Wild Wales

Confused Recollections of Touring since 1976

by Nick Boucher (intro and 1976-2006) and Chris Stride (2007- )

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every cricketer in possession of a considerable kitbag must be in want of a tour. Unfortunately it is also a truth universally recognised that every attached cricketer is perceived by his partner to be in need of continuous domestic life.

Not every cricketer is capable of resolving this conflict, which some people say can even lead to unhappiness. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, so each family has its own particular resolution. Some there be that possess partners of true understanding, such as pack their cricket bags with clean kit, and wave them off on the first morning with good wishes for fine weather and cricketing success. And some there be that hath no memorial; they never escape the domestic round, and the tour averages are as though they had never been. But most there be that bargain covertly for a pass-out to go on tour. The price is commonly heavy, and is paid in accumulated credit in housework, washing up and childcare. However large the credit balance, it is found to have been exhausted before the cricketer's return. Further domestic penance is required before the revisited pleasures of single life are reckoned to have been expiated.

These difficulties have not yet prevented the assembly of a Warwick Staff touring party in the third week of July, though in some years the party has only just been large enough. Starting in 1976, a group of players has every year set out for Wales.

Why Wales?

It has always seemed to new tourists that Wales had been a counter-intuitive choice for a cricket tour. It is hilly, they say, and there cannot be flat places to play cricket. Much of it is sparsely inhabited, and opposition must be very difficult to find. Finally, it always rains in Wales and the likelihood of any play must be remote.

The novice tourists could not be more mistaken, though it has to be said that the weather has occasionally intervened. (First time tourists are always known as novices in the established argot of the tour, irrespective of age or cricketing excellence. All groups that gather for a specific purpose develop their own languages. Other equally regrettable examples of this cricket tour's particular usages come later.) Certainly there are hills, but there are also valleys with ample space for play. Mid-Wales, which is indeed sparsely inhabited and has fewer flat spaces, is embellished with clubs that are consequently strong because players have to travel long distances to find somewhere to play at all. Opposition has always been found from clubs that are generally strong and universally sportsmanlike. As to the weather, only 12 games have been abandoned out of 144 played in the 30 years of the tour so far. 22 years have been uninterrupted, a single game has been lost in five of the years, two games have been lost on two occasions and three games were sadly abandoned in 2001. Fewer than one in ten tour games have been lost to the weather, much the same proportion as in the English Midlands.

The Origin of the Welsh Tour

The Staff and Graduate Cricket Club had enjoyed a mid-summer cricket tour almost since its inception. For a few years in the early 1970s the tour consisted of the University Staffs Cricket Festival, when the regular Staff side was augmented by a number of able club cricketers who worked at the university. This arrangement worked to the disadvantage of many of the staff regulars, who found themselves excluded from the Festival or relegated to minor cricketing roles because of the superior cricketing abilities of the incoming players.

A social tour was instituted in 1976 to answer the needs of the club as a whole. Andrew Barker suggested the location through contacts of his on the Welsh border. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry of the early 2000s, Patricia Hewitt, had been a family friend in Canberra and had married Julian, the son of Sir David Gibson-Watt, MP for Shrewsbury. Julian played a few games for the Staff Club in the early 1970s, and Andrew Barker similarly played at Hoarwithy on the Welsh border. This led to the initial arrangement of fixtures at Builth Wells and at Llanidloes. Only three men ever understood how this came about; one has died, one has gone mad and the lone sane survivor has forgotten.

Venture into the Unknown

The first match on a tour is always beset by anticipation and trepidation in equal measure. The opposing teams are unfamiliar and may have guest players of star quality, particularly in mid-week. The touring team is probably unlike the regular weekend teams. How will the touring party stand up to the competition it might face?

Travelling to Wales to play cricket was a real adventure in 1976. The party had no prior knowledge of the standard to expect, nor of the living conditions they might face. They need not have worried, proving flexible enough to enjoy the primitive accommodation and competent enough to give the home teams a good game almost every time, shown by the tally of 68 wins to 21 losses since the tour started. The remaining matches were drawn, tied (twice) or abandoned.

The trip continued to be an adventure in later years, but not because of uncertainty about the cricket. The tourists have made their own inadvertent excitement.

The Balance between Cricket and Life

The purpose of the tour is to play cricket but other things have been intrinsic and noteworthy. They also take up more time and deserve plenty of space. Short reports of each year's cricket follow a fairly detailed description of the general life of the tour, which has been common to all years.

A Base for Touring

The tourists have always needed somewhere to stay. Inns were too expensive for the impecunious and then youthful tourists, and anyway scarce. Tents were generally considered impractical, though Mike Smith was for many years a tourist under canvas. Fortunately social connections led to the offer of a disused farmhouse at Llanfihangel Talyllyn, near Brecon, as simple sleeping accommodation.

David Miller, an early Staff Club member but never a tourist, shared a flat in Kenilworth in the late 1960s with Keith Nix, who then worked locally in town planning. John Halliday gave famously bohemian New Year's Eve parties in those days and David and Keith used to go to them, which led to John Halliday becoming acquainted with Keith Nix. Keith actually met his future wife Glynis (q.v.) at the 1970 party.

Keith and five friends had bought the Llanfihangel farmhouse as a communal venture for occasional holiday use. John Halliday had heard of Keith's part ownership of the farmhouse and, when the question of tour accommodation came up some years later, hoped that the farmhouse could be used. Keith was very doubtful about the proposition as he distrusted what he considered to be touring sports teams' propensity for antisocial lightheartedness. Furthermore the other owners of the farmhouse were left-wingers, which in the mid 1970s meant far left; several were members of the Communist Party, not generally known for its support of bourgeois imperialist sports. Also there were working farms in the neighbourhood, with farming families that would keep much earlier hours than the tourists and would dislike late night rowdiness.

