Cricket in Calzaghe’s back garden – Abercarn v DinkyPooThrees

Essex is great, you might be surprised to hear, but after 13 Saturdays of less than magnificent arenas what a treat to play at Aber-lovely-carn. ‘Carn’ as in Imran.

After Orsett Vs in Stanford le Hope, it felt like Lord’s. 

Joe Calzahe’s gym is next door in a feature-free, windowless building surrounded by weeds. I hesitate to say it’s ugly in case he ever finds out where I live. But it’s in a nice spot.

Joe Calzaghe at Abercarn Cricket Club
Calzaghe has changed his name to Oe. Luckily Oe doesn’t play cricket. You wouldn’t fancy giving him lbw would you?
A babbling brook runs down the Gwent valley just the other side of the boundary hedge. Every so often an Arriva train pootles past gently, barely louder than the brook. Almost apologetically – don’t mind me, just winding my way up to Crumlin.

Classic Valleys – the vertiginous slopes are treed-up to the max, glorious green lushness, so many shades of verdant voluptuousness the succulent slopes never cease to inspire, the like of which no country can rival. A mewing buzzard soared above all afternoon.

This place, Pontnewynydd (near Pontypool), Treorchy are all smashing venues – you can kid yourself you’re playing in the Alps. Well I’ve managed to do so, anyway.

Welsh Club Cricket Conference

Abercarn Cricket ClubDivision Six. Us in fourth v them – Abercarn Seconds – in sixth. Chance of a DinkyPoo promotion if we won. skipper Tedmond Bodd-Rennett – I think that’s his name, it’s quite a complicated one anyway, won the toss and inserted.

Pitch dry, but nothing else was. This is Wales, right?

Ball got very wet quickly especially as it spent three minutes in the brook – looks like a brook but after further investigation it turns out to have been the River Ebbw, after Basher Wallace was bashed for six.

Team author Gareth Evans waxes his beard with a luxury unguent bought with the proceeds of his latest best-seller
Team author Gareth Evans waxes his beard with a luxury unguent bought with the proceeds of his latest best-seller
His replacement Gareth Storey may have set a club record by bowling six full tosses in his first over. Even the juniors would find this difficult. The only one he landed was called wide.

But cricke’ts guardian angels must have his ever-cheerful picture on the wall of their communal dormitory as one full bunger was torpedoed straight at me on square leg boundary – like it was a laser guided missile – and gobbled up for a wicket. I swear it would have derailed the passing 14.29 to Crumlin if I hadn’t somehow snaffled it.

The buzzard mewed its appreciation. Abercarn’s innings was a bit boring as the wet outfield slowed the ball down and their side, not a young one, viewed singles with suspicion and twos as an extraordinary, possibly life-threatening inconvenience.

Playing in the early 80s, I took two catches, both our wickets, as the first team had a difficult day in the field. This time, four came my way and I ate the bloody lot, all off crap deliveries too. So even more reason to like it up here.

One guy got a very decent 61, given the bowling, which was just as well. The rest of his side managed 53 between them as they totalled 114-7 in 40 overs against the likes of Swansea student Reuben Mitchell, sensational new find from the tennis club Gareth Hodges, who owns Wales’s only yellow sports  car – that’s probably what attracted the buzzard – and Bournemouth bombshell Josh Clogg.

DinkyPoo batters get some pre-innings practice in
DinkyPoo batters get some pre-innings practice in
Tea was lovely. HOT new potatoes! Strawberries! Melon! Fabulous!

When we batted, we weren’t exactly thrill a minute either, to be fair.

Departing for four in the third over I left Rob Tucker and fresh-faced Bedmond Rodd-Tennett eking out slow progress.

Abercarn Cricket Club
Love the headgear. Abercarn’s 1986 mob. Probably played against them
It got dark and grey. They brought on a first team quickie and it was hard to pierce the field because the ball would get slowed up by the moisture.

Skipper’s departure was followed by two wickets in an over for the home side.

Suddenly they were back in it – 68-4 after 22 overs.

Not so suddenly, we’d been expecting it for hours, the heavens opened leaving the ‘highlights’ reel sadly bereft of further gems. It is here:   

All that effort!

Plunged into the river to fetch the ball, slid round the boundary like Bobby Moore tackling Pele, to intercept a big hit, fielded another mighty smite with me shin, saved a train from being derailed, only to be rained off after four and a half  hours.

It might have seemed a waste of a day.

But it wasn’t.

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