Whalers cricket tour – Sri Lanka 2006

London – Dambulla

Friday 31 March

A 9.30pm flight meant a 6.30pm meet at the airport. All Whalers were present and correct by 7.00pm at a very busy Heathrow Terminal 4, but we arrived to the news that the flight would be leaving 4hrs late. With a general shrug of the shoulders we checked in, squeezed through security and headed straight for the bar. The first donations to the kitty were gratefully received and the tour commenced with poker, backgammon and drinking games – all accompanied by Ed’s sounds of the eighties from his ipod docking station-type thing (which was to become a feature of the tour).

Tired and a little tipsy we trudged on to the plane.

Saturday 1 April

The flight went as well as can be expected with a brief stop at the Maldives, which heightened anticipation of the holiday to come. Everybody was pinned to the windows of the plane, ogling at the golden beaches, but unfortunately we were only there for an hour and were not allowed off the plane.

Because of the delay to the flight we arrived at Colombo in the dark, when we met our guide for the next two weeks, Amila. We piled onto the bus and started the 3½hr journey to Dambulla. On the pot-holled, bumpy, single lane roads there are few rules and our driver (who was quickly dubbed Schuey) would overtake regardless of any other vehicles or blind corners approaching. Our 50-seater coach was the largest thing on the road so everyone braked and swerved as we muscled our way through the traffic, hand on the horn for almost the entire journey. Despite the raucous nature of Schuey’s driving and the continual thumping on the horn, we found that the bus had a remarkable quality that was to send any Whaler to sleep – regardless of how tired they were at the start of the journey – so “the magic bus” it was named.

Finally we arrived at the amazing Amaya Lake hotel, also known as “The Culture Club”. Situated by a lake in beautiful scenery we couldn’t have hoped for better accommodation to start the tour. Porters quickly whisked our bags away to our rooms, where we were greeted with “welcome” messages written in flowers. It was tempting to get stuck straight into curry that evening but we were ravenous so our choice of food was based on whatever was quick – fish, chicken and chips was the call.

A couple of beers to the sound of the euro-disco in the function room was enough to make us all ready to retire and prepare for the first cricketing activities the following day.

Sunday 2 April

 We woke early to see the hotel in its surroundings for the first time. Exotic birds, chipmonks and giant squirrels were all active as we sat eating our breakfast outside. Most of us were intrigued by the different fruits and the opportunity to try Sri Lankan bacon, butDuncs chose to waste no time and went for the curry!

By mid-morning we were on the bus and heading to a nets session to blow the winter cobwebs away and acclimatise ourselves (it was already reaching 30 degrees). We arrived at the gates to be greeted with RANGIRI DAMBULLA INTERNATIONAL CRICKET STADIUM in huge silver letters and a glimpse of the six-storey high stadium in the background. As we all looked at each other it was hard to tell whether it was excitement or concern in our eyes.

The stadium was impressive to say the least. The huge concrete stand dominates the pitch where the grounds men were working away, flowers ring the boundary and rain forest-clad mountains sit in the background. The scoreboard still had the names of the last match to be played here against South Africa. We realised that we would have to put in our best ever Whalers performance yet to live up to this setting.

We quickly got down to the business of playing cricket. It was the usual eclectic mix of dross and shear brilliance that would be expected from any Whalers net session but the heat clearly got to us. Having enough water to see us through the tour became a priority. After over two hours of exertion we returned to the hotel for lunch to find the girls by the pool with drinks in hand.

After a shower and some food we set off for our first tourist activity of the trip – an elephant ride for those who still had some energy left and another hotel bar for those who hadn’t. We returned to our hotel after a busy day and were grateful for a relaxing evening in the hotel restaurant and a few beers while we thought about the game the next day.

In the conversation around the table that evening we asked Alima “what are tomorrow’s opposition like?”, his answer was ringing in our ears as we fell asleep that night, “formidable” he replied.

Monday 3 April

Whalers V Dambulla C.C. 1st XI – Rangiri International Stadium

 We arrived at the ground at 10am to see the opposition ready and waiting, each with a huge smile on his face, which was slightly disconcerting. This was it, our first match. We walked into the dressing room to see that we each had our own station to change at, we felt very important. We all took the traditional walk out to inspect the pitch, all sporting our matching Sri Lanka cricket charity aid shirts, it certainly gave the impression that we meant business. After a few photographs, chit chat and a bit of faffing, Ads turned to theoppo’s captain and did the toss. He lost it, but we still got our wish to bat first.

So Al and Duncs made a nervous walk out to the centre and the Whalers cricket tour really got underway…and we made a pretty good start!…albeit a slow one. We didn’t lose a wicket for 35 minutes as Al and Duncs blocked and pushed the ball around with a boundary here and there (although Duncs did most of the scoring), but the inevitable happened as Al was bowled for a glorious 2 runs, which brought Dario to the crease.

Things moved along for a few more overs but a rash call from Dario gave too much for Duncs to do and he was run out. Maybe the occasion had got to him a little, although their fielding drills before the start of play were evidence enough that they were pretty sharp in the field.

Ollie strode out to the pitch.

After about 20minutes at the crease there was more evidence that the occasion had got to Dario, he had forgotten to put on a box! A call back to the sidelines produced more smiles from the oppo and a few titters and comments from the Whalers as a box was handed over.