Despite all the adverse arguments, the lure of cricket outweighed them and Keith decided to join the touring party overtly to encourage good behaviour and a thorough clean-up, but covertly for the chance of a game. The other tourists had always wondered why Keith and Glynis had joined the 1980 tour as part of their honeymoon, for not even the most enthusiastic Staff cricketer would have dared to make such a suggestion to his bride, and had put it down to a truly remarkable sporting instinct. The truth that Keith came as chaperone only emerged much later.

The Cottage

The tourists' living conditions were primitive in the early days of the tour, and despite improvements they remain spartan.


The Cottage

The farmhouse had been abandoned by its occupants, who had built and moved into a modern house about fifty yards away. The name Old Hemley Hall suggests Elizabethan style and comfort, but the connections with that era were limited to the age of the unmodernised building and to the general absence of plumbing. It is known to the tourists as "The Cottage".

A farmhouse makes up about half of the main building, the other half of which to the left side is a barn which is derelict apart from the roof. The old stone slates have been lined and relaid. Further down the slope to the left is an unconverted lean-to.

A concrete path runs from the farmhouse door across the front of these buildings, round the lower side of the lean-to and behind it to the latrine. This is a medieval double-barrelled thunderbox with an old elm seat into which have been cut and bevelled two round holes. The path contains a number of steps, both down and up again, which are difficult to see in the dark. There is an old gate to protect the vestigial vegetable garden from stray sheep. The path has become substantially overgrown such that those who use it are showered with any retained rainwater or dew, and furthermore risk nettle stings; a discouragement to regular bodily function.

To the right of the front door and at a right angle to the main building there is a second barn. This has been converted so that the upper part is usable as living accommodation, with a strong timber floor and attractive, open timberwork that represents a considerable danger to the inebriated head. It is reached by means of old stone steps between the two buildings. The upper room, which is large, has become known as the Beastie Boys' Dorm in an improbable juxtaposition of the uncouth rock-rap group and boarding school slang. The name has occasionally been appropriate to the tourists that have slept there.

Inside the Farmhouse

The front door of the farmhouse leads directly into the living room, which has stone flags and a wealth of exposed beams. It hasn't actually got much else, apart from a Victorian open cast iron range with a fire that can be lit to counteract the regular chill of July evenings. A kitchen table and an eclectic selection of chairs allow eating, lounging and sometimes even sleeping. A door to the right leads to the master bedroom, so named because the more intellectually responsible tourists have slept there in the past. It contains no bed.

Through the living room is the kitchen. Early tourists found only an old butler sink and a cold tap, with a small electric water heater that had to be filled by hand before use. Determined shavers contested priority with those trying to do the washing up. Freestanding electric cooker and fridge formed the basic kitchen. Down the years the owners have introduced improvements; a second, stainless steel sink and drainer, a solid fuel stove, and behind a partition a shower and handbasin. There was for years also an Elsan, with baroque instructions for waste disposal which together with proximity to the kitchen have effectively prevented any tourist from ever using the facility.

The tourists arrived in 2004 to find that an innovative Swedish W.C. had been expertly installed in the unconverted lean-to barn at the left-hand end of the main building. Again there were complex instructions for use. This composting toilet required occasional removal of the solid waste for highly commendable conversion into high grade compost for the kitchen garden. Luckily this duty has not yet fallen to any of the tourists, who were left with the warm satisfaction of having done their bit towards the fertilisation of the Welsh countryside.

Back in the cottage, a steep and twisting staircase leads from the kitchen to a landing with three bedrooms off. The first bedroom is the bridal suite, so named because Keith and Glynis Nix slept there on an early tour immediately after they were married.

The middle bedroom has not acquired any title. The end bedroom is known as the Burnley dorm, after the football loyalties and ethnic habits of some of its regular occupants. Again there is an unfashionable and unfortunate boarding school context in the name. Finally there is one bed, doubling as a repository for superfluous bedding and children's cots, on the landing itself.

The cottage décor varies from the original to that in process of replacement. Some of the internal partitions between rooms are of very old wood panelling, with no solid wall. The timber is black with age. This makes the ground floor markedly dark, particularly as the ceilings are unlined and of the same colour as the walls. It is possible in some places to see directly through knotholes or wider gaps between the boards to other parts of the cottage.

Other walls are solid. The lintel above the fireplace consists of a huge piece of slate, heavily cracked but so massive that it continues easily to bear the masonry above it. The plaster on the solid walls is decorated with graffiti from the ages. One inscription reads Henry VIII (sic), though it is not clear which wife was associated with him at the time.


Breakfast in the front garden, on a rare sunny day in 2001!

This farmhouse has been temporary home to up to fourteen tourists on occasion since 1976. It has sometimes been crowded, and in recent years tourists have stayed for three nights rather than the original four, but it remains an essential element of the tour. Despite the trying conditions there has been a remarkable spirit amongst the tour parties since 1976. Indeed the conditions have led to a closer cameraderie than might have obtained in a more comfortable billet.

The number of beds in the cottage is quite insufficient for the number of tourists that sleep there. Some addition can be achieved by separating mattresses from divan bases, with consequent stiffness in cricketing limbs on the following morning. To equate fully the number of beds to the number of tourists, it used to be necessary to take some camp beds, but latterly tourists have brought their own arrangements to make some comfort out of sleeping on the floor. The transport of the camp beds used to be eased by the use of a University of Warwick minibus, and this has been another feature of the tour.

Travelling to Wales

In the earlier years of the tour the team travelled down to Wales in a number of cars. This put a burden of driving on the owners that was felt to be unfair, particularly as it was unaccountably difficult to find enough total abstainers from amongst the tourists to avoid the need for nightly withdrawal by some of the team from what became, for them, increasingly senseless sociability and intellectual mayhem.

