After a tour hiatus for a few years, Royal Brussels CC was back on the road and traveling to the United Kingdom. Here is the tour report by our very own Nick Revill, who was there to make sure the touring party was behaving well & brought back safely!
Day 1 With military planning and precision, the cream of RBCC’s crop packed up and rolled out of Brussels, destination Kent. Such was the commitment to the cause that our lads didn’t let the terrible weather, the dreadful traffic jams, or the hated ‘No Ball Games’ rule stop their pursuit of cricketing perfection, managing to get a game on in the Eurotunnel car park and in an empty train carriage while en route. Not for the last time on this tour, some of the umpiring was a little too enthusiastic! Despite the congestion, eventually, all the touring party managed to make it to the rendezvous in Sevenoaks, where dinner with Kumar proved to be a delight. There was one minor hiccup when one of our leading lights managed to lock himself in the toilet for half an hour. Happily though, after a thorough explanation of the difference between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ he managed to make his escape and rejoin the rest of the party. The evening was rounded off by drinks at our hotel under the expert guidance of Tipu and Jalal.
Day 2 Our tourists woke to two of the greatest things known to mankind, sunshine and a Premier Inn breakfast. Our younger players in particular showed a real commitment to preparing in a professional manner for the matches to come.
Having feasted and rested we headed into Sevenoaks, stopping off at an impressive Ferrari showroom on the way. Sadly none of the models on offer had sufficient boot room for a cricket coffin so we declined to enter into negotiations.
Poor weather forced us to take refuge in a grand old English pub, The Anchor, for a couple of hours.
Suitably refreshed we made our way to The Vine, one of the oldest cricket grounds in the world having been established in 1734. We were immediately made welcome by our old friends.
Despite the poor weather, our hosts were kind enough to suggest a pairs game. For some of the younger members of the party, this was their first game on a grass pitch; even so, our accurate bowling and tigerish fielding restricted our hosts to a meager score.
As we opened our innings, RBCC decided to even things up with some comical cricket of our own. Young Ollie demonstrated that it is possible to lap your partner, running out Kumar several times in the process, and Arun added to the frivolity by posting an individual score of -20. The latter was particularly hard to understand because he had prepared so assiduously beforehand…
Old hands Nick and Sudh showed all their class and experience by bringing us back into contention. Williams and Adam then showed the cool heads for which they are both renowned, seeing us home by a hairs-breadth, thus ensuring a 100% success rate for guest star Pradeep
Joyful after-match celebrations were paused briefly for the obligatory speech by Lord Compo but the beer was soon flowing again in a marvellous celebration of cricketing fraternity.
Some hardy souls then adjourned to the Miners Arms for refreshment, others took the more traditional route of partying with Jalal and Tipu.
Our diary, being faithful to the old motto ’What goes on tour stays on tour’ must draw a veil over subsequent shenanigans…
Day 3 We woke to glorious sunshine and set off for our match at Uckfield, our opponents being a couple of solid hangovers and a scratch Fletching XI that sounded worryingly young and athletic.
Big Al, captain of the official Fun Bus, struggled to adapt to local driving conditions and, after several near misses, gave up entirely and resorted to simply nudging other vehicles off the road. No one was hurt, though it should be reported that Pride, and the van, were both dented.
The pitch at Uckfield had clearly not benefitted from the tender ministrations provided by The Vine’s professional groundsman. Frankly, it was the sort of sticky dog that gives batters nightmares.
Fletching batted first and were soon struggling with Adam taking early wickets. Perhaps it was over-confidence that resulted in one of our umpires calling their captain back after a first-baller but it proved to be a mistake as he went on to top score with 36.
We couldn’t possibly comment on rumours that the responsible umpire and the Fletching captain are related. It should also be noted that at one stage we had three generations of the Compton family on the pitch; the eldest and the youngest performed admirably, the middle one not so much…
Williams bowled well and Arun was electric in the field as we restricted them to 122. Surely that wouldn’t be too much of a problem?
We were then presented with one of the finest cricket teas ever seen on God’s green earth, so much so that our host, Sharon, received a standing ovation from both teams as the lot was devoured.
Matt and Sudh started our reply in sparkling form against some sprightly bowling. The dodgy pitch did its work however and when some pretty ruthless umpiring saw Dom sawn off at the knees by his mate Max, the writing was on the wall. A defiant 26 by Ollie was insufficient as RBCC fell short by 14 runs.
Any grumpiness on the part of the visitors was quickly dispelled by a visit to the nearby Griffin, a marvelous old country inn with one of the finest beer gardens in England. We were joined by our hosts for a post-match debrief, young Ben leading the way with a few quick pints of Guinness.
All too soon we had to pack up and head south to Brighton. The evening took a sour turn when Al’s bag was stolen as we checked into our hotel but we reconvened at the Ephesus restaurant and it didn’t take too long for the big man’s smile to return.
We adjourned to the Quadrant a rare ‘old man’s pub’ near the seafront but it was clear that the young pups were struggling to stand the pace.
In the end only the GOATs – you know who you are! – had the stamina to go clubbing…
Day 4 With heavy hearts, we left Brighton and headed for Rye and the picturesque Church Lane ground of Iden CC. This pitch had considerably more grass on it and the groundsman told us that the ball would carry through at a good pace; always listen to the groundsman’s children, this chap was spot on in his assessment.
We batted first and posted a solid score of 192. Ben batted beautifully for an undefeated 67 and both Dom and Tipu scored 39.
We were confronted by another excellent tea but, worried that the previous day’s post-prandial lethargy had been caused by one too many vol-au-vents, mascots Nick and Al sacrificed their waistlines by hoovering up most of the cake before the players could get any…
Our bowling was excellent. Williams and Ollie were quick and straight while Jalal was absolutely in his element and virtually unplayable. Special mention also to Max who toiled up the hill, despite being ill, and bowled an excellent spell. It was all too much for Iden and even some late-order slogging could only get them to 125. In part this was also due to an excellent cameo spot at cover from all-action South African fielder Jonty Rhodes Big Al; like a sausage roll, the ball never got past him!
We got on really well with the Iden team and we dragged ourselves away with promises of a reciprocal visit ringing in our ears.
Sadly the tour was over too soon. We had an excellent trip filled with laughter and camaraderie, met some great people along the way, and played at some lovely grounds. The whole party got on well and our thanks go out to Sudh and Compo for organising everything. Our drive home was bittersweet; sad that our adventure was over but with loads of happy memories…just as it should be on every good tour.
The End…Until Next Year!