Graces take on G E K at Gouvia Marina.
Our first game with 4 pm start on Saturday was at a dedicated pitch with reasonable artificial strip but sluggish outfield against a mixed bunch of lads under the auspices of the Hellenic Cricket Federation with Nicos as ever invaluable as our prime contact and organiser on tour. The later start was because most of them had already worked for the day rather than them playing another opposition first as might have been thought. Their Captain was named Spiros. As he won the toss he chose them to bat first. We had stretched them to agree 30 overs as long as the pitch would be vacated by 8:30.
With Ari not quite completely recovered from his left fingers injury, he was only going to bowl six overs. A couple of Essex lads (30+) staying in Kavos, an hours drive away, had googled and found we were due to play and came along in the hope of a game and we were allowed as a friendly match to have Scott as a full sub for Ari. As ever we were glad of Laurie as our tour umpire. We played in whites and Jonners in green and that was not a wicketkeeper designation as Mendis filled that role well. As ever a good complement of supporters which on this tour included Duncan, Ralph, Alex, Phil, Hywel, Khin, Simon, Percy and Jim who once again did the bulk of scoreboard updates, a tricky task to start as pins were loose and needed attention as a picture shows.
Ari opened against Molinaris and Giourgas. Mahender took the other end and Mamun made the catch off that second ball to remove the opener. This was over at point and there was a momentary juggle before it was secure. Ari then caught and bowled Giourgas so a good intent shown. G and A Galanis were now the batting pair who steadily accumulated in singles and pairs and no quarter from Laurie who enforced wides with T20 rigidity. Mahender broke through in the eighth to remove G as Mendis moved to take the catch and in his first over, Mamun induced A to the safe hands of Manish. A pleasing start of 41/4 in ten overs. The batting pair were now Spiros Goustis, the Captain, and Ahmed Asas and the bowling pair would be mainly Manish and Sam as soon as Mamun finished his short spell and although it was painful to see several boundaries and a six into the reeds over the fence, Stuart as ever made a fine catch to remove Spiros on 15. Asas in particular was sending reverse sweeps before Leo moved to deter. Pony tailed Alex Lago was next in and the core built with extras and steady play from Asas until Alex was indignant to be stumped off Manish whose pitch encouraged him forward and having gone by, Mendis was reflexive. No dissent allowed though and Spiros signalled to walk. This brought in their wicketkeeper Awais who did not last long against a return spell of Mamun with him bowling Awais quite soon before they breached 100 and seven wickets down.
Shortly before this, I had been joined at table by a visiting Yorkshireman who had spotted our match from his hotel balcony. I made a mistake in commenting how much tighter Sam was this season so he promptly had a nightmare of a last over which Asas capitalised on, finding many gaps. All was not quite lost though and on a late ball of that over, Mamun again made the catch, this time at short fine leg and Asas departed for a healthy 32. Arsalan provided late resistance with little Totel chipping away and their highest partnership of 33 came undone as Mendis made a fine catch low behind of Totel in the over that Scott had chance to bowl. Doikas was nervous last man in but it was Arsalan who was the target who had daringly whopped a six off Mahender and off Manish to spoil good figures and Stuart made a fine catch at Mid On to end the innings in the next that Manish sent down. They had therefore 148 in 27.2
A quick sandwich and fruit juice with other fruit was provided by Nicos and we soon got underway to see the target down. Resumption was only 13 minutes so no time wasted.
Mahender faced first and Dom was his ally. Arsalan and Asas bowled restrictively but on change of bowler to Mohsin and Mahender making the first boundary he was unravelled next ball as G Galanis caught at Long Off. Scott joined Dom and it was another five overs of working had to get runs before Scott was run out trying to get a 2 against an accurate return. Spiros Goustis and Giourgas now bowled and it was Giourgas who caught and bowled Dom who had made 11. Mendis was more buccaneering but was stumped by Awais again off Giourgas but a swift 22 scored. Stuart joined Leo who had settled well but he was bowled by latest bowler G Galanis. We did at least pass 100 before Leo was bowled by G Galanis for a top score of 26 but we had 49 balls remaining to acquire 42 and Manish now took up stance to be at crease a few minutes short of Dom’s lengthy stint. Jonners however did not linger being LBW on the first legitimate ball and Richie was devastated to get the Golden Duck. No worries though as Mamun rises to such occasions and indeed amassed a lively 20 in partnership with Manish before he was bowled by Asas. It now all fell to Sam to support Manish for another 20 in 24 balls. Manish was however too enthusiastic and tried to take a 2 despite us hearing Sam’s denial and with two players at one end, they soon made the token touch at the start of the 27th to remove Manish for a 22.
We did not win but the game was enjoyed by both sides and we had a short drink with the victors (that were not upholding Fast) before we were to head back to freshen up for a central town location for the tour meal. Most of us had a fabulous time at Pergola Taverna the night previously and enjoyed the prolific late night venues as well. Nicos recommending each venue and appearing each time to ensure we were given prime attention.