After some years it was decided to hire a minibus from the University. A succession of solid, square, red-painted diesel vehicles bearing the University of Warwick name have since spread the University's reputation throughout south and central Wales. The bus has been collected on the first morning of the tour. It tours first Coventry and then Leamington, collecting camp beds if necessary and then a succession of cricketers with their bedding and kit. It becomes very crowded before it sets out for Wales. The seats are metal framed with utility coverings of a type normally associated with military transport. The rear seats are full of luggage. The legroom is minimal and the seat width assumes student slimness. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense of freedom when joining the bus.
The van parked outside the cottage
with the Brecon Beacons in the background

The first stop has been successively at Builth Wells, Tal-y-bont on Usk, Llandrindod Wells, Aberdare, at Burghill and Tillington just north of Hereford, and most recently at Worcester or Malvern to play the Worcestershire Fossils.

The cricket is played; the tourists enjoy the after-match hospitality and set out for the cottage. It is less than two hours' drive from Worcester. There is concealed but unfettered competition for the best sleeping spot in the cottage, but first the team has to gain access. This procedure takes a long time and is usually forgotten even by tourists of long standing, and there is much milling about in the dark. Eventually the team is installed, with beer in the fridge and coffee for the cautious.

The Draw

It has become traditional for each tourist to put some money into a pot to make up prizes for the best and worst performances on tour. Importantly the prizes are won not by the performer himself but by the one who draws him. Recently the prizes have been for best individual innings, best bowling analysis, most catches, lowest batting average and most runs conceded in a single over.

Each player in turn draws tourists' names from a hat, a method that unavoidably allows the possibility of the final player picking himself - whereupon the draw has to be carried out all over again, to the raucous enjoyment of all except the draw organiser. Unlikely combinations arise of players who come only for part of the tour, so as to give those who draw part-time tourists a chance of success. The method largely prevents players from gaining personally through their own efforts. The one remaining opportunity for graft and corruption falls to team captains, who are in a position to favour their champions with prize-winning positions - but no Staff captain would ever allow such a consideration to affect his decisions.

The Quiz

It is in the nature of academics to ask questions, even more to provide answers, and most of all to argue about the validity of fellow academics' opinions. This inclination has proved irrepressible even on tour. It has probably been inevitable with two past members of the national Whitbread pub quiz winning team amongst the regular tourists. Those not sharing this inclination wonder on some evenings not why there is no quiz, but why on earth there is one.

The usual quiz-master is Lincoln Allison. Latterly his questions have become catholic in origin, but in earlier years they were largely concerned with political geography and football. Tourists not sharing these interests were at a loss.

Ever the authoritarian, the quiz-master splits the tourists into teams and even seeds those whom he believes to have retained greater reserves of information. There is neutral marking. Points are added up - but do points mean prizes? Not a chance. Viewed from a sober distance, it is extraordinary that the occupation is enjoyable, but that is the fact. Other quiz-masters have been tempted to try their hand, notably Robert Pettifer with a science quiz that floored the post-modern tourists. Nick Boucher once challenged the whole team to achieve 75% in an umpiring quiz, which the team only just achieved.

The Betting Shop

Ken Foster was a regular tourist for 20 years and an instinctive bookmaker. The tour coincides with the Open Golf Championship and another regular feature of the tour has been the attempts of the tourists to defeat Honest Ken. His reading of the Championship weather, a critical feature of scoring especially on links courses, was always professional. Spread betting was no problem to Ken when it appeared, and he only lost when his odds were too generous in an attempt to drum up business. "Honest Ken, Honest Ken, the Others are a Con".

Ken's role has not been adequately filled since he stopped touring in 1999.

The Breakfast

It has always been difficult to regulate calorific intake on tour. Long experience has led to the consumption of a late, huge and cholesterol-rich breakfast, followed by a moderate and mostly liquid lunch. This has been found to support the tourists until the cricket tea, which has been consumed in quantities that have occasionally astonished the tour's hosts. Evening meals are to individual discretion and capacity.

The tour breakfast has always been the foundation of the cricketer's athletic efforts. The chef was for many years David Hughes, who brought his professional skills to bear. When Hughes stopped touring Chris Cooper stepped into the role. He has allowed occasional interventions from Robert Pettifer, encouraged by the promise of Pettifer's still mythical Friday "surprise". Richard Dobedoe proved an excellent chef in 2004, James Perkins in 2005 and Rob Evans in 2006.

Every chef has required multiple simultaneous skills and prestidigitation to serve short order fry-ups of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, black pudding and baked beans in combinations special to each tourist. The criticism is ever ready, but muted lest the chef of the day should withdraw his services. Cereals etc. - even, as a concession to Body Shop eating, fresh fruit - have been available.

The onset of political correctness some years ago led to the proposal of an Eurocommunist vegetarian "Continental" option for particularly sensitive or health-conscious tourists. This proposal was soundly defeated in open argument and the standard breakfast has been calorific and carnivorous ever since. True vegetarians have nevertheless been able to find a satisfactory meal.

Despite the dominance of the grill and the frying pan, the quality of the food offered has improved steadily. The gentrification of an originally proletarian enterprise has proceeded in the face of the efforts of the ageing Beastie Boys.

Travelling between Matches

The touring team takes the smallest possible number of vehicles to matches. There is always conflicting advice about directions, but latterly there have been enough experienced Welsh Marches drivers to avoid disorientation most of the time. Robert Pettifer and the recent geography graduate Christopher Lamb once had to ask for directions from the remainder of a depleted team that had already started the match at Aberdare. The conversation went something like this:
"Where are you?"
"We've started the game at Aberdare."
"How do we get there?"
"Well, where are you?"
"We don't know."
"What road are you on?"
"We don't know."
"What town are you near?"
"We don't know."
"What direction are you travelling in?"
"We don't know."
"We can't help you then. Ring again when you get somewhere."
They eventually made it, an hour late, having stopped for a substantial lunch.

The return journeys are sometimes full of incident. The road back from Aberystwyth on Saturday night in the early years of the tour, a drive of some sixty miles passing the sign Llanidloes 5 after 25 miles and knowing that the Sunday game was back at Llanidloes, was demoralising. It led to a change in arrangements. The last two nights of the tour have for years been spent locally in Aberystwyth, first in a series of downmarket hotels known to Phil Dixon through the Licensed Victuallers Association and latterly in student accommodation in Aberystwyth University. The recently built Rosser flats are excellent.

