By Anton Lloyd-Williams
The Marylebone Cricket Club, founded way back in 1787, has no doubt played in some odd places over the years. They send touring teams all over the world and one such group of adventurers found itself in a quietly forgotten corner of rural Japan, marked on the map as Togane, to face the East Kanto XI (founded 2014).
Months of painstaking preparation by Dave Lollback looked set to come to naught as the fine weather promised for Saturday November 1st quickly disintegrated into persistent showers just after dawn. Nonetheless, the local players gamely turned up early to welcome the MCC, fresh from some successful local school workshops, and set about constructing the Togane Pavilion.
Representing the East Kanto XII we had a Chiba Sharks Best of… compilation, some up and coming young guns and a handful of National Team regulars;
Chris Thurgate (c) (Chiba Sharks CC)
Tsuyoshi Takada (vc) (Chiba Sharks CC & Japan Men’s National Team)
Prashant Kale (Chiba Sharks CC & Japan Men’s National Team)
Masaomi Kobayashi (Japan Men’s National Team)
Alex Patmore (wk) (Japan Men’s National Team)
Yosuke Higashimoto (Japan Men’s National Squad)
Rui Matsumura (Chiba Sharks CC, My-Ys, and Japan Men’s Training Squad)
Ryo Yamashita (Chiba Sharks CC and Japan Men’s Training Squad)
Varun Sancheti (Chiba Sharks CC)
Aditya Tallapragada (Chiba Sharks CC)
Dhugal Bedingfield (Chiba Sharks CC)
Dave Lollback (Chiba Sharks CC)
The MCC touring party, managed by spinning legend John Emburey (Middlesex CCC & England) was comprised of
Daryl Mitchell (c) (Worcestershire CCC)
Ben Scott (wk) (Middlesex CCC)
Michael Krause (Ditchling CC)
Tyler Griffin (Gore Court CC)
Mark Tipping (Norfolk CCC & Norwich CC)
Jonathan Riches (Standard Athletic CC)
Mark Sullivan (Heanor Town CC)
Vishal Sethi (Brentham CC)
Edward Lowe (Guildford CC)
Rudra Singh (Hyde CC)
Thomas Philp (Halstead CC)
Gareth Fisher (Colchester & East Essex CC)
Charlie Hopkins (Bourne CC)
The Umpires were Kris Bayne (Chiba Sharks CC) and Jon Reed (MCC). The Scorers were Yukiko Thurgate (Chiba Monstars CC) and Anton Lloyd-Williams (Chiba Sharks CC).
The two teams got acquainted and joined in the arduous process of laying the Flicx pitch on the immaculately rolled but sodden wedge in the middle of the ground. A slight oversight with the uniforms saw the East Kanto XI don a fetching green and purple ensemble that made the old New Zealand caramel and black effort look deeply stylish.
Captain Thurgate gallantly lost the toss and was invited to take the field. Messrs. Mitchell and Tipping took their respective ends and this historic match started at 10:17, a little later than scheduled. Given the shoddy weather, it was a miracle it got started at all.
In front of a respectable crowd (15 odd?) of locals, proud parents and ground staff, Rui had the honour of leading the attack along with Takady and both adapted fairly quickly to the slippery conditions, bowling near full pace. It was soon evident though, that County Cricket batsmen are made of special stuff. From the get go, the timing from both was precise, the cutting was crisp and the early driving imperious.
The pitch played as low as expected but was regularly so. This meant that a good number of balls were sent firmly along the deck to all corners of the ground. The EKXI showed plenty of pluck and some considerable skill in cutting off a hatful of certain 4s and getting the ball back smartly to the ever ready Patmore.
Takady was his usual boisterous self, always threatening a run out if the ball came into his sector while Amigo Kobayashi showed true prowess at keeping the ball within the ropes and returning it like a rocket, turning certain 4s into scrambled 2s. He put on a dynamic fielding show in front of the MCC tent and was warmly applauded for it. Slippery conditions but stoical batting meant that after 10 overs the MCC had put on 56.
The bowling was routinely good and Sharks paceman Sancheti put the ball past the willow’s edge a few times. However, the batsmen were settling in and showing their quality more and more. Leftie Tipping was patient but still scored heavily from carefully placed shots through the areas behind him. Mitchell was more assertive and punched anything too straight over the ropes with some sumptuous drives that sounded as good as they looked. Drinks were taken at 20 overs gone with the score at 110 for 0.
A change was needed. Patmore bravely (i.e. suicidally ) decided to stand up to the stumps as Takady came charging in from the other end. Tipping lost his balance trying to get some purchase on a leg side wide and was brilliantly stumped to give the Eastie Boys their deserved breakthrough.
Lowe came in and bizarrely tried the same shot to the same ball. The same keeper was in the same place and whipped the same bails off. As we like to say of unfortunate batsman who make the long trek out to Fuji – that was a long, long, long way to come for duck. Buoyed by this stroke of fortune (and sharp work by the stumper) the Purple and Green bowling took on a slightly more menacing hue.
Higashimoto found some good lines to the wristy looking Singh and when one stuck in the pitch a little, the ball was clipped up to Amigo who made no mistake at shortish mid-wicket. A rout on the cards maybe? Erm.. dream on.
Meanwhile, skipper Mitchell had carefully seen his half century come up and was finding the boundary with some effortless looking crackerjack shots through all areas. A century looked inevitable as, with one eye on the gathering gloom, Mitchell went for broke moving quickly into the 80s.
However he almost broke the windscreen of a passing truck as he belted one high out over the deep mid-wicket fence and out of the ground for a 6. Unfortunately, in order to protect the locals it had been agreed that such a shot would be given out. Umpire Bayne dutifully raised the finger and the bemused MCC skipper made his way back under canvas to the applause of all after his sterling innings. He was delighted to learn that his method of dismissal was recorded as “Out of Bounds”. Possibly a first for him.
With Mitchell gone, Mother Nature decided she’d had enough. The rain soon started falling in sheets and the bowlers and even batsmen were finding it difficult to retain their feet. The umpires did the sensible thing and avoided putting anyone in injury’s way by abandoning the match at 12:35 in an absolute cloudburst. MCC had made 203 from 33 overs for the loss of 4 wickets.
Players and watchers made all haste indoors to the big sports centre next door where a brief ceremony was held to thank the MCC for coming such a long way to bring their brand of cricket to Chiba. Captain Mitchell’s knock of 86 earned him a Man of the Match award while Takady’s spirited mix of high intensity fielding and probing bowling was recognized in similar fashion by the MCC.
So came to an end, a high point for the game of Cricket in Chiba. The best known team in the world have played there now and put it on the map. The East Kanto XI gave a very good account of themselves and drew the praise of their opponents. It is an important milestone on the road to establishing the great game in an area where there is clearly so much talent waiting to be put to good use.
Many thanks to Dave Lollback, and Yumi Ishimoto for making the match possible and to the East Kanto XI and MCC for making it all worthwhile. See you again we hope.
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