Played: 3 // Won: 3 // Lost: 0
Runs Scored: 548 // Runs Conceded: 371 // Wickets Taken: 29 // Wickets Lost: 15
Tour Party to Penacova: Hasan Ahmed, Shahed Ahmed, Jamie Berry, Nick Berry (capt), James Brown, Lewis Brown, Dan Gibson, Alf Rehman (v-capt), Sunny Sahota (wk), Marcus Southon, Andy Spenceley, Marcus Walters
Match 1 of 3: October 7th, 2022 – The Parque Ground, Miranda Do Corvo, Portugal
Coimbra Knights – 99 for 9 (20 overs) TKCC – 100 for 1 (13.2 overs)
RESULT: TOP KNOCKERS WON BY 9 WKTS // SCORECARD: HERE
Saturday – “Do not ask for whom the dog barks – it barks for thee.” – Anon
As a sportsperson ages, one looks optimistically to the future (Autobiography and perhaps Strictly?), while reviewing one’s past more critically. Has one done enough to secure of one’s legacy? What of the wisdom accrued during one’s tenure – how can it be passed on? And to whom?
I found myself asking all these questions (and many more) most pointedly, when confined arse to arse with another key member our spin bowling attack, within the car-boot of a crypto-baron declaring that the ‘police know not to stop me round here’, as he sped through the Penacova hills, or as we now know ‘drug country’. Forgive me, I have jumped to the end of my story, before even starting with Saturday morning. Spoiler alert: Dan and I survived.
As is the tradition, rhythmic snoring marked the transition from Friday to Saturday, but this time my experience of it was mercifully dampened by a stud wall, as I had taken well to my new lodgings in the broom cupboard. The storage room offered just enough space for a man of conservative proportions to lie down, head to skirtingboard; feet to door. Left and right were cupboard doors, resulting in a 4 sided wooden encasement. In short, it was not unlike a coffin with sofa-cushion bedding. I felt invigorated. A good day. A day to secure a legacy.
For me – a microwave pancake, yoghurt with fruit, rolled into a sort of pseudo burrito.
Sunny S – took a similar approach with poorer presentation
Jamie B – tentatively, some yoghurt*
Andrew S – fag
Hassan – toast from a partially dismantled gas oven, which, to a casual onlooker, must have seemed like attempted arson.
Other breakfasters were not witnessed by the author.
*I understand Jamie’s gastric problem is now much improved all will be pleased to hear!
Nothing prepares you for a big game like striding out of your villa as one unit… As a team… then being harangued by rabid dogs from above. Presumably another one of opposition captain Chris’ many chess-like moves to throw us off balance. It didn’t work as we were down waiting for the bus ON TIME. First battle won.
I need not cover the journey, as much as to say that it was eye opening talking the Hugh, their opening bowler/part time wicket keeper about his life of cannabis cultivation, addictions, heart attack and subsequent fleeing of the United States. Little did I know he would turn out to be one of our more level-headed opponents.
Upon arrival we circled the ground, careful to fully absorb the pitch’s undulations. We were introduced to it yesterday, but today’s was the BIG game – the 40 over clash. Saturday’s skipper, Alf, was leaving nothing to chance while filling the giant shoes of Nick, who had arrived with the tragic news he’d put his back out. One more reminder, as if our era’s sports veterans needed it, of our frailty.
Competitiveness, thinly veiled by jovial greetings, completed; Skipper Alf asked your good and honest author, Lewis, to open the batting with another tour veteran Shahed.
Once padded up, to build my confidence I faced a couple of balls in the nets from Jamie, Andrew and Hassan who were keen to iron out yesterday’s muscular creases. Having been dismissed a handful of times in quick succession, I decided that my confidence levels couldn’t survive much more building, so Shahed and I marched out to greet fate face-to-face.
The opening bowlers were steady and on the mark. Shahed and I started slowly in earnest. Some sensible running between the wickets and the occasional boundary saw a good partnership growing. But it was getting hot out there.
