The annual Yokohama Country & Athletic Club Six a Side Tournament was played on Sunday October 4th. Representing the Chiba Sharks (having managed to shake our first moniker, ‘New Zealand’) were, in alphabetical order, Alexis, Anton, Graeme Gardiner (of Tokyo Predators), Himi, Kris and Navin. We eventually assembled about an hour before our first match, Kris having made a ‘code two’ dash across the Kanto Plain: one dash from a Chiba postcode to Kanagawa postcode, the other code being sporting, from AFL to cricket. We welcomed Anton for his first game as a Shark and Graeme as a predator of an aquatic kind.
‘India’ first up. Kris had the honour of captaining and promptly lost the toss – blames lingering seasickness from the Aqua Line. We batted and sent in Graeme and Himi wielding kitchen sinks, which they proceeded to throw with abandon. By 1st over’s end Graeme was 18ish and we were off to a flyer. Himi also turned on the taps as the strike rotated. The rules required any player who reaches 25 to retire, so Graeme’s gem of an innings ended there. Enter Kris, who, as quick as you could say ‘ETC-bing!’ was advising a notoriously nervous Navin not to do what he just did… Mercifully, Navin listened. Joining Himi, who seemed to be enjoying himself immensely carving the bowlers around the shop, Navin looked graceful, elegant and predictably solid. Some lovely textbook drives and one effortless clip just short of a six. The lad, who seems to have decided to remain 15, looked good! Once a very entertaining Himi departed, new ‘boy’ Anton gave some charmed support to see us push to a respectable 61 off our five overs. A padded up and prowling Alexis looked fit to bite the heads off whippets. The ‘good money’ (a.k.a Prashant who played the tourney with a divide heart, I expect) had it that India was not a strong batting side…
Buoyed by this Alexis fairly pawed the synthetic turf with the swimming pool at his back. During his demolition job Graeme managed to upset his hammy so he took the gloves. Game on! Well, … Alexis would admit himself that it was not his best over and India ended up a bit more cheered than we had hoped and they probably expected after one over. Anton then had a rather rough introduction to cricket in Japan. When the over eventually ended and the umpire had had physio on his shoulders, the Indians were looking quite comfortable with three overs left…. The Shark hierarchy’s unfathomable decision not to let Kris bowl during the regular season was about to be tested!! A+ guys, and FYI a fathom is 1.8288 metres, though not all of Kris’ balls were that wide. We did see the back of two Indians, one retired 25, the other bowled, however. But as the Yanks say, “it’s naaart ohverrrr ‘til the faaat laaady siiiings”, or some such twaddle. Here it was not over til Navin and Himi had had a crack. Well, Navin, anyway. The yips seemed to be more contagious the Shin-influenza as Navin wobbled down a few, with the Indians eventually hauling us in in the fourth over. We had blown a great start by Graeme and Himi. Dare I say we ended up a bit wide of the mark…
We didn’t, in fact, make it off the ground before we were asked to front up to ‘International’ for our next match. Kris won the toss and we decided to bowl with the shadows growing ever longer and the beat of the Sri Lankan drums ever louder. As Himi had been left cooling his heels in Game One he opened up from the bowling green end, with Anton donning the gloves – a Shark first? batting, bowling and ‘keeping in his first outing? Here I would like to say that Anton did a very respectable job behind the stumps. Too bad about the stuff at the other end. While our bowling effort wasn’t on a par (more like ‘over par’?) with our first game one could see some overs in the nets would not go astray. (Graeme exempted here as he bowled well and got a wicket.) Our direction improved – any worse and we would have been handed lawn bowls – but the Internationals were gifted too many ‘oh-hi-there-hit-me’ balls which saw them to 66. We were not inept in the field – Graeme manufactured a nice run out – it was just we did not each have arms three metres long and could not run like gazelles. (Imagine that…) Anyhow, we had made 61 in Game One, with a duck egg in there, so we could give it a shake.
The Graeme/Himi combo was sent in to make a statement. Unfortunately it was not as loud as the first game, with the opening bowler being annoyingly hard to score off except for ones or two. With Graeme a bit sore they could not put the fielders under as much pressure as before. They got going a bit and by the time Himi departed we were sort of on track. Kris and Graeme were keeping the scoreboard ticking over but the required boundaries just did not come. All of us being new to this format we learned a lesson that you need to take your batting chances when you get them. The bad balls must be dealt to the max with when they come ‘cause there are a very finite number. We would need some wides to help out, but the balls were on the pegs as Kris found out. Navin and Graeme did not get any aid from the bowler and we finished around 7 or 8 short. Alexis was unlucky not to get a bat so a push up the order might be in line down the line. Graeme again was our rock with 24 n.o. so he was never beaten on the day. The Chiba Shark were, however, but only on the scoreboard!!
Before retiring to the bar to watch the semis and finals (or not) we had our umpiring duties to perform in the Sri Lanka VS India semi. A little bird (a.k.a Prashant who kept us up to date on the various and endless intrigues of the day) informed us that the men of the Serendip isles had been ‘at it’ since nine in the morning (and their drumming was much the better for it, I reckon!). We looked quite fetching and professional in our whites and Shark polos, clutching our little rocks in our hands…. Erhm… The drums eventually fell silent… I think the Australian Embassy will be hearing from the Sri Lankan Embassy at some stage. It was all very Darryl Hairian. I know I was the benefactor of some phrases in Sinhalese which I took to mean, “Where’s your cane and dog, Umpire!”, or it could have been, “and the horse you rode in on, Umpire”. I definitely heard the ‘Umpire’ bit. Navin did say the word “Thief” rolled over the ground – but that is Alexis’ story!
We then hightailed it to the bar where the beers when down well, we agreed we did not miss the ‘Shazzes’ and ‘Nathans’ on this side of the Pacific, we made sure Navin ate well, … well just about everything – salad first, and the YCAC bar staff were treated to seeing three Sharks and a Predator in a fir tree – and it is not even Christmas yet.
It was an event – what wouldn’t be with a field of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan cricketers at close quarters with some Sharks, Predators and Wombats thrown in. We played cricket. We played some rubbish. We met some nice people. We had a few beers. We had a few overs. We umpired. We laughed. We lost twice. But, then again, so did the Wombats (a.k.a Australia). Thanks to YCAC for inviting us. Thanks to Prashant for the help in arranging the schedule for us (don’t fret over the final, mate). Thanks to Graeme for saving us from total disgrace and embarrassment. Thanks to Miyasaka of JAFL for driving Kris from roughly Chris T’s house in Oami to Yokohama Station. Thanks to cricket we had a good time.