The Napa Valley Cricket Club went international recently on their annual tour, playing a match on the historic Brockton Oval cricket field in picturesque Stanley Park, Vancouver. Described by legendary Australian batsman Don Bradman in 1948 as “the prettiest ground upon which it has been my pleasure to play, it really is a magnificent setting” the NVCC couldn’t have played at a more stunning venue for their first international cricket match.
With its northerly latitude Vancouver is suited to matches that start later in the day and go on into the evening and so NVCC’s match with local club Meraloma CC (MCC) was slated for a 4pm start. The Meraloma club, founded in 1923, is based out of Connaught Park in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver and the club field a number of teams at various levels of the British Columbia Mainland Cricket League in addition to an adult Women’s team and a number of underage teams for both girls and boys.
The NVCC couldn’t have picked a better weekend to travel north of the border with the temperature nudging 80 degrees and their match scheduled just a couple of days after the summer solstice, ensuring light for playing well into the evening. MCC captain Raj Sidhu won the toss and decided to bat first and give Leigh Ritchie, the NVCC tour captain, and the NVCC team something to chase. MCC started strongly with the bat and their openers Dave Avren and Tommy Keady batted solidly for MCC seeing off the NVCC opening bowlers Tim Irwin and Tim Kay, with both batsmen getting to 30 runs and retiring – local social rules for the match to allow more to participate. It wasn’t until the 13th over that NVCC found some success with the ball when club president Rob Bolch had MCC captain Sidhu trapped LBW (leg-before-wicket) for only five runs.
MCC continued to add runs despite a slow outfield and a brace of wickets for NVCC off-spinner Brendan Helme did little to slow the run rate with yet another MCC player, Stuart Grills retiring at 30 runs. Some sharp glove work behind the stumps from NVCC wicket-keeper Phil Bourke stymied any thoughts of a flourish from MCC as they reached their 30 over allocation. Despite Bourke’s quick hands MCC posted 160 runs off their 30 overs, a good score on the Brockton pitch.
Tour captain Ritchie sent Bolch out to open alongside club stalwart and Tour Manager, Clive Richardson. While Bolch eventually “got his eye in” and scored his first run after 12 dot balls Richardson struggled to get bat on ball and was bowled for two runs off 16 balls. Bolch dealt exclusively in ones and twos as he found it difficult to pierce the MCC field and alongside Richardson, Irwin (7 off 3) and Paul Armbruster (15 off 27), Bolch ended up with 21 runs off 51 balls. That sluggish start by Bolch and Richardson was to come back and haunt NVCC later in their chase. Some good application with the bat by Kay that included two fours was ended by a stunning catch by MCC’s Shah Hamid and from there the NVCC middle order imploded with Jamie Johnson (0 off 2), Bijoy Ojha (5 off 11), and Pete Sander (2 off 7) contributing to what was looking like an early end to the NVCC’s innings.
Bourke had other ideas and after this strong showing with the gloves he decided to take the game to MCC with a series of strong shots and quick running. Bourke found company in fellow left-handed batsman Andrew Healy as the pair added 16 runs for Healy’s, and the NVCC’s, ninth wicket. Healy lost his wicket to a turning ball from Scott Anderson and that brought tour captain Ritchie to the middle. Whilst not renowned for his skills with the bat Ritchie and Bourke made great use of their right-handed / left-handed combination and rotated the strike regularly to keep the MCC fielders moving. The pair batted for the final four overs and added 26 runs to take the NVCC’s score over 100, to 116, and add some respectability to the chase total. The highlight of the final pairs efforts was a huge six by Ritchie lofted high and long over bowler Norm Baldwin’s head, beyond the long-on boundary.
After the match NVCC tour captain Ritchie presented Scott Anderson of Meraloma CC with the traditional Clos du Val Man of the Match award and NVCC president Rob Bolch presented Len Layton who helped facilitate the tour at the Vancouver end with an engraved NVCC tour plaque to hang in the historic Brockton Pavilion.
Australian Ritchie reflected on the tour saying “We were truly privileged to play our first international match against Meraloma CC on such an incredible ground. Not only is it steeped in history but the setting is simply stunning and I can see why “The Don” (Bradman) was so full of praise for this ground almost 70 years ago. The hospitality shown to us by the Meraloma CC guys was great. It was a good, hard and fair cricket match and afterwards over a curry dinner it was great to share stories of our mutual love of the game of cricket, and share and hear stories of each club’s history.”
For those interested in learning more about the game of cricket the NVCC will host their annual Napa Valley World Series of Cricket pitting members from America & Australia against members from the Rest of the World. This match takes place at the Napa Valley Expo, 575 Third St., in downtown Napa from 10:30am on Sunday July 23. Admission is free. Kid activities will be provided. Food, beer, and wine will be on sale and club members will be happy to answer any questions on the intricacies and quirks of the game.
Next Match – Sunday 23rd July, 2017 – as the NVCC play their annual World Series of Cricket on the Silverado Green and the Napa Valley Expo in downtown Napa from 10:30am.