Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Hyde Heath Invicta Tour, Kent 2010

The Hyde Heath Invicta Tour – the 2010 incarnation of the club's annual foray away from leafy Buckinghamshire – lasted precisely one match. It then swiftly became the more aptly named Victa tour, during which, ironically, we won both matches, thus returning to the Invicta state in which we'd so presumptuously begun. Kind of.

Before we begin in earnest, a quick apology: I was drunk for most of the first match, exhausted for the second two, I tend not to pay attention to what's going on unless I'm personally involved and I have a terrible memory. So what follows is only hazy recollections at best (aided by Matt's tour notes). If I've got anything badly wrong or missed anything out then do please comment in the box at the bottom. Ta very much.

Anyway, enough wittering – to the cricket already!

Cobham vs HHCC
This year the first village to bear the brunt of the mighty Heath was not, as is customary in Kent, Meopham, but another village named, similarly, Cobham. But before the match, Tour Manager and Skipper Matt Sims rallied the troops with Gladiator-inspired speeches (“If you find yourself alone, sitting in a cool room with a cucumber sandwich in your hand, do not be troubled! For you are in the pavillion! And you're already out!”) and tour-themed gifts: Clark Kent-esque specs and super hero t-shirts, courtesy of tour sponsors Primani. Alas they couldn't help us play like superheroes. Yet.

No shows from Spencer's imaginary friends meant we were down to nine men and despite loans from the opposition, our fielding was poor. Swinging it at will, Jez and Brad bowled extremely well but I dropped around three catches, Capper one, Angus one, and our inspirational skipper one of the all-time howlers at mid-off. All this helped one of the oppo batsmen make it to 98 before he was sharply stumped by Capper off me. I've now forgotten what their total was but once we collapsed horribly the draw was our best bet. Batting at number 6, I was last man standing for 8 not out – the once mighty Heath had been bowled out for 88. Invicta no more.

The main controversy of the match surrounded, as so often, Atif, who after not being given a bowl decided to limp off the field with a “groin strain”. The fact that it seemed to recover in time for him to chase Brad round the park with a cricket bat suggested that it might – just might – have been feigned. It did, however, return the next day with a vengeance – more of which later.

The evening was then spent enjoyably making up for the loss by boozing our way round Maidstone. We kicked things off in the Wetherspoon's (yeah, it's all class with the Heath) before the party split in two – the oldies (oh god, that includes me) going to some late bar, and the young folk to what I hear is these days referred to a “night club”...

Harvel vs HHCC
Nobody wants to read about what went on at either location, so it's on to the second day of tour against the strong and highly competitive Harvel. After a solid opening stand between Matt Sims and Richard Austin, the latter really began to find his feet, eventually scoring an elegant and classical 80 – his highest score for HHCC. Studded with authoritative cover drives and signature pull strokes, it was a classy backbone to the innings. Jez kept up the momentum with a quick scoring half-century, before which I suffered the ignominy of a second ball duck by padding up to a fairly straight delivery and getting bowled. Nice.

So we eventually made 240 off our 50 overs and Harvel set about their chase in their customarily belligerent fashion. But a brilliant reflex catch at slip by Spence removed their talented ginger opener, and Brad again bowled well to peg back the top order. Their middle order began to flourish against a succession of rank full tosses from yours truly, until Nicko decided enough was enough. Bowling the best he's ever bowled for us – on a full length with a bit of pace and nip – he removed both set batsmen and the dangerous Wakeman (I think that's his name) who'd apparently scored a ton the day before. The ball he got their top scorer with – nipping back off the seam through the gate and into the stumps – was an absolute cracker.

The inspired Sims then turned immediately to Richard Austin who decisively beat their Australian overseas player with a bit of flight and guile (and a horrible mow) and it was all over bar the shouting. We'd beaten Harvel. Again! They're certainly the strongest team we play all year and to beat them – even if they do give us a few runs to make a game of it – is really rather satisfying, and shows the commitment to the cause that marks the Heath apart.

That evening we all went for a well-earned curry (something the Pett's Wood changing room would come to regret the next day) and there was much booze-related rejoicing, despite everyone's exhaustion. One notable omission from the evening's revels was Atif, whose groin strain/strop had flared up again to such an extent that he decided to bugger off home in his van. There's precedent for this (cf. the case of HHCC vs Nutman 2007) and Asif, in absentia, was fined the standard penalty of £1.3million.

Pett's Wood vs HHCC
The final match against Pett's Wood always sees Hyde Heath below par (it's probably all that team spirit) and again our fielding and bowling were lacklustre – although credit again to Brad for a long and accurate spell. Without his bowling this tour, we could have been in serious trouble. On a flat wicket though and with the outfield like lightning, wickets were hard to come by and Pett's Wood declared at tea on about 220.

After tea, Jez and I strode out to open the Hyde Heath riposte, knowing that a quick start was imperative. Luckily – because I have literally no shots – Jez kicked off in some style, slamming their bowlers back over the heads with impressive timing. When he was out cutting for a quickfire 34, he'd given us the impetus we needed. But when Shrimpie continued his run of poor form and I was splendidly caught behind down the leg-side for 30-odd, the innings faltered. Luckily Brad kept things together, scoring quickly but sensibly on his way to 60, ably supported by an increasingly confident Angus. When Brad fell though (I gave him out LBW!) it was still all in the balance – especially as we only had nine batsmen – but Richard Austin guided us home in style to cap an excellent tour for him. It was a tense, but ultimately well-paced run chase and a fitting end to another brilliant tour.

The one moment of controversy came when Matt laid out the HHCC flag with pride upon the table, only for Pett's Wood to later lay their tea upon it – the sacrilege! But we'll get over it. After yet another wonderful tour, Matt deserves a whole heap of praise. It must be a bit of a bloody nightmare sorting the whole thing out, but Matt always does it so well, and in addition, his on-field captaincy was genuinely first-rate. To Kent again next year? Or pastures new? Who knows...


  1. um, the Gladiator re-write is going to become a staple of my management from now on. that is quite simply astonishing. kudos to matt!

  2. No mention of "The Wood" loaning "The Heath" our star player! Or of our valiant efforts to drink the fixture back! A good close game - and for the second year running, neither captain scored a run.

    Sims Junior