Then, the turning point in the match, the oppo changed the bowling and Chandana was brought on to reap havoc. Obviously he was a spinner, and Dario was his first victim – caught and bowled. The next 4 wickets went for 7 runs. Ollie managed to get 17 on the board but Phil, Ads, Dan and Ed went in quick succession. The ladies on the tour (the Whalettes) did a great job at shipping water to the batsmen at the fall of each wicket, so they were working pretty hard at this point. Rich didn’t seem to be dealing with the heat particularly well, but that didn’t seem to stop him from hitting a quick-fire 13 in ones and twos! He came off the pitch looking positively knackered.

Another mix up with the calling led Rich to be run out and Clippy came into bat. With the total on 86 this called for a momentous last wicket stand…but in fact all we got was a momentous stride forward as he was bowled for a golden duck. Amusingly Clippy held his pose for about five minutes after his stumps had been torn out of the ground and the opposition were already half-way back to the pavilion.

Chandana had bowled 7 overs for 22 runs and 6 wickets.

A little disappointed in the batting performance after such a promising start (we were 52 for 2 at one point), the Whalers sat in the dressing room, chomped on their curryfied pack lunches, and discussed tactics for the field. Rich, still recovering from his batting sprint, sat directly under the air-conditioning unit anticipating that he would feature in the bowling.

If we bowled well and were sharp in the field we felt that we could still make a game of this. Al injected some inspiration by handing out the zinc war paint and with a quick blast of the theme from Bay Watch from Ed’s music system we ran out to try and bowl these SriLankans over.

James started the bowling and gave the captain exactly what was asked of him, a good spell of 3 overs, 1 maiden for 10 runs. However, when James bowled a perfectly good ball – good pace, on a length, at off-stump – and the batsman strode forward and nonchalantly whipped it off his legs for four, we felt that we could be in trouble. The other bowlers seemed to struggle in the heat and giving away 17 wides with only 86 to defend was bad news. Clippy managed to get the only Whalers wicket of the day as the batsman tried to sweep and top-edged it to Ollie behind the stumps, but sadly the opposition got the runs in only 9.2 overs and we were well and truly beaten.

We exchanged handshakes, gifts and more smiles with plenty more photos and general faffing before jumping back onto the coach to get back to the hotel and the very welcoming pool bar. It had been an amazing day at an amazing ground and already the tour was living up to our expectations. We probably didn’t perform to the best of our ability and we put that down to the occasion getting to us, the heat and maybe having too much respect for the opposition. With three more games to go we had plenty of opportunity to redeem ourselves.

Leg 2: Danbulla to Kandy

 As the team coach left Rangiri International stadium, the Whalers and Whalettes were in reasonable spirits despite the small matter of a nine wicket defeat. These spirits were raised still further with the impromptu arrival of an ice cream rickshaw outside the stadium to consume on the short drive back to the hotel. The somewhat early finish to the game at least left decent pool time and the team repaired to the hotel pool parading a variety of swimwear including Dan’s Speedos which were to play a (ahem) prominent role in the games later on.

The Culture Club pool, by a mere coincidence of design (although notably NOT designed by Geoffrey Bawa), had a swim up bar which provided a perfect setting for the first serious game of 21’s of the tour. And so matters proceeded for a good three or four hours as the Lion beers kept on flowing. Rich and Ol seemed in particular trouble with some of the rules which later in the game included falling backwards off your chair into the pool. The aerobie also contributed to the civilised nature of the environment being somewhat dissipated and with Ol treating us to some new words from his profanisaurus, one family was heard to comment that we were, “like typical Brit’s abroad”. Praise indeed.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end and with the pool bar closing at 8, dinner was called followed by some short games of table tennis and pool, and a return to the bar with some gin and tonics. After the third call of last orders for the evening, leading wicket taker Andrew Clipsham suggested a continuation of festivities in his room with some duty free gin, and Al, Ads and Rich ‘Green Day’ Giles were brave enough to accept. My memory of the finer points of proceedings is somewhat limited, but I can conclusively confirm that gin and soda is not a great mixer, gin and sprite is definitely borderline, and gin and coke is best avoided.

The next morning saw the distinguished delegation of Ol, Julia, Dan and Dario make an early start representing the club in the culturally important ancient capital of Ayaverdua. They were the lucky ones first to receive first copies, hot off the presses, of the Sri Lankan national daily ‘The Daily Record’ which carried an exclusive front page report (OK actually page 14) about the Whalers tour. The report contained surprise news of the appointment of a new captain Andrew Hammer; the most surprised being current captain AdamHanmer.

The afternoon saw the remainder of the group head off to Minneriya Elephant Park. On the way there was an extended quiz about elephants. Once the childish observations of Ads had been dismissed, we were able to answer such questions as, “How can you tell the height of an elephant?” (Answer at the end of this report). The Park itself was pleasant enough; we managed to stumble across several groups of elephants, and a similar number of jeeps. In the evening we all went to the 5 star Kandalama hotel (this time designed byGoeffrey Bawa) across the lake from Culture Club for an excellent buffet dinner.

The following morning saw breakfast at a previously unheard of 6.30am with the aim of climbing Sigriya Rock Fortress before the heat of the day kicked in. The hours climb through gardens and historical remains was indeed worth the effort for the spectacular views all around. With a decent bit of fitness work dome before 10am the long bus journey down to Kandy began. To break up the journey we stopped at a spice garden for a bit of an education on stuff that does actually grow on trees. Highlight of the visit was Ed’s attempt to climb a coconut tree using a metre of rope. Disappointingly he was rather outshone by a local expert, but did get some hairs removed from his leg as a consolation prize.