The Portuguese Water-Gate scandal
The opening batsmen’s opportunistic single-taking was not only taking its toll on the bowlers’ averages, but also on their own hydration levels. I need not say, perspiration was rife. Had Shahed experienced wicket keeper Tom’s shockingly poor-quality sledging well hydrated, I have no doubt it would have had no effect, however with the Portuguese sun now overhead and the ear-splitting volume of their wicky from behind, The Wolf was beginning to lose his cool…
No matter, I thought, as a drinks break was scheduled at 10 overs. Counting down the balls and now dangerously close to shrivelling like prunes, the drinks break was called. Palpable relief! Though wait, what was this? Chris discussing with the umpires, voices hushed, conspiratorial looks darting from clubhouse to sun-stroked batsmen. “Drinks at 15 overs… in another 5” Chris announced with barely concealed grin.
Now close to requiring medical attention, Shahed’s next shot was his only poor one. A swing, mistimed and caught by Robbie (Tech Crypto Baron) off Wayne. He really did have his heart set on some water.
Marcus S replaced Shahed (who was now sinking glass after glass in the clubhouse – he was in a better place). As walked Marcus to the crease I passed on what useful guidance I could summon about the surface, bowling and perhaps life in general, I forget. But it was clearly bloody good advice.
Suffice to say, a partnership was born of great import. Marcus quickly found his eye, and as I passed the fifty mark he was not far behind. Exemplary front foot shots defined Marcus’ innings, echoing like gunshots around ground. We had plenty to go at from the bowling attack, which now looked out of fresh ideas.
Captain Alf sauntered over with congratulations tinged with ill tidings. We discussed and agreed that I/we (ambiguous) should probably retire. The decision was made to give us 3 overs to make a hundred if we could, then to take our leave. Three fantastic overs of cricket ensued with balls finding middles of bats (mostly Marcus’) and boundary ropes regularly. But alas the bowling force was down but not out.
I knew I was a shot away from my first hundred; a career defining tonne. I had marched down the wicket to a slow/medium delivery just outside off, with a view to sending it out of the ground but ball never hit bat; ball hit glove; glove hit stumps. Everything happened so fast. It was a blur. I was looking down at myself from above, as if time had frozen and a voice said to me “Leeewwwwwis, don’t forget your Legacy”, and it came to me. Anyone can score a hundred, but the memory of good sportsmanship lasts a lifetime. What is more selfless than to fall on one’s own sword to allow the next generation their opportunity to shine. And so it transpired that I walked from the crease, questionably stumped on 96.
Later the word idiot was used a few times at dinner to describe the event, but it shan’t be forgotten.
Rapturous applause greeted me from opponents, teammates and inspired local children alike, a memory etched into minds for eternity.
I cast an eye over my shoulder to see Marcus taking Hassan under his wing as I had done him. I do not begrudge Marcus taking the limelight. It was his stage now.
The next half hour saw Marcus put peddle to metal. With every ear splitting crack of his off-drive and each bat splintering on-drive he seemed hell bent on out-scoring his elders and pushing them deeper into history. Sadly Hassan didn’t last very long, being bowled on 1 run by their solid medium bowler, Ibrahim. His replacement, tour veteran and housewives’ favourite, James Brown was similarly dismissed on 3. Perhaps Marcus needs to concentrate less on perfecting his front foot game and more on his advice to incoming batsman advice? Just a thought.
Following a very forgivable middle order wobble given the score line, Dan Gibson trotted out to join his long-time friend at the wicket. The dashing duo quickly swatted ball to boundary on repeat, until Marcus reached your good authors’ score of 96. And then… just like that, effortlessly beyond.
Marcus retired on 100, one of the finest innings TKCC has ever seen, reminiscent of Will Freeland’s, on the same day 3 years previous, just down the road. Congratulations Marcus Southon.
Our fine helmsman Alf, arrived to tack a few more runs on to our total with Dan before the over count reached 40 and the lunch ladies had had enough. TKCC with a mighty 276 runs for 4.
Lunch was a heady mix of dishes. Each wonderful in its own way; the choice was made difficult. I had the chilli. Everyone eyed Jamie nervously as he ate, but all was well – he even had some pudding. The catering team were thrilled.
In the Field
TKCC returned to the field with the strut of a victorious army. A fine performance had led to a tough target to chase, but as the Portuguese proverb goes “Água mole, pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura” – Soft water, hard stone, keeps beating until it gets through – Even a seemingly soft opposition may break us down over time if we allow it. We needed to bowl tight, field tighter, and stay hydrated tightest of all.
