OS Tour 2016

The players and officials:

E Hunt, R Pike, G Pike, K Homewood, D Homewood, J Homewood (scorer) – Paultons

M Paine, J Paine, M McKenzie, J Bance, N Bance (umpire) – Twyford

J Clarke, O Poulton, T Askew, N Salter, C Hutton (umpire and tour management) – Otterbourne

M Hunter – Winterbourne

M May – Retired

The usual smooth organisation back in 2015 had the “four” superb fixtures confirmed for this year with the Royal Fortescue hosting us for our 30th tour of North Devon.

Team selection however did not go as nearly as smoothly as the tour organisation, with the tour skipper unceremoniously axed the week before in favour of the in form Mick Hunter. Sadly for all and sundry including the skipper, Hunter failed a fitness test with a suspiciously stiff groin!

After a superb roast at the Hunters in Heddon Valley, a replenished team including a very nervous Jan Bance who didn’t seem to like the narrow and undulating North Devon roads that were expertly navigated by your reporter.

Lynton and Lynmouth cricket ground is probably the most beautiful in the British Isles. We are truly lucky to continue to play year after year there and are always well looked after, we thank all at the club for their hospitality. To matters on the field of play…

Toss won, OS to bat with a new 2016 partnership of Ollie Poulton and Kym Homewood. A trio of umpires were available to the touring team, rich pickings indeed and needed due to the number of times the bails blew off, I believe a set of Malignium Aragonite bails will be purchased for next year’s game. Homewood under parental observation forgot about batting and played on early on in the innings, with Poulton starting to time the ball nicely particularly off of the back foot. Matt Paine joined the party, fresh from Twyford’s top of the table clash the day before. Painer had clearly left a few out there on Saturday taking a number of “huge swipes” and not connecting. Paine on nine departed the fun when he was well caught prompting a mini collapse and a few raised eyebrows. Tom Askew and Mike May failed to impress the selectors, May unable to lift his 9lb 10 bat further than 10 degrees spooning one to a grateful Lynton fielder.

Luckily for the travelling party, Poulton continued to accumulate and Rob Pike, man of the series in 2015 was in the mood to push the scoring rate up. Poulton fell tantalisingly close to a maiden tour hundred when cricket tour supremo Hutton gave him out LBW on 94. Pike following shortly afterwards for a jug avoiding 44. Useful runs from a combo of Graham Pike, Rob Salter and Elliott Hunt saw a declaration made on 222-8, therefore avoiding seeing the two John’s batting.

A “brilliant” tea with a large volume of sandwiches, cream cakes and scones was quickly consumed by the two teams and visiting infiltrators (alleged supporters).

A buoyant touring team took the field with the usual high jinx / sledging of each other and general mischievousness. John Paine, ahead of his Hampshire over 60’s game at Somerset on Tuesday opened up with measured lines and lengths. Hunt however started with a customary half tracker and then settled into a little rhythm. Rhythm was something difficult to achieve today, with the wind gusting, Matt Paine in particularly struggling to find a good line during his spell.

Lynton threatened early on to pass the 222 posted by the visitors but a mixture of good keeping by Rob Pike, wickets from his evergreen father Graham (although the scorebook said something different) and once the radar was fixed, (courtesy of good advice from one of Twyford’s brains trust) Matt Paine. Young Paine also took two good juggling catches

Late overs from Tom Askew wrapped up the game seeing OS win by a decent 35 runs with all and sundry getting a game.

£26 of fines were realised in the pub along with a plate or two of sausages and chips with a few pints consumed later in the evening at the Reform Inn in Barnstaple.

A weary Barnstaple morning with the touring team scattered in various areas of the North Devon capital, a few fuzzy heads were apparent. A few of the batting fraternity seeking new grips for their railway-like sleeper scoring devices in a sports superstore, other sporting good shops are available. Others sought out record stores, complete with strange smelling incense (I am sure I was high when I left) and charity shops, suiting their budgets.

The Bell at Chittlehampton was the teams lunch date, although team management headed directly to the ground to check out the playing deck. Playing deck good as always although reports of a little slowness by the ground staff were accurate. Toss contrived which cost the skipper dear in the fine ceremony later.

John Paine was axed in favour of day visiting tourist Mike McKenzie from Twyford CC, Painer used as taxi-driver by the latterly mentioned to ferry his children around. Again there were doubts about Mick Hunter, this time suspiciously disappearing for work and unsure on his return time, the Homewood family were put on standby, using the nets to the full.

OS batted early on with reserve, Askew and Salter watchful but then accelerated to increase the run rate once pitch pace and bounce had been negotiated and runs were needed. Askew was caught on 19 and then Salter, who had played a few beautiful flicks and drives was, believe it or not caught by Matt Paine substituting for a conference call detained Newton Tracey 11th Man.

