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From Echunga to Echuca – A Cricket Tournament to Remember

I first knew I was going to Echuca when Gary (G1) Marshall called me and asked me to play. He said, "Quinny wants you" – that was good enough for me. When the mighty Quinn calls, who can resist?

This is what happened – from my perspective.

It's more than 600 kilometres to this tourist Mecca on the Murray River. My traveling companion, Mark Trafford Walker (known hereafter as "The Driver"), took over after the first 100 kilometres. Always polite, totally reliable, an excellent driver, and a damn fine cricketer. I didn't get back in the Driver's seat until we were back in Echunga 6 days later.

We arrived in time to join the rest of the Wombats at the Shamrock Hotel, which was surprisingly un-Irish and remarkably packed. As was the rest of Echuca, there was some type of hot rod convention in town, so when one was not busy queueing for a beer, one could gaze longingly at expensive old cars and some of the other sights. But remember - I am a motorcyclist, so this whole exercise seemed at least two wheels per vehicle excessive to me.

However, it was nice to catch up with good friends and their (very much) better halves. We were, of course, joined by the Junior Wombats who were there on a mission – the details of which I can't recall.

Some beer was consumed, and a very special handshake took place.

Our first match was at Tongala, a delightful ground some 25 minutes from Echuca. My Driver got me there in time to inspect the track (22 yards, flat, some grass, six stumps, and some lines), the lush outfield, and the shared changeroom. We were playing our cousins, the South East Coasters.

Our captain, The Mighty Quinn (surely Manfred Mann was thinking of this legend when he penned the words "You ain't seen nothing like the Mighty Quinn"), instructed us on the standards he expected and then asked me if I would open the batting (it seems all the good openers, both batting, and bowling, were absent, injured or afraid). "Magic" Mike Riley was also consulted but generously deferred to me.

We won the toss and elected to field. The Driver and Bear opened up, Graeme Fielke and Phil Verco flashed hard early, as did Colin Murdoch. Brown and Judd attempted to put the brakes on, but Chris Whibley and Neil ("Elise") Perry resisted and batted very well. The Coasters coasted to 115 from the first 25 overs.

Some tight bowling at the death from the Seniors in the side, Riley, Kidd, Marshall, and Colwell put the brakes on, and we held them to 163. Juddy took 1-13 from 6, as did The Driver, and Magic took 1-28 from his six. I bowled four overs and managed to grab a sharp catch at short gully, which pleased the Skipper.

I got out early to a good ball from Tony Legoe, but the target always looked in reach. Razor Wilson, Quinny, Juddy, Paul Clark, and Dave Smith all retired after their thirty balls. Gary Marshall plundered, as did Magic. We got there in the 34th over.

One game down with three to play. The Skipper was pleased, and so were the rest of us. We downed a few beers with The Coasters afterward and laughed at some jovial gift exchanges.

Round 2, was expected to be the match of the round against the ACT in a day-night format at the main oval in Echuca. The captains agreed to a 20-20-20-20 format.

The ACT Galaxies batted first. My young brother John opened their batting for them and played well before edging TP to Quinny. The Driver showed some real hostility and pace (0-17 from 6), Juddy did what Juddy does (1-9 from 4) and Magic Mike took a wicket in the last over before the break, and, of course, The Bear bowled three over for seven runs.

So, at the 20 over break, they were about 3-65. We felt pretty good at that stage.

I justified the Skipper's faith in me as an opener by getting bowled in the first over. But the usual, reliable quartet of Wilson, Clark, Quinn, and Judd got us to about the same score as the ACT, but with one fewer wickets lost at the next change of innings.

It had been very hot and steamy in the afternoon, so the cooler evening session was welcomed, though the setting sun was a bit of a problem for a few overs.

We bowled really well on the next stanza, Riley took three wickets for just two runs from his 6 overs, Juddy got another wicket, I grabbed 1-6 from my 6 and Dave Smith landed his leggies and snared 2 for 8 from 6.

Unfortunately, towards the end of our innings, Dave caught the top edge of a sweep shot and the ball crashed into the beak of our Skipper. Who went down hard and gave us all a fright before assuring us he was ok. The blood thinners didn't help, and plenty of claret flowed. Fortunately, Dr. Glen Richardson from the Tassie side was watching and assisted Quinny from the field while Razor Wilson took the gloves. It was a nasty blow, but one can't help thinking that a Richmond supporter might have stayed on.

The fielding was excellent, and one effort involving sprinting and the use of feet than hands and an accurate throw by G1 Marshall brought the Bay 13 crowd to their feet.

Having held the ACT to 30 runs from our last 20 overs, we were left with the task of getting that from our last 20 overs at bat. The Driver, along with Dave Smith, G1 Marshall, Magic and the lower order duly did so in 14 overs.

Two from two and the Skipper, through a misshaped snoz looked pretty pleased.

I was very pleased to catch up with my younger brother and after a very nice speech from Quinny he presented me with my baggy red – of which I am very proud.

