The night before the 2005 Edgbaston Test (a match report)

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Ged Ladd writes…

Since the end of the last century, I, together with a group of cricket nuts known as The Heavy Rollers, have attended the first day or three of the Edgbaston Test match. In the early years, our expeditions began the night before day one of the match, with cricket in the garden at Wadderton – The Children’s Society’s residential centre near Bromsgrove.

In 2004, things started to go downhill in more ways than one, with Wadderton’s closure imminent, plus Charley The Gent comedically attempting to defy the laws of physics and field a ball unscathed.

But Charley “The Gent Malloy” Bartlett was also a master of persuasion, as was Nigel “Father Barry” who had, once again, secured us front row seats for the 2005 Ashes Test.

In January 2005 an e-mail came through from Charley simply stating: “Here is an additional little treat to look forward to!!”

The above scan was clear: two lanes of the Edgbaston Cricket Centre for an hour, the evening before THAT Ashes Test match.

How did Charley pull off such a coup? Several long phone calls, almost certainly. Tales of tireless work for The Children’s Society, probably. Sob stories about the closure of Wadderton, perhaps. Implications that war veterans might be involved; vague mentions of battles past and “the fallen,” possibly. Chas didn’t disclose his sources and methods back then and he sure won’t do so now.

But in late March our group rejected that wonderful eve of Edgbaston 2005 opportunity. Big Papa Zambezi Jeff proposed that we stay at his Bedfordshire homestead, where he would cut a proper strip and arrange a barbeque for after the “eve of the Ashes” game. He sent the following pictures of the homestead view and the lawn upon which the strip would be cut.

The change of plan was agreed by acclamation. 

I wonder how Chas phrased his cancellation of our Edgbaston booking? I don’t suppose it read:

“Dear Mr Basseit

Thanks for all the time you and your colleagues spent on the phone, listening to my pleadings, eventually acquiescing to my request for two lanes of the Indoor School on 3 August 2005. On reflection, the group would sooner play in Jeff’s back garden, so please cancel our booking.

Yours sincerely

Charley “The Gent Malloy” Bartlett”

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  1. Interesting vintage report from the Ladd stable. I think the plant in Big Papa’s photo is Wild Carrot. I get paid to collect the seeds amongst other wild species in Norfolk.

    Speaking of Norfolk, Monty Panesar has signed for Great Witchingham, which is only 20 mins away from me. Must write a match report at some point over the season.

    1. You beat me to this by 5 mins Bail-out – an amazing result for a country with a population similar to that of Wakefield.

      Similar in number, I mean. I imagine there is some divergence in demographics and interests between the two populations.

      1. For people unfamiliar with Wakefield that’s a population of 327 thousand or so in Vanuatu. Bermuda has a population of 63 thousand so them getting to a World Cup was also remarkable and surely the greatest ever qualifying achievement. Despite this result, Vanuatu almost certainly won’t qualify – but it doesn’t help that the Women’s T20 World Cup only features 10 sides, which is why Vanuatu are facing off against full members! (Increasing to 12 next time round fortunately, but even that feels a bit slim. The competitiveness gap in women’s cricket isn’t between the top 10 countries and those below, but the very top sides and everyone else.)

        Bermuda had an easier path to what was then a 16 team World Cup. They hosted the 2004 Americas Cricket Championship and beat the Cayman Islands, Argentina and Bahamas but lost to Canada and USA, so took the third and final qualifier slot to the 2005 ICC Trophy. They finished second in their group to guarantee a 2007 World Cup berth by beating UAE, Denmark, and this time round an ageing USA in administrative chaos (they won no group matches and were just a few weeks away from an ICC deadline for their board to fix governance issues or be expelled – reader, they were expelled). Bermuda lost as many matches as they won: to Ireland in the group, Scotland in the semifinal, and once again to Canada in the 3rd place play-off. But with the top 5 teams qualifying, the latter two results were irrelevant in the bigger picture. Bermuda were through, and we all got to experience the one and only Dwayne Leverock. An amazing achievement and the stand-out match was probably their win over the UAE. Bermuda were very much outsiders for the tournament, but back then there were no ICC rankings for teams outside the elite so it’s tricky to quantify just how surprising the individual results were.

        But what Vanuatu as a team of (almost all) amateurs have achieved against a full member, professional, experienced side is more of a shock as an individual result. In fact it’s impressive enough they’re ranked 30th in the world, putting them above some professional sides. Even to get to the global qualifier, Vanuatu had to top the East Asia-Pacific regional qualifier (it’s an easier competition but only one qualifying slot) and doing so meant beating full-time professional teams in fast-growing Indonesia and perennial regional top dogs PNG. Indonesia are 20th in the world rankings and climbing rapidly, with contracts not only at the national level but even for those who play for their regional teams. Their U19s previously qualified for the World Cup and, coincidentally, beat Zimbabwe there. At 11th in the rankings, PNG are just above Zimbabwe so that was a significant shock too!

        This win surely ranks higher though for occurring at a global event (their first) against a full member (their first official match against one), and the first time Vanuatu have played a team from outside the Pacific. In fact the first time Vanuatu have played a match outside the Pacific. Even more of a shock given Zimbabwe’s intense, publicly stated desire to qualify this year (last time out 4 painful runs were the margin as they narrowly lost out to Ireland), while Vanuatu were coming off the back of unofficial warm-up matches in which they were heavily beaten by Uganda followed by an absolute hammering from Sri Lanka. Given they got bowled out for 58 in that match (which their opponents chased down for the loss of one wicket in 8.2 overs) I feared there was a real chance they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of bowling Zimbabwe out cheaply and might just get skittled in the reply. Absolutely delighted to be proved wrong.


    1. An excellent island to be fascinated by. Long may their success continue, but I fear that population will impose an upper limit on their trajectory as it did on Bermuda. There have been other cricketing successes in the Pacific, notably Fiji’s Ilikena Lasarusa Talebulamainavaleniveivakabulaimainakulalakebalau who by all accounts would have made a small fortune in modern T20 leagues. I wonder whether a Pacific Islanders version of the Windies could eventually take a seat at cricket’s top table. Would add some attractive destinations for the Barmy Army.

      More broadly, Vanuatu is one of several surprising outposts where their women’s cricket team is far ahead in the rankings of their men. Brazil and Rwanda also spring to mind. The two most extreme cases, Thailand and Indonesia, show every sign of becoming competitive with the lower-ranked full-member countries on a sustainable basis in the near future. (If I don’t include PNG here, it’s not out of disrespect for their women’s team – ranked 11th in the world and already competitive with several full members – but because their men’s team has decent prospects too.) In Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil, elite cricket is essentially a women’s sport, in a complete reversal of the game’s historic growth.

      So a thorny but fascinating question. If the ICC let Afghanistan play as a full member with only a men’s international team – and not only no development work at all among women, but a criminal offence for any of them to play the game – then at what point should it be accepting countries where professional cricket exists, but only as a women’s game? Clearly you’d have to put restrictions on the circumstances in which their men’s teams play, for competitive and also safety reasons (automatic qualification for full members in ICC tournaments has long gone, but you wouldn’t want to stick a team of amateurs up in a “Test” against Australian pacers), but there’s a genuine case for Thailand and Indonesia in particular becoming full members within the next decade or so.

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