The "Naughty But Nice" Tour 2010 - Report
On April 9 2010, 12 cricketers embarked on Tottington St Johns' first-ever overseas tour to the South of France, courtesy of an invitation from the Riviera Cricket Club, based at Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, an hour north of Nice.
Calamity almost struck when we learned late on the Friday evening of a weekend strike by the French train drivers, and so it was to our intense relief and gratitude that tour translator and fixer Andy Walker arrived at breakfast at 8am Saturday bearing the glad tidings that he'd secured us passage on the bus to Grasse, from where we would be met by the Riviera team. With balmy temperatures soaring into the mid-20s, the Totts boys set off on a scenic bus journey into the mountainous borders of the French Alps; after 90 minutes winding our way into the foothills, we arrived in Grasse to be met by several of the Riviera players. A short hop saw us ascend to almost 2500 feet and arrive at the picturesque Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey. With snow-capped mountains in the distance, this was a location unlike any the Totts boys were used to!
Having won the toss, tour captain Dickie P (aka Captain Peacock) chose to bat on a beautiful Spring Day. With temperatures already soaring close to the 80s, redoubtable opener Kieran and tour baby Matt Hunt opened up; the innings suffered a slight delay as Kieran demanded the removal of a small child and his bike from behind the bowler's arm, and then it was time for the first ball faced on continental Europe! Having weathered a short opening burst, the new partnership of Matt and the CDO got us off to a spanking start, showing plenty of guts and determination, and an increasing array of shots as the overs progressed. In a splendid 15 over partnership, the boys put on 75 before the CDO unfortunately chipped one to square leg just 5 runs short of the "retirement figure" of 50. It was a brilliant start from Kieran, who treated us to some vintage strokes, and one which we were determined to capitalise on.
Doc P entered the fray and after a few overs getting used to the pace of the ball, began to play some lovely shots. Matt meanwhile departed for a very well made 37 - having ridden some early luck he showed a good array of shots, particularly over long on and cover point. Captain Peacock, batting at an unaccustomed position of 4, started in confident mood, and with the Doc starting to get into his stride, the scoreboard accelerated rapidly. One of the tour highlights soon followed as Dickie P played the most glorious straight 6 off one of Riviera's better bowlers, the ball landing in the grounds of a nearby villa.
As overs started to tick down, Doc decided to leave the field (officially "retired smug") on 43 to give the other boys some time in the middle - it was a ploy followed almost immediately by the evergreen Nelly Butt, who also made way for Big Bird, though this time on account of having his stumps spreadeagled. Dickie P fell for a sublime 32, and it was left to Russ, young Marshy and Pete to shepherd us to a commanding 189-6, despite late pressure from the returning Riviera opening bowlers.
After a quite magnificent tea provided by the local wives (with some truly awesome lemon drizzle cake and home made chocolate buns), Totts took to the field. Tour guest "the legend that is" Cotters opened up with Young Marshy, and the pair exerted early pressure, with each taking deserved wickets. Pete Allen was in vintage form behind the wicket, both in performance and punnery. Scott "Rear Gunner" Gunn bowled three excellent overs and conceded a few runs and about a thousand atrocious puns from Pete, Cotters and Doc who were in their element. Gunner even picked up a wicket, courtesy of a lovely outswinger and a sharp catch at slip from the Doc.
With the home side in some disarray at 43-5, it could have been over quickly, but a spirited fightback started, helped in some small measure by the unfortunate Andy Walker, who kept the home batsmen guessing whether each delivery would be bowled at waist or neck height. This prompted a sublime comment of "it's not blooming rocket science, aim at the green bit" from the CDO, who was starting to simmer nicely in the heat. To his immense credit, Andy announced that "the ball must be travelling further in the thinner atmosphere", and also questioning the length of the pitch, leaving us in mild hysterics. Sensing a need to wrap things up with Riviera having progressed quickly past the 100 mark, Dickie summoned up Doc P and the CDO to try and remove the dangermen.
The next 20 minutes will long remain in the memory of all who witnessed it; Kieran's first ball, the most brilliantly looped up off spinner you could see, was met with a cavalry charge by the batsman who missed it and was stumped by a good yard and a half by Pete - the batsman was already walking off when the square leg umpire announced that it wasn't out; Pete went into fever pitch at this, and Kieran was simmering up now. Having then tempted the batsman out again, the ball was unfortunately spilled in the deep, leaving our redoubtable Yorkshireman not best pleased.
Doc P then marked out a short run, and under firm instruction from the skipper to wrap things up got things moving nicely by serving up two half volleys which were despatched. Ball 4 brought rewards as Pete completed a much tighter stumping than that denied the previous over, the square leg umpire left under no illusion as Pete whipped off the bails, appealed and then screamed "that's STILL out". If we thought that might get things back on a friendly keel, the next over from Kieran was the stuff legends are made of. Ball 1 - another loppy spinner and a skier into the deep which Marshy spilled for 6. Kieran was by now at Defcon 1, and things went into meltdown next ball when the batsman swung the ball straight to Cotters at deep square leg ... who shelled it again. Cue the biggest eruption this side of Krakatoa as the CDO went into full rant mode. After an uneventful delivery, ball 4 then saw Kieran spill a pretty difficult caught and bowled chance, at which point all hell went off, and the next ball was sent down at a speed closely approximating that reached by Jeff Thomson in Perth 1974/75, with Doc P retreating rapidly at slip to more hysteria.
Doc whipped out two wickets in his 3rd over, and narrowly missed a hat-trick to end the game; the second wicket came courtesy of a superb slip catch by Kieran. Fittingly the CDO finally got his man courtesy of a lovely catch at mid-on from Scott Parky to see the home side out for 130 and Totts victorious. Doc was then chosen by the opposition as Man of the Match and received a bottle of champers - cue more intense (and very amusing) ranting from Kieran, who would no doubt have got it but for the dropped catches! Much drinking and celebration followed at the ground and in Saint Vallier before we caught the scenic bus back to Nice.
TSJCC would like to thank Matt, Kevin and co at the Riviera Cricket Club for the arrangements and hospitality, the players of the Club for putting up a good performance, our match official for handling the game brilliantly, and the wives and players for the lovely teatime spread. It was an absolutely glorious day in perfect conditions and in the most beautiful setting, and a day which will form an important part in the history of our club.
The Tour continued to Monte Carlo (and Monaco :)) on the Sunday, with the team resplendent in our tour kits and attracting many comments and interest from the locals and tourists alike - as was the case throughout the trip. We'd also like to thank our Kiwi server and all the staff at Wayne's Bar in Nice and at the King's Head for making us feel really welcome throughout the tour. All 12 tourists had a magnificent trip, and hopefully the fine form and the wonderful team spirit generated over the three days will lead to a stimulating and successful campaign back home, starting in just two short weeks on April 24.