Later that evening, following a sumptuous dinner I was privileged to join winemaker par excellence Paul Clark and a couple of others in what started out as an exclusive wine tasting and concluded as nothing less than a Bacchanalian shindig.

Paul, who has played cricket with everyone and been everywhere, entertained us with tales of playing days and places travelled.

The rest of us discussed several vital political and social issues. No consensus was found but all speakers performed well.

The meeting was adjourned at 4.00a.m.

No wonder I can't recall the details of that day's match.

We had the next day off and so, after I finally surfaced, The Driver, my brother John, Juddy and myself headed interstate to play golf. "I'm off about 18" says Judd, who then proceeds to shoot about 2 over par for the back 9 and 9 over for the course. The Driver too, showed no respect for his boss and the Kidd boys went home, tails firmly between legs. For an early night.

On day four, we took on the lads from Tasmania. They had scored over 200 against The Coasters the day before, and a number of their players were well known to our Skipper and others who inhabit the higher echelons of veteran's cricket representative teams. We knew tassie would be pretty good.

The ground was a bit patchy, but the outfield looked fast. Without doubt, the change rooms were the smallest I have ever inhabited but made for some excellent team bonding.

This time we batted first. The Skipper preferred the reliable Riley to the highly inconsistent me – I can't fathom his thinking sometimes.

We were a bit slow to start with losing reliable openers for 1 and 19, but good knocks from Quinn (23 from 30), Dave Smith (25 from 30). The Driver (33 from 28), Kidd (26 from 23) and TP who as part of his 24 from 12 balls, ceremoniously hit the last ball of the innings for 6 to bring up the 200. Of course, this final act of batting brilliance could never have happened had the Bear not scored the strategic single off the third last ball.

Two hundred seemed plenty, except we now knew just how fast the outfield was. TP bowled without luck at the start but grabbed a couple of wickets. Opening from the other end, the Bear was his usually parsimonious self. So, things looked pretty good after ten overs.

However, the arrival of Hendry affected a change in the trajectory of the innings. Brutal hitting from any length and line was his method, and he blazed his way to 57 from his 30 balls, mostly off me from memory.

The rest of the batters followed suit, and The Tassie Devils got us in 37 overs.

None of the bowling figures are flattering, but The Driver's 2-27 from 6, and TPs 2-32 from 6 were probably the best. I went for 40 from my 6, Mike 32 from his and Dave Smith 14 from his only over.

The Tassie mob were vocal from the boundary as they approached the winning score and made for an excellent atmosphere, albeit not ideal. Our Skipper ensured us this was a one-off and tomorrow would be a better day – I thought, "I hope so!".

Plenty of beers were consumed after the game and old mates cuddled up. So early night – no wine … well a bit! We determined that we would play the ACT in the final the next day.

Day 5 – The Final

Tongala, a happy hunting ground for us already and a beautiful outfield, was this game's venue. It was a straight 40 over contest. No mickey mouse 20-20-20-20 format this time.

ACT won the toss and elected to bat. They were a bit unlucky to lose their opener to a hamstring tear pretty early. But at about the same time, we lost the services of Juddy, who dived forward to take a catch and severely jarred his right shoulder. So, no bowling or throwing from him, and as it turns out unable to bat either. A big loss.

However, TP and Bubbles (previously known as The Bear) bowled tightly. G1 Marshall bowled tightly, Dave Smith grabbed a wicket and The Driver sprinted around the boundary to grab a great catch. Then The Driver took 2 for three from his four overs, while Ray Wilson held a great catch on the boundary to remove the very dangerous Gilbert. The team was in tune.

But the bowling performance of the innings and possible the week was from Magic Mike, who ripped the middle and tail order open with his 4-16 from 5.5 overs. One of the wickets, a sweet catch as short third man by Bubbles, provoked a furious debate about who was responsible for this particularly creative field—nonetheless, an excellent spell and delight to watch from the safety of 1st slip.

Bowling them out for 95 meant we had to score at 2.4 per over to win. We were confident. And with good cause, as both openers (Riley 15 from 30 and Wilson 14 from 30) retired as did skipper Quinn (20 from 30) and the increasingly impressive Dave Smith 20 from 30.

That left the job of getting the last 30 or so runs to the tail with plenty of overs to spare. I managed to fluke a few boundaries and we drew level with them after 29 overs.

I was facing and the ACT skipper decided on the ultimate psychological ploy – bring on my brother, complete with damaged bowling shoulder. Hit him for six and mum will never forgive me; get out to him and I will never hear the end of it. What was I to do?

So MUCH pressure. Fortunately, he bowled a wide and the game was over.

The presentation was low key but excellent. The Skipper was happy. SA Wombats – Interstate Division Champions 2022.

There was some discussion about the name, a suggestion was made that the Silver Foxes might sit better with the players. I suggested The Golden Retrievers for the Over 70s. – Further developments are expected.

After a few beers, a good dinner at The Shamrock and a good nights sleep The Driver transported my back to Echunga. A bit tired, a bit sore but grinning.

Article written & supplied by Bill Kidd

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