Ollie Poulton was not to repeat his Sunday heroics, bowled for nought, which was disappointing as his parents turned up not 5 minutes later after his bat had been placed under his arm, cueing a chunter or two. Suddenly the tourists were in trouble (why is it always at Newton Tracey) with Paine repeating his feat and sending Hunt back for 5, so disappointed was young Elliott he sat under the big oak tree for half an hour trying to rediscover himself. Shouts of “how long is this conference call going on for” echoed around the ground shortly afterwards.  Once again it was Mike May and Rob Pike to the rescue, plundering the bowling to all parts. Mike May in particular, with his newly balanced tree trunk was timing the ball like a dream. The only issue with a bat like that is that once you start hitting a shot it is impossible to stop, the laws of physics applying well here. Mike who only plays in the few cricket games a year on this tour was in great form and for the younger members of the touring team, if you want to know how to play a cover drive, watch the racing snake like man with the big bat.

May succumbed on 65 including a huge six and with McKenzie joining Pike junior hitting a quick 19 not out, Pike finally falling off of the last ball of the day, (never ever declare at Newton Tracey!) for a sketchy but ultimately telling 88. A total of 250 was competitive but the Tracey Island pitch is fast scoring with two very short boundaries.

Another excellent tea, confirmed by the weighing scales at home this morning (Thursday)

OS took to the field with the exuberance of a team that had a few at lunchtime and were promptly savagely sledged by their own team manager. Nobby Bance adding to the lambasting with a number of cutting remarks about the collective movement of the fielders.

On this occasion OS took a number of early wickets and despite great efforts from Tracey’s skipper Kieran Soper plus John Motiram who threatened briefly, it was to be a 55 run winning margin for the visitors. Graham Pike appeared unplayable, knocking back the stumps three times. Askew again came on to despatch the tail taking two and only Jon Bance’s figures, one over of pies for 24 ruined a good looking scorecard.

Special note to Dylan Homewood who fielded for the “crocked” and “work-focused” Mick Hunter, stopping a bullet shot halfway through the match with his right foot which cost his timber carrying father a doubloon or two. Also, young Jude Homewood who scored throughout, nothing like learning on the job.

An excellent pint or two in the Hunters adjacent to the ground relieved the tourist team of nearly £50 in fines and even include a fine for the oppo skipper for hitting the youngster mentioned above.

The normal Italian restaurant hosted the majority of the squad, with a few venturing to the curry house including the team management, who was to make his roomy suffer that evening! The Oldies however (it was a bit late for them to eat) were taken to the Rolle Quay Inn by their respective son’s where, after a few prompters,  the pub skittles team felt very sorry for the “sages” presenting a plate of pork pies and various other delights to the Umpire and Hampshire’s oldest opening bowler. Pints of Devon and Cornwall’s finest ale were consumed.

The full squad reconvened at the hotel, bar shut, disaster. However the energetic Hunt managed to blag a number of fine bottled ales from Wetherspoons, using the tour fine money to tempt away the intoxicating liquids. A great day.

Fuzzy heads again greeted the majority of the team on Tuesday morning with John Paine leaving us on the way to Somerset for the over 60’s game, result unknown at time of writing. Nobby Bance was also to depart to pick the anxiety recovered Jan Bance up from family in South Devon, I think he would have loved to have stayed for the whole tour as I suspect JP!

A 13:30 start at Chulmleigh was the mission on day three. Chulmleigh have an amazing colts set-up but even more amazingly only play adult friendly games. Unfortunately they were struggling for players today and after a skipper to skipper conversation it was agreed to loan them in-form bowler Hunt, who seemed to relish the news and quite stupidly for fielding only, our tour catching sensation Matt Paine. Thankfully Paine was not to figure in the “how out” column on the scorecard today.

The sensationally named Fenton Davies opened up the bowling for our hosts and I was quite pleased to be umpiring at the time as he used the greenish wicket (it was greener before we turned up and cut 15 minutes before kickoff) to good effect beating the bats of Clarke and Salter on numerous occasions. Unbelievably he was not to take a wicket, goodness knows how, that is cricket for you. Clarke and Salter meandered to 67 before Clarke was bowled by Calbraith courtesy of an inside edge.

Salter was to follow shortly when the OS loan player Hunt was to not only bowl the ball that took the wicket but to catch a mistimed heave for an unlucky 13. Mick Hunter, who was all out of excuses of why he was unavailable today was to be bowled for 5, prompting some clever batting (lucky at times too) from Kym Homewood and the slightly recovered Mike May, who again played some cultured shots. Rob Pike and Tom Askew, regaining his batting mojo, smashing two enormous sixes, closed out our innings on 199-5 in our allotted time. Chumleighs skipper Tom Spence was to be the most productive of the bowlers with three prized OS wickets.