Leading the charge of our bowling attack were Andrew Spenceley and Jamie Berry. An impressive opening spell from both with Andy claiming the first two wickets. First Hugh was bowled, then shouty Tom was caught by ‘sure-hands’ Sahota behind pegs. A period of settling was required by the opposition, but no leniency was given in the field as a certain L. Brown rifled one from square leg to Sure Hands Sahota run out their No3, Rob.
A hush descends as the TKCC bowling force’s nemesis, opposition skipper Chris, enters the fray. Never dismissed in 4 matches so far, would his record topple? Chris steadied the ship well as Marcus Walters and Dan Gibson took over with the ball. The Amazon Prime of bowling partners, their deliveries were reliable and at surprisingly low cost. Dan dismissed a brace of Coimbra Knights through his tried and tested technique of ‘letting them smash him nearly to the boundary, and hope for a catch’ – his blind hope was realised in the soft and supple 4 hands of two Marcus’s. Two very fine catches if memory serves; Marcus W seemed genuinely shocked to have held his. A fine example of the exemplary fielding and field placing shown in the game.
‘Tinkering in the field’ to a non-cricketer might well sound like something that the police should promptly be informed of, however to us ‘in the know’ it is a delight to witness – the sign of a zealous captain keeping his field fine-tuned. And to our captain of the day, Alf, it is a religion. “Just thin of regulation fine leg,” “Silly point with a wiff of gully,” or “Take a bearing of 125 degrees off leg stump and walk 42 paces” would not have been out of place in Alf’s encyclopaedic array of field placements. But by gosh did these off piste positions pay dividends.
Most Valuable Baller
It is a little unfair to Andy S to overlook his 6 overs for 9 runs and 2 wickets – resulting in an average 4.5 runs per scalp, but the hero of our bowling attack was tour virgin Hassan. His average was a scintillating 4.25 having claimed an incredible 4 consecutive wickets for just 17 runs across 5 overs. Another shameless example of fresh blood overshadowing veteran stalwarts. At a time in the game where the Knights were beginning to stick to the crease and looked like they may bat out the overs, Hassan rose to the challenge and bowled with near bestial intensity. What did we expect from a another member of The Wolf’s pack? As we closed in on the tail end Shahed and Hassan were bowling end-to-end and one would have been forgiven for assuming that it was match between these two as opponents, such was the competitiveness from either end. Spurring each other on, each celebration was more fervent than the last.
As the final batsman met his demise at the hands of Andy S, caught off Marcus W’s bowling, we were elated. A fine performance by the TKCC winning by 166, though one elusive gem had eluded us once more. The shiniest gem of all. Opposition captain Chris’ scalp. And by scalp, obviously I mean his wicket. He had survived his 5th tryst with us unscathed. This couldn’t be allowed to continue.
Post-match revelry at the ground was cut short as we were offered transportation in to Penacova town for dinner. Lagers were downed and any changing room slap-and-tickle quickly brought under control to make sure we weren’t late for our generously offered lifts. We circled town after a few promising recommendations from Knights’ Tom. More mind games – they were all closed. On a Sat night? I’d learned not to ask too many questions. We settled on the only bar open; Cold beers and Pastel de natas. What more could one want? We met our hosts Chris and Kirsty, Wayne and his lovely wife, with Robbie (Crypto Baron) joining us at dinner.
James Brown and Nick Berry had taken on childcare responsibility for the first part of the evening and their better halves Charlie and Meltem were with us. It was a breath of fresh air to have them with us, in more ways than one (half of us hadn’t showered).
The local fish soup – sensational
Steak and Chips or I believe a Salt Cod affair for main?
Local wine – delightful.
Perhaps it was the wine, perhaps the excitement, but neither Dan nor I could make head nor tail of Robbie’s job. He described something in tech, working remotely, never having to meet colleagues or clients. Almost certainly unfairly, we took the primeval path and labelled that which we didn’t understand as to be feared. When someone asked us to summarise, Dan said ‘he’s a Crypto Baron’, with a look that said don’t ask questions. He was a true gent despite his possible nefarious career.
