Saturday, 5 July 2014

Bogota vs Cali

Long-standing readers of Cricket Tragics (is there any other kind?) will be aware that your erstwhile correspondent is away in South America for the vast majority of Hyde Heath's 2014 season. You will no doubt have missed his heroic exploits on the field, and no doubt the more, his impressive feats of recollection and reconstruction of it, on these very virtual pages.

Our replacements have done sterling work in our absence, and – the occasional barb directed this way notwithstanding – it has been a pleasure to keep abreast of goings-on at Fortress Heath and beyond through the perhaps less jaundiced, and certainly less self-concerned, eyes of Dom and JC.

Men. Cricketers. Heroes.

That said, we note in passing that the last match report on the Hyde Heath website is from 1st June, a whopping 24 days ago. We'd have received at least four or five increasingly direct emails from Mrs Capper by now if such negligence had occurred under our watch...

Anyway, onwards, to more preamble! As already touched upon, and as these same long-standing readers will also be aware, Cricket Tragics, tends to focus on the deeds of the narrator – despite our/my/its/their slightly confusing oscillation between first person singular and plural (and even worse, the third person – see above). So they/you should not be surprised to learn that little will be said about the historic fixture between Bogota and Cali that we were so privileged to have umpired earlier this month. (Besides, it was a boring, one-sided match, and WE ONLY BLOODY WENT AND WROTE ABOUT IT FOR CRICINFO.)

Instead, we'll tell you all about how we got on in the next day's Twenty20 match by means of bullet points and subheadings and things (such flair for the bureaucratic style is sadly missing from HHCC's match reports):

Our ride: sure, the driver was armed....
1. The Arrival
Our ride to the Bogota Sports Club, on the outskirts of Colombia's capital city, was befitting of such a valuable cricketing asset as yours truly: yes, an armour-plated Land Rover laid on by the Ministry of Defence, aka the British taxpayer (thanks Dad!). Fret ye not, however, Bogota is not that dangerous (any more); no, we hitched a list with the British defence attach̩ Рan affable Brummie fellow with an obsession with sporting celebrities and a tidy line in medium-paced outswing.

2. The Venue
You can read more about the club itself in the PIECE WE WROTE ON CRICINFO, but, in truth, it was a weird, soulless place: vast and brick and adorned with silly bits of English memorabilia (Wills and Kate above the mantelpiece: *gags*). Also, apart from the cricketers, it was populated solely by a few very rich fat men and their tennisy wives.

The pavvy: not a patch on the Heath's bucolic idyll. Probably nicer than The Plough though...

3. The Pitch
Matting on concrete. Chances of spin? Zero.

4. The Teams
Bogota vs Cali. Both nice folks by and large, except for the odd massively competitive Australian, but then that can happen to the best of us.

5. The Altitude
2,600 metres above sea level means running anything further than three yards is a nightmare. Even for a well-honed athlete such as ourselves.

6. The Batting
We (Bogota) won the toss and batted first and I came in at 4 (or 5) after a steady (or shaky) start. Wearing borrowed trainers and *gasp* tracksuit bottoms, with a broken thigh-pad and a box slipping down to my knee upon every minor movement, it's along time since I felt this amateurish with the bat in hand. (“Since last season you mean, mate?” “Yup, hilarious.”)

I somehow survived my first ball despite an entangulation of bat and pad, saw off their threatening Aussie quick, and began to really prosper through a combination of gritty blocks, mistimed straight drives, and the odd almighty nurdle. Then I got run out following a mix-up with my partner, despite being forewarned by the umpire that the batsman in question was “a headless chicken”. Oh well. The team made 111 for 7 off 20 overs, my contribution an attritional (some might say counter-productive) 10.

Your correspondent surveys the pitch: flat as a concrete pancake. Lovely Colombian-themed stumps though.

7. The Lunch
Huge plates of burgers and chips were admittedly pretty tasty, but of course lacked the charm and finesse of the Hyde Heath tea: cucumber sandwiches, pakoras, slices of melon, chicken tikka wraps, scones, cakes, scotch eggs... not to mention the bloody tea! No tea. Unbelievable. Fortunately there was plenty of cheap Colombian lager instead.

8. The Bowling
I have it on good authority (I definitely did not just make it up) that nobody has spun a single ball on the Bogota pitch in all its years of use. So even as prodigious a ripper as yours truly (3000RPM as standard) was unlikely to get much out of it. Needless to say, I didn't turn a thing. But I bowled my two overs tidily enough, didn't go for many, and even got the crucial wicket of a man in blue tracksuit bottoms who hadn't ever played cricket before. Bowled leg stump. Oh the glory! Oh the adulation!

9. The Fielding
In customary fashion, I made my presence known in the field by dropping a catch. It was actually quite difficult though – running in from mid-on and diving forwards, I could only get one hand on the ball and it didn't stick. Irritatingly I had just been moved ten yards back by the captain the ball before. You'd never catch Charlie making that mistake...

10. The End
Anyway, it didn't matter. Cali never looked like threatening our total and were all out for 54. Victory! For cricket and for cricket writing too. And the pen remains sharp for August's eagerly anticipated return to Fortress Heath.