And so onto Kandy where the Sri Lanka – Pakistan test match was drawing to a rapid conclusion on merely the third day, and for the princely sum of about 50p each we had some tickets to watch the death throes of the game. At the ground the team met up withKamal, who had come up for the day from Colombo, and he kindly offered to take the team out for dinner later on in Kandy. After the game had finished with a comfortable Pakistan victory we headed out to our accommodation at the Victoria Golf Club, and to meet up with Paul Mildon, arriving from London that day to strengthen the squad.

Unfortunately all was not well at the Golf Club where our reservation hadn’t been confirmed and there was no space for all of us. With Ol, Julia, Ed and Beth despatched to the dismal staff quarters, it was not until the next day that they were allocated spacious newly constructed mansions as an alternative. Rumours that they actually didn’t want to move due to the high quality of porn DVD’s on offer in the staff quarters remained unconfirmed. With the team bus withdrawn from commission, Kamal sent his van to pick us all up for an excellent dinner at the Hilltop hotel to round off a long day.

The keen golfers amongst the party got up early the next day to get a sneaky nine holes in. With caddies, spotters and markers galore, and beautiful surroundings, I am reliably informed the golf was also of a reasonable standard. After breakfast the squad headed off to an elephant orphanage, and later to the Botanical Gardens in Kandy. Despite fruit bats and cannonball trees aplenty our guide Amila’s enthusiasm for birdlife was falling on tired ears, and the team instead elected for a tuk-tuk race into town. After some very poor negotiations on fares Duncs, Kathy and Al won by a short head and the team spread around temples and bars according to cultural and thirst preference. After a week of curry buffets we enjoyed a western style meal at The Pub (Kandy’s premier nightspot) in preparation for the big match of the following day.

Match 2: Whalers C.C vs. Old Antonians C.C, St Anthony’s School, Kandy.

Whalers 142ao (39.2 overs)

Old Antonians 145-4 (26.2 overs)

Old Antonians win by 6 wickets

 

The Whalers gathered under the stewardship of Ollie Bayne at Murali’s old school in Kandy for the second fixture of the tour. Paul Mildon was a welcome addition to the squad, with Ed K playing in a batting only capacity due to picking up an aerobie throwing injury in the pool at Culture Club. The pitch looked good, although the outfield was a little bumpy to say the least, and we were blessed with a little cloud cover. Some members of the team were also on autograph duty as the first ever Whalers signed bat made its way round, shepherded by enthusiastic youngsters who were under the impression we were a top international side. They were right with the international bit I suppose. The toss was won, and the Whalers chose to bat, kicking off against a moderate seam attack.

Unfortunately the Whalers top order again failed to make significant runs in the face of bowling not that different from your usual London weekend fare. Duncs was first to go for 6 trying to force a straight one to leg, Bayne and promoted pinch hitter Kirkness didn’t last much longer departing for 5 and 8 respectively. Brown looked well set before mistiming a cut, and when Dickenson missed a straight full toss, it was all a bit of a mess at 48-5.

The task of repairing the innings fell to Dario and Ads, and they proved equal to the task adding 55 in the next 53 minutes. Dario in particular was in no rush as he took a relaxing 24 balls to get off the mark, while Ads accumulated some runs with his unique range of shots. With the score breaking three figures, the Whalers looked to push the rate along a bit with Hanmer finally perishing for a top-scoring 25 and Dario for 23. The tail added another 40 with contributions from Osgood (10) and the in form Richard Giles, a speedy 19. With Paul’s 6000 mile flight to record a three ball duck, the final total was 142, four balls shy of using our 40 over allocation.

With not a huge sum of runs to play with the Whalers needed early pressure and wickets. Osgood and Gould started well, but opener Susith began to take a liking to Gould’s bowling, before he was the first wicket to fall caught by Bayne at mid-on. With Old Antoniansother opener retiring hurt with cramp on just 4, there were two new batsmen at the crease, and the Whalers sensed a chance. With the introduction of Mildon the Whalers exerted some control and Paul finished with impressive figures of 6-2-19-1. At the other endClipsham continued his successes of the previous game with a clean bowled. Antonians didn’t need to take any risks though, and although Giles opened with a maiden, and a wicket in the following over, Whalers didn’t have enough runs to play with, and ran out losers by six wickets. Number 4 bat Sansweena finished on 44 not out, watchful in defence, but swift to punish anything loose. A competitive game, but one the Whaler’s were disappointed to have lost, another 40 runs would have made it a very interesting.

Man of the Match: Adam Hanmer

Champagne Moment: 50 partnership Ads and Dario.

Muppet Moment: Dan Osgood and Richard Giles, Shall we dance ‘running’ between the wickets.

A: An elephant’s height is twice the circumference of its front foot.

 Leg 3 Kandy to Galle

7 April; evening.

Once the post match analysis of the Kandy game had concluded we set about making the most of the evening.  Our host, Mike (who organised the fixture) had invited us over to his gaffe – a great hotel overlooking a large lake 20 kms outside of Kandy.  He had made a great effort on our behalf – the dining area was surrounded by flaming coconut torches, the BBQ was hot and rocking, the beer was cold and, best of all, he had made a large sign which read ‘We love you Whalers Cricket Club.’  So it wasn’t just the opposition batsmen who loved us then.  The evening followed a familiar pattern – lots of Lion and drinking games and we all, including Amila (who became completely incomprehensible), got thoroughly wasted.  The night culminated with Ed K getting out the ipod and speakers and hooking it up to the bus speaker system so that the bus rocked with Guns and Roses and other classics all the way back to the hotel.  What fun we had.

