2021 & 2022 saw Weybridge Vandals tour Cornwall. Despite the warm Kernow welcome from cricket clubs and locals alike, the beautiful scenery, cricket on the beach and pasties for tea, it was decided that the 6 hour trip was too much for many of our regular party. Roll on the very first Vandals tour of Cheltenham. With the Swanage tours of 2013-17, Devon tours of many moons ago and of course, Cornwall, Vandals – feeling most at home near water (we are the greatest island cricket club in the world, so don’t @ us Byfleet, Canvey, Jersey, Jamaica or England C.C.’s!) – felt somewhat disorientated as they approached the west country (or is it south Midlands? The debate was never cleared-up) and had no beach to put stumps in nor a sea for the early morning/late night dip.
Most tourists arrived on Thursday and Friday afternoons. On debut this tour were Tony Pollard, Kiran Maharaj, Andy Bowler and Dale Burnham. Bowlsy has long threatened to tour; last year being the closest he’s come to playing, before finding himself locked inside a warehouse after an all night rave in Falmouth. Dale similarly, but this time finally realized that cricket is the superior game to his beloved soccer.
The Thursday evening involved the seven first arrivals venturing out into the town to establish a base camp for the evening and predictably, for the rest of the weekend. The pub of choice was the Whittle Taps, named after the former Zimbabwe test cricketer Guy Whittall (a clerical error led to the spelling mistake). The memory is hazy, admittedly, but what I do remember is venturing down to the local Popworld (Flares to our more experienced readers), with Freddie & James, where Freddie delighted in telling me he felt both old and young. He had a point though, as everyone seemed either 18 or 40 and everyone seemed like they were clinging onto some hope in life, us included. Hence Popworld on a Thursday night.
The tour group was the largest of the modern era, with 16 players making their way to
Gloucestershire and predictably, about 10 of them were more than keen not to play the first match.
The Friday afternoon pre-match preparation involved a trip to Hollywood bowl for ten-pin, pool and drinks. Freddie Good won the first match of the tour, which was ten-pin bowling, including 4 strikes in a row, much to the joy of his teammates. It would be the straightest Freddie would bowl all weekend. After bowling was pool where, within two minutes of 2nd XI skipper Richard’s arrival, an argument between Richard and Garry broke out regarding who had the frilliest pink knickers packed for the weekend. Dale prepared by pretending to be in a serious working meeting on his phone with a Guinness in hand and school children causing chaos around him in Hollywood Bowl.
Dr. E.W. Churchwell, otherwise known as “Drew” captained the team against Charlton Kings C.C., which isn’t a new franchise of the IPL but in fact an actual place name, situated just outside Cheltenham town centre. According to Hillsy, it’s twinned with an Oxfordshire village called Boughton Paidfer, which is contiguous with the hamlet of Iron Gloves. What was originally scheduled to be a T20 was reduced to a S17, owing to the impending autumn equinox and possibly some reluctance to play a full game of cricket.
The scene was perfect for our first match in new environs. Charlton Kings C.C. sits off a lane, a relatively small ground, surrounded by fields on three sides. As you look out from the pavilion across the ground towards the south and east, you are met with a glorious view of undulating green hills. One of the most picturesque grounds I’m sure most of us have ever played at.
Jamie Chapman, making a welcome return to Vandals colours, opened the batting with his nephew and tour captain, chief organizer and excellent eater, James “Horse” Randall. Chappers caressed the first ball of the innings for four, through the covers. If ever there was a ball you want to receive first as an opener, it’s a full toss outside off stump. That shot set the tone for the tour on and off the field. Jimmy and Chappers started quickly and the score was 45 when Chappers fell for 26, to the bowling of the uncannily named Andrew Bower. Freddie “Ebeneezer” Good joined the Horse in the middle, ticking the scoreboard over nicely. Horse got going, hitting a long six over the sightscreen and then dancing down the track to plink the ball into the next field over extra cover. Next ball, he was stumped for a delightful 32 from 23 balls.
Next in was Garry “Obson” Foreman, who, having spent the first few overs yelling at Jimmy to rotate the strike, spent his innings swishing wildly, then hitting the fourth ball for 4. When he finally decided to rotate the strike it resulted in Fred being run out. Now, I didn’t realise Fred had it in him but when he walked off that pitch towards the pavilion, let’s say he wasn’t discussing the weather in Spain at this time of year. Not happy and one can only assume that it was because he was playing against Charlton.
Rich was next in, who kept the scoreboard going over with some proper cricket shots, and the score was inflated more with the help of Dale and believe it or not, Mick Roche. Vandals finished 136/5 from 17 overs. Respectable.
Charlton Kings started well, scoring 50 before Amandeep Singh picked up the first wicket, Garry the catcher with the safe hands. The second came not long after, with first choice wicketkeeper Sam Buckell taking a skier off Garry, who decided that he’s going to roll back the years by bowling seam up.
That brought in Parker at 52/2, playing his first match in two years. He batted very well for a run-a-ball 37, aided along the way by Gadsden, Matt Bower and Pearson.
With 13 or so required off the last two overs, a ball was hit high and handsome to the long on boundary, where ordinarily it would be gobbled up by a very safe pair of hands. Let’s just say that it wasn’t, owing to a horrible blob of a pink ball, fading light and possible chatter with locals on the boundary, maybe with some autograph signing going on too. The ball went for 6. The fielder will remain unnamed…
…Charlton Kings needed 3 from the last over, and who better to bowl it than Woo Powell, looking to make amends for his drop over the rope in front of the locals the over before?
He started well, getting rid of Parker, who’d nearly steered his side home, and Khan first ball. Alas, no amount of praying to the cricket gods could help the Vandals and our hosts got over the line with the last ball, winning by 4 wickets.
Throughout the match, smoke could be seen bellowing from the barbecue across the pitch. Finally, the players could enjoy a not-so-well-earned burger and a sausage, thanks to our very generous hosts. The two sides fraternized, exchanged cricketing and touring stories, and the Vandals boys picked the locals’ brains for places to go out drinking in the town. When the drinking was complete and the Charlton boys had had enough, the clubhouse was locked up, we took one last glance over the beautiful view of the hills which sit beyond the Kings’ ground and pissed off back into town.
Charlton Kings C.C. were very accommodating to a strange, rowdy bunch of so-called cricketers and I’m sure every Vandal present will agree that the hosts were great entertainment, very welcoming and friendly and that if we were to revisit Cheltenham, we’d love to give them another game. Thank you to Charlton Kings!