Red Lights Mean Go !

– An account of the 1996 Holland Tour by Jon Pickles

It was a moment of pure Kensington brilliance. John Behar stepped up to the wicket to bowl a gently flighted off break which the Amsterdam club professional, a South African sporting the name of Quentin Ferreira, promptly propelled for six into one of the more distant canals. John’s figures now read 1.4-0-19-0, mostly the result of Ferreira’s rapidly developing and highly amicable relationship with his off spin.

“Excellent shot!”, remarked Ben Goldschmied, our vocally vibrant ‘keeper, his nose getting browner with every word. Long-on and Long-off were now placed deeper, not so much in the hope of catching the ball but to see more clearly where it would land and avoid minutes of fishing for it in the canal. Cover was sent deep; mid-wicket was sent deeper. “We can only hope to contain this guy, John”, yelped Ben up the wicket. “He’s claaass”.

The next delivery was tossed up even higher and wider, and with ego now swelled to bursting point, the South African aimed a huge blow somewhere in the direction of Oostende…and missed the ball by several feet. Ben has the bails off in a flash and another batsman departs, “Talked Goldschmied, Bowled Behar”.

Up until then the morning had been spent indulging in the local kebab cuisine, laughing at the cigarette vending machine (the “Shag-Automaat”), and in reducing the opposition, Amsterdam CC, to 34 for three after they had won the toss. It was now 59 for four and they went on to make 183 for nine from their forty overs, with a guy called Dukker top scoring with 80. It must be said that Jonathan dropped him in the covers on 40, and by some coincidence the difference appears to be the winning margin. However, Jon compensated by returning 3 for 35 from his nine overs – although Robert, 5 for 14 in his nine overs, was the pick of the bowling.

We succumbed to 143 all out with San top scoring and preserving his average by coming in at number 8 to make 28 not out. The middle order (Ram, Ravi and Vivek) were viciously removed by the aforementioned Ferreira who proved to be an even quicker bowler than he was scorer. Ravi Kannan, who was out toe-before-wicket, limped back to the pavilion even slower than usual while Vivek’s middle stump almost skewered the wicketkeeper standing some twenty yards back. While Kensington collapsed to an inevitable defeat attention was focused somewhat more on a “flying bomb” device which made a whistling noise when thrown, and large quantities of beer generously handed out by our friendly hosts.

The evening had to include a visit to the red-light district, which was especially good (and somewhat alcoholic) fun, particularly as Ben somehow managed to attract more rent-boys than anyone else. “Absolutely not!”, he replied to an enthusiastic Indonesian who enquired whether Ben would be interested in a personal visual display.

We all made it back to the Hotel in one piece.  We even managed to wake up on time and arrive at the destination for our next match against Hercules in Utrecht. Ben made an excellent job of navigating us along the Dutch roads despite the somewhat hallucinatory smells wafting from the rear of the stretch Range-Rover! Vivek, however, had a few more difficulties (to put it kindly), having lost his way several times, and only being saved by his distress call on his mobile. The rescue party brought him in only just in time for the match to a great cheer from players of both teams alike.

The match was played on matting, which was fortunate as the rain that morning had been heavy. Kensington batted first and made a respectable 188-8 from 40 overs, with John playing a very restrained innings of 46 during which he actually kept the ball on the ground once or twice. Ravi’s toes had recovered sufficiently for him to contribute a very “professional” 34, and Robert weighed in with a typical 25 (statutory six over mid-wicket included).

After a large tea we somehow still managed a certain degree of mobility in the field and reduced the opposition to 93 for 5 before a stand of 65 in quick time threatened to put the match out of our reach. However, with thirty runs required and plenty of overs remaining, their professional player launched into a huge drive off John which sent the ball up high, high above Sunil at long off – but not high enough to clear the boundary. Sunil ran back and forth in his Chris-Lewis-style sunglasses like a mad bluebottle, and only at the last minute did he manage to take an heroic almost one-handed catch. Two overs later, their number four swept John to Ravi at mid-wicket and a thrilling finale ensued, with us into the tail but every run counting. Sunil and Robert bowled brilliantly, between them conceding only eight runs off the last five overs. At the start of the final over Hercules were 186-9, just 3 short of victory.  But  had managed to add only one run by the time Sunil ran in to bowl the final ball.  For the fourth successive time their number 11 fished outside his off stump and missed but the non-striker, the tallest batsman in the side, was already two-thirds of the way down the wicket hoping to complete the run that would tie the scores.  Ben’s underarm throw was on target and the batsman, all seven feet of him (plus the length of the bat) stretched out on the matting in a desperate dive, was inches out.

We had to celebrate our one run victory in style, of course; again, ably assisted by the generosity of our opponents who organised a great meal at the local Indonesian restaurant. Immense quantities of food and drink were consumed, and we crawled around the all-night bars till the wee hours. About five in the morning Jonathan could be seen sitting in the middle of the road with a spaced-out Kori, casting curious glances at Ranga, who was singing the Indian national anthem with Pavarotti-like gusto. Most of us made it back to the hotel (drivers Ben and San somehow stayed sober), but John and Ravi had to catch the train back later that morning and have not since explained where they stayed…

HOLLAND TOURISTS 1996 Back: Ram Vajpai, Kori Duodu, Vivek Rattan, Ben Goldschmied, John Behar, Ravi Kannan, Sunil Amar Front: San Gore, Robert Smith, Jon Pickles, Setlur Venkataranga