TOUR REPORT – Oporto, Portugal – 26-29 April 2013
By San Gore and Michael Blumberg
Well, we managed to find eleven (just) for our second visit to Oporto, the home of some of the finest port in the world. Of the usual touring suspects, Chris was away filming, Neeraj was all tied up with his judging event, Matt, Rohan and Mark Jefferson had other pressures. So, the veterans Michael, Sunil and San became the core of the group, with Steve rearranging his travelling plans so as to lead the drinking brigade, and Atul to keep us all amused. With Sarwar and Farrukh persuaded to come as well we were all of seven, and an aged seven at that. Should we cancel the tour? But Sunil was adamant and leaned upon his son Sumaer, who in turn roped in two of his pals, Jay Matharu, a very likeable character, and Jay Jadeja, a professional tennis player. Both the Jays were not into cricket very much but most importantly they were young and enthusiastic and would make up for the old codgers on the field. With ten confirmed the tour was on. Then Atul pulled out as he had to go to India to sort out a business deal! At the last minute however, Sarwar managed to get his friend Nasser Khan (sporting a Hashim Amla beard) to join the party together with his son Amar who played some league cricket as a pace bowler. Eleven – whew.
The advance guard – Sunil, San and Michael – landed on the Thursday evening in sunny Oporto, not because they were keen to get any net practice in. San had booked a trip for Friday up the Douro valley, a journey that we couldn’t do on our last visit. First the train up to Régua and then a cruise down the Douro river back to Oporto. It was a day well spent away from the madding crowd enjoying the spectacular scenery in this wine growing region. A three-course lunch was served on board with lots of wine. Truly a relaxing way to start a cricket tour.
Sat 27 April Oporto – 1 Won by 5 wkts
They 102/10 in 27.5 overs (Simon Dixon 27, Pedro Salima 14, Amar Khan 4/15, Hasan 2/12, Jadeja 2/16, Sumaer Amar 2/28)
We 103/5 in 19.4 overs (Nasser Khan 29*, Steve Thomas 21*, Sarwar 18, Anthony Chambers 4/46)
The great thing about playing at the Oporto Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club is that we actually stay on the premises, and simply roll out of bed, grab some breakfast downstairs, and stroll onto the ground ready to play. No lifts to arrange, no traffic to contend with, we just enjoy an extra hour in bed. Mind you, some still have difficulty turning up in time after a late night bender – but more of that anon.
Perhaps hangovers are what our hosts expected as they took first strike. But they were shocked and we were delighted to find that teetotaller Amar Khan was an awkward customer and quite a handful. He winkled out the first three batsmen in no time at all.
At the other end Sumaer with his fast in-duckers grabbed two wickets and first change Farrukh a model of line and length took the next two. Oporto were 40/7 and in complete disarray, made more so that one of their better batters, Jeremy Radford, was delayed, and there was a real danger that the innings would be over before he arrived. San took his foot off the pedal and gave Sunil Amar and Jay the tennis pro a go. The score trickled past 70 before Jay crashed through no.9’s defences. The skipper Steve Dixon showed skipperly resistance but was immediately undone on the recall of Amar Khan (too many Amars and Khans and Jays here). We allowed Mukesh Rajani to bat in place of Jeremy but Jay soon wrapped up the innings by bowling no.10 Pedro Salima who though relatively new to the game was the second highest scorer with 14. A good performance by Kensington who were excellent in the field, especially the two Jays who took four catches between them, Matharu’s being the vital one to get their big gun Premal Rajani.
Lunch and wine (and port, of course) was a leisurely affair in the pavilion. Michael and Jay (the Matharu) opened the innings for KCC but the port effect held sway as both were out inside 6 overs. Sarwar struck some telling blows and San did the same. But on a call for a quick run, the bulk of the ‘Mighty War’ could not respond and his knee went crunch. He sacrificed his wicket and hobbled back his tour now in ruins. San then gave point an easy catch and Jay (the Jadeja) was clean bowled next ball to leave KCC precariously at 50/5, young Anthony Chambers had taken 4/24 and was bowling well. The experienced Nasser ‘Amla’ Khan and Aussie Steve, however, made light of the situation and raced to the target in the next 7 overs.
Plenty of time then to natter on the clubhouse verandah with lots of drinks and good company. Some of our younger set (plus never-to-be-left-out Steve and Pedro) went off nightclubbing afterwards. But that is a different story.
