This Week in Lisburn Cricket ushered in the new season by taking a trip to Comber for the opening 2nd XI fixture with North Down 2s, and enjoyed some entertaining fare by way of a nail-biting game, some banter from LCC debutants, and the now customary appearance from the man who simply likes to be known as the “Russeller”.

With what seemed like the majority of all cricketers who had signaled an intention to don the old gold, green and black of the Lisburn Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club’s (our official postal name, strangely) colours for the 2012 season having buggered off to the Aviva for the rugby, it was a somewhat cobbled together 2s side that met at Wallace Park on Saturday morning. Nonetheless, and despite the rather icy feel to proceedings, there was a definite aura of enthusiasm prevalent amongst the assembled masses as we waited for our 11th player to join us. Clearly not particularly bothered about creating a good first impression with his new teammates, our latecomer on this occasion was the self-proclaimed sexiest cricketer in the Northern Cricket Union, Carl “Wonkle” Williams. An apologetic Wonkle was at pains to point out that his tardy arrival was outside of his control, with the better half having arrived back late from the Saturday morning trip to Sainsburys. A few of his teammates opined that the thumbprint on his forehead may not have fully disappeared by the time he was due to enter the arena at Comber later that day, and one suspects that a pattern will develop for the former Ballymena man as the season progresses.

In any case, TWILC had the pleasure of joining the aforementioned Wonks for the trip to Comber and our attention turned to the anticipated meeting with twitter’s finest NCU exponent, @russeller147. We were eager to meet up with the big man for a couple of reasons. During the close season, we had enjoyed an evening in his company at the ice-hockey, but since then we were led to believe that he had shed a few pounds and had got himself sorted with a rather tidy looking ice hockey fan (TLIHF) (surprisingly, they do exist). Indeed, we had both had a preview of said TLIHF via twitter-pics and Wonkle confided he had undertaken some additional research on google (only kidding), but as the North Down coach Gavin Rodgers was later to opine, sometimes internet pictures can struggle to live up to expectations! Our considered view, however, was that Russeller was punching well above his weight, and when we saw him in the flesh, our view was considerably cemented as the big man (well, not so big any more) had shifted no less than 3 stone. Of course, Neil was quick to point out that the catalyst for this amazing new slimline physique was his preparation for another season of cricket, a view that on further discussion, apparently was not universally shared by the North Down 1st Xi changing room. However, TWILC has no reason to doubt it and writes off as mere coincidence that he has lost 3 stone in 3 months, 3 months after starting to court this stunning TLIHF, and having never shifted weight before a cricket season at any stage during his previous 15 or so seasons.

Anyway, enough about that, and on to the game. Debuts were the way forward for the 2s on this occasion with no less than 4 debutants in one shape or form. We’ve already discussed one, but also on debut were young Daniel Nelson, and he was to go on to perform with credit, though what he felt about the changing room banter is anyone’s guess, and also our new recruit from the Nor-West, Ian “Dudds” Duddy. A friend of Doggy (not something you normally find people admitting to) Dudds is a former Brigade man who is now living and working down these parts, though he admitted that he had a certain degree of trepidation about his impending debut for his new club, having not donned the whites in two seasons. He was handed his new playing kit and immediately expressed some concern about it, indicating that it was most likely the first time he had played in such colours, and that he wouldn’t be overly speedy about wearing his new kit up in the Nor-West!

Also falling into the debutant category, well sort of, was the skipper Glenn Halliday, who was making his debut as captain. Having displayed some good tactical nous over the past couple of seasons, young Glenn has been given the role of 2s skipper and his teammates were keen to see how he would rally the troops. None of us were expecting the Gettysburg address, or a “Win one for the Gipper” approach from our new leader, but we certainly hadn’t prepared ourselves for the format that Glenn’s teamtalk would take. Indeed, if awards were being handed out for being economical with words, he would be in line for the top prize as he simply mused before the game “ Ok lads, we are gonna start as soon as we are ready. Just win” And with these inspirational words fresh in our mind, we took the field for the first time this season with Boothers and Wonkle striding to the middle, and the 2012 season was underway.

