It’s hard to imagine another sport where 26 players could battle it out for two solid days, at the end of which the result was a universally satisfactory draw.
That, however, was the outcome of Campbell River Cricket Club (CRCC)’s match versus “Portsville” a combined team from Portland, Oregon and Parksville, B.C. over the Labour Day weekend.
The match was played at one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in B.C., and possibly the whole of Canada, in Shawnigan Lake. The ground is the home of Cowichan Cricket Club, which has been playing for over 100 years, is the only privately-owned ground in the country, and was kindly loaned for this fixture, as it has been for the last 20 years and more. The clubhouse sets the mood for the matches, with fading photographs of past teams on the walls and a veritable museum of cricket memorabilia in glass cases, including a bat signed by Don Bradman, arguably one of the best cricketers ever to play the glorious game.
The visiting team, originally all from Portland, are a dedicated group of players who are now spread out down the West coast of the USA, but come together every year for their annual cricket pilgrimage to Canada. Until this match, they have traditionally played against Arrowsmith Cricket Club, out of Parksville, but with dwindling numbers at that club, the freshly re-formed CRCC was able to muster 13 players to put up a team versus their combined side. With a wealth of fresh new talent, CRCC was even able to lend them Guri Baidwan, one of our best all-rounders, to even up the sides a little. (I don’t recall the Canucks lending one of the Sedins to the Oilers when they were going through lean times…)
In an era of fast food and instant gratification, most modern cricket games have been reduced from their original long format, to games lasting just one afternoon, with a limited number of overs per side and a guaranteed result at the end. This match, however, was cricket in its purest form, the only limitations being set by the captains, who would decide when to stop batting in order to set the other side a tough but achievable target to chase.
CRCC batted first and made a creditable first innings total of 263 runs. High points in the innings were Aaron O’Shannessy opening the batting and retiring after scoring 50 runs, to give the rest of us a chance to bat, and John Jepson who also retired after a 50-run cameo. This was a hefty total for Portsville to chase, but by close of play on the first day they had scored 124 runs for the loss of only two wickets, so the game was truly on.
At the start of the second day, however, Campbell River bowlers found their mojo, and managed to bowl eight more of their players out for an additional 89 runs before their captain declared (closed) their innings, leaving them 50 runs behind. Campbell River was made to regret lending Baidwan to Portsville, as he was their top scorer with a useful 53 runs. Ben George of CRCC produced another spectacular run-out, throwing down the stumps from 50 yards away, but fortunately didn’t shatter them, as he had the previous match.
With the match finely poised, it was up to CRCC co-captains Jepson and Aaron O’Shannessy to decide how many more runs we needed in the second innings to set a challenging total for Portsville to chase down. Aaron and Jimmy Andrews made a flying start, putting on around 60 runs before Jimmy was given “out” leg-before-wicket after a rather dubious umpiring decision, (though your writer and venerable Club President Jim Bagley saw this as the revenge of the cricket gods as Jimmy had given him out the same way when umpiring the previous day, though I have to admit in that case the decision was the right one). Some speedy batting from Ben George and Khushwinder Singh enabled us to reach a total of 146 runs, setting Portsville a total of 197 runs to win, or needing us to bowl them all out, with around 3 hours play left.
Our young bowlers Raman Bhatia and Nikhil Nagasai both made their Canadian competitive cricket debuts with a spell of aggressive fast bowling, and were successful in restricting Portsville’s reply, Raman had the best bowling figures of the innings taking three wickets for only 21 runs. Guri Baidwan, however, was well on his way to scoring another 50, until Ben George brilliantly caught him right on the boundary. In the end a stubborn 50 runs from Richard, one of Portsville’s senior players kept them alive, leaving them 30 runs short of victory and drawing the match.
This was another memorable page in the story of CRCCs revival, and Portland have promised to return for another tussle next Labour Day weekend. We will be planning a full calendar of matches for next season and have our fingers crossed that we may by then have found ourselves a permanent pitch in Campbell River to play our home matches on.