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The Velden weekend, May 24th - 26th 2013 

My Austroblog : in search of the big blue 

..... blue sky, that is.  

I remember a sentence in an English essay written by some unfortunate soul with whom I went to school some 40 years ago – this is what he wrote :

“She went home in a flood of tears and a taxi.”

The teacher went absolutely ballistic – but I liked it, so here is my version for the start of this report..... 

I left home this morning with severe misgivings and a packet of biscuits (you need biscuits when you drive long distance). Misgivings because of the weather : here we are about 200 hours away from the beginning of June and just 4 weeks away from the longest day of the year – after which the nights will draw in as winter approaches : I’m contemplating Christmas, and there is not a trace of summer yet ! You do not need me to tell you how appalling the weather has been just about everywhere so far this year.
Day 1 : Friday May 24th

Here are the highlights of my Friday as I travelled up to Velden: 

0930 -   On the road. Temperature is 6.5° .... and it’s pouring down ! Drop off in-laws at

Orio airport.

1130 -  Still pouring..... temperature 9°.

1230 -  Just beyond Venice (curiously enough I am now closer to Bologna than I was when I left home !). The rain stops – and by heavens, I see some blue sky! I turn north towards Udine.

1245 -  I risk putting the Ray-bans on. Temperature limps into double figures.

1247 -  The Ray-bans have clearly annoyed the rain-gods, so off they come,

and...down comes the rain. Temperature follows suit.

1430 -  Near frontier : rain has stopped. And has been replaced  snow –

is that legal ?!

1445 -  I am now above the snowline – or rather : it has come down to me.

Temperature now 3°.

1530 -  Arrive. Have driven about 530 kms. It’s still raining. I check in. Am refused a beer by the hotel management until I provide my postcode. Blimey.  

On the bright side I have contrived to get a hotel which is 45 seconds walking time away from the pitch – now that’s planning for you !  Everyone else has opted for the place the other side of the river, having been informed originally that it might be possible to simply wade across from the hotel to the ground. Well : good luck with that, boys ! Remember what happened to the Nazgul as they tried to cross the river to capture Frodo ? And they were on horseback !! 

The ground looks great : a pretty flat field, very decent grass,  a pavilion that has alcohol on tap, proper loos & showers and its own official civic number ...but then it did cost in excess of  € 100,000 ! There is protective netting on the deep mid wicket boundary, and what I imagine will be stunning scenery should the rainclouds ever decide to lift. A truly nice place. There is also a mole in residence - definitely related to the rabbit we have at Settimo : the little line of molehills suggest that rather than preferring to stay in the outfield he is busy working his way towards the wicket !!!!!

Sadly the forecast for tomorrow is absolutely atrocious – the entire ground is already very squelchy underfoot, so it’s difficult to see how a game is possible – I have therefore laid in supplies of the local apricot brandy, some Pringles and Ritter Sport chocolate - one way or the other I will enjoy my weekend. But in 3 weeks’ time we’re off to Zuoz : how feckin’ cold is it going to be up there ??!?  

Da y 2 : Saturday May 25th : MCC vs Barbarijans  (presumably the spelling is a copyright issue ?) 

I say from the start that my Apricot brandy did not get touched – the rain held off, and we played the full 35 overs.  

An inspection of the wicket produced a desire to bowl first : none of us except Nand had ever played here before, no-one really knew how much water had fallen recently, and there was also a well-worn mat on the concrete track to consider – so we’ll let the Barbars bat first, if you please....... 

As you know we generally bowl well – and having read the script we got off to a good start : in the 3rd over opener Stephan played back when he should have played forward as the ball skidded off the surface, and was bowled by Vikas for just 2. Next man Emlyn and other opener Naranjan proceeded to batten down the hatches in the face of some good, consistent bowling from both Vikas and Brian, the concrete track generating both speed and bounce  – in fact Emlyn was lucky to progress into double figures as he gifted a regulation catch to 1st slip, who unaccountably spilled it. Cautious batting predominated throughout the first half of the Barbars innings – no wild hitting, the few boundaries coming when a short ball on the leg was offered up and nudged down to the boundary – so we are talking of a run rate of 2 to 3 an over, Milan really keeping a lid on things – only 3 wides in the entire session in the field, and overall the fielding was of a good standard.  