One of the car journeys back from Aberystwyth produced amorous inclinations. The back seat contained two established tourists, one of whom was dormant, delirious and deluded into believing that the other was his wife and ought not to be withholding sexual favours. The driver was urgently instructed to go slowly round left-hand corners, but very sharply round right-hand bends. Sufficient separation was achieved.

The minibus drivers throughout the 1980s had to put up with an adolescent chorus of "Hang-a-left, hang-a-left" or "....right" depending on the direction the singers thought, if that is the word, should be taken. This was inspired by the sound track of an American film of the time, and often varied from the required direction.

After one wet day in Swansea a late curry was followed by the discovery that the minibus keys had somehow been taken back to the cottage in the one remaining car attached to the party. The subsequent events have entered tour folklore, but memories conflict about the details. Someone had the idea of calling the AA, to open the bus and short-circuit the ignition switch just to get back to the cottage. There was a two-hour wait. Some tourists went to sleep on the pavement. Some say that Phil Dixon woke up only when the AA man was working on the vehicle, to announce "I'm in the RAC myself." Others say that it was Dixon's car that left with the key (though he may of course not have been driving it). Other tourists found active ways to pass the time. Two tourists of musical inclination did a cool Blues Brothers impersonation. One of the two, in an increasingly alcoholic haze, later propositioned a passing girl who to universal surprise agreed. Sadly the gentleman then fell over onto a nearby pile of rubbish. The lady changed her mind.

The Cricket

Some cricket was played in most years, as an interlude in the unplanned social programme. Since the tour is an exercise in communal life, few individual performances have been recorded in the brief annual summaries that follow.

1976

The first tour consisted of two games only, at Builth Wells and Llanidloes. The tour party was Nick Boucher, Rob Burns, Peter Gardner, Keith Grasby, David Holmes, David Hughes, Andy Lamb, Steve Lamb, Malcolm Wallbridge, Tom Manson and Paul Walker. Keith Nix played on Sunday.

The team scarcely managed to reach the first game at Builth. David Hughes's car, which was small and old, broke down before it even left the University campus. It contained four players. The remaining seven decided to bat but were unable to hold out until the latecomers arrived. This was particularly unfortunate because Keith Grasby, the player best suited to holding out for an indefinite length of time, was one of Hughes's passengers. Builth were generous enough to suspend the game until Staff could resume their innings, which closed on 98 all out. Builth won after a long struggle to 99-8.

Details of this game, and of all others before 1982, have been lost because the scorebooks have been destroyed. This act of vandalism was carried out by sometime skipper and Oberfuehrer Rob Burns, the most unsentimental man since Thomas Cromwell. Outline scores survive in the cottage diaries, which have been in the hands of the librarian and cottage co-owner Glynis Nix and have been correctly conserved. Glynis has joined part of every tour since 1976, tagging along as the original cricket groupie.

The tourists' Saturday was free, given over to local walks and reconnaissance of pubs and restaurants.

The Sunday match at Llanidloes was the first in a series that continued unbroken until 2003, when the tourists learned on the Friday of tour that the home side would be unable to fulfil the fixture. The local team batted first and found run getting hard work against the Lambs, declaring eventually at 5.25p.m. at about 125-7. Sadly Staff did not reach the total and finished at about 90-6. When asked why the declaration had been left so late, Joe Morgan said "We thought you might have been a really good side."

This was our first encounter with Joe and with Glyn Meredith, Phil Benbow and Byron Hughes, fine players all. Luckily Steve Lamb always bowled well at Llanidloes and some very good cricket was played down the years, always in an excellent spirit. The loss of the fixture is much regretted by the older tourists.

The circumstances surrounding the Llanidloes game nearly cost the tourists the use of the cottage for evermore. The Staff were a man short and cottage co-owner Keith Nix had been promised a game. However Tom Manson, whose uncle farmed locally, had with the best of intentions asked his uncle to play, believing the team to be one man short. For a moment Keith was sufficiently distressed at the possibility of being denied the honour of a game in such elevated company that he thought of abandoning the tour to its own devices, but when the situation became apparent Tom's uncle stood down and agreed to umpire. Keith's sporting instinct would have won out anyway - he carried his kit everywhere and it was a family joke that on passing a match in progress he would count the players to see if they needed an eleventh man.

1977

Matches this year were played at Tal-y-bont on Usk, Brecon, Builth Wells and Llanidloes. The team consisted of Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Gardner, John Halliday, Holmes, Hughes, Andy and Steve Lamb, Tom Manson, Mike Smith and Paul Walker.

The Saturday was free, with a walk on the Roman Road where Paul "Chunky" Walker lost his wallet, which was actually found when the team retraced their steps over the whole walk. In the evening the party cooked a meal in the cottage and played intellectual party games. Sondra Halliday and David Holmes excelled at Associations, each straining to overtop the abstruse classical allusions of the other. Eventually a winning draw was acclaimed by the less well-educated tourists.

Staff won the Wednesday evening game at Tal-y-bont fairly easily, 112-8 vs. 75 all out in 20 overs. The game was distinguished by pre-match practice during which Steve Lamb somehow smashed a headlight on the home quickie's van, and then had to face his bowling. It was immortalised by the umpiring of Peter Gardner who first stopped a bowler in his run-up to point out a passing buzzard, and then presided over the most extended run out in memory - both sets of stumps incorrectly broken, juvenile overthrows and a stump finally removed in contact with the ball.

The Brecon fixture was a defeat, 165-3 overcoming Staff's 161-9d. This was the first encounter with John Cook, squaddie and doughty opening batsman, who got on top of the Staff bowling. It was to be the first in a series of encounters with Cook that enlivened the early tours.

The remaining two fixtures were drawn. Staff had the better of the game at Builth, 165-5d. vs. 120-9, but rather the worse at Llanidloes, 120-7 chasing 161-6d.