The match itself had a number of highlights. Firstly, Wonkle was run out by his skipper which didn’t meet with a massive amount of approval from the former, who was quite clearly keen to get his Lisburn career off to the best possible start. To be fair, he had started to look in useful touch before Glenn called him through for one which probably wouldn’t have been there to a spritely 20 year old, and was certainly not there for someone of Wonkle’s advancing years, and he could only look on in hope that Andrew Haire’s throw from square leg would do awry. It didn’t.
Secondly, Dudd’s first bat for almost two seasons saw him play a technically perfect forward defensive shot first ball up, only to perish a couple of balls later playing exactly the same shot.
Having watched this failure to play defensively, I decided that such a move wasn’t the way forward, a decision further cemented by my first two efforts at playing the shot which saw catching practice take place behind the sticks. Indeed, it felt like during my brief but eventful innings that I was dropped more times that Sylvester Stallone during a Rocky film, but at least I hit the first six of the hew season at Comber, before Andrew Haire was again in the action taking a very good running catch off a skier at deep mid wicket.
Our innings looked at various stages that it may struggle to reach three figures but Mark Berry, the tail, and the inability of the majority of North Down fielders at hold the ball (to be fair, they mightn’t have been able to feel their fingers in the conditions) meant that we ended up posting a creditable total of 172, with Dazzler (31) and young Daniel Nelson putting on what must have been close to 40 for the last wicket, to give ourselves a sniff.

On to their innings then, and again, it was a strange one. COnkers took three early wickets yet they were going at about ten an over (thanks in the main to Dingle, and his radar – first 14 runs for ND were all wides), and it looked like the game would be over either way by drinks. However, Nathan Burns, who was meant to be playing for their 1sts until the game was called off, steadied the ship and at 100 odd for 3 it looked like a canter for ND. Then we took a rash of middle order wickets, and 120-7 meant we were probably the favourites, a position in the market that would have been cemented but for our Monty moment of the day. There hadn’t been a great deal wrong with our fielding until, at 129-7, with Billy Adams batting, he launched one to long on. Under it was the normally particularly safe pair of hands of Boothers and it looked like being game over for the home side’s chase. But to the shock of most, Boothers misjudged it, the ball went through his hands for 4, and with it the game swung back in North Down’s favour. Despite getting Billy later, the damage had been done, and our inability to remove Burnsy proved costly. The 9th wicket fell with 7 needed, but with the 1st XI star on strike, and he duly blasted Boothers for 6 to tie the scores, before lashing one through the covers to seal the win one ball later. A dejected Lisburn side were left to reflect on a chance missed to win an important league game, as these are surely two sides who will be plying their trade in the upper echelons of Junior League One as the season progresses. But lets not take away from what was a fine, exciting game of cricket first up, and both teams congratulated each other in a sporting way after the game.

A quick shower and change, and we joined everyone in the bar to catch the tail end of the egg chasing from the Aviva and discovered that Ulster would again be depleting cricket teams in the middle of May (note to Lisburn boys – that is Junior Cup round one fellas, it’s the middle of May, it’s the cricket season – so watch the bloody rugby on the telly at the ground!). Russeller was there holding court, along with Gavin Rodgers, and there was still time for one story from Blud before we hit the road. Seems that the old adage that you can take the boy out of Ballymena, but you cant take the Ballymena out of the boy may indeed ring true. As GR tells it, he was on a Grasshoppers tour with Wonkle (or Worzel as he apparently called him throughout the entire trip) and at the airport on the way home Wonkle/Worzel remembered he hadn’t bought the kids anything back from his tour. Gavin took great mirth in explaining that Wonkle bought one present (he has three children) and then went on to defend his purchase by indicating that theyd be able to share it! Clearly his hour combing the airport for 3 for 2 offers hadn’t borne fruit on this occasion!! There is more likely a better chance of Russeller having to leave a cricket match early to go home with his new TLIHF to watch the Eurovision Song Contest than Wonkle opening the wallet and buying 3 gifts when on tour (isn’t that right, Russeller………..)

At well past 8pm we raised the white flag and it was time to go. In the final reckoning, it had been a good day despite the agonisingly close defeat. Cricket, camaraderie, banter and p*ss taking had won the day, and all of that is part and parcel of the ingredients which make me continue playing the game despite my body today telling me that it doesn’t approve of my exertions. To end with, the award of the Jonty – I don’t recall any outstanding effort in the field from us, we by and large took our chances and fielded tidily, if unspectacularly, so this week’s Jonty goes for consistent effort. Having already taken a catch off my bowling to send him to the head of the Jonty betting market (albeit a regulation chance), our winner cemented the first award of the season by registering a zero in the byes column. He too will no doubt be feeling the after-effects today, but the 1st LCC Jonty of the season goes to the veteran keeper, Robin “Finchy” Graham – this is TWILC………….OUT.

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