Some speeches completed dinner’s frivolities, kind words said, some tender glances between Nick and Chris. A shirt was awarded to this good and hard-working author! A Coimbra Knights cricket shirt for the ‘shittest shirt’ of the evening. I thought my shirt was ok. In the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie I accepted, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was an element of pity following being so brutally outscored with the bat earlier in the day.
With that the gentil and responsible folk retired (including I believe Shahed and Hassan please forgive me if my memory fails me on that). After a pleasant few post-dinner drinks, Robbie (Crypto Baron) sidled up to our group.
There was a secret fiesta on tonight.
The Feista – ‘Santo de casa não faz milagre’
When Robbie asked whether we’d be up for a midnight rally round the hills to a secret local fiesta I whispered in his ear another of my favourite Portuguese proverbs: ‘Santo de casa não faz milagre’ (A stay-at-home saint works no miracles) – I winked. He understood. That fiesta would be ours.
And so it was that I found myself with Dan stuffed buttock to buttock in the trunk of a family car driven by a Crypto Baron once again trying to explain his ambiguous career in IT systems, speeding around hilltop streets on the lookout for a secret family fiesta.
We had been going some time and as conversation died away nothing but dark streets and darker thoughts surrounded us as Robbie’s speed increased. But lo, what was this, the sound of live music? And as we turned a corner, the road lit up as if it were a yuletide high street. We had arrived. Robbie turfed us out, pointed us in the right direction and set off for another batch of Top Knockers.
We did not fit in.
At first glance, the scene seen through apprehensive eyes sparked fearful imaginings; The young lined up paying respects to an older generation who looked to be offered a level of reverence not seen outside mafioso movies. What had we stumbled into? As it turns out, nothing short of familial nirvana. A community where all generations enjoyed live music, dancing, conversation and bashing nails into logs. We were welcomed – albeit with odd looks – by all, and following a sizeable order of caipirinhas we headed to the beating heart of the party, the dance floor. The band had just started up and it was churning out pop party classics, fronted by a fine and vocally supple female lead singer. She was a marvel.
Once the group had all assembled, drinks in hands, we broke off outside for some fresh air and quickly found ourselves in a queue for the evening’s competitive entertainment: A game of who could hammer the nail into the log in fewest blows. A few games ensued – the only person who didn’t roundly embarrass himself was Marcus W. He was an artist with the tool. The bluntness of the hammer juxtaposed the finesse with which he wielded it.
I found myself sandwiched between Marcus’s in a fourway battle with Nick. I was having a fine old time until it became clear this was not my game, nor Nick’s. As the hammer blows rained down my mind drifted back to my time at the crease. My dismissal. My undoing. An aborted legacy.
CRACK! Marcus S’s cover drive echoing around the ground
CLANG-THUD! Hammer glancing nail and splintering wood. My mind jolting between past and present…
BANG! Marcus’s bat relentlessly chasing down my score
PING! Hammer on nail! Like nails in a coffin. The coffin of my sporting career. A wooden box.
My mind lurches to my broom cupboard at the villa. Tonight’s ‘final resting place.’ Is this it? Are my best years behind me? It started to panic, I felt woozy.
My memory is hazy from here on in, but after sternly saying ‘enough is enough’ in a Spanish accent to a Portuguese 5 year old who had been continuously nutmegging me with an empty water bottle for what seemed like hours, I turned and saw a sight which lifted the soul:
Andy, Nick, Marcus W, Dan, Marcus S, Jamie, James, Sunny, Alf, Oppo Tom, Oppo Robbie, even some locals. All were together, young and old, Portuguese and Brits, screaming their throats off to the Macarena, arm in arm on the dance floor. What a time to be alive.
It’s not the wins, the individual performances, nor the slap and tickle in the showers that really matters. This is what Tour was about. Making memories and ruining family fiestas. In a good way.
Marcus S came over and gave me a big hug with a smile on his face. “What a day” he said. I said “Yeah, what a d… wait, are you wearing my shirt?”
Not satisfied with taking my top score, he had literally taken the shirt off my back. I didn’t even care, for by then we were all tour brothers.
“So, what of legacy?” I hear you ask – with an undertone of ‘are you quite finished?’. Well that remains unclear. Did our cricketing performances inspire that day? Unlikely. Will bringing smiles, good vibes and bad shirts to a fiesta in the hills be remembered by Portuguese and Brits alike for many years to come – most certainly.