8 April; Kandy to Induruwa

 

Today we transferred from Kandy to the Coast via the central highlands for a spot of white water action.  A very long and twisty road brought us to Kitagula on the Kelaniya river where the rafting was to take place.  We were stripped of all our valuables, most of our clothes and crammed into the back of one of the oldest Land Rovers on the planet to be driven a few miles to the start of the rafting trip.  Two boats were allocated and we were off.  It took all of about 4 seconds for the first water fight to start between the boats.  The rafting was surprisingly good: the rapids were exhilarating (without being scary), they had exciting names such as ‘headchopper,’ ‘white gold’ and ‘virgin’s punch’ and we all got thoroughly soaked.  Part of the pleasure was also floating down the river and taking in the jungle strewn hillside either side.  About half way down the guides decided that the rafts we too good for us and (after removing our helmets) chucked us out of them to take our chances on the rapids by ourselves.  And very pleasant it was too; floating downstream in the fresh floes taking some very tame rapids on the way.  They kindly let us back into the rafts a kilometre or so later for the final stretch.  I think there was race between the two boats but I cannot remember who won, not that it matters much.

 

We arrived back at the rafting centre to get out of our or soaking clothes (except for Ollie who had foolishly not brought a change of clothes) and get stuck into curry for lunch.   Amila had asked for an extra special hot one to be prepared for Duncs after his big talk about vindaloos and phals.  The general consensus was that whilst not being especially hot (although no picnic either), it was especially revolting being made almost entirely of dried fish.  Back we piled into the magic bus and headed for Induruwa.  Shui, as usual, excelled himself and delivered us to the hotel an hour ahead of the ETA.  But it had still been a hell of a long day in the bus when we arrived at the hotel (over 7 hours travelling time) but it was a great spot – right on the beach, with an excellent pool and volley ball court.  Food and beer ensued before an early night.

 

9 April; R&R on the beach

After the rigours of Dambulla and Kandy, not to mention the hours spent on the magic bus, a day doing sod all on the beach was in order.  After all we had a big match the next day and needed to be prime condition.

So it was late starts all round and after breakfast, most whalers did nothing more taxing than move to the deck chairs.  There was, nonetheless, a short session of beach volley ball but it quickly became too hot and after a spell messing about in the surf, Baywatch-style, it was back to the deck chairs for reading and sleeping.  The notable exception to this general loafing was Clippy who decided that he didn’t yet have enough cheap tat to take home so he chose the heat of the day to wander a few kms up the beach to Bentotato stock up.  For those remaining at the hotel beach, once the sun dipped it was time to start the beach volley ball in earnest to keep our fitness up and hone our skills in advance of sterner tests.

That evening, a change of scenery was called for and we ordered a fleet of tuk tuks to take us up the road to Bentota, for most of us to have an excellent seafood meal at the Golden Grill and for a small minority to watch some football game at the local 5 star hotel. We joined them after the meal to be treated to some of the worst live music in the history of mankind – you may find it hard to believe that we treated to ‘the birdie song’ played on electric violin accompanied by 80s synthesisers but we were.  Truly awful.

10 April: Match 3.  Whalers vs Southern United

So it was with clear heads and a day of relaxation behind us that we pitched up at Galle International Stadium.  This was our first and only game at a test venue (Dambulla has, so far, only hosted ODIs) so were determined to make a good go of it and buoyed by our (semi) respectable showing in Kandy we thought we had a chance.  As we shall see we were utterly wrong about that but first a word or two about the ground.

By international standards, the ground was surprisingly basic with very few permanent stands and those that did exist were rather run down.  However, it is remarkable that we – or anyone – were able to play there given that it had been completely inundated by the tsunami just 16 months earlier.  The ground has sea on two sides and had been completely flooded: buses from the bus station behind the ground had been deposited on the outfield (others were washed out as far as the Maldives).  Galle and its surrounding areas had been particularly badly affected by the tsunami and as we drove in, the signs were all around – lots of temporary accommodation (still in use), many many destroyed buildings and large numbers of hoardings advertising the good works of corporates and governments in the relief effort.  So it was with this in mind that we were fortunate to play in Galle at all.  The ground is also in a great spot – overlooked by Galle fort and with the sea visible on two sides.  It was certainly a privilege to play in such an august stadium.

The edge of the occasion was slightly blunted by the fact that the local scouts seemed to be having a gymkhana on the outfield and this was accompanied, all day, by booming dance music.  I have never played cricket with Axel-F or Ace of Base as an accompaniment but I can’t say that it detracted from the day.

Ads won the toss and very sensibly decided we should bat.  And so one of the less glorious days in the history of Whalers cricket began.  The oppo were young, fit and started off by doing one of those impressive fielding drills that the locals at Kandy had treated us to – it was clear we would need be at our best.  The name of the oppo also gave some cause for concern – they were called ‘Southern United’ which sounded like the name of a team that had a lot of resources to draw on (we later discovered they had some Sri Lankan U-19 players in their ranks).

Anyway it was with purpose and determination that Al and Dario strode to the crease.  Al took the first ball from one of (if not the) quickest bowlers the Whalers have played.  However, we had a solid if not spectacular start and we negotiated the first few overs without loss.  But it was not to last long and that was about as good as it got – when Dario fell after a patient 6, the floodgates opened.  The rest of the batting is probably best left to rest in the scorebook; only one player – Al – made it to double figures (13) and we were bowled out for 60 in a little over 23 overs.  As with Dambulla, it was the spin bowling that did all the damage – it was accurate, they moved the ball and it was not particularly slow: completely unlike anything we see in London.  But the batting did not adapt as it could have and we should have done a lot better: in many instances we were the architects of our own downfall.  But it is easy to say that looking back and I like to think we will have learned from the experience.