Sun 28 April Oporto 2 Drawn
They 203/8 in 47 overs (Chambers 68*, Sanath 36, Stotesbury 24, Hasan 2/28, Sumaer Amar 2/33, Amar Khan 2/61)
We 189/2 in 17.3 overs (S.Thomas 43, N.Khan 29, Blumberg 28, A.Khan 24, Premal Rajani 4/55, Jeremy Radford 2/9)
Tour match two can be a difficult one after several late nights especially so when half the team fail to make breakfast and only a couple make it to the swimming pool to revitalise the grey cells and loosen the joints. When the match is all day with a morning start the decision to bat first is fraught with potential disaster and thus it was that Michael, the skipper for the day, having won the toss elected to field. This news was not greeted with enthusiasm by our senior batsman Steve Thomas who had arrived at the ground straight from his bed already padded up. However such was his lack of sobriety that he failed to articulate his fury despite much spluttering and frothing at the mouth.
The fielding decision seemed to be a good one as KCC’s opening bowlers Sumaer Amar and Amar Khan, despite radar problems, took two early wickets and after ten overs the score was just 24. Oporto then added 46 for the next wicket whereupon the mature bowling duo of Farrukh Hasan and Sunil Amar caused a mini collapse snapping up 3 more wickets. So at 88/5 at the start of the 29th over KCC appeared to be in a commanding position.
However no.7 Anthony Chambers had other ideas and set about KCC’s tiring bowling with relish and some good fortune to the extent of an unbeaten 68 off 64 balls taking Oporto to 203/8 off 47 overs with assistance from Premal Rajani, Johnny Graham and Simon Dyson. Kensington had helped this score with 36 extras of which 14 were wides – and in a declaration game!
We then lunched well as one does at the Oporto Club helped by ample quantities of Fine Wine and Port and after a suitable interval set about chasing down a total of 204 for victory. KCC opened with teetotaller Nasser Khan and Steve Thomas who had to leave early for the airport. These two swashbuckling batsmen set about Oporto’s bowling so much so that when Nasser mishit the score was 51 off 6.3 overs.
Unfortunately, Sumaer Amar fell for a duck caught rather well by Gregg Stotesbury. Steve Thomas carried on in big hitting mode while losing Farrukh Hasan and San Gore at the other end. Steve and Amar Khan had added 32 when Steve was adjudged lbw to Johnny Graham’s bowling for 43, somewhat frustrated at his failure to keep the strike and sustain the innings momentum. The score was 111/5 in the 21st over.
The veteran skipper joined Amar Khan with 27 overs to go and a long tail and began blocking. Amar soon fell for a cameo 24 caught and bowled by Jeremy Radford and so our Tennis pro, Jay Jadeja, joined the skipper at 118/6. Now life was made somewhat more fraught for the incumbent batsmen as no.11 had disappeared, apparently gone up to his room for a lie down after the night before. Would be reappear? Overs passed as the skipper played two sequences of ten dot balls and Jay one. However, eventually both batsmen changed momentum. What had seemed likely at best to be a mighty boring draw suddenly changed and but for some splendid fielding by Oporto the result may have been different. Gregg Stotesbury took a superb running catch to remove Blumberg. Jay hit a couple more boundaries but we ended but 14 short with two wickets in hand as Jay Matharu had had his kip and was padded up ready if required.
Match drawn and so KCC were unbeaten on tour, a very enjoyable tour it should be added with great thanks to our hosts, The Oporto Lawn Tennis and Cricket club.
Tour to Porto, Portugal – 14-19 April 2011
By Mark Jefferson
It was doubtless irresponsible of the KCC executive to send this group on a tour to a city synonymous with an alcoholic beverage, but strange forces seemed to be at work before a ball was bowled: Chris Ledger was sighted at the Taylor’s estate posing in front of an oil painting of one of his ancestors – further evidence of why he leads us with such a sense of entitlement; Elias and Farrukh were spotted panting down a travelator, erroneously informed their flight was about to leave and endangering their weekend spells (“if they’ve got a Muslim name, let’s really have fun with their flight experience” – Gatwick staff manual); the KCC youth policy meant they were off with 3 men in their sixties, 2 just or about to be fifty, 4 in their forties and no-one (bar the Nayar boys) under thirty; and, most worrying of all, Steve Thomas announced on the plane that he was an intelligent and educated Australian – if not an Aussie moron, surely an oxymoron.
