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This report was originally written by Phil Patten. Please direct complaints or legal actions to Phil, not myself. I also recognise that this was not 'technically' a "tour" but frankly if it looks like a tour, smells like a tour and drinks like a tour, i call it a tour.
The whole report is best read while listening to the theme from Local Hero, by Mark Knoffler (see right).
Some iriot (Mike Taylor i think) suggested entering a cricket team representing SPARTA at the Corporate Games held in Newcastle in June. No way thinks I 'til I noticed that Hexham Races were scheduled for the Friday evening before the event was taking place. I mentioned this to Craig (another aficionado of the Sport of Kings) and we agreed to go to Newcastle as reserves. However two of the original ten - Matt (for perfectly acceptable reasons) and Merv Aranha (for flip knows what reason) cried off and we were left to the bare minimum re:-
Barry - el Capitano
Your humble correspondent
Me and Craig travelled up by train (Craig chatted to a lovely lady) so we were first at the hotel and quickly grabbed the single rooms for a quiet moment or two alone. After a lucrative (eventually) evening at Hexham we all met up at St James Park (the home of Newcastle United not the tube station you domeheads) to register. All that is except Jason who was attending a party in Dartford and was planning to drive up in the the wee hours of the morning. NORMAL!! So someone had to register for him otherwise he would not have been able to participate and I was chosen to go through the registration process on his behalf. Only one bloke spotted our deception and I muttered something about my twin brother. As it was now getting quite late we only had time for a few pints and then partook of a very nice ruby.
Prior to the event there were some rumours floating around that we were to start proceedings at 8.30am the following morning. What balderdash - who plays cricket at such a god awful hour - thinks I but it turned out to be blooming true so it was lucky we only had time for a few pints. Jason probably did Dartford to Newcastle to record time but even so only arrived at about 4.30 so only had a couple of hours kip.
So after a ludicrously early breakfast we turned up at the ground which, natch, was in the flipping middle of nowhere but Barry in his usual efficient way had recce'd the way there on the Friday. Some of the other teams also arrived at about the same time and signs were not encouraging - in fact our prospects looked decidedly poor. One team in particular consisted of 8 or 9 young, fit so-and-so's except for one fat bloke who looked as though he could hit a cricket ball further than Tiger Woods can hit a golf ball. [Ed Note: Other Tiger Woods jokes were not know at the time]. And they all wore matching green blazers and they had a flipping coach (not a bus you dimwits) who then proceeded to make them practice their fielding and catching. At 8.15 on a Saturday morning. Are you sure? We later found out that this team were representing Waitrose and were Corporate WORLD Champions. Undeterred (YAH!) us lot went straight to the clubhouse for a fag or a pony depending on personal taste. Some of the other teams decided to copy the Waitrose Wallies and do some practice and Barry tried to get all of us to do likewise. You can guess the response.
Another team (more about them later) were in the adjacent clubhouse exhorting themselves in good ol' American style to WIN yeah we gonna WIN with such phrases as "we didn't come here to lose". Didn't they just though.
We were due to play the ringers from Waitrose first but luckily for them a couple of teams did not turn up so the draw was re-organised and we were put into a different group.
The format was 8-a-side with seven bowlers and one wicket keeper - Barry as if you hadn't guessed. Wides were worth two runs but no extra ball and the batsmen had to retire at 25. Oh and the pitch was so lush. We were up against a team from Nationwide and they scored 64 in their 7 overs. We did not know how good this was but our bowling, especially Jason's had been fairly tight and our ground fielding has been well up to scratch (I only fielded the ball a couple of times). In reply Craig and Barry opened and thanks to a magnificent innings from Barry, converting ones into twos, twos into threes we reached our target fairly comfortably. Craig, who opened with Barry was absolutely shattered and it was left to Simon and RAven to see us home. The opposition were a reasonable bunch and told us they were surprised to lose and they had won the competition last year. Well blow me down with a feather.
Next game was the "we're gonna win team" against the fourth team in our group - Northumbrian Water. It soon became apparent that Northumbrian Water were not very good - most of them had tracksuits or jeans on (does this ring a bell Tony?) but they were triers and we appreciated that. Not so the opposition who ridiculed some of their efforts in the field. Not only that but they insisted on referring to others as "babe" or "dude". We quickly realised (even Barry) that they were bunch of wallies of the first order and resolved to give them a good thrashing. We also nicknamed them the Dudes. Their real moniker was BCMG.