60 was clearly nothing like enough to defend against such an obviously able team and it was agreed that we should press on and have lunch after their innings.  So after a quick turnaround, it was out into the field for them to hammer the required runs off in 5.2 overs. Nonetheless, it was not all bleak as we did manage to get one wicket (and hence avoid a 10 wicket drubbing) – a caught behind off Dan – and Ollie managed to throw the ball into the face of one of their batsmen which added a bit of variety to the proceedings.  As with the other games, the wide count was unacceptably high although as usual the Umpires were completely merciless about anything down the leg side.

Anyway, ‘Southern United’ clearly knew a good thing when they saw it and eagerly pressed for a rematch 20/20 with them batting first.  Not content with the punishment we had received already that day and, fools that we were, we agreed.

I do not know what the world record score for a 20 over innings is, but if it is more that they scored, it cannot have been by much.  They clearly saw this as an exercise in teaching the impudent colonials a thing or two whilst boosting their averages in the process and they set about our bowling attack with relish.  The bowling figures make for terrifying reading for those who had the pleasure of bowling in Galle International Stadium that afternoon – the most respectable economy rate was 8 (James Gould and Dan O) and more than one unfortunate Whaler went for more than 20 an over (names withheld to preserve dignity).  Anyway it was pretty relentless stuff as they thrashed their way to 285-5 in 20 overs.  There was one comedy moment when Rich was banned from bowling – apparently for bowling too many ‘dangerous’ beamers.  That the batsman consistently trashed such balls for 4 or 6 did not seem to concern the umpires!  Bright sports (such as they were) were Paul M’s outstanding catch at midwicket to dismiss their brutal no 5 (off the mark with cover drive for 6) and James and Clippy’s 2 wickets apiece.

The Whalers’s required run-rate was a mere 14.5 and it was with this in mind that, stand-in Skipper Paul M, sent out Phil and Duncs to trash the oppo’s bowling to all parts.  With a score like that to defend, one might have supposed that they would go easy on us and give us a chance to play a few shots.  Not a bit of it: if their approach differed from the first game, then I did not detect it and it was with their pacy opening pair that they started with again.

If there is a lesson in this game however, it is that conservative defence does not necessarily produce more runs than wild slogging in a hopeless cause.  We stormed to 85 all out; fully 25 more than our earlier effort in half as many overs.  There were three batsmen who reached double figures: Phil (13), Ollie (16) and Ads (11*) and that we lost by 204 runs does not, fortunately, matter as this was not an official Whalers game.   This gives much relief to batsmen and bowlers alike.

The report of this match cannot go by without noting one important event.  The spectators’ ranks were swelled by the presence of the British High Commissioner and his family who dropped by to watch the end of the game.  What he made of it, we will never know but it was nice to have the support of Foreign and Commonwealth Office at such a time.

Once we had shaken hands with the oppo, handed over the goods in our presentation and showered we had a quick shifty around Galle fort.  It seemed something of a ghost town (which the tsunami might explain) but it did also afford arresting views of the ocean at sunset from its ramparts.  After the stroll we retreated to a hotel to drink beer, lick our wounds and allocate the various ‘awards’ for the day’s games.

Official Game:

Man of the match: Not awarded

Champagne moment: The Whalettes (for continuing to support us)

Muppet moment: Dan’s first, wide-strewn over

Unofficial 20/20 game:

Man of the Match: James Gould (2 wickets)

Champagne moment: Paul’s catch

Muppet moment: Richard’s bowling ban

 

Monday 10th April 2006

Licking their wounds after serious defeat inflicted by the locals the Whalers followed at least 3 colonial forces into the safety of the ramparts of Galle’s medieval fort.

There was only a minor skirmish to report during the retreat when Duncs’ trainer was viciously attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Showing a presence of mind that had been notably absent earlier in the day as all 20 Whalers wickets had fallen, he cleverly flicked the object of their desire out of reach and down the sea wall into a tree. 20 short minutes later with the aid of long stick, several rocks and some intrepid climbing the pair were reunited. The dogs meanwhile found other ways of enjoying themselves.

The day was dissected over Lions and a meal; many theories were mooted to account for the performances of the day. In short conclusions were that the opposition were rather good and would almost certainly be going on to play for Sri Lanka. The idea that next time the Whalers saw them would most likely be as spectators offered some little comfort.

Tuesday 11th April 2006

An early start again for the Whalers charity division. Duncs and Kath choosing to take some time together and Dan busily revising for a role in No. 10 – apparently learning how Tony takes his tea. Yet another replacement bus took us an hour north of Galle, the journey taking in several areas that had been hit badly by the tsunami just 15 months previously. Families still living in emergency tents just meters from the sea that claimed their homes and undoubtedly the lives of friends and family members made sobering viewing.

We arrived at an impressive looking school (rebuilt with help from overseas) where we were met by Graeme Kettles from the charity Sri Lanka Direct through whom our donations had been made. None of us were quite sure what to expect or what was expected of us. It transpired that a ceremony had been arranged in the main school hall which was filled by around 200 children and some of their parents. There was an excellent speech delivered entirely in Singhalese by a man who may well have been head master. The children were then instructed to file up to the front to be presented with a package containing some books, pens, crayons and a new school uniform. In total we had provided 359 packs – we left the remainder with Mr Kettles to be given to an orphanage he knew of down the coast.