One more match to go…
Match 2 of 3: October 8th, 2022 – The Parque Ground, Miranda Do Corvo, Portugal
TKCC – 276 for 4 (40 overs) Coimbra Knights – 110 All Out (29.1 overs)
RESULT: TOP KNOCKERS WON BY 166 RUNS // SCORECARD: HERE
And so to the final game of the series.. With the Trofeu already retained, Nick’s men in black, yellow and whites rocked up to the ground, horrendously half-cut to say the very least (though no more so than if we had been heading into a tense series decider..) That was all except Alphonso of course who leapt out of the changing rooms in Full Mumbai Indians Training Kit W@nker mode overlaid with personalised inner padding (more than enough to take the award for Most Fineable Tourist on its own). Our previous day’s skipper had held back on the Sagres at the Festa but stayed up all night in any case scouring the web for European League stats.. A total waste of time as it turned out with NONE of the promised mercenaries Panda had warned on Friday night would “absolutely f#ck us up” actually showing up in one way or another – in what would be a true game of 2 halves and fluctuating fortunes.. or 6 sixths if you would.
1/6 – Chin music…
Knights took the early initiative with the raaapid Viki skidding one through to trap our shell-shocked skipper plum in front. ‘Phonz and Sunny showed some signs of stubborn if reluctant resistance and looked to have turned a corner inspired by some top cheerleading from Lewy at square-leg.. But Chris’ first change saw the 2nd break-through and Knockers were well on the back-foot at 20/2 off 10. Some positive running inspired by DFC indicated we had re discovered our game faces before 3 more quick wickets left the TKs contemplating our lowest all-time tour total: Phonz driving low to mid wicket; DFC not communicating to Wolfman his intention to run hard leading to a comical run out; and when JBez missed a straight one we were in the mire at 40/5.
2/6 – The DFG…
Shahed however was relishing the chin music in his best showing of Tour including a beautiful late cut over third man for 4. His misfortune with the bat continued as he too-soon departed LBW to a grasshopper, Chris Redhead turning the screw with a well worked 4/24.. But not before Marcus/ Devon Conway/ The DFG had turned the tide for us once more. Our Southpaw recorded another half century in an innings even more valuable than his David Gower-esque debut ton the day before. First of all blunting the attack taking single figures off his first 30 balls before demonstrating the full wagon wheel of his shots, most gloriously a lofted drive over extra cover to take the shine off returning opener Viki’s figures.. All of a sudden 140 was behind us and 180+ on the cards..
3/6 One brings two…
In tandem with some lusty blows from his carshare / my anytime wingman Iceman, the DFG upped the ante to run-a ball-stuff and the Knockers in the stands were dreaming of 200.. Step in the Knights’ skipper to oust them both, mopping up the tail as we left a whole over unused after Lewy had looked to push on leaving Spenno stranded on 6* and momentum shifting..
4/6 – The Fireworks..
Knights’ skipper kept coy at the wonderful chilli rice and cake selection interval as to how competitive a target of 173 would be.. “a few of the lads get excited with the bat in hand”… And so it proved…
Knockers’ pace duo of Spenceley and Berry Senior kept the openers quiet for only 2 overs before the fireworks began in earnest with “Match Fees” Viki teeing off after just 10 sighters and Andy joining in with good rotation of the strike through the cover voids. At 60/0 off 10 the Worm / WASP wasn’t looking good for TK’s but as this writer constantly reminded his teammates.. Just add 2 wickets to the score and it would be GAME ON..
5/ Demolition ‘Deshies
There was never any doubt once Skipper had made a rare double change, bringing on the Sheesha Bar twin seam attack of Wolfman and Blue Mist. What followed can only be described as a Calypso Collapse Of The Very Highest Order.. In what amounted to a spell of 7 wickets for 17 runs it turned out to be a stroke of absolute captaincy genius as the pair egged each other on like competitively excitable brothers in arms with their beautiful bowling (albeit aided by some rather suspect shot selection) as the pendulum swung once more.
