Last weekend saw a number of Mid North Coast (MNC) 60s Veteran’s cricketers head over the range on their annual inland tour to play fellow vets as part of the annual program of matches.
Having become a regular occurrence over recent years, the trip is always looked forward to and is another huge part of the opportunities afforded veteran cricketers in the northern part of the State and along the coast.
The MNC squad first took on Tamworth, the erstwhile home of Veterans Cricket NSW, where they were thrilled to be playing one of the founding members and key personalities of the whole set up in Doug Crowell.
Now 88, Dougy was actually taking part as part of a promotion and recognition of vets cricket to be aired during international TV coverage during the summer, with some footage of the match sure to hit your screens at some stage.
He opened the batting with his son, captain of Tamworth and Australian 60s representative, Chriss Crowell in this first tour match.
They set the tone for a fairly dominant Tamworth scorecard as the locals totalled four for 202 off their 40 overs.
Skipper Crowell (33 retired), Tom Kellett (35 retired), Greg Kellett (31), Peter Boyd (25), Col Barton 22 retired) and Terry Murphy (31) all contributed well as the MNC bowlers and fielders toiled on the artificial wicket and lightning outfield – somewhat disappointed the week’s rain events had spoiled their game on turf but pleased our hosts had some more moisture in such a drought stricken area.
Ted Bowen, Jeff Perkins and Dave Relf were the only wicket takers in what seemed a very reasonable score to chase.
The visitors were soon in trouble at one for 18 with Bruce The Bruiser Jackson gone for a swashbuckling 15.
Warren McWilliams (31 retired) and Relf (20) steadied the ship and with consistent contributions by the following batsmen; Chris Steinmentz (15), Bowen (10), John Corcoran (13), Alex Rullis (16) and Barry Everingham (35 retired), the scene was set for a tight finish.
The challenge was met wonderfully by Mike Bulmer (22 n/o) and Kevin Pike (16 n/o) – both batting sensibly and seeing the Coasties home in the 36th over for a very good win.
Warren McWilliams received the man of the match award for his solid contribution with both bat and ball in a match played in the usual wonderful spirit.
A wonderful post match function at Tamworth’s sponsor, West Leagues’ The Diggers Club, preceded a beaut night of socialising with old friends and new – a major part of any sporting interaction and especially the vets program, where players often find themselves running in to old team-mates or foe from ‘back in the day’.
Being responsible elder statesmen of course, the Coasties were calm in their victory celebrations, even though it was only the second victory over their hosts in about eight years.
Ex-Tamworthian of 34 years, Everingham, was particularly pleased to have ‘gone home’ and had a victory with his new team but, like his new team-mates, was reticent in getting too carried away in knowing there was two matches ahead.
That conservative approach to celebration was highlighted as much needed when the Coastal crew found Quirindi hot and ready to rumble in the next day’s match.
Having been crowned joint champions’ in division two of the State championships in the recent past, the lads from the edge of the Breeza Plain were keen to avenge their loss in Port Macquarie in the first match of the season.
That comfortable victory seemed a long time ago as the Coasties seemed to show they had, in fact, celebrated with youthful exuberance as fielding let them down.
The evidence was indicative with them seemingly having a winning hangover as they dropped in the vicinity of eight catches.
The locals were merciless with the bat as they compiled a very strong 225 off their 40 overs.
Alex Rullis (3 for 23 off 6), Everingham (2 for 19 off 6), Mike Bulmer (2 for 19 off 3), Dave Relf (1 for 19 off 3), Mick Steinmetz (1 for 23 off 4) and Chris Steinmetz (1 for 25 off 7) were the successful bowlers in what was a well constructed innings by the hosts.
With a list full of batting depth however, the MNC lads were set to redeem themselves with the stick and started confidently enough, despite losing the usually reliable and damaging Jackson for five.
At two for 23 with Rullis gone for 10, the ‘strong on paper’ batting line-up began to unfold and became as slippery as old fashioned fish and chip wrapping, somewhat apt given our dates of birth.
Mick Steinmetz, James Laurie, Paul Price and Dave Relf all fell cheaply and suddenly the boys were drowning in their sorrows at six for 55. In addition, with the stoic opener McWilliams retired after 35 balls (a vets playing condition / or at 35 runs and later to recycle) on 16, the target seemed a long way off.
The Quirindi crew had bowled a beautiful line and length on a somewhat ‘up and down’ deck which the day’s skipper Relf was now thinking may not have been one to send them in on.
Everingham and John Corcoran mounted a rescue plan with the latter using his power hitting to complement his less powerful partner and he pushed himself well to run between wickets against a well set, deep field which saw boundaries hard to come by.
The Quirindi bowlers had certainly learnt from the profligatory bowling of ‘four balls’ which the tourists had thrown up – as well as catching the thing, and seemed to be heading to an easy win.
With those two retiring on 35 balls, it was left to Mike Bulmer and Chris Steinmentz to set up the retirees to maybe come back for a late flourish and they did that well against some continuing tight bowling.