We were then called into a smaller and incredibly even hotter room to make a presentation of 10 new sewing machines (7 from Whalers) to women whose equipment had been lost in the disaster. They were brand new Singer machines and the women seemed very pleased to receive them. They plan to work as a community and produce clothes and fabrics for domestic consumption.

Next stop was a much needed and appreciated lunch at a restaurant over the road from the ocean. A curry buffet which included several superb local fish was kindly provided by Yasir of Inter-Cab (a Sri – Lankan travel agency) who organises the local operations of Sri Lanka Direct.

After lunch we went to the beach to perform what many people had been anticipating would be the highlight of the trip, the presentation of fishing boats. Local fishermen who had lost their boats were excitedly waiting for us. The boats were narrow, high sided canoe type single hulled structures that required an outrigger to be fitted for stability which the locals could make themselves out of wood. Whalers had provided 8 boats which came with the fisherman’s name and Whalers CC written down the side of them. Each fisherman stood by the boat that was to be his, many with their families, waiting for the Whalers presentation party to come up to each in turn and hand over the nets that the boats needed while trying to look at the many cameras and smile. All of the fishermen appeared very excited to be getting their boats, and like everyone who we had encountered during the day we found them to be grateful, humble and extremely positive.

We were then treated to a cup of tea and some rather strange cake in a wooden hut which was part of the hotel that had hosted the presentation. Mr Kettles made a short speech explaining how his charity had come in being and thanking all those who had made the day possible. Special thanks was given to Yasir whose work on the ground in organising and fact finding makes it possible to run the charity from the UK and still be confident that the money was going to the right people and really making a difference.

I think that most if not all of the Whalers who made the trip that day found it a very rewarding experience. Having got so close to the areas that were affected by the Tsunami it was impossible to not feel empathy with the people who lived there and had to find a way of carrying on with everyday life despite what had happened. Meeting people in the flesh and hearing their stories first hand brought home the magnitude of what happened far more powerfully than a TV camera and crew ever could. What was moving was seeing what had happened once the cameras had left and the attention of the worlds media had moved on. All of the people who we met and helped had a confidence and optimism that you would not necessarily have expected having gone through what they had. It was great to be able to do something to help them. It also became clear that the organisation Sri Lanka direct was doing great work and that supporting them had been a good decision. Being a smaller charity they are able to operate hands on at a closer level than larger organisations and to keep overheads down ensuring that a high proportion of donations go directly towards providing people with the means to rebuild their lives. All in all it was a humbling but uplifting experience and one which I feel all the Whalers and those who donated money can be proud of. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it.

The smaller bus which we used to get to the area we did the charity work was not quite as comfortable as the one we were used to but there was plenty of opportunity to get some sleep during the drive home! There was one stop just outside Galle to see the very impressive Lighthouse hotel which was naturally designed by world famous architect Geoffrey Bawa where postcards were available, until James bought them all.

We arrived back at the hotel in time for a swim in the pool and for dinner. Duncs and Kathy had had a good day too, going into Bentota to see what was happening there (not much apparently) and Dan had begun to get to grips with his homework project. Having done some “good” during the day it was necessary to redress the balance by doing some “bad”. After a good meal at a local grill restaurant and some drinks in the nearby 5* hotel, this took the form of abusing our sportsman’s bodies with alcohol and another meeting of the gin club. After an “Arak attack” we managed to persuade the guys who worked at the hotel to sell us a bottle of gin and some tonic to take up to one of the rooms. Whalers were dropping like 9 flies but a hard core of Al, Phil, Duncs, Dario, Ol and Rich played drinking games until about 3 when the idea of another gin was not a pleasant one and the club dispersed back to their rooms. What the tour from Cardiff University who were also staying in the hotel and who drank water with every meal felt about this behaviour was not clear.

Wednesday 12th April & Thursday 13th April 2006

A couple of early starts for games / charity / travelling along with some big nights and tiring days meant that for the next couple of days the Whalers were happy to lounge around near the hotel. There was still plenty going on but no organised trips meant that we were able to let the driver, No. 2 and guide Amila go back to their families to celebrate the Singhalese New Year. The New Year also meant that there was not very much going on – perfect!

There was a lot of reading and relaxing on the beach, lots of swimming in the sea and pool (including an organised medley race). The waves were very powerful in the sea and it was easy to get washed down the beach (more of that later) the walk back to the hotel was as far as some people got from the sun loungers!

Andy took a walk down the beach on Wednesday to go to Bentota and explore along the way. Despite being well covered in sun cream and wearing a hat he got burnt through his England cricket shirt demonstrating the power of the sun. Whalers at the Putney reunion were blaming the sun being too strong to go out in for their rapidly fading tans. I am surprised that the Lawrence of Arabia look did not catch on – look out for it on your high street this summer.

The time at the beach also allowed us to explore other areas of our sporting ability and rather surprisingly we found one that we could beat the locals at! The volleyball competition against the staff of the hotel was keenly anticipated and took place in the evening when the sun had gone down enough to make moving an option. A carefully selected Whalers 6 took on 6 of the waiters and kitchen staff in first to 21 point sets. Whalers won the first 2 games causing a panic among the Sri Lankans, a quick phone call and all of a sudden a ringer arrived pushing one of their players off the court. He dominated the next set but it was getting late and the Whaler team tactically accepted an offer of the light. Whalers won 2 – 1.

