Tacna Tour 2010
As the Lima Llamas girded their loins for the rigours of high-performance cricket against the Tacna Tigers realization dawned that this would probably be the first time inter-provincial cricket had ever been played in Peru outside of Lima. The venue was Tacna on Peru’s southern border with Chile, a place that has been at the centre of many a dispute between the two countries, usually with Peru coming off second best.
Tacna is known by most expats in Peru as the place you go to get your tourist visa extended by crossing the border into Chile and then coming back again. It is known by most Limeños for the Zona Franca (Duty free Zone), where you can buy second-hand cars from Japan at knock-down prices. The snag is that the steering wheel has to be moved from right to left, making it a nightmare to work out which way your indicators actually indicate or how on earth the electric window works, assuming you can find the button.
Tacna is also a popular destination for Chilean cosmetic tourists: 6,000 a weekend at the last count. In fact Peru is well known as the place for excellent dentistry at bargain-basement prices. We cricketers knew it as a place where there are a few Pakistani who are handy with bat and ball, mostly employed in the second-hand car industry (see above), and have been coming to play against us with their Indian cohorts every year since records officially began 12 years ago.
This, as noted above, was the first time cricket has officially been played in Peru outside of Lima unless, of course, there is anything in the rumour that Hiram Bingham and his crew squared off against a Cusco XI at Sacsayhuaman nearly 100 years ago, before going to complete the comparatively unremarkable feat of discovering Macchu Picchu. However, there are no reliable records confirming Bingham as a cricketer. So it was with not a little excitement that the merry crew of ‘Projectile’ Miles (our skipper), ‘Tour Manager’ Hodgy, ‘Devon’ Champion, Chile’s Peter, ‘Saffer’ Tony (with wife and kids in tow), ‘Napoleon’ Walter, ‘Master’ Sergio, Harry Hildebrand (Cricket Peru President), ‘Trini’ Jules (our scorer), Timmy-Boy, Viscount Vishal, ‘Rolling Stone’ Spencer and ‘Have a go’ Hiro headed down south. Not since Fawcett’s 1898 expedition to the Amazon had such a motley band of brothers headed off into the unknown with such an unusual assortment of skills tucked into their trousers
The recon party of Miles, Hodgy, Champs, Vishal and Spence established that, yes, the nightlife was indeed up to scratch, especially at a bar called Jethro’s. Enough said there, apart from the fact that our dear own skip forgot to press the ‘Eject from Jethro’s’ button early enough and suffered for it the next day as a result. Hiro preferred the homebrew he had sequestered from a local Tacna farmer earlier in the day. Walter and Nichols (‘Timmy Boy’) had made the amateurish error of arriving at 6:30 in the morning on the day of the first game. Having had no sleep and feeling awful, they joined the others on the bus to the Zona Franca where the Tape-Ball Test was to take place.
We arrived at the pitch (see pictures in album), which was more like car park than a pitch as such, and not a very oval-looking car park at that; more of a road really. But, to be fair, a wide road with yellow kerbs to indicate the long-on and long-off boundaries, as well as shrubby areas, complete with a resident sheep to keep the grass short, to the leg and off. Behind third man was a car park with endless rows of Corollas (Toyota taxis-in-waiting) poised to create more gridlock in Lima. Behind to leg was a warehouse. Various local rules had to be explained: anything into the Corollas was a dead ball and anything into the warehouse would be bowled again also. Yellow kerb and over was a 6 and an imaginary line to the mid-off and midwicket areas made up the remaining boundaries. The Tacnites (not to be confused with the Tacnashites) had parked their high-rolling Mitsubishis and Nissans in that menacing Essex-boy fashion, which meant if the ball went that way it would be quite annoying to retrieve the ball from under the car. There was no LBW (that confused a fair number of us at first), which made it good policy to stand squarely in front of your stumps at all times. No Leg byes either. The wickets closely resembled my old school radiators, which you would touch in the madly optimistic hope that they were actually on during the coldest winter nights. They were also at least 50% wider than normal wickets. Innings were eight overs with bowlers permitted up to two overs each. The wicket offered little for our spinners to work with and the tape ball moved rather predictably, neither swinging nor dipping. The wicket also had a ridiculous camber which provoked much discussion amongst the Limeños as to where the ball should be pitched (pre or post camber?).
On to the action. We were informed that an average score was 90 to 100 runs off eight overs. Tacna got off to a flyer largely thanks to XXXXXX. He came into face Saffer Tony who was feeling pretty good about the world, having bowled a dot ball and claimed his first scalp, respectively, with his first two deliveries. The next four balls were 6, 6, 6 and 6, in that order. After managing to contain them to 110 odd, we scratched about with bats akin to the ones Matthew Hayden is making popular in the IPL. Distant relatives several time removed of oars would be a more apt term. Miles our regal skip made a golden and promptly went and chucked up in a bush. Tim got something whose chemical sign is Ag and goes quack. We were rubbish. In fact we were really rubbish in all three games and were literally taken apart by a team who knew their road better than they knew the insides of their palms! Their only hiccough came in the final match when we had managed score 68 odd and then had them at 2 for 3 after Vishy had dismissed what was probably their batting order in reverse except for the player who had skinned Tony in the first match and whose foot had finally failed to stop the ball hitting the stumps. However, after a bit more projectile vomiting from Miles, the Hulk arrived and promptly smacked us all over the [car]park (yours truly’s over went for 20 odd) allowing Tacna to consolidate their third win. Tim Nicholls should also be mentioned in dispatches for making 24 and 40 odd in thongs...
