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    Oporto Tour 2023

    A jolly crew of Sou’Westers assembled at Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club on Thursday 18th May. The planning had taken place over several years, another victim of covid, but Stewart Peet’s unswerving dedication ensured this became our 10th overseas tour. It was only a pity that, in his 90th year, Stewart could not be with us in person. We certainly felt his spirit throughout.

    The luxury bus (courtesy of Stewart’s spirit and Henry Parker’s ingenuity) left reasonably promptly on Friday morning and we arrived, second attempt, at Coimbra Knights Cricket Club. Antonio, our Portuguese driver, spoke no English but was most obliging even if he did look consistently bewildered during the day, never having had any contact with cricket or cricketers before. We were greeted enthusiastically by the home team in a lovely setting (a former football ground) with the sun shining and an open bar. A relaxed approach was clearly the form and, with several home team arriving late, we managed to push the format to 35 overs, with batsmen retiring at 50. Oliver P and Prince, on debut, opened up serenely as we batted first, initially providing four fielders. On a bouncy astroturf wicket, most batsmen contributed with Oliver, Oakes and Thomas to the fore. An impressive individualistic innings by Chappell found particular favour with the home team, who offered continual advice and encouragement.

    They began their innings before lunch and were two wickets down at the break, after good opening spells by Kennedy S and Thomas. Lunch was very welcome (and delicious) at 2.30pm. Thereafter the telling contribution came from Parker, who eventually secured a well deserved five wickets (including Bolan, just arrived from Amsterdam and playing for the opposition), with most tourists having had a bowl.
    Tea, beer and prizegiving followed with a welcome earlier than planned departure back to town. We were delightfully under way with a good win.

    After two nights at Oporto cricket and lawn tennis club, it was time for the tourists to finally step onto the hallowed (astro) turf. The benefits of our accommodation overlooking the ground had been noted upon arrival, but the short stroll to the changing room was very much welcomed by those who had sampled the vibrant downtown nightlife on Friday evening. The hosts won the toss and elected to bat, a necessary jolt to any Sou’Westers who had not experienced a bracing dip in the outdoor pool before breakfast.

    Sam Kennedy was freshness personified in reeling off an opening spell of 12 overs that saw the home side take drinks – perhaps the only break in play over the weekend that did not contain refuelling in the form of port – at 64-4. That was as good as it got. Portuguese international Anthony Chambers, who had prepared by opening the batting against Gibraltar the previous week, retired after making a chanceless century and we claimed only two further wickets. The most painful punishment was meted out by number eight Passi Akshaya, who struck 33 from 11 balls, signing off with 6-6-6-4. The digital notching by the home scorer that provides such detail was a point of interest for the assembled cete of cricket badgers and a useful resource for those writing belated match reports.

    The youngest Kennedy (13-2-67-3) was the pick of the bowlers, combining early swing with accuracy and variation. Henry Parker perhaps bowled as well in 14 overs of toil as he did against Coimbra Knights, possibly due to the non-appearance the night before of the player of the match bottle of moscatel he had been awarded. 279 in just over 50 overs was a tough assignment, but one well within reach according to previous tourists, who noted how the essence of the club had been retained despite some nearby building work in intervening years.

    We slid to 33-3 in the 11th over in the face of some probing opening bowling and feared the worst when the rebuild by Will Prince and Andy Bolan ended on 77, three wickets falling without the run column changing. This delivered Charlie Thomas to the crease, who proceeded to play surely one of the greatest overseas Sou’Wester innings. He struck an unbeaten 106 from 82 balls in just under two hours, judging the run chase to perfection and mixing elite boundary hitting (11 fours and five maximums) with clever running and strike rotation. It brought back memories of an innings he played against Kilmington as a 15-year old in 2016, when an imposing target was achieved with similar swagger and no little skill.

    Both masterpieces needed willing partners and on this occasion the foils were Will Oakes – 45 in 60 balls – and number 10 Sam Kennedy, who book-ended his day with a bustling cameo with the bat that was even more impressive than his opening spell. He caressed 44 not out from just 28 balls, at one point scoring off nine consecutive deliveries as OLTCC struggled to reduce the required run rate as the shadows lengthened.

    A wonderful game of competitive yet friendly cricket with generous hosts in beautiful surroundings. We could hardly hope for more, but were further treated by a delicious dinner in the evocative club house in the company of home skipper Neil Charles. This was the very best of overseas touring cricket, toasts happily made in the knowledge we would return on Sunday to do it all again.

    The ‘Westers started the day with a swift dip in the pool to loosen up some sore bodies. Captain for the day Everett lost the toss and got put in to bat, a result that most ‘Westers were pleased with. Harry Kennedy and Andy Bolan opened the batting. Harry  looked classy and scored a nice 41 before jibbing one to long on. Meantime Andy Bolan was stroking it around when he suddenly stood on his own stumps, criminal. Eastham took 50 assisted by Everett who knocked a quick fire 46 with some classy straight drives. Phil Oliver entered after the skipper’s dismissal and put in an important innings of 34. An honourable mention to Tommy Chappell who went in and swung the bat hard.

    We declared on 217 before a rather splendid lunch from Rui. Scotch eggs took a battering on the kubota, but they still managed to slide down rather wonderfully. We resumed after lunch with a lot of sore bodies in the field. Sam Kennedy and Charlie Thomas opened the bowling with some tight lines and enthusiasm in the field as we rolled through the overs.

    We resumed after a swift tea, bellies full of cake and tea, ready to make a renewed attempt at taking a few wickets. As the overs rolled through Jonathan Kennedy took a wicket with a lovely catch from Harry Kennedy on the boundary, a great father son duo. Later in that spell both sons managed to leave a catch in the outfield off their father’s bowling.

    Andy Bolan came on and provided a great spell, starting initially with 2 overs for 2 runs. Really slowing the home side down, he was backed up from the other end by Sam Kennedy who bowled brilliantly all tour, with plenty of overs – and in this game having an economy of 3.82.

    The game came to a close with the home side needing 35 from 28 balls. The ‘Westers chipped away reducing the home side to require 14 from 24 balls, but ultimately came up short with some power hitting from the home side. The battered and bruised bodies made their way from the pitch having had a great game to bring the tour to its conclusion, with all acknowledging it was a fittingly generous declaration.

    Thank you to all supporters, umpires and scorers for the support along the way, a great time had by all!
    In the words of the Oporto Lawn and Tennis Club members, “time spent in the right company, is time well spent”