Hasan struck first with his now trademark off-cutter splitting Andy’s defences. He was joined in the hutch by Viki snaffled at the wicket by Sunny to a similar delivery 2 overs later. So disappointed was the opener he felt he had to wait for the umpire’s finger (quite unnecessarily, as Spenno politely pointed out on the send-off;-) As if a double-break wasn’t enough, 2 became 3 when Ravi hesitated on a quick single to Lewis Brown – never to be kept out of the game however often the Bridesmaid; Lewy’s pick-up was clean as a whistle; the throw to Sunny electric as the bails were swiftly removed for a clear run out and 60/0 was in a flash 66/3.
As Phonz quietly reminded the oppo to take ownership of the scorebook and allow Chris to pad up, it was time for Shahed to get his share of the spoils.. luring the new batter into a false sense of security with a pair in the slot that were both wilfully despatched, he held the next one back for Alf to hold on to a REGULATION skier at mid wicket with the in-field closing in and TKs firmly with their tails up. 72/ 4. Another skier for the 5th with Spenno holding on despite some excitable distractions; and when Shaheed pushed one through to celebrate a clean bowled and held the pose like the statue of liberty, the slide had been reversed.
6/6 Asterisk & Obelix
Or so we thought! It only ever takes one partnership to see it over the line and so lbrar and Chris rotated the strike well and crashed the odd wide one to the boundary to stay in what was now a 4 an over game.. but solid economy from Lewis and Alf fresh from his aggressive burst on the Saturday pushed the rate up to 7s. When the former cleaned up lbrar, who took one risk across the line too many and then doubled up with an LBW for our driver Hugh the game looked to be up.. And then again the other way as the final wicket brought the hosts to within 10 – Chris once again the Rock of Coimbra laced with streaky fours from his no11 at the other end.
Enter Berry Senior to deliver an even finer spell than his first, having the last word through a perfectly executed yorker to leave Obelix stranded yet again to scenes of jubilation and Euphoria of an unprecedentedly successful TKCC Portuguese adventure. We cannot wait for the next one!
fin. AF-HR, TKCC 38, Zero ODl’s, Loads of Chat.
Match 3 of 3: October 9th, 2022 – The Parque Ground, Miranda Do Corvo, Portugal
TKCC – 172 All out (34 overs) Coimbra Knights – 162 All Out (33.3 overs)
RESULT: TOP KNOCKERS WON BY 10 RUNS // SCORECARD: HERE
1/ The host’s toast.. for the man who has co-ordinated it all from this end whilst also not ever giving us his wickets in 6 back to back
Asterix…or is it… Obelix? (Chris Redhead: Coimbra Knights)
2/ Leading Runscorer… DFG (Marcus Southon)
3/ Most Wickets: Misty (Hasan Ahmed)
4/ Best Fielder: DFC (Marcus Walters)
5/ The year of the freshmen!!! Best Newcomer:
Spenno – ludicrous fielding and figures…
Hassan – wickets, fielding stint, Blue Mist
DFC – mvp on top debut worldie catch and earliest beer OTW
DFG – sheer weight of runs and trekking across europe to get here
Stifler’s Mom ; – )
WINNER: Jamie Berry – panda slaying plus the 30th wicket
6/ Voting over.. Champagne moment..
Alf, Spenn, JBez, Soulmans rule clarification, Hassan’s final day burst, DFG lofted cover drive WINNER: Alf
7/ Best Tourist in a Supporting Role:
Spenno.. so often the bride this time the maid of honour so crucial to our successes this week
Skipper for winning the crucial tosses and putting together the whole tour
WINNER: Iceman Gibbo (Dan Gibson) – wickets and economy through the week
8/ Voting over – Most Fineable Tourist:
Alf: stealing the winning runs..
Sunny: hatrick of not standing up, and being a bit quick to give skipper through finger of doom on top of a drop
JBez – not knowing his cap number
Sun – catch.. drop, itchy finger not standing up
Shahed dissent, refusing to bowl and not having suitable eyewear for floodlights..
WINNER: Alf – on a number of levels!!!
9/… Top Tourist
All of the above could in any other year have taken the title of Top Knocker.. in the event of such a tie.. we have to look at overall contributions.. Getting us over the line.. Overcoming adversity to get here.. Unassuming demeanour.. Level of banter in general.. The best cheerleader and also a bag of wickets, great bowling economy and even his pb of 96 retired out!!!…
WINNER: Lewis Brown
Tour 2022: Portugal - Batting & Fielding Averages
Tour 2022: Portugal - Bowling Averages