1978

This was the first five game tour and the only one to have yielded five Staff victories, until 2007 at least. That record may endure for ever because the number of games was reduced to four in 2005. The victorious tourists in 1978 were Allison, Boucher, Burns, Ken Foster, Gardner, Holmes, Hughes, Andy and Steve Lamb, Robert Pettifer, Mike Smith and Walker.

The weather was indifferent but all the matches were completed, to general disbelief at Llanidloes whither the tourists had driven without hope through persistent drizzle to be met by Joe Morgan's cheery "Sawdust job then." This was the year the tourists learned that the weather could be different in adjacent Welsh valleys and that forecasts from a distance were not worth the effort of making. Like the persistent Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the only way to know was "Run and find out".

The evening game at Tal-y-bont was closer than in earlier years, 105-8 vs. 90-4 in 20 overs. The Brecon game too was close, 146 vs. 127, both sides all out. Steve and Andy Lamb went through Brecon's later batsmen after John Cook had finally played one aggressive shot too many, to be dismissed for 60-odd. Earlier the Staff score had been rendered competitive by a tenth wicket stand in which Peter Gardner made a determined 12 not out. Cook later joined the tourists at the Brecon Indian for a Ready-Brek curry (by common consent the worst Indian meal consumed before or since). He participated in a deeply academic argument with Lincoln Allison about a certain umpiring decision. The argument became heated. The other tourists hugely enjoyed the spectacle, and also that of David Hughes who essayed a tindaloo. When asked if he wanted water, he replied that he would like a tap.

The Friday game was a victory at Swansea against the University Staff, Builth having advised us that they could not guarantee Friday opposition. The scores were 123-5 vs. 122 all out, but the game was dominated by the bleak and characterless conditions on an artificial hill-top some distance from the pavilion. Saturday's game was another first time fixture against Aberystwyth Commoners, the name for the Staff's counterpart at Aberystwyth University. The Commoners play on the Cardiganshire County Ground, an excellent facility with groundsman, covers, scorebox, an elevated pavilion giving superb views over the cricket and a stand. This stand contained two elderly spectators who quickly became known as Sid and Doris Bonkers. These names have since become generic for all occasional tour spectators. The game was a hard fought victory by 171 to 133, both sides all out, and Staff's first encounter with Neil Chisholm, a fine captain and player for the Commoners and a great friend to the tourists down the years. It was also the first encounter with cricket played partly in Welsh, particularly by Geraint who displayed a very competitive attitude to the game.

The shortened Sunday game at Llanidloes was played at a rapid pace. Staff quickly reached 120-1 but then collapsed to 161-9d. The collapse included the run out of Andy Lamb, dismissed because the umpire could not see him. Andy was in fact behind him at the time, well past the bowling crease let alone the popping crease. "Oh bloody hell" said the home keeper. Llanidloes were all out for 123 in the final over when Mike Smith caught their number 11 batsman at silly mid-off off Steve Lamb. A tremendous cheer went up from the fielding side, ending a tour that will not be forgotten by those who took part.

Some other pieces of tour terminology were conceived on this visit. An innocuous opening bowler was said to be bowling "straight bananas" and a pitch that looked flat but nevertheless gave some help to the bowlers was a "crumbling shirtfront". Any shot, but particularly those played by Paul Walker, that was less than perfect - or even merely defensive - was described as "pawky", though the spelling is uncertain as the word has never before been committed to writing. David Holmes was particularly diligent at criticising other players' shots in this way.

1979

The fixtures in 1979 were the same as in 1978, and the touring party was also the same except that Paul Walker had left the University.

This was Steve Lamb's year with the bat, two fifties and an average of 162 if collective memory is correct. Sadly Staff were unable to follow up much of his good work by forcing victories.

The evening game at Tal-y-bont was won by 105-8 to 89-8. The following day the tourists amassed 215-5d. against Brecon but could not force the win, reducing the home team to 185-8. Steve Lamb hit a beehive on the other side of the Upper Chapel Road with one of his sixes, but the hardy fielders still retrieved the ball.

The Swansea game was a victory by 127-8d. to 92 all out, but the remaining games were both drawn. Staff scored 165-9d. against Aberystwyth Commoners and had them 78-8 but again could not break through. The Llanidloes scores have not survived the Burning of the books.

1980

The rain intervened for the first time in 1980 with two matches lost to the weather. Also for the first time there were in theory five full afternoon games, with Llandrindod Wells taking the Wednesday place of Tal-y-bont on Usk. The touring party was Boucher, Burns, Phil Dixon, Foster, Gardner, Holmes, Hughes, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell and Mike Smith.

Keith Nix had married Glynis on the week-end before the tour. Ever faithful to his friends and his sporting instincts, Keith brought Glynis on tour and they slept in the bridal suite - hence the name. Glynis greatly enjoyed her experience of going on honeymoon with thirteen men.

The first two games in 1980 were defeats, and sound defeats at that. The first game at Llandod was lost by 183-3 vs. Staff's 182-6d., reckoned at tea to be a good score. A recent Oxford graduate, not seen again, scored about 90 for Llandod. A sad feature of this game was that David Holmes pulled a muscle after having scored 24 as opening batsman, limped painfully off the field after less than an hour of the tour and decided to return home, never to tour again. He later became registrar at other institutions of higher education.

Staff's batting collapsed against Brecon on the Thursday to 50 all out. The wicket was wet, but not that bad. The Lambs bowled throughout Brecon's reply to have them 51-6, which was hard fought but not good enough.

The Swansea and Llanidloes games were abandoned without any play at all. Between them on the Saturday the tourists won the game against the Aberystwyth Commoners by six wickets, 114-4 vs. 113 all out.

There was an early return home on the Sunday. The 1980 tour format was unaltered until 1989, except that the club decided some time in the 1980s to move to Aberystwyth lodgings for the second half of the tour.

1981

The touring party in 1981 was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Dixon, Ken Faisey, Foster, Gardner, Hughes, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Andy Rogers and Mike Smith.

