By Eck – Its Grim Up North

The Whalers visit the cradle of cricket – Yorkshire

The Whalers long anticipated tour of Yorkshire (39 championships) was scheduled to take place over the clubs’ traditional touring weekend at the end of June / beginning of July. The weather in the run up to this weekend and indeed the forecast were variable but all indicated extreme wetness. South Yorkshire was under water, trains were cancelled and motorways flooded out. Bearing this in mind it is perhaps not surprising that it proved impossible to get a squad of 11 Whalers out. In the end we had a core of 9 players and some ringers on standby. The crack team sent up to battle what Yorkshire had to offer was made up of Gould, Dan, Ads, Duncs, Al, Toby, Pip, Dario and Rich.

After much “faffing” it was decided that we would all drive up to Harrogate where we were staying on the Friday evening, or afternoon for those who were able to get away earlier. Dan ultimately had to come on Saturday morning on the train due to some sort of reorganisation at work and Toby decided to take the train as it was handier for his work.

The backdrop to the drive was some extremely unlikely bright sunshine and when the advance party of just 5 Whalers arrived in Harrogate it was a beautiful evening and though it was pretty soggy underfoot we were starting to dare to hope that perhaps the gods were smiling on the Whale and that we were not touring at an inauspicious time. (Al and Duncs being held up on the way by some maniacs trying to blow up a car in central London hadn’t altogether confirmed our hopes). Dario, Duncs, Al, Ads and Rich went off for a curry in beautiful Harrogate and then moved on to an absolute dive of a bar which (honestly) was alright about 8 years ago. Pints were a pound and shots too cheap to remember. While we were there Pip and James turned up and then Toby arrived off his train. Predictably we ended up back in the hotel bar playing 21’s. I don’t remember much more of the evening but am reliably informed most other people were in a similar state.

Match 1 Whalers Vs Oakwood Old Gits

Saturday morning dawned sadly wet, it wasn’t raining heavily but was drizzle and the prospects of it brightening up didn’t look too good. We were due to play the Oakwood Old Gits who are a social team from Leeds. Their contact, Graeme assured us that the ground we were playing on was extremely well draining and since all concerned were all very keen to get a game in it was decided that we would all meet at the ground at Eskrick near York at the scheduled time.

The ground we were playing on belongs to the Yorkshire Gentlemen’s Cricket Club (est. 1863) it is set in the grounds of Queen Margaret’s a girls boarding school and is overlooked by the large stately home that forms the main school building. There were a few girls walking around and lots playing sport nearby but I don’t think any of us looked at them as they were still at school. We weren’t due to be there until 1 which gave people plenty of time to go back to sleep after breakfast. Dario, James and Rich went for a dog walk with Rich’s family instead.

Arriving at the ground the rain was not falling but the pitch was very wet. We met our ringer for the day Will and waited for the rest of the opposition to turn up. Although the pitch was very wet it was decided that we should play a Twenty:20 game and so on losing the toss and because a few of the oppo weren’t there yet we were asked to have a bowl. By the time we started the rain was falling persistently and the wicket was absolutely soaking. Perhaps this could be some sort of defence for the batting of the Old Gits who crumbled away in the face of some accurate but restrained bowling. Dan started things off by claiming a wicket for no run in his first over. James opened from the other end and did same. All the change bowlers then came on and practically did the same. At one point the poor Gits were 5/5, in fact every Whaler including keeper Toby bowled and 8 took wickets, questions were asked of Al and Will who were the only ones left wicketless (although both made up for it with the bat). There was a grim, dark humour to be found in playing a couple of hundred miles from home in the rain on a damp sponge of a pitch and feeling too embarrassed to celebrate as inevitable wickets tumbled.

The salvation for the Gits lay in the hands of their number 9 who came in and actually looked like he had played cricket before. He defended early on and then started to open his shoulders and hit a couple of lusty blows straight and one very nice pull in front of square. This little cameo was played out with a couple of partners, one who was a big chap and found turning on the by now farm like ends of the wicket extremely tricky in his trainers. The other batsman of note was umpiring at the beginning of play and insisted on asking the batsman if he was ready before allowing the bowler to approach the wicket which would have made for some harsh penalties for over rates if the game was being played at a high level. He was an amiable chap who had a lot to say and had himself “played at a very high level” this wasn’t immediately obvious in his technique but I think most would have been prepared to go along with it had he not made the glaring mistake of complementing James on one of the “best balls he had ever seen”. The Old Gits eventually struggled to 42 all out.

The rain was coming down even more heavily by now and it was decided to take tea between innings and to cover the wickets again for the interval. While this was a good idea to keep some of the water off the wicket the wheels that the covers were on dug badly into the out field and left a series of train tracks running along the pitch. Discussions with the friendly and chatty Old Gits led us to decide to improvise with the format of the game; we would bat our full 20 overs even if we went past their score and then they would have another 20 overs to try and get past our total.