Vikas, having bowled 4 overs for no runs  was then replaced by Sunil – regular readers will have noticed that of late Sunil has tended to blow hot and cold, sometimes really struggling to get his line right, but today he was on song, and his first spell of 3 overs kept the batsmen pinned down. Aziz at the other end picked up the wicket of Naranjan, and then Irfan had Maneesh caught by Sunil for just 2, which saw us through to drinks at 21 overs, the Barbars on just 54 for 3. Captain Nand then decided to mix up the bowling attack by giving as many people a bowl as possible – altruistic, but risky under the circumstances : surely the batting had some more firepower to it ?  

It certainly seemed so : batsman number 3, although having not scored a lot was still there after 20 overs, and down the other end the stocky left hander Blaz seemed to be winding up to do some serious damage – plenty of powerful blows that were just not penetrating the fielding cordon as yet - but a drinks break is also perilous for batsmen as they have to refocus, something Emlyn failed to do as he was given out LBW with the first ball of resumption, Jonathan being the unlikely man getting the breakthrough.  Eric came in with a mandate to score, and indeed he exhibited some muscular stroke-play, directing his shots through mid on and mid off, but just as he was getting into his stride he thumped one to Anthony at mid off who succeeded in clinging onto the ball (the bruise should be quite something !), Jonathan picking up his second wicket of the day ! 

Six down now, the Barbars, now at 90+ for 5, creeping towards a 3 figure score with 26 overs gone – but did they have a secret weapon to unveil ??

“No” is the answer – the remaining batsmen failed to make any impact, and one by one they succumbed to the efficient bowling – Brian got his just rewards by clean bowling top score Blaz for 39, and then in the same over dismissed Manesh for 5. Tail-enders David and Dennis saw out the innings, and the Barbars limped to a total of 109 for 8. I have already mentioned Vikas’s excellent bowling , but also worthy of note are  Jonathan and Brian with 2 wickets apiece, and I must mention Sunil, Aziz, Vijay  and Irfan who bowled with good line and length : details below.  


























This team effort shows that the message here is this : it is not always about wickets : if you can limit the opposition’s scoring you are in with a chance. 

It was decreed that the natural batting order was to be reversed, and once opener Jonathan found himself back in the pavilion, totally undone by movement off the seam, it was down to Vijay and Ahmed to make a proper start – Ahmed was untested, and Vijay always lives and dies by the sword : how would this work out ? Pretty well, actually – a partnership of 54 was forthcoming, thus laying a good platform for those who would follow – you all know how Vijay bats : the red mist descends, steam comes out of his ears, there is plenty of bash –and then he gets out. Today he got 17 ( one 6 ) before being bowled by a full toss. Nand came and went without scoring, and then Ahmed got himself caught for 36 ( 2 sixes and 3 fours ) – from 57 for2 Milan went to 60 for 4, ten overs gone  – yet the bowling could not have been described anything like as purposeful or aggressive as Milan’s.  Sunil in now, and  if anyone was in need of a good knock, then it was him – thankfully he played himself in, and then calmly set about despatching the ball to the boundary with a succession of clean hits straight down the ground – he survived the day to finish on 41 not out (3 sixes and 5 fours) – victory came shortly after 15.15 with 5 wickets in hand and 20 overs still yet to bowl !!!  

After a restorative beer and a glance at a) the time and b) the sky, we decided to have second game : a 12 over thrash!! A brief description follows : 

Milan’s innings

Irfan, with more ducks to his name than a Chinese restaurant, was also in need of a good knock, and he top scored with a fluent 57. Partial assistance from Aziz ( 12 ) helped Milan get to 91 for 8. 

Barbarijans’ innings

Nand took 2 wickets with his first 2 balls, and then got another 2 in his second over -  the Barbars were out of it after the first over, really – a decent knock of 36 not out from Naranjan was just too late, and Milan ran in comfortable winners by 28 runs. Nand got a 5 wicket haul, plus he took a good catch in the deep ( always helps if you use your hands rather than your eye, isn’t that right, Nand ?! ) 

Day 3 : Sunday May 26th              “I Fought the law” 

When travelling abroad as an emissary of the MCC it is important to behave correctly – I have always tried to be on my best behaviour by respecting local bye-laws and, where possible, I try to converse with the natives in the local patois –this usually impresses by team mates but not the locals, who screw up their faces in an attempt not to laugh – but I try. It is with a sense of shame, then, that I feel I am leaving Velden  under something of a cloud (not a real one as the sun is out this morning).