Better weather and a strong touring party brought considerable success back to the touring team. Four wins and a draw at Aberystwyth were some compensation for the disappointments of 1980. Staff piled up 215-7d. against Llandod and bowled the home side out for 145. Brecon declared at 145-3 but Staff overtook this with 146-4. Swansea Staff were bowled out for 124 and this was reached for the loss of only two wickets.

The only tight games were at the week-end. Aberystwyth Commoners were all out for 158 but Staff could reach only 127-7 at stumps. Ken Faisey opened the Staff innings with Mike Smith. The wicket was very lively, the bowling fast and aggressive. Faisey summed things up, gave himself room to hit and departed, but Mike stayed in, responding stoically as he was hit regularly on the body. The final Staff score showed the value of his contribution.

Batting first at Llanidloes, Staff were all out for 78 in a tired batting performance. However, the Lamb brothers bowled through to dismiss the home team for 64, with Andy Lamb taking seven wickets. Not for the last time, Steve's accuracy set up the batsmen for the less physically challenging bowler at the other end.

One curiosity of this year was that Andy Rogers, a very successful batsman on many occasions, had a dreadful time with the bat on tour and scored only one run in four innings.

1982

The tourists this year were Allison, Boucher, Burns, Dixon, Faisey, Foster, Hughes, Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Mike Smith, Dave Wilson and David Winchester. Keith Nix also played one game. Dave Wilson was the regular club scorer at the time; he used to come to matches with a panoply of coloured pens and made the scorebook look like a battlefield diagram, and his services were very welcome. On this occasion he was pressed into service as a player for one game.

This is the first tour for which good records survive.

The Llandrindod Wells game was abandoned to the weather. Brecon beat Staff by five wickets, scoring 126-5 in 32 overs having bowled Staff out for 125 in 45 overs. John Cook had left Brecon for Bath but Peter Owens replaced him as captain and good batsman, though left-handed instead of right. Pete Owens was also a master tactician and mean bowler. Matches against Brecon henceforward depended largely on Staff's success at countering Owens's ability. Owens was to be another doughty but eagerly anticipated opponent for a number of years. This was also the first game at the Army Ground at Brecon rather than the upper, Penlan ground; the Army Ground lay at the bottom of the valley next to the canal and was more bowler friendly than Penlan.

The match against Swansea Staff was a draw but Swansea had the best of it, scoring 83-5 against the tourists' 91 all out. The game lacked inspiration or competitive spirit. The opposition's skipper, known to Staff by his accent as Bill Burnley, had managed to pick twelve players and decided to solve the problem by dropping himself. No Staff captain would have been so self-effacing.

An easy victory against Aberystwyth Commoners followed on Saturday, with Rob Burns and Phil Dixon prominent in a score of 145-1 against the home team's 144-8d. The Llanidloes match was drawn, with Staff's score of 147-7d. proving too much for the home team who finished on 95-8.

Keith Nix and Glynis had by this time decided to stay locally at an inn when they came for the second half of the tour, rather than muck in with the tourists in the cottage. This was perhaps prudent but it was also very generous of them, as they were part owners of the place. The tourists were always very glad to see them, usually at the Aberystwyth match. Keith always brought his kit and was on occasion an essential addition to the Staff strength.

1983

The team this year was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Chris Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Gerry Frizzelle, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Andy Rogers, Mike Smith and Jim Swailes. Robert Pettifer played one game. This was a good side with four strong novices, representative of a vintage period in Staff cricket. It won four games rather easily and lost only to Swansea Staff, and that only because Ken Foster starred mightily for the opposition.

The Llandod match was an easy win by 122 to 47, both sides all out. This was the first intimation that Llandod were finding it hard to raise a Wednesday team. The Brecon match was won by six wickets, Staff overtaking 120 all out in only 31 overs.

The Swansea match was one of those that will live long in the memory. Staff batted first and rattled up 181-4d. in only 36 overs, Andy Rogers not out on 89 and begging for another over to get to 100. Not from a Warwick Staff captain. This seemed like a good score and continued to do so when Swansea were reduced to about 50-5 and started to play for a draw. Cue the ringer Ken Foster, who later said that he wanted to show the home team that they needn't always take such a negative attitude. After some lucky early escapes in the field Ken started to hit the ball with immeasurably more power than any of his own side knew he could, scoring at a bewildering pace and hitting sixes off Jim Swailes and Steve Lamb - no mean feat - without any discernible backlift. Foster ended with 75 not out and Swansea won by four wickets, after 38 overs. The home team were as astonished as the visitors.

The following day Foster continued to hit like the proverbial kicking mule, but this time for his own side. The Commoners batted first and reached 184-8d. in 41 overs. This proved entirely inadequate under Foster's onslaught. This time he scored 88 and Staff reached 185-4 after 33 overs. Another easy victory followed on Sunday, Llanidloes's score of 139-8d. being reached for the loss of three wickets.

Ken Foster scored 177 runs for Staff and 75 for the opposition on the Friday. The runs total was then the highest made by a Staff batsman on tour. Would that they had all been made for the Staff! Foster himself felt the same, saying that at least he had repaid on Saturday some of the damage he had done on Friday.

1984

The touring party in 1984 was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Frizzelle, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Clive Marjoram, Mike Smith and Swailes. Dave Winchester came for one game. This team won the first three games and the last two could have gone either way. The weather was very hot throughout.

The Llandrindod Wells game was won by 104 runs, with Staff scoring 151-8d. and bowling Llandod out for 47 in 16 overs. Curiously Llandod had made exactly the same score in the previous year. Nick Boucher took seven wickets. The Brecon game was a victory by 29 runs, 147 to 118, both sides all out. Staff batted first at Swansea, scored 161-6d. and then bowled the home side out for 116.

Aberystwyth Commoners scored 162-4d. in 46 overs. Events showed that they might have batted one over too many, having Staff at 149-9 at the finish. The Llanidloes game was even closer. Staff batted first and declared at 148-6 after 41 overs, leaving themselves only 35 overs to dismiss the home team. Llanidloes were 139-9 at stumps.