The Dudes then had to play our first round opponents Nationwide (of course they moaned about having to play two matches on the trot) and good ho they lost. We then played Northumbrian Water and gained a comfortable victory. They made 46 during which Raven took a real purler of a catch and then proceeded to drop a dolly. Other than that we bowled and fielded well. Our turn to bat and Craig this time saw sense and allowed Richard to open with Barry. So this time it Richard's turn to be shattered. Mike Taylor joined Barry in scoring the winning runs.
So 2 from 2 and next up were the Dudes who had to win to get into the quarter finals (and possibly put us out). The batted first and despite some typically obnoxious barracking (like cheering a slight misfield and the umpire giving a dodgy wide) we bowled and fielded pretty well to restrict them to 44 off 7 overs. Simon in particular took a couple of important catches on the boundary. We then batted and the wheels came off. Craig and Raven (first ball) were out cheaply and even Simon failed and we were suddenly behind the required rate. To show how desperate we were I was told to start padding up!!! However Richard struck two fine fours in one over and this combined with the Dudes bowling a few wides and some good running between the wickets from Barry (who else?) and Richard saw us home with an over to spare. The Dudes were not happy and even had the temerity to question the integrity and honesty of the scorer - ME. Yah boo sucks wander off home you wallies.
We had, to our surprise, won all of our three games. Barry's batting was exemplary and he had been well supported by t'other batsmen. The bowling had been consistent and our ground fielding (even mine!) was steady and some good catches were taken. In fact there were only dropped catches - the dolly by Raven (off Jason i think) and the other by Barry. No prizes for guessing the identity of the unlucky bowler but he doesn't bear grudges.
We then set off to the refreshment lodge for a beer and a sandwich. The venue was located on a golf course and we got a right ear bashing from some old battleaxe for taking the wrong path. As we were feeling quite happy we refrained from pointing out to the old tart how ugly she was.
So contented and looking forward to quarter finals to be played the following day (at half past blooming nine!!) we returned to our hotel for a manicure, shower and make up. The organiser of the games - Rose D'Costa - had insisted that all athletes (yes we were classified as athletes and we've got the t-shirts to prove it) should take part in the in the Corporate Games parade to be held that evening. Well I knew of one person who would not be mucking about on some poxy parade. Anyhow we met in our hotel foyer and those crawlers Barry, Craig, Simon, Raven and Jason went off to join the parade. I think they only did so they could wear some posy blue shirts. Richard was feeling too well and stayed in his room but at least one other person saw sense and me and Mike took the Metro to the town centre for a few beers. We met up with the others at the end of the parade (mind you there were some lovely ladies in it) and set off for a night in Newcastle.
T'other week there was some programme on TV about 50 things to do before you're 50 or before you die or such rubbish. Well forget all that twaddle like climbing Kilimanjaro or swimming with silly dlphins the one thing you must do before you kick it is spend a Saturday night in Newcastle twon centre. The place is like a madhouse with hordes of scantily clad females of all ages (and sizes), heaving pubs and copious amounts of drink. Blimey any place that can get BARRY dancing voluntarily must be worth a visit. Raven nearly pulled (I'd take you home but I don't know what time me 'usband will be back)! Barry and a few others were witnesses to two "women" straight from the pages of VIZ almost assaulting some poor young lad in the street. And a cab driver said that it was a relatively quiet night!!
Early - again! - next morning we arose for our breakfast to discover it was chucking it down. We made our way to the ground and it was chucking down. At the ground it was chucking down. It was obvious to that there was no chance of play but the the organisers insisted on everyone hanging in case the rain stopped - stupid idiots. It was also flipping freezing - in the middle of June! I'm sure the groundsman would have really appreciated his lovely pitch being churned up. Eventually some sense prevailed and it was agreed to hold a bowl off. Theseven bowlers from each side would take alternate turns to bowl at the stumps and the team who hit the wickets most times would go through. This is where it gets tragic so hankies at the ready. We managed a big fat zero - the other team weren't much better and got only one (and that bounced about three times before hitting the stumps) but the gods had not smiled upon us and we were kaput, finito and on our way home.
So a little disheartened but encouraged by our exploits the day before we made our way home. Some went to look at Hadrian's Wall (seen one brick etc) but Jason kindly gave me and Raven a lift back in his hired car. Raven, sitting in the front, was more than a little nervous as Jason drives like Michael Schumacher on speed. Of course an hour down the road it was bright warm sunshine. Still not to worry; to paraphrase Arnie;
So watch out you Waitrose wallies.
Note from Paul Gaught: This tour report contained the photo below as an Annex. I'm assured it was not one of our players although I'm not convinced. Any information on it would be wonderful.
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Ilyas Malick's 126no v Aldenham
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