Allow me to explain – having recklessly attempted to buy a beer on Friday without a postcode ( what was I thinking ?)  I then showed contempt towards the authorities when evincing surprise that, on a Saturday night, the hotel restaurant kitchen stopped serving dinner .... at 19.30 – my total lack of appreciation of the very reasonable local gastronomic customs immediately resulted in my being asked to pay for my room on the spot. My life spiralled further downwards as I later lost a battle with a local parking meter and ended up not paying for a statutory 7 minutes – this crime spree ( let’s call it for what it really is) may well warrant an inclusion on Interpol’s most wanted, but my name will definitely be  brought up at the next Velden municipal meeting to discuss updating the list of  “Undesirables”.. 

The Sunday game : 30 overs       “Search for the hero”

The home team had stayed up deep into the night to drown their sorrows, and Milan weren’t exactly punctual, so we began the game at 10.50 instead of the 10 a.m planned start.

Milan batted first – Anthony, making his first appearance in an MCC shirt, partnered Vikas – and the problem with Vikas is this : ever since his epic knock of last year everybody imagines (and prays) that he will do something similar – yet the scores since have been in the low teens – could he deliver today? He hit the first ball through the covers for 4 – a single was followed by 3 consecutive fours – easy, tiger ! Meanwhile down the other end Anthony was successfully keeping out the bowling attack of the fastish left arm Maneesh and the slowish left arm of Blaz – the score bounced along at 9 an over, and Vikas was in his 20s before Anthony, displaying a true Yorkshire defensive temperament, opened his account -  the 50 partnership came up in the 8th over – Vikas , with the threat of “retire-at- 50” hanging over his head duly skyed one and was caught at cover by Eric for 52 in the 10th over; Anthony followed 2 overs later, caught at mid off for 12, and Brian edged a rising ball from 1st change bowler Wali to the keeper for just 5 – Milan, wobbling somewhat, thus went from 60 for no loss to 78 for 3. The start of a collapse ? 

Aziz and Irfan had other ideas – both set about the bowling with relish and put together a partnership of 70 before Aziz was caught, skying one to opposition captain David at mid wicket for solid 41 ( 3 fours and 3 consecutive sixes !) – Sunil was undone by playing his trademark shot, miscalculating his cheeky glance to off which didn’t find the gap around the gully area – it went straight to point. A total of 159 for 5, tho’ , seemed as if it would be a tall order for the Barbars – and there was more to come....

Irfan was out 1 short of his fifty, he too caught. Aki and Nand were now at the crease hoping to see out the overs and get the score to 200 if possible – Nand was the last man out, run out for 12, but not before he had hit that six  over square leg, which produced the largest cheer of the day ! A demoralised bowling force went through the motions, and Milan closed their innings on 218 for 7.   

No dynamics available, I’m afraid – I hastily copied down the salient bits at the end of the game, but it was more or less over before it started – Brian picked up 2 wickets in his first spell; Nand, Aki and Irfan all bowled economically as the Barbars, needing 6+ an over clocked up the runs at scarcely 3 an over. Just a question, then, of who was going to get the wickets.  With the exception of Maneesh ( top score with 41 ) all the other batsmen failed to get into double figures. Maneesh, to his credit, looked menacing – very few risks taken, and most of his scoring shots were to the off. A mention, too, to Emlyn, who although didn’t score many runs, at least showed an ability to play a straight bat and survive for more than 4 overs.

I thought that Nand had captained really well throughout the weekend, striking the right balance between wanting to win and wanting to get everyone involved – he had 10 different players bowl on Saturday, and seeing that Maneesh was proving difficult to get out, opted for a change and brought on Vijay, with his trademark loopy ( can I say balloony?) style – and by heck it worked – he got Maneesh out with his first ball, caught by Aki our keeper - and the very next ball he caught and bowled Jernej – 2 in 2!!  – the Vijay volcano had exploded !! And he came within a whisker of repeating the feat in his second over – he got his 3rd wicket bowling Mahesh for 2, and just failed to cling on to a catch off the very next ball ! Unbelievable stuff – had he been able to hold on he would have had 4 wickets in 8 deliveries..... obviously by this stage the Barbars had had the stuffing knocked out of them -  7 down for 80 odd runs, and Sunil  brought the game to a close by running out David F. with a smart direct hit from deepish cover.  

All in all a fantastic weekend, not only because we were convinced the whole thing was going to be a washout – beautiful surroundings, excellent facilities, superb hospitality and 3 wins out of 3 – and everyone played his part: everyone had a hand in getting wickets as a bowler, being behind the stumps or taking the catch – and almost all of us, umm, you, scored some runs. Lots of fun – we must go again !




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