You might think that Lima would be dejected but no, we were joyous for a number of reasons: first, Hiro had scored some beers, though strangely Miles was not imbibing; second, we were playing cricket outside of Lima for the first time; and, third, we were away from Lima where the grey and damp rather gets to you after a while. The combination of these three factors meant we were as happy as pigs in the proverbial. The oppo on the other hand seemed a bit miffed we weren’t the least bit put out by the shellacking we had just received. Ah, it was all about the camber and, as Hodgy said, “This was no place for sheep.”
Options afterwards were a massage, medicinal pisco sours, or a kip before dinner at one of our gracious hosts’ houses. 10% opted for the massage, 30% for pisco, 30% kip, and the other 20% still hadn’t arrived from Lima. Despite Tacna’s evening nip in the air dinner was a delicious chicken and salad. And afterwards it was back to Jethro’s to see if we could locate Vishy’s camera that had oddly gone missing the night before. Jethro’s – Thank you for the Rolling Stones Beggars banquet record! Spencer turned into Eric the Viking that night. Harry and his one man Hoax Act did not go down a storm in Tacna.
Waking up to Tour Managers Hodgy’s hairy arse was not the most inspiring moment of the weekend but I did discover a perfect remedy for a hangover this weekend. Bottle of Inca Cola, Mixed Fruit Juice, Coffee, ham and eggs, dry toast and two ibuprofen. Works a treat. Off we went to the National stadium to the supposedly 2000 odd adoring fans, the mayor, the minister for sport and other local dignitaries. When we got there it was bloody hot and there were certainly not 2000 people but short of one of the big cricket playing nations are you ever going to get such a big crowd? In fairness there were about 300 fans that came to spectate at different times during the day. This included the players themselves.
After quite alot of dignitary glad handling such as special photos of both teams, teams together, teams apart, 25 different photos of the mayor with various members of both Lima and Tacna Communities, photos with team wags, photos with team mascots, we eventually went out to look at the mat that had been laid out in the middle of the pitch. Mattress companies would have been proud of the softness of the wicket. But heyho we were here in Tacna and playing cricket. This was the equivalent of the Nat West Final, or Gillette Final for those of us a little more nostalgic. Better get out there and do our best! A quick motivational speech from Miles, who had now recovered somewhat since the previous evenings shenanigans, and has finally turned his losing toss streak around (3 wins out of 4), and after throwing the first ball to the mayor to hit we got underway. Chris and Harry opened and it was not pretty. Due to the slowness of the pitch our boys were not able to get in line and time the ball with the usual aplomb they achieve back home at the LCFC. Although in fairness our pitch can be as slow as this onewe were playing on. When the ball was hit in the outfield it rarely travelled along the ground further than ten yards, areal attack was very dicey as hitting the ball into the air required Bradmanesque like timing. So the net result most of our boys got out either giving catching practice to the ring of fielders around the bat or playing and missing. Viscount Vishal held us afloat. Prior to him coming in we were worrying about whether Tacna could actually finish us off in one over! Vishy managed to score 32 valuable runs. I put 20 runs on with the Viscount before being dismissed in such a way it provided much mirth to those on the boundary. Let me describe it. My nemesis of yore, Javed, was bowling his dastardly leg spin and at this point I had been in for sometime, scratching around for 7 when I thought a lusty blow would be a good idea. The ball came down leg, or so I thought, but due to the variable bounce of the pitch it decided to roll the rest of the way to the wicket. I dived backwards, no not really dived, but fell backwards in the way a tree falls in a forest, in the hope that I could get my bat back into the crease before being stumped. The ball hit the wicket. Apparently if my bat had landed to the left or the right a bit it would have changed the trajectory of said ball and my wicket would have been saved. It still looked ridiculous.
After marching to 88 runs and a quick turnaround we managed to get a couple of breakthroughs but our score was never enough and they achieved the target in 20 odd overs. It was pretty disheartening because if we had managed to score another 40 odd runs we may have had enough to play with as it was such a difficult wicket. But that’s life and we’ll never know! Speeches followed, Harry avoided his Fidel Castro style overtures and once again thanked all the Tacnites for having us and hoping that this was the beginning of something great for Peru.
Chicken and Rice and exchange of shirts later we were on the minibus back to the centre of town to wait four hours until our flight back to Lima. These four hours were what tour is all about. With pisco sours in hand and exhausted after putting our bodies and minds through the ringer we dissected life. The conversation ranged from homeschooling to dentistry, to the qualities of the waitress (heart of gold but a face like a robbers dog), to the state of Hodgy’s hat and the christening of a new expression for having a quick one off the wirst (a hodgy), to the merits of having a hodgy on the plane or at Birmingham New street Station (the juries still out on that one), to the ethical principles of Spence removing the Rolling Stones record from the wall etc..... As you can read the level of conversation hit rock bottom fairly quick.
In summary what did we learn about going to Tacna? That we weren’t very good at playing tapeball in the Zona Franca. Miles, nor many of us are young men anymore and Cuba Libre’s and Beer don’t mix. Hodgy doesn’t need a clipboard. Spencer is a Berserker in disguise. Harry could be a stand up comedian if he wanted to be. Rob smiled for the whole weekend. Juliet was admirable in all she did. I am no longer Peter’s master. Tony did brilliantly with his entire family their. Tim Nichol and Vishy returned with their heads held up with pride to Lima. Sergio was a stalwart. We could have done with a few other better players. We didn’t practice enough. A great tradition has been started. They need a better pitch. We need to invent our own version of crazy cricket and thrash Tacna at it!