Bulmer scored a very handy 22 and Steinmetz (10), with McWilliams returning to add to his earlier tally and reach 29 before he, like they, fell to the determined home side.
Corcoran had gone back in at seven for 157 and the job seemingly insurmountable but he flayed with abandon to give the MNC boys a shot.
With McWilliams out at 176, Everingham joined his rescue mate for a final three over fling but needing a mammoth 49 off four.
Both ‘had a crack’ but Corcoran was out off the first ball of the last over for a fine 55, while Everingham was left on 41 n/o with the total on 199.
Quirindi had been too good across the park and were deserved winners.
A team dinner back in Tamworth saw a tired squad reminisce and enjoy some hearty banter about where things had gone haywire with the general consensus being we just showed our age and, perhaps too pointedly, our catching ability – or lack thereof.
It was thought that the ‘winning hangover’ was certainly a misnomer and after a restful night the trip to Armidale would see the squad back at its best.
Armidale turned on a crazy weather day as only it can.
Added to the gusting, somewhat gale like wind, the overnight accidental council sprinkler event made one end of the deck a bit juicy.
Skipper Jeff Perkins had no doubt that sending in the opposition again was the way to go.
With Australian 60s ‘gun bat’ and ex-Gloucester legend Eric Higgins opening, and his team mates having also been (with Quirindi) the other ‘joint premiers’ of the division two State champions it was essential the Coasties rediscover their mojo and they did that pretty well.
Both Higgins and his partners batted carefully on a wicket which had two differing ends due to the sprinkler, and it was difficult to get wickets.
But tight bowling and some fantastic ‘third day’ fielding saw the New England squad battle hard for runs as the visitors kept a tight rein on scoring.
Their 40 over total of four for 157 was probably just ‘par’ on what was becoming another up and down wicket which required careful consideration by all batsmen.
At the top of the run chase, the MNC opening juggernaut Jackson looked back in touch with a powerful 19 of the first 23 before he became an LBW victim for the home side.
When Rullis went for 16 at 2 for 57 off 12, the visitors still looked somewhat in control.
Mr Consistency’ McWiliams kept picking away at the total and was retired on 25 off 35 and the scene was set for a close battle as the runs suddenly dried up as though the blistering westerly was sucking the coastal flourish.
New England then set the clamps and it became a war of attrition as Ken Ogilvie found scoring as difficult as a windbreak from the dry gale.
He was retired for 12 off his 35 and James Laurie (13) and Dave Relf (10) tried to loosen the grip before they fell to the tight bowling.
Skipper Perkins had toiled in partnership with both of them and then had Everingham join him with the run rate at around 4/over and a real battle on.
The skipper upped the ante as he neared his retiring and he scored 10 off his last four balls to retire on 20.
Corcoran joined his partner from the previous day’s loss and they continued the battle as the boys from the Tablelands kept at them.
After being tied down for a bit, Everingham (33 n/o off 31), followed his skipper’s lead and, with the help of Corcoran (7 n/o), they got the total with two overs to spare.
An interesting adjunct to the tight finish, with about 10 still needed, saw Everingham ‘called back’ after being given out LBW.
A number of the locals had heard the bat that the umpy couldn’t in what was a really strong and noisy howling wind – with the match proceeding without bails for most of the game.
Higgins had no hesitation in doing so and that occurrence summed up the spirit of the way vets’ cricket is played – hard but fair and for the love of the game and the mateship it produces or reinforces.
Skipper Perkins was awarded man of the match for his fine late spell of ‘at the death’ bowling which saw him grab a wicket and contain their late flurry whilst holding the innings together in the middle overs.
What a fine reward for a gentleman of the game, who is also a proud president of MNC vets, and a fitting end to the day and the inland tour.
In addition, the Coasties were thrilled to congratulate and praise the NE Skipper, Eric Higgins, well known to all cricketers along the coast, on his selection to the Aussie 60s to tour NZ in February.
After a stellar career representing the his home town of Gloucester, his region of the coast, The Emu Club, NSW Country colts and opens, playing first grade in Sydney at Randwick and Penrith and, more recently Inverell District, New England 50s and 60s and NSW Vets 60s, the honour could not have gone to a more deserving servant and representative of everything that is good about the game of cricket.
As a further recognition, the Coasties, with the help of James Laurie and his Gloucester Cricket mates, are endeavouring to have a celebratory game at the end of January in his home town, with teams to be including many of Higgins’ long time local mates and other coastal or nearby acquaintances.
In related happenings, MNC will also host Tamworth 60s down here in January for a rematch of their game last Friday, whilst the local area MNC 50s vets players will play an ‘intra-squad’ game at Oxley Oval on Sunday, December 16 as they continue preparations to send two teams to the 50s State Championships in Orange in February.
Anyone interested in playing Vets Cricket is encouraged to get in touch with secretary Kevin Pike in Port Macquarie.
All are welcome in this fastest growing area of men’s cricket.