Demonstration and Dignitaries, our second match in the Central Square of Plateia Kolla.
Our second match, starting earlier soon after 3 on Sunday was a showpiece against Gymnastikos. Sadly Jonners and Khin were flying back already so we were glad to also include the other Essex lad, Tom, in our side. The opponents were short so Scott went over to them and Ari cautiously remained the whole game. This venue was a strip in poor condition at the popping crease right in the town centre surrounded by parked cars, the strip of outside tables of multiple cafes, various people and children encroaching into the grass area which effectively defined the boundary. There was also a man seemingly senseless prone at one boundary, drink or drugs the likely creator of that stupor. Consequently we played very much with balls of the softer type often used by youngest age groups. They were not very durable splitting easily and had the sensation of absorbing momentum so it was difficult to get boundaries along the ground. At one point late in the game, a ball covering flew off and a white remainder was there to be caught but was missed. There was a great danger of running out of such balls. Corfu however is the only Greek territory to still have any cricket so it was good to highlight our presence for all to see and for quite a few to enjoy and tourists make enquiry. In the tour we often wondered how much Nicos knew or cared of our defining characteristic but perhaps getting the cafe named Meat Corner to be our base was a sign that not wholly oblivious. The opponent Captain was named Spiros but not the same although there would be two players at least from the first match in opposition, spotting Ali Galanis and Giourgas who was usually nicknamed Malinga. The other Captain Spiros, with his infant son Lukas, and a couple others from GEK came along to watch us play again. Enough preamble however as this should be detail of the game.
Gymnastikos won the toss but pleased Manish by giving us the invitation to bat first. Mahender and unusually Mamun were today’s openers facing bowlers which I later pursued and found out names for. Sadly I only got one of their batsmen names which was Scott but already I digress.
Mahender made a gentle start but Mamun was on fire against Ali including a 4 and a 6 in his 15 which was terminated by an aerial loft off Ali easily caught although in our fielding we were amazingly poor in catching success. Mahender got his first boundary off Kamran then Mendis took a 6 off incoming Marius. It was now a demonstration game as Mahender and Mendis piled on a delightful 124 partnership from their bats and wides (which were an enormous 42). This was a lot of slog but they had three sixes in this time and a few fours amongst many singles and dot balls as the balls would not travel and some fielders were engaged. Other bowlers were Scott, Alexos and Malinga who all made little penetration. In the fourth over from Malinga came a breakthrough and their wicketkeeper made a good dive to take Mendis for 44. Shortly before we had applauded the 100 partnership and then Mahender reaching 51 with a boundary. There was no respite today as Leo supported Mahender and with Leo piling a boundary off Ali in the last of today’s 25 overs, we stated our presence with 190/2. Mahender unbowed on 74 and Leo already on 10. There had been three sixes in the innings and one ground boundary scuttled through the tables and into a side street.
Nicos again provided Tea but the opposition were in no rush to mount defence.
Ari took first blood in his second over as his bowling partner, Manish, made the catch to send away Bat 1 with the score at 13. Tom started bowling in the 7th and I jested with nearby Scott that he would hope to be lower down the order and not face the off spin of his friend. No sooner uttered than a low caught and bowled by Tom saw off Bat 2 and the score only at 31. So Scott was facing ignominy after all. After a hesitant start, Bat 3 bedded in and was dropped frequently and despite Sam also joining the bowling this pair of 3 and Scott piled on 80.
The drinks interval took place within this and almost coincidentally a phalanx of expatriate dignitaries and other British Council personage strode across the green and some beknighted amongst them engaged us in conversation about our game and presence. HRH Duke of Kent was about open a new exhibition room in the nearby museum of Asian Art and one guest with Indian born wife was keen to discover the heritage towns of many of our players. Photos duly taken we resumed with determination to take a next wicket. It was Mamun who bowled Scott for 35 and a couple overs later Mendis bowled Bat 3 who had amassed 42 while Mamun took the gloves for a while. Bat 5, which may have been Ali, impertinently scored a 6 in their innings but there was little hope and Tom tidily bowled the last over and they were well short at 138/4. We had conceded 13 wides and two no balls within this.
Although there was brief exchange of pennants, the opposition departed immediately and seemed less sporting than our first opponents. Nonetheless we continued our own gathering and declared Mahender Man of the Match, appreciated Laurie for his professionalism and diligent umpiring and a beguiling presentation of a key ring featuring a minute slice of tree was given to Stuart. A mystery to be sure that may yet be loosened in a later point of inebriation. We also sent the Southend boys on their way as we imbibed a Kumquat liqueur.
We also appreciated Dom’s work as tour co-ordinator both now and and a delightful dinner at Avli restaurant which many went to for a last gathering and the convivial times of Team and Supporters continued into Monday in other bar venues.
Hopefully we will be able to add a few photos in coming days but this has been a great weekend and we look forward next Sunday to being hosted once again at Barton Seagrave while wondering how two other matches in our league will impact our current pole position. Rumour has it that Iceland could be a future tour venue but we might be legless in that scenario.