Sunday 25 March 2012

GAME 5 - Chile vs Corridors at Craighouse Cricket Ground, Santiago, Chile

March 24th, 2012 - The Corridors go truly international

A little out of order perhaps, I still haven't turned in the match report from the Foam of Muppets C.C. vs Corridors game, but those of you following our tour will probably be more interested to know the outcome of yesterday's game between the South American Champions, that's  Chile, and the world famous Corridor Cricket Club. And to be honest with you, it really is worth knowing about.

At 4.35 am on the morning of the game the Dors were woken, not by the sweet smell of eight men sleeping in a dorm together, but by the largest earthquake since the rather more infamous quake that trapped 33 Chilean miners underground for 69 days...5.3 on the Richter Scale allegedly. And I'm here to tell you, as Richie Benaud might say, that lying in the darkness while the solid, old colonial building you're sleeping in bangs and shudders around you is a frightening enough experience if you're above ground. God only knows what terrors those men went through. The Lump was so shaken that he went outside to the bar which, mercifully, was still open.

Ah, yes. The Lump. Rarely has a natural phenomenon proved so prophetic for just a few hours later that same man was to shake up Chile in a quite different way.

With the Dors in full fig and all aboard Sergio's fun bus it was off to the former school ground at Craighouse outside Santiago. You really couldn't find a more perfect setting to encapsulate the fact that the Corridor Cricket Club was about to take on the whole country. The country's iconic mountain range, the Andes, stood on three sides of the ground and most of us spent a few minutes just wandering around taking in the scenery. The Chilterns pale in comparison to these old, old mountains stretching off one behind another in shades of browns and purples into the distance. Wonderful. The pitch itself was a different matter. In these parts of the world cricketers have to fight not just to bring new players on and to keep the game they love from withering on South American vines, Carmenere probably, but also to keep the few pitches they have in decent order. Craighous School had, quite recently, sold the ground and the water rights that go with it. Consequently a pitch that had been lush and true only months before for the South American Championships was now a parched field with a dry and broken wicket. But they are nothing if not resourceful in this part of the world and Heaven and, literally earth were moved to install an artificial strip in time for our game at no small cost. For this alone we will be eternally grateful and teams looking to tour here should not underestimate the friendliness of the hosts.

And so for the last time on tour the Skipper went out to spin silver against an azure sky. Umpire Ian 'Fuzzy' Walker, without whom this mad enterprise would never have come about, flicked Chilean legal tender from his thumb and Mallard called 'heads'. Just for once the Gods of tossing were on his side and the Corridor's own El Capitan decided to bowl. It so nearly paid dividends. Behlly and Mars opened from either end and sharper hands from the slip cordon might have put Behlly in the Great Book in the first over. The Dors were left to rue the chance as Johnny Bensted went on to craft an imperious 72. Bensted and Last devoured any bad balls to set the scoreboard spinning with the legside boundary in particular taking a pounding. Equally they were respectful of anything decent, preferring to block rather than swish at everything that came their way. Messrs Behl and York toiled in the sun with several chances but no reward and so on came the Swiss Torpedo and the Smurf. Both bowlers wheeled under Chilean skies and again there were chances but the vital breakthrough just would not come.

And so, not for the first time, the Skipper threw the ball to Strachan. 'Cometh the hour, cometh the Lump' as we have said before and who knows what was going through the Lump's mind at that moment. He had certainly been adamant before the tour, and in the lead up to this game, that he would get a bowl. He might even have thought that that would be enough, to see his name down in the scorebook against a whole nation. That was certainly the driving motivational force behind so many of us being here in the first place and the Corridors most lethal bowler seized his chance with both's the way he bowls. Described by the umpire as 'right arm, weird with 6 Lumps to come' Lumpy came on to bowl and almost immediately cleaned up Bensted, shattering his stumps and when I say shattered I mean it. Middle stump, broken in two at the base. Incredible scenes Jeff. The Dors went wild, the Lump went feral bellowing his victory to the surrounding mountains. It's the kind of moment, a condor moment if you will, that really needs to be captured on film...oh, hang on, it was! And Lumpy wasn't finished, not by a long way. The other opener, Last, came out of his crease to take a heave at the Lump, who by now was putting it on a Chilean sixpence, missed, and was stumped by the quick claws of the Crab. Have I told you how superb the crusty one has been on I think I just did. Razor sharp behind the wicket, except for the very odd lapse, Tim Davis has been a stalwart behind the timbers all tour, no mean feat when you consider how much work he's had to do with such a crowded fixture list. So Last was dispatched for a well made 110 which only brought Simon Shalderes to the crease. And now, dear reader, I'd like you to bear in mind that this is the man who scored 190 against Peru and is something of a legend on this continent. He also runs La Casa Roja, the rather excellent hostel with the swim up bar and the cricket net. A top man. But the Lump has never cared for reputation and giant killer that he is, brought this cricketing behemoth back down to earth. Clean bowled. For 8. That's the beauty of the Lump. You think you can play him. You can certainly pick him but somehow, unaccountably, you're out. And you have to go and unpick you're sorry innings before your surpised team mates. Lumpy, meanwhile, carries on with little thought for his victims...except the next one that is. And the next one just happened to be Signor Fecci who decided, as so many have done to their cost, to go after the Lump and manged to pick out the lurking Torpedo under a tree on the boundary. Four wickets for Lumpy. Four international wickets for the Lump. Just ponder that for a moment. Neither Mars nor Behlly, Swiss nor Smurf, the Skip nor Barbarossa or even Forge, who can pick up the odd trophy from time to time, were able to penetrate the Chilean defences. But the Lump could. Four times ladies and gentlemen.