There was a barbeque organised by the hotel one evening to celebrate the New Year. Grilled chicken and pork were served with potatoes and fries and as with everything washed down with Lion beers. There were also some fairly frightening fireworks which seemed to be set off at random and at fairly random angles, another great night was had by all.

It was always unlikely that an English team could have an injury free tour to Asia and sadly the inevitable began to catch up with us while in Bentota. Firstly and most seriously Duncs hurt his knee. While frolicking in the very powerful waves in the sea Duncan unluckily got caught by a particularly big wave which dislocated his kneecap and sent it round to the side of his knee. This was a fairly serious knee injury and required an immediate visit to a hospital. Once he had been carried out of the sea on a surf board he was transferred into a van. Captain Ads, Kath and Amila went with him. The original plan was to go to a clinic a little further up the coast but this was closed (due to the New Year) so they ended up going to Colombo a day early. Apparently the hospital was impressive and clean and the knee cap put itself back into place as he tried to get out of the ambulance. Duncs was heavily strapped and got a pair of crutches (his second). By the time the rest of us caught up with them he was able to move around on the crutches and had a smile on his face.

Thankfully the knee seems to be recovering well and Duns was seen at the Putney drinks with out crutches. It must have been a very, very painful injury and the way he handled that and the disappointment of missing the last game is to his credit.

The second casualty of Bentota was Ed who was the first of the group to suffer (enough to admit it to the rest of us) from the much anticipated “Deli Belly”. He found it hard to eat anything for the last few days of the tour and um, had difficulty sleeping too.

The hotel on the beach was a great place to have some down time and to relax after what had been a great fun but quite busy first 10 days in Sri Lanka. The pace of life became very slow, not least because it took a few hours for the kitchen staff to rustle up any food, perhaps they could blame the constant supply of cold drink they were bringing out to keep us cool!

14th April 2006

The final leg of the tour / holiday was in Sri Lankas capital and only genuine city, Colombo. With a population of 1.2 million Colombo was much more like a city that we would recognise than any other of the places we had visited. We left the Royal Beach hotel at 9.00am having had a great stay and thanks to enormous laundry bills could claim to have supported the local economy handsomely. The drive up the coast to Colombo was one of the longer that we had done but thanks to the clear roads caused by the Singhalese New Year and Schumacher’s elder and darker brother behind the wheel we made record time. An hour after leaving we were in the lobby of the Ceylon Continental hotel and reunited with those who had gone on ahead.

We were staying in the “Fort” area near the sea which is the main business area of the city. There was a very strong military presence because of the increased risk of an attack by Tamil rebels during the New Year celebrations. Also there was nobody around as they were all spending time celebrating with families and friends. This meant that there was not very much to do for the Whalers so it was another day by the pool eating and enjoying the delicious milk shakes. For dinner there was a choice of fish restaurant, Indian or bistro type food. Most went for the fish which was very well received, the Indian was very good too and those with dodgy tummies had pasta. There was no drink being served in the hotel due to the celebrations so the atmosphere in the disco was not all it could have been. The mocktails were largely untried once people realised that they could still enjoy the mini bars in their rooms. It was all good preparation for the last game the following day.

15th April 2006

The final game of the tour and an opportunity to redeem ourselves although we would have to do it with only 10 Whalers. The opposition were the Panadura Sports Club whose ground was on the outskirts of the city. It was not the prettiest of clubs but had a sense of history about it, helped by the photos of past captains and a plaque commemorating the opening of the facility by the High Commissioner of Ceylon dating back almost 100 years

When we arrived at the ground (at 10.00am) there was a strange lack of opposition in the pavilion. The reason for this became clear after a pitch inspection. The official line was that there had been heavy rain overnight which had left the pitch wet. It was absolutely sodden with water and there was suspiciously little water in the outfield. For whatever reason the pitch was a classic “sticky dog” and unplayable. The decision was taken to start later at 1.00 if it was dry enough and sure enough as the day went on more opposition arrived and by 1.00 the pitch was ready and we had a full set of opposition. In fact we were able to borrow a player from the Sports Club and so Tiwanka a 17 year old leg spinner from St Peters school became the 13th player to represent the Whalers in Sri Lanka.

The later start to the reorganised 35 over game meant that if we bowled first we would have to do so in the hottest part of the day. Almost certainly having realised this, the slightly portly Sports Club won the toss and chose to bat first. This gave the Whalers bowlers a great opportunity to show that they were capable of restricting a side to a realistic total. Dan O opened the bowling from the pavilion end to a fairly attacking field and although the trouble that he had had earlier in the tour in finding the right line to the batsmen continued he bowled with pace, on occasion getting some lift from the pitch and troubling the openers. He was ably assisted by James from the other (rugby stand?) end who bowled as he had throughout the tour with plenty of guts and no luck. There were a few chances early on with the help of some good committed fielding and just when it felt the early pressure was being relieved Dan got one of the openers. Unfortunately the Whalers were unable to maintain the intensity of those opening overs as the batsmen became bolder and the heat took its toll. Wickets did fall at fairly regular intervals but there were plenty of runs being bludgeoned in the meantime.

Dario bowled well and was shown some respect by the locals who were far more accustomed to spin than the teams we come up against in London, however there was usually one boundary ball per over. It has to be said that sadly the outfielding lacked refinement despite 2 run outs and there were far too many drops in the deep. Most notable was Dans’ effort at dismissing the opposing skipper Nandana when he hadn’t scored many – the ball fell out of his hands and over the rope for six. That proved to be a costly error asNandana moved to a century. Like most of his team he wasn’t really interested in running between the wickets but he had a good eye and powerful shoulders and heaved plenty of balls into the legside and to the boundary. He finished on 110*.

