The 2022 For Two

Cotswolds leg

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

While the England men's team was revolutionising Test cricket with their McCullum-inpired "Bazball", Fathers And Sprogs were regressing into the past with their rather less successful "FASball". For the first time since 2004 we lost more matches than we won, albeit in part because of an expanded fixture list - we had three games on the Sunday, the first time we'd had three teams playing simultaneously since 1995. With our resources thus spread thin early on, it's perhaps no surprise that by the final day of the tour we barely had enough fit players for a single eleven, as a combination of Covid, muscle tears, swollen eyes and broken fingers benched a full side's worth of players. That said, it did seem that at least some injuries were strangely context-dependent: Nigel Reynolds was apparently so incapacitated with a calf injury that he dragged son Tom back from London to replace him in games on both Monday and Tuesday; but he then danced non-stop for four hours on Tuesday night during Pete Watkins's marathon classic rock setlist.

With the character of the tour award thus sewn up, Nigel left it to his sons to make the family's on-field contributions. Tom starred with the ball, taking 7 wickets at 18.43, including the only four-for on the For Two, his spell of 4/28 against the Bunnies including not one but two batsmen with First Class centuries. Add in 40 runs at 20.00 and he was also a contender for best all-rounder, and was a shoe-in as the most-improved young player. On this front, sadly, there wasn't that much competition, as the only other teenager who turned out for FAS was Tommy Dare, and while it was noteworthy that he scored his first tour run, this couldn't quite compete with his namesake's efforts. Nigel's older son Toby also did brilliantly, smashing 161 runs at 40.25, highlighted by an innings of 64 off 61 balls which set up our victory over Fladbury. Only one player made a bigger score than this on tour, suggesting Toby was in contention for the batting award; but that player topped Toby's mark in each of his three knocks, James Houlder hitting 141 (fourth highest score in FAS history), 80* and 112. This final innings brought his tour average down to 166.50, but his haul of 333 runs (second highest ever) was easily enough to win the batting award for the ninth time. Remarkably, James's average could have been topped by Dilshan de Silva, who scored 78 runs on tour and would have been undismissed but for the fact that, while batting with James, he was run out in what can only be described as suspicious circumstances. Still, Dilly did deservedly get the all-rounder award, having complemented his runs with 6 wickets at 16.17. Somewhat at odds with our overall results, we actually had five bowlers with 5 or more wickets at less than 20.00: Dilly and Tom as above; Alex Stone and Felix Barras with 5 wickets at 17.60 and 13.20, respectively; and Daniel Mortlock with 8 wickets at 8.62. Daniel thus got his fourth bowling award, which might sound impressive but for the fact that Joe White has won ten times. James's and Joe's repeat successes in the batting and bowling were part of the discussion about renaming some of these awards, for which the big daddy is the wicket-keeping award, won by Chris Barras twelve - yes, twelve - times. Chris, having been decisively un-retired, was again in contention this year with a tour-best 6 dismissals, one of which was his 50th stumping (first to this mark for FAS); but in the end it went to Mike Harrop for his heroics against Shipton: having taken an over-literal interpretation of "keeping his eye on the ball" in the warm-up, he ignored his increasingly purple and swollen eye to take the gloves anyway, completing two stumpings in the process and, more importantly, delaying his inevitable confession to his wife about his injury by several hours. (Her eventual message of sympathy was: "What are you like?") The Harrop family managed a clean sweep of the fielding awards: while Harry Houlder (a four-time best fielder) and Daniel Mortlock both led the tour with four catches, Mike's son David starred on the final day with two catches (one a superb effort diving forward to intercept a flat drive) and then a remarkable final over stop with which he literally won the match singled-handed.

The virtual bin juice award was also won with a single decisive act, this being the moment that Stoney chucked his kit bag into his van and slammed the rear door shut. This perfectly sensible action was rendered disastrous by a horrendous design flaw in the VW Caddy: if the front doors are locked then closing the rear doors immediately puts the vehicle into "lockdown" mode. Stoney's keys and phone were thus inaccessible - although it wasn't until after an all-hands search of the entire Mill that this was established. Cue the Mission: Impossible theme as Cliff, Ru and Mike thus spent the final morning of the tour coming up with increasingly baroque ways to access the van. Ru's approach was to disconnect the battery in the hope of deactivating the electronic locks; but Mike beat him with a bizarre construction of poles and hooks with which he was able to reach in through the gap in the marginally wound-down window to eventually drag Stoney's bag through to the front of the vehicle and then finally extract the keys. The only pity was that nobody thought to video the incident - quite remarkable given the ubiquity of smart phones . . . and the new arrival of Jamie Dare's drone, which produced some superb aerial shots that make the grounds we play at seem even more beautiful than they are at ground level.

It's perhap easy to forget just how lucky we all are to spend a (half-)week a year in a fantasy land of cricket, booze and banter in the prettiest of surroundings, the heart of which is Mill Dene itself. And for this we owe an increasingly huge debt to Cliff, whose preparations represent the single greatest individual performance of the whole endeavour. So immense thanks to Cliff - and of course also to Wendy too - for once again hosting us, and a suggestion that for 2023 we all look for ways to make this more of a team effort: ask not what FAS can do for you, but ask what you can do for FAS . . .

Kent leg

Report by Daniel Mortlock:

Running this year for the third time, the Kent leg of the FAS tour was in with a chance of becoming familiar until the "seismic" news on the Thursday that Queen Elizabeth II had died. The ECB cancelled Friday's play in the England vs. South Africa Test at The Oval, and there was brief consideration that FAS might do the same; but it was quickly agreed that we would proceed as planned, albeit with a minute's silence observed at both games. Given the Queen's famously unfussy "can do" attitude to life it's hard to imagine that she would have wanted "her" people to cease all activities - although the ECB perhaps went too far in the other direction by claiming that Saturday's play at The Oval would go ahead as a "tribute" to the Her Maj. The delicacy of the cricket/heraldry balance was revealed on the Saturday morning when there was a choice of watching either The Proclaimation or the delayed start of the Test: we, like de Pfeffel, were in favour of both having and eating our cake; and, like that priapic lump of cottage cheese, we found out that you can't have it both ways, as we missed both England's early wickets and the remarkably unedifying sight of King Charles snarling at his aides in the manner of a cricket scorer wanting the table to be cleared of empties.

With the basic plan for the weekend re-confirmed, the next step was to fix the things that didn't quite work last year: putting the Fasopoly board in a locked cupboard (check); getting revenge against The Grannies (check); organising an actual opposition for the Sunday so we could field a single side of warm bodies rather than two half-teams of corpses (check). Of course there was plenty that was spot on last year that we got to enjoy again: Joss's panolpy of bacon butties each morning (check); Joss's stash of fine wines (check); Joss's curtains . . . well, you get the idea. For the fact that we now get to look forward to tour twice a year we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joss and Vicky, who let their magnificent home be overrun - and even seemed amenable to the idea of expanding for 2023 . . .