Tea taken. Chumleighs reply started very poorly with their work-bound skipper Caught behind first ball off of Graham Pike. Graham was to the lead the attack again with three wickets, two of which snaffled by son Rob stood up to the twirler. It could well have been a hat-trick of Caught Pike, Bowled Pike but the youngster was thinking about his next pint of fruity cider and failed to take a low chance.

Chulmleigh rebuilt and had their chances to win the match, the Davies family clearly good cricketers with youngster A Davies making an excellent 60. The game was over when the only moment that he did anything on tour, Jon Bance ran out the youngster when his father had sent him back looking for a second, Hutton giving the unfortunate Davies out. Salter and Homewood were to take three and two wickets respectively and with Elliott Hunt the last man out bowled by his third team mentor and captain at Paultons,, Homewood the game was done. OS had won by 33 runs.

Although we had a little more in the tank Chulmleigh could well have won today if a full complement of players had been available to their captain.

The Old court house was to host, with the Davies family joining us in the pub. Again a few pints consumed with upward of £50 of fines collected. Elliott Hunt putting in well over £10 having been forced to play for the oppo. He was really fined for being overly enthusiastic throughout the game and sledging his touring team mates. Due to this enthusiasm Elliott’s racing bicycle, which he somehow decided to bring along, for reasons other than to annoy Mick, we are unsure. After a near fatal fall once again for Mick during a slack bladder moment at 3am that morning, a dastardly plan was set, resulting in the bike disappearing for 24 hours and a great spoofed note from our private detective clearly stating the bike was a health and safety hazard and that Hunt was to collect at the end of his stay…….

Wetherspoons and the hotel hosted us for our final night where two of the younger members of the squad decided to go out in style and got hammered in the process losing wallets, money and plenty of dignity along the way, sympathy is not really something this touring party do well!

Day four arrived for some with a saunter through the Barnstaple streets, plenty of bottled water and a long drive to our lunch venue, the excellent Beer Engine in Newton St Cyres en route to our last ground, Thorverton. Only one alcoholic beverage was to be purchased, captain sensible heads on for the first time on tour.

The Thorverton ground is excellent in the worst of the weather, which we seem to get regularly there, however today despite the potential of a very light shower, the ground was in unbelievable condition. The outfield had been skimmed pre-season and the square completely re-laid. It was even better than I could remember five years prior.

Thorverton are an excellent club with great players who know which end of the bat to hold and equally how to make the ball “do” things. We were going to have to play to our potential to make a game of this. After yet another skipper to skipper discussion and the fact that there was a potential that two players (sic) were lost, we were again to bat first. Alan the skipper at Thorverton is a great host and key figure at Thorverton and we thank him for his ongoing hospitality.

Then if by magic our two idiots arrived with a few car park wheel spins, one to open the other to bat at three as penance. Clarke and Askew clearly were enjoying an excellent deck with Askew early on punishing anything slightly short. Clarkey, in his customary fashion got himself in but was struggling to push on. Askew departed bowled and Poulton replaced making a dozen or so before he was out, heading back for some much needed sleep. Askew also taking 40 winks.

Rob Pike joined Clarke on the ever flattening wicket and batted magnificently again. Clarke, inspired by the South league superstar cut loose and was finally out five over’s from the end for a well accumulated 67. May was the last man to join Pike and sensibly gave the youngster the strike. Pike making what we thought was 93 but turned out to be 97, if he had hit the last ball for four he would have made a hundred, not that we would have known until much later! OS finished on a creditable 240 but we thought we were 20/30 short on a lightning outfield and a superb wicket.

The tea… well, delicious, everything you could ever have asked for. Re-pleat and slightly sleepy we took to the field for the last time on this year’s tour. Salter and Matt Paine bowled superbly early on each taking a wicket and restricting our hosts but some fine fight back batting had us on the back foot, Graham Pike and Kym Homewood taking the brunt of the onslaught. It was to be Pike junior, with the skipper throwing the dice for one last time that turned the game back in our favour, with pace, bounce and a brutal slower bouncing delivery. Afraid I cannot report on the rest as a diving left handed stop at cover point off of the Pike boy crocked me and I do not remember the rest other than we won by around 50 runs with Askew and Clarke taking a wicket or two.

The game ended with the usual great hospitality from Thorverton, we are indebted to you all and a little sadness that the 2016 tour was over. All of us had enjoyed it immensely. Tour supremo Hutton was applauded when he entered the dressing room and rightly so, brilliantly organised, fun and a splattering of good cricket. The stand out was that everyone enjoyed everyone else’s company, commented by the majority of the team as we had our last drink. We were also a decent cricket team and a pleasure to captain, I enjoyed every minute.

Well done to the lads and to our support team.. roll on 2017.


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