The ringer who we had borrowed for the day, Tiwanka took a great catch (for which he was barraked from the dressing room) and was a very handy leg spinner. He had control and genuinely moved the ball. His only wicket was a highlight of the match, a reflex catch at first slip by skipper for the day Al. Clippy also bowled well, with a long spell. He was forced to reduce his pace to leg spin after straining his side early in his spell but continued bowling a tight line and the batsmen found him hard to get away.

The Sports Club batted out their full allotment of overs and made 253/7, as well as Nandana, Namale had a good innings, making 54. Dan took 2-22 (some wides may have been left off), Dario and James were unlucky to concede 53 and 51 respectively without taking a wicket. Andy 0-22, Rich 1-27, Tiwanka 1-32 and Ads 1-30.

So 254 to win from 35 at over 7 an over to win. It was a big ask, especially remembering our previous totals on tour. Dario and Ol went out to begin the reply and started very nicely. Their opening bowler was quite quick of not many strides and there was some short stuff around. However we knew that the outfield was quick and it seemed that the locals were as keen to run in the field as they had been when batting. We needed some big partnerships but there was no need to play big shots early on.

The good start ended when Ol was dismissed for 18. Phil walked out to bat at 3 hoping for some runs. He was not about to duck the chance of helping the Whalers to a tour victory, unfortunately what he did duck was a short ball – straight into the path of it. A sickening crack and he was on the floor blood gushing from a cut above his eye. He was rushed by tuc-tuc to a local clinic and received a couple of stitches.

Al came in at 4 and played a good captains knock, defending solidly. He eventually top scored with 37 but sadly wickets were falling at the other end and Whalers were always behind the game. Ed came in and hit a quick fire 18 and Rich chanced his arm to make 33 before playing the worst shot of the tour after moving 3 feet outside off stump to have a heave at a straight one and being bowled. Tiwanka looked good before missing one that may well have been going down leg.

The innings had a cheering finish when Phil (9) came back out for a last wicket partnership with James (12) covered in blood and this time wearing a helmet. James was last man out and Whalers had lost by 69 runs.

Despite loosing it was not a humiliating display and on another day (preferably cooler) Whalers could have won. The game was played in good spirits and the Sports Club captain was glad to receive his trophy while our player Tiwanka got a tour shirt.

Champagne moment went to Phil hitting a four after returning from his stitches and Muppet was Dan for his drop. It was an enjoyable end to the tour and a tired but upbeat team who returned to the hotel. Thanks again go to the Whalettes who did a sterling job with water and support and still managed a trip to the shops.

The game over, the unsuccessful and similarly unshowered team headed back to the hotel to prepare for the final night.

Buoyed from having been serenaded in the Heist Bar by two of Sri Lanka’s cheesiest singers, we headed down to ‘The Cricketers Club’ for a rare Western meal.  The restaurant promised much with cricketing memorabilia from the ages dominating the walls, and videos galore from the Bodyline series shown on TV. The mysteriously absent six-sixes bat of Gary Sobers (away for repairs!?) aside, the restaurant was a ‘hit’.  The same can’t be said for their ability to make Mojito’s, which as it turns out really do need mint and can do without cream soda!

Having devoured portion’s of ‘Sir Richard Hadlee’s Surf and Turf’ or ‘Beefie’s Bolognese’ it was time for speeches and awards.  First up, Al presented Amile with a signed mini-bat.  The Whalettes were then handed not-so beautiful yet delicately wrapped bouquets of fake flowers.  Whether this was a full and fair reflection of all their help and support on tour remains to be seen but they say it’s the thought that counts!

Not even the ignominy of gaining a wicket by ‘stumping’ for a fast bowler, or quite probably the worst shot seen on tour could prevent Rich from being awarded Player of the tour.  77 runs and 3 for 99 however, meant the prize was fully deserved.  Paul Mildon receivedChampagne moment for taking a blinder of a catch in the twenty20 match against United Southern.  Despite three separate muppet of the match prizes, Dan escaped the voters wrath in favour of the infamous Dario box incident in match 1: a worthy recipient of the prize… a box!  Final thanks were then expressed to Adam for making the whole trip happen, and for it being such a success.  A bottle of Arrack, cricket wine bottle holder, t-shirt, and a cricket bat signed by all, were presented, with promise of better to come…

All but Ed, Beth and Dan took off to a club in a fierce tut-tut race.  Dario, Adam and Phil won the race, but James took it all too literally, arriving last but actually having been the only Whaler to drive himself!  500 roupees per person later, beers and Arrack began to flow.  Unfortunately the music deteriorated to Europop, but this was not enough to stop Adam from leading the way on the dancefloor, except when rebuffing young ladies or falling asleep.  Even Duncs managed to move to the music with crutches flying about everywhere.  The tut-tut journey again proved eventful, with Adam and Al both forced to get out after running out of fuel!

The following day, we were up and on the bus for our final journey.  Having passed Amile’s quiz, we said goodbye to our guide, No. 2 and Shooey and checked in for the flights.  The usual last minute rush to get rid of all foreign currency duly followed, with Adam spending his on a foot massage.  Once Duncs had finally found himself a seat, Rich had caressed his pillow to sleep and James had argued with the air stewardess, the remainder of the flight proved uneventful and at 8:30pm the trip was over.

An epic!

 

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