and the fifty came up in the 8th over. Stuart Bruce was not going to die wondering, and he bowled both openers in his first over to leave us 59-2, but with plenty overs and batting in hand we were still in control.

Vidhu plays for the same Paddington Rabbits CC as Sam, but far from digging a warren, they both continued to attack in a stand of 49. Stuart got his third wicket of the afternoon as Vidhu charged at him and was stumped – but it was still a very polished all-round debut for Vidhu, and we hope to see more of him next season. Stuart still had more Allstars in his sights, but I kept him out as Sam made the final push for victory. He gracefully retired to give Conor a go, and it was the Irishman who struck the final boundary.

It’s great to have found such a friendly opposition as the Gardeners, and they will no doubt have their day against us. We both celebrated a great season in the Plume of Feathers pub, and we look forward to seeing them again in 2023 – but for us, a 3 year wait is nearly over as the Allstars head to France. Can we emulate the heroes of our last Gallic tour in 2010 with another overseas victory?

Allstars nick it on a Bucks weekend

Nags Head Meadow, Great Missenden, Bucks, Saturday 20 August 2022.

St Anne’s Allstars 179-7 (33.3 overs: Amit Deverathippa 50, Richard Slatford 48, Rory Hopkins 3-25) beat Corridor CC 177-9 (35 overs: Amiya Ranjan 3-19, Safwan Ahsan 2-29, Shanmugam Sama 2-37) by 3 wickets.

Report by Garreth Duncan – Photos by Pete Cresswell and Shanmugam Sama

Although Corridor are still a relatively new addition to the Allstars fixture list, they’re such a good fit with us that it seems like we’ve been playing them for much longer. In the corresponding fixture last year, we lit the fuse for our 2021 season as Sam Waddicor and Jagath Dasari blew them away with 4 wickets apiece. Corridor were to prove a much more formidable opponent this time – but an excellent all-round performance, in which everyone contributed, took us to a deserved victory once again, with just 9 balls to spare.

The pitch looked dry and dusty and the outfield parched, and Corridor skipper Duncan Mallard unsurprisingly opted to bat first on winning the toss. Sheahan Arnott and Graham Bruce opened the bowling for the Allstars, giving Corridor’s opening batsmen Zorba and Damo Sherlock little to hit as they both probed away on a tight line. Both were unlucky to go wicketless, a couple of early tough chances going down, but the openers survived.

But just like in last year’s demolition, if Corridor thought the hard work was done, they were to get a mighty shock as our change bowlers upped the pace. Amiya Ranjan has enjoyed a splendid first season in Allstars cricket, improving in both pace and accuracy with every game, and he charged in with a hostile spell, getting some awkward bounce out of a seemingly dead surface and troubling all the Corridor batsmen. He got the first breakthrough by blasting out Zorba’s stumps, before quickly doing the same to the dangerous Paddy Crowley. Shanmugam Sama – finally and deservedly receiving his 2020 Allstar of the Year award in person before the game – has also got back some of his 2020 rhythm, and he kept the pressure on at the other end as Corridor reached the drinks break at 77-2.

Full and straight was clearly the way to go, and Stuart Bruce – who had taken a hat-trick last time he faced Corridor – got the next wicket as he bowled Swiss. After an encouraging debut against Gradcasts last week, Safwan Ahsan – cheered on by his watching family – made a stunning start with his left-arm chinaman bowling, his first ball turning a mile and knocking back Sherlock’s stumps. The batsman looked as nonplussed as Mike Gatting when he faced the “Ball of the Century” from Shane Warne in 1993.

Safwan quickly followed up with another as he bowled KC, before Graham Bruce returned to finish a fine spell. Shanmu and Amiya then returned to finish the job with some really clinical death bowling, Amiya grabbing a third as he bowled their skipper Mallard, before Shanmu finally getting the rewards he deserved as he had Rory Hopkins plumb LBW and Shrige bowled. Ali Stafford was run out going for a crazy bye off the last ball, and on a pitch which we’d thought 210 or 220 would be a par score, we’d kept Corridor to 177-9 and could be well pleased with our efforts in the field.

After I’d cut the tea-time cake to celebrate my 100th Allstars appearance, skipper Pete Cresswell and Stuart Bruce opened up for us. Stuart began with an effortless boundary, but then fell early as he pulled KC to square leg. But this brought in Amit Deverathippa, bang in form, to unleash a breathtaking assault on the Corridor bowling. Amit hit seven fours and three monster sixes – one landing on the railway line at one end, and another clearing the sightscreen at the other end and denting visiting Allstar legend Jon Ryan’s car in the adjoining field.

In no time, Amit had raced to a fifty and Corridor were looking shell-shocked – their skipper Mallard putting seven on the boundary in desperation. They were mightily relieved when, as Amit looked to clear the boundary once more, he picked out the fielder at long-off – but his early fireworks had made critical inroads into the target and given us plenty overs to finish the job, taking the pressure off those who followed. But Corridor were not going to give up without a mighty fight, and with Amit gone, they forced their way back into the game. Sachin Singh, making a welcome return after an injury-hit season, was unlucky to be dismissed, as a ball from Swiss popped up on him and he got a leading edge to mid-wicket, and at the drinks break we were 79-3.

Sam Perera – whom we’d presented with his Allstars cap before the game – tried to regain the initiative as he hit 12 off Hopkins’ first over after the drinks break, but yorked himself as he went for another big shot. Having watched all the carnage from the other end, Pete began to find some rhythm with two boundaries over mid-wicket, only to be pinned LBW by his opposite number. Safwan hit a boundary before KC returned to bowl him, and 65-1 had become 117-6 and the game was in the balance once more.

In previous years of Allstars cricket, our tail would have started much higher and such setbacks would have been terminal – but our current generation bats deep and with much greater resilience. Richard Slatford opened up with two crunching boundaries, and Sheahan, in excellent batting form, joined him at the wicket. With the required rate still only a run a ball, there was no need to panic, and initially they calmly pushed ones and twos as the target ticked down.

Slats perfectly picked the time to press the accelerator as the 32nd over disappeared for 19 – with another massive six breaking a storage box on the boundary. Great Missenden’s insurers won’t be thanking us. He richly deserved a fifty, but Hopkins returned for one last go to have him caught behind just two short. But Sheahan wasn’t to be denied, as he crashed two fours to take us over the line.

This was a terrific team effort, and many – including all three of the Banbury boys – were in contention for the Man of the Match award. But out of several fine performances, Slats just shades it for his perfectly judged finishing innings and his outstanding work behind the stumps which easily saved us 20 or so runs.

We celebrated victory in the excellent Nag’s Head pub, with lots of chat about our end of season tour to France. Corridor were sporting in defeat, and we look forward to seeing them again next year – but next up, we’re back in the capital as we face Crossbats this Saturday.