Glynis had by this time started to keep the Staff scorebook. This came about when the Staff side had eleven players and Keith Nix did not get a game and volunteered to score instead. When there was no home scorer and so two books to keep, Glynis kept one of them. Keith in fact taught Glynis how to score.

1985

The tourists in 1985 were Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Graham Semple, Mike Smith, and Swailes. Graham Semple was the novice that year.

Despite the strength of this team it failed to win a single match, the only time so far that the touring team has come home without a victory.

The Llandod match was abandoned rather before tea with Staff on 151-4 and with victory probable. The following day at Brecon saw Graham Semple just miss a century, out shortly before tea for 95. Staff went on to declare at 186-5, which proved to have been marginally insufficient when Brecon got home with 187-9 in five fewer overs. It remained a good declaration, the win for Brecon made possible only by a wholly unexpected century from the Brecon player Skinner whom Staff had always regarded as a medium pace bowler. The Swansea match was lost by 38 runs, 111 to 73, both sides all out and sadly very little enjoyment for anybody.

The game against Aberystwyth Commoners could very easily have gone the Staff's way, thanks to a marvellous innings by Steve Lamb. The home side batted first and reached 171-9d. in 51 overs, which was hard work in the field. Staff then hit 164-6 in 29 overs with Steve out for 80 just before stumps. The effects of this match were felt the following day when a tired Staff team got much the worst of a draw against Llanidloes, hanging on with 60-7 off 38 overs against the home team's 150-6d. in 43 overs.

At about this time it became customary for the more intrepid members of the touring party to swim at Borth Beach on the final morning of the tour. This depended on staying overnight locally so that there was time after breakfast to swim. The sea was never warm and sometimes absolutely freezing, but the activity conferred an entirely misleading feeling of healthfulness and a totally disgusting attitude of superiority on the swimmers. They had to brave Robert Pettifer's gleeful prognostications of killer jellyfish and concealed molluscs that stuck a sharp spine out of the sand to give a very painful sting. Always quick to rationalise his preferences, Pettifer.

Following the swim the team took coffee and gateau in a sea-front tearoom, run by an expatriate from Walsall who looked forward to his annual nostalgic trip back home with fellow travellers from the Midlands. The coffee was good, though.

1986

The team in 1986 was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Andy Rogers, Semple, Mike Smith and Swailes. Again this was a strong team that proved too good for the first three opposition teams, but met stronger opposition at the weekend.

Llandod were bowled out for 91 on the Wednesday and Staff replied with 93-1. The whole game had taken only 54 overs. Staff then piled up 198-5d. against Brecon and bowled them out for 101. Lincoln Allison left the tour after this game to participate in a television programme about the place of religion in modern society, at the invitation of Roger Scruton.

In a 40 over game next day against Swansea Staff the visitors made 170-4, with Rob Burns 95 not out, and then dismissed the home team for 84.

It was harder going against Aberystwyth Commoners. Staff batted first and declared at 165-6 after 40 overs, leaving themselves 41 overs to win the game. This proved beyond the visitors, who reduced the Commoners to 122-6 but did not come close to finishing the game. There had been a difficult moment before the match caused by the need for team selection at short notice. Lincoln Allison had made heroic efforts to rejoin the tour after his television performance and arrived by public transport shortly before the start. Unfortunately a full XI was by then preparing to start the game and Lincoln found himself carrying out the duties of twelfth man. There were those at the time who said that this was apt retribution for disloyalty to the touring party.

A week or two later the programme was transmitted. Lincoln was not to be seen. His elegant and apposite contributions had ended on the cutting room floor, every one.

Finally at Llanidloes Staff again batted first and declared at 190-4 after 43 overs. In a good game of cricket the home team reached 182-5 after 38 overs, for a draw.

The weather was hot throughout and it had been a batsman's tour. Only eight tourists batted more than once and two did not bat at all. Curiously, the Lambs scored only 13 runs between them.

1987

The 1987 team was Sammy Adelman, Allison, Burns, Boucher, Cooper, John Cruddas, Dixon, Foster, Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Clive Majoram, Semple and Mike Smith. This was a wet year and four games were affected by the weather.

The Llandod game was shortened to 35 overs per side. Staff scored 171-7 and Llandod never approached the target, finishing on 138-8. The Brecon game was an easy victory for Staff, bowling the home team out for 101 on a slow, wet wicket and grinding their way to a seven wicket victory. The game took 75 dreary and hard-fought overs to complete. The Swansea game was again shortened into a 35 over match, but this was a much better game. Staff's 174-5 was exactly matched by Swansea's 174-6 for a tie.

The weekend games were both abandoned without a ball being bowled, in conditions that varied from drizzle to continuous rain. One disgruntled tourist was left with two bored sons in a caravan half way up a Welsh mountain, with nothing dry to do.

1988

This was a marvellous tour, with four wins and the fifth game ending with the scores level. This was the closest that Staff have ever come to winning all five full afternoon games - the 1978 victories included one 20 over evening game.

The touring team was Adelman, Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Semple, Mike Smith and Alan Tunnicliffe.

The first three games were won easily. Staff put up 161-5d. against Llandrindod Wells and bowled the home side out for 45, after which Llandod confessed to great difficulties in raising a Wednesday side and, saying it would be different at the week-end, asked if they could play then. Sadly the tour weekend fixtures were of long standing and it has not been possible to arrange a fixture with Llandrindod Wells since 1988.

Staff batted first against Brecon, declared at 171-3 and bowled them out for 64 in 25 overs. At Swansea, Staff ground out 163-6d. in 53 overs and bowled the home side out for 95. Swansea, too, were having difficulties in raising a mid-week side and this game was the Staff's last against Swansea Staff.