Sat 16 April Oporto – game 1 Lost by 7 wkts
We 154/10 in 48 overs (Ledger 41, Jefferson 24*, Hussain 18, Extras 35, Alam Khan 3/36, Ferreira 2/7, Gupta 2/21)
They 156/3 in 29.2 overs (Alam Khan 128*, Radford 11, Hasan 1/19)
Tha’ wast playin’ down Piccadilly when tha’ shudduv bin down’t Bakerloo. KCC batted first and second ball Neeraj had his off pole plucked out. A long spell of selfless umpiring then? But no, he walked across to his room for a mint tea, massage, spa bath and to listen to some French rap with his accompanying sons Alex and Stef, reappearing for his lunch. Gore and Thomas were soon back in the shed, too, and the innings never really got going with Ledger batting responsibly, which never feels quite right. 92/6 became respectable with a 47 stand from Elias and Mark (the bowling bodies have gone, so it’s time to justify your existence somehow) and with 154 on the board Ledger announced that it was a “competitive” total – the modern day euphemism for “not enough runs”. The innings was somewhat stalled by Oporto’s Maxx Mobiles strategic time out, in that this lasted 2½ hours not 2½ minutes and involved plying their opposition with wine and port. The low point was a nasty leg injury to Michael whilst batting, the 105th of his career (club record), which would see him retire hurt and be put out for the weekend (“it’s a funny one this, it doesn’t actually hurt”). Stefanos Nayar stepped in to take his place for the rest of the tour and the team’s average age instantly dropped by 13 years per man.
Sunil and Farrukh had Oporto rocking on 10/2 but Danny Morrison would have burst a blood vessel because suddenly it was raining maximums – Tabrez being particularly and spectacularly DLF’d (“this one is out of here”). Alam Khan made a brutal 128 not out – there were 21 other runs off the bat in the whole innings. KCC repaired to the bar to regroup.
Sun 17 April Oporto – game 2 Won by 198 runs
We 316/5 in 40 overs (S.Thomas 98, Mantha 71, T.Khan 43*, Gore 36*, N.Nayar 25, Mukesh Rajani 3/48)
They 118/10 in 26.2 overs (Dixon 22, P.Rajani 20, Shaun Berry 19, Amar 3/21, Ledger 2/8, Jefferson 2/21, Hasan 2/24)
Again inserted, KCC opened with Steve Thomas and Ravi Mantha. The plan was clear: Steve would give it some pasty and Ravi would play, as one wag put it, shit anchor. It worked. Steve blasted 98 off 51 balls and Ravi was 49 not out off 29 overs at lunch. This was another longish affair and some of the Kensington boys, notably San and Chris, were getting too much port down the hatch. Fortunately Steve and Mark were on hand to counsel that many a great career had foundered on such irresponsibility. Play resumed and Ravi, now using Steve’s bat, was finding his range in a perfectly paced innings, eventually out for a very creditable 71. The runs kept coming. Neeraj avoided the pair and made 25, San got a stylish 36 not out, but the stage belonged to Tabrez. Bristling after the abuse he was given the night before (team-mates kept signalling six over dinner), he was a man possessed and flayed 43 off just 18 balls. A Citibank moment of success for the young warrior. All this amounted to 316/5 off just 40 overs (club record).
Farrukh Hasan (inset left with Elias) charged in, the earth shook, and soon he was amongst the wickets with another fine, accurate opening spell. Jefferson bowled ‘Yardy filth’ at the other end but picked up two caught by Tabrez and was rounded on by Farrukh as a pie-chucker. Stefanos bowled a lovely spell and picked up a wicket and Sunil took 3 in 4 overs, as his mission to put the KCC wickets record beyond the reach of future generations goes on. Tea brought more agreeable socialising but the game needed to be finished off. There was time for Steve to take the best tumbling catch ever by someone with 6 Superboks and half a bottle of port inside them, for Mark to grass an unputdownable and for Neeraj to snare a Karbonn Kamal stinger at slip off Ledger, who wrapped it up with 2 wickets. Dixon top scored with 22. Oporto all out 118 and a massive 198 (not a club record) run victory for the visitors.
Oporto had entertained us royally and it had been a great tour. We hope to be back. Steve took the orange cap (but was guilty of getting his runs on the wrong day), Sunil (who else?) the purple but no one was deemed worthy of the VW Passat. Michael, though injured, told 108 cricket related stories on tour (club record) and should be congratulated on retaining such good humour despite being sidelined. The tour ended in some controversy – Ledger was being cited as a chucker by one opposition observer. Entering his sixth decade with a straight arm the skipper was duly affronted. The video replays backed him up but the ICC wants to keep an eye on him. He’s been told not to bowl the doosra and will winter with Johann Botha and Johnnie Behar at the correctional facility in Western Australia.