After that Skipper Williams retired on 29, probably trying to avoid becoming Lumpy's fifth scalp, and Chris Emmott and a Signor Perryman bludgeoned a few more runs off the returning Mars and Behlly. It's a great shame that neither bowler was able to ink their names into the book but, as Lee will tell you, that's cricket.

Chile 314 for 4

The Corridors had not disgraced themselves with the ball against an entire country. What could they do with the bat?

The Chileans treated us to what amounts to their haka which Postins knows intimately having been in the middle of one during the Football World Cup in France and it is quite a thing. The Corridors sang the Corridor song. Which is not. But Mars and Russ donned their team colours and strode out to bat with their team mates adulation ringing in their ears. It must have had some effect as both batsmen laid in to the Chilean attack with gusto...a bit like Bisto but with a hint of lemon. Mars attacked anything on his legs swatting boundaries as if they were flies to wanton boys and threw in the odd big boundary too. Russ played a typically laconic innings with his customary elan and was looking good for a big score when he was adjudged LBW by the Fuzz off the bowling of Anurag for 11. He took it on the chin as per. Dawse, in at three, got an absolute snorter from the same bowler which is not what you would want playing your first full international, but even Graham Gooch got a King pair in his first test and he didn't fare too badly thereafter. Paulo, at four, became the bowlers third wicket, again adjudged LBW. Harsh? Fair? Out either way for 5. Forge, elevated to 5, decided to go on the attack and, in his Trottesque manner, played some magnificent shots off his ankles hitting legside boundaries in cavalier style and in tandem with the free hitting Mars. The burly vice captain had eased his way to 46, and we were all waiting with bated breath for the half century, when the worst happened. Mars got a leg stump full toss and put it straight down midwicket's throat. Not literally of course, but it certainly went straight into his hands as if it lived there - typical that it happened to be Chile's best fielder, too.

Passing the incoming Skipper the big lad aoplogised. He has nothing to apologise for. This tour is a testament to Mars' ability to take on a big project whilst holding down a time consuming job and maintaining a meaningful relationship. We have much to thank him for and his 46 was a reminder of the returning power of this legendary Dors batsman.

The Skip, meanwhile, was hoping not to get out for a duck which, for a Mallard, is a surprisingly easy thing to do. But, in partnership with Forgey, he did better than much better. Watching the first few balls he began to score ones and twos and, with the duck safely out of the way, began to find his range. Forge, at the other end was really going after it as well and together the pair lifted an already decent Dors score to new heights, enjoying every moment at the crease.

With Dors on the boundary willing him on, Mallard cut, pulled and drove the oppsition bolwers around the field. Ignoring their umbrella slips he took on the young tyros and, unbelievably, drove one through the hands of mid on to post the boundary that brought up his 50. To take off one's cap, raise one's bat and take in the cheers from the boundary is a special moment. To do it here, on tour, against Chile, with the best group of tourists you could wish for, was the sweetest feeling in the world. At the other end, Forge was eventually cleaned out by Hans Cerpa but not before scoring a meaty 36. Swiss Tony entered the fray and immediately carried on where Forge had left off, creaming boundaries for 23 before being LBW trying to up an already uppity run rate. Not enough to threaten the Chilean score of course, but more than enough to have the Dors buzzing at their best score on tour, in fact one of their best ever.

The Smurf then smurfed a few runs in his smurfy way before being caught for 8 and then the mighty Kung Fu Panda was sent out for the last ball of the game. One ball, one chance for glory. Unfair really and even more unfair is KP's self admosnishment for having a swipe at the ball and being clean bowled for a golden duck. Ridiculous. The Panda is the icon of the team. A one man metaphor. No one has worked harder to be here, playing international cricket, than the Panda. He is the team mascot and represents everything that this tour is about. Taking on the odds, and having a go. If you lose, so what. You were there. And yesterday, we were there.

'Wow!' as the fiery Babylon might say.


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