At Aberystwyth the Commoners batted first and laboured to 116-6 by tea, which was taken after 38 overs in a match that had started a little late because of rain. Neil Chisholm then declared, saying when it was suggested to him that his declaration had been generous "They've had quite long enough to get a decent score". It proved to be a superb judgement, as Staff reached 116-7 at stumps, which were taken after the usual 20 overs, the last three in pouring rain. The fielding side had stayed out despite the prospect of defeat when practically any other side would have run for the dressing room. It had been a fine, generous display of captaincy that had produced a marvellous match, and a reminder that teams often bowl and field better when they are defending a lowish total.

The Llanidloes game was something of an anticlimax. The home team batted first and struggled to 112 all out off 47 overs. Rob Burns and Phil Dixon knocked these off in 40 overs without being parted, for a ten wicket victory. Both were dropped and some abject running calls led to repeated mid-wicket conferences, but it was to be their day and they walked in together.

1989

The tour itinerary was different in 1989 for the first time since 1980. The first stop was at Aberdare to play the Mosquitoes, the name used for a midweek team drawn from Aberdare and Mountain Ash. The Friday fixture at Talgarth was very local to the cottage and enabled the tourists to avoid the long drive to Swansea. The team was Adelman, Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Ian Pashby, Pettifer and Mike Smith.

The first match at Aberdare was won by 54 runs. Staff batted first, scored 172-5d. and then bowled the Mosquitoes out for 118. A high-scoring match at Brecon was drawn the following day, Staff declaring at 206-5 to which the home side countered with 178-5. Rob Burns had scored the higher of his two 1989 tour fifties.

The Talgarth match revealed a home side of enormously aggressive intent on a ground that suited that sort of play, with a quick artificial track and short boundaries on three sides. It was also a very picturesque setting with a magnificent view across to the Brecon Beacons, particularly from the contemplative position of the urinal behind the pavilion. Staff batted first and declared on 217-4 with Phil Dixon making 111, the first century on tour by a Warwick Staff player. Talgarth then hit 171 all out in 35 overs, a valiant effort but falling short by 46 runs. Robert Pettifer and Steve Lamb had opened the bowling and met attacking shots to almost every ball they bowled. Runs and wickets both accumulated quickly.

The two week-end fixtures were drawn. Staff batted first at Aberystwyth and scored 165-7d. to which the Commoners replied with 155-7. Llanidloes declared at 198-8 on the Sunday and the Staff reply reached only 136-7 at stumps. So ended a high-scoring tour, played in good weather throughout.

1990

The itinerary was the same as in 1989. The tour party was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Dave Chaplin, Cooper, Foster, Keith Harris, John Hogan, Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Pashby, Pettifer and Mike Smith. Phil Dixon and Andy Lamb joined the tour for one game each; Phil also played a game for Brecon.

The Mosquitoes game provided a rude awakening. The home side produced an opening attack of considerable pace and movement and Staff were never able to settle, being eventually all out for 67 in 36 overs. Mosquitoes won by six wickets after 27 overs. The Brecon game was another defeat for Staff, owing largely to the efforts of Phil Dixon who played for the opposition. Staff laboured to 148-4d. after 49 overs. Dixon came in early for Brecon and scored a watchful and determined fifty in the home side's 152-4.

The Talgarth game was a remarkable victory for Staff, by one wicket. Talgarth batted first and declared on 153-9. The Staff reply went badly and the score reached 130-9. At this point Alan Lovell walked out to join Robert Pettifer and the two were not parted, putting on 27 runs to record the win that was much needed after the first two games.

Aberystwyth Commoners fielded two more very good players on the Saturday, one a number three batsman who scored 90 very aggressively but in an orthodox fashion in the Commoners' total of 215-4d., made in only 40 overs. The other class player revealed himself after tea, an opening bowler of real pace who made all the Staff batsmen concentrate hard. Dave Chaplin played an outstanding innings of 98 to shore up the Staff reply, being out just before the end when a century would have been very well deserved. Staff finished on 180-6, also after 40 overs. Neither of the Commoners' stars was seen again.

Staff batted first at Llanidloes and declared on 164-9. The home side eventually subsided to 105 all out to yield a 59 run victory to the Staff. Nick Boucher took eight wickets, with Steve Lamb bowling beautifully but unrewarded at the other end. A weary tour party returned to Warwickshire, having enjoyed five days of high quality cricket.

1991

The team was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, James Daniel, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Pashby, Pettifer and Mike Smith. The fixtures were the same as in the previous two years. James Daniel declined to sleep in the cottage and preferred the comfort of his car, citing the reported uncouth personal habits of his fellow tourists.

Mosquitoes batted first and made 194-4d. on the first afternoon, following an unscheduled halt on the way down when the minibus ran out of fuel. Since it had been an academic that had forgotten to consider the fuel situation this was one up to the Thickoes (see the 1992 Talgarth game). The Mosquitoes' total included a very good fifty from a class New Zealand player who was in Aberdare playing cricket for the summer. Staff's reply never threatened this total, reaching 109-7 at the close for a rather tame draw. The Brecon match was a closely fought victory in a 40-over game (the league mentality driven desire for overs matches was by this time impinging on the traditional and more enjoyable declaration format even for tour friendlies.) Staff batted first and were all out for 142 off the final ball of their 40 overs. Brecon reached 139-6 in their 40 overs, which counted as a defeat for them.

The Talgarth game was an incredibly rapid affair that typified the home side's attitude to the game. Staff fielded first and the bowling was opened by Phil Dixon and Steve Lamb. The home batsmen trusted their instincts and the flat artificial wicket, and played aggressive shots to every ball. After about six overs they were some 30-5, with the game effectively over. They were all out for 102 after 25 overs. They then produced a really quick bowler with a very fast arm action, who luckily did not bowl throughout the Staff innings, which reached 105-4 after 31 overs for a six wicket win. In the pub after the game Phil Dixon was accosted by a fan, who turned out to be a regular listener to Phil's Saturday spot as "The Prof" on Radio Free Kidderminster. This apparently involved instant predictions about whatever football match was under discussion, a sort of sporting