Whalers were sent out to bat with instructions to retire once they had reached 25 to give someone else a go. The wet pitch made scoring pretty tricky; both the fielding and the outfield were extremely sluggish. The bowling was not particularly threatening and the openers made steady progress. Gits only had one bowler of any real pace and he was seen off watchfully while runs were taken from the other end. Al made up for his lack of a wicket by scoring 25 and retiring as did our other wicketless bowler ringer Will. Duncs also carried his bat. Next came a moment to demonstrate just how thin and fragile the boundary between genius and insanity can be. After months of nagging, pleading, begging and threatening Duncs gave in to James’ desperate plea to be given a chance with the bat and was promoted to 6. A shocked hush fell over the ground as he walked to the crease and took guard. Duncs faith was repaid as James became the 4th Whaler to score 25 and retire after a slow start. The only real failure with the bat came from your reporter, Rich who fell caught behind off his second ball trying to hit the cover off it in the last over. Whalers scored 180 odd, not as many as we might have hoped for against the Gits but very respectable in the conditions that we had faced.

We now came off for a particularly heavy patch of rain that had begun to fall as we were batting. After everyone had had a bowl and a bat there wasn’t as much desire to play on for the Gits second innings and after a brief discussion it was decided that we had done enough damage to what had been a beautiful pitch when we arrived and the game was declared over. We all stayed around for a little while and enjoyed making use of the clubs bar and chatted to the oppo who were an interesting bunch of people. It had not been the greatest game of cricket any of us had ever played in but it was at least a game on tour in conditions when most other clubs and teams would not have even countenanced playing. For that we have the Gits to thank, it wasn’t perfect but at least it was cricket!

MOM                           :           James Gould (wickets for no runs and 25* when given a batting chance)

CHAMPAGNE          :           Rich (ball that swung away pitched and nipped back to take the top of off)

MUPPET                    :           Will (running in the Somme–like conditions with flat soled trainers on)

We arrived back at the hotel in decent time as the match hadn’t taken as long as we had thought it might so we all descended to the Spa attached to the hotel and had an hours fun swimming, in the sauna and Jacuzzi. We then went out for a big steak dinner at Cattleman’s restaurant. James has asked me to rmention that Pip had forgotten his wallet for the entire trip and so dinner was on him! Feeling full, glad to have played some cricket and not sure what tomorrow would hold the entire group headed off to TIME night club (formerly Jimmy’s of course) it has to be said that very little had changed in there in the last 10 years and it turns out that is not always a good thing.

Plenty of the Whalers present seemed to have been buoyed by the red meat and beer combination and there were some fairly serious moves being laid down on the dance floor. Among those shaking their booties were James and Pip who both seemed memorised by the prospect of drunk Yorkshire slag; and who could blame them? There was lots of fun had that evening including shots of Jaegermeister and snorkels / strawpedos depending on which university you went to. I didn’t hang around to see the final acts played out but judging from breakfast the next morning where Pip was wearing a bleary smile and a lot of hen party paraphernalia it seems to have followed a predictable pattern.

Day 2 Whalers Vs Dace Banks CC

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright. The rain from all the preceding month was admittedly still making everything feel damp and the ground was sopping but surely we hadn’t dared to dream that it would be sunny in the morning after staggering into bed in the rain in the early hours. If people looked a little worse for wear on Saturday, on Sunday they looked like they had slept in graves. The breakfast buffet was attacked by those looking for something to soak up what was left in their bellies and not in the bloodstream.

We had quite a while to wait before it would be time to drive up scenic Nidderdale to the ground so we went for a walk into Harrogate to try and buy some pain relief, coffee and new whites to wear. It was as we were about to meet up to go back to the hotel that the heavens opened and poured forth most of the weekly average rainfall in about 20 minutes of the kind of rain that is rarely seen in England. Venturing out into it was like walking through a waterfall.

Hearts sank into boots (though I daresay some where perhaps slightly relieved) as we could see the chances of a game being washed away with the kebab wrappers and discarded chips of the night before. We returned to the hotel, checked out and confirmed with the opposition skipper that it was worth turning up at the ground. He had already set off and having missed most of the cricket they had scheduled for the season due to the weather he assured us that his team were keen to play if it was at all possible. So we started the 40 or so minute drive to the ground.

The ground at Dacre Banks is a typical Dales village ground (Herbert Sutcliffe was born here) with a big but battered pavilion, dry stone walls around it and spectacular views up and down the dale. The pitch is next to a river and the water table had become very high. There was a chance of a game only if no extra water arrived on top of what had soaked in to the ground. As we pulled up the rain storm we had had in Harrogate caught up to us and that really was that. We spoke with the opposition captain who agreed that there was no chance of game. He was very excited about a West Indian cricket party being held in Leeds that afternoon and was insistent that we should join him for it. However with a long trip home ahead of us and with no chance of playing we were all keen to get home. The ringers for the day Charlie and Tom were thanked and told not to bother coming and we got into various cars and set off for the bright lights of London again. It was a shame that we did not get a game against Dacre Banks as I think that they would have been good opposition for us but at least we got to get home in decent time.

All in all I think that those people who came on the tour had a good time, (except perhaps Duncs who hadn’t slept for a week before arriving). It was a real shame that the weather conspired to ruin the cricket side of it but at least we did manage to get a little bit in which looked unlikely before we left. A big thanks and well done to everybody for keeping their spirits up and for not getting despondent when things were not as any of us would have chosen. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see all the glory of Yorkshire and their cricket but thanks to everyone who came along. Hopefully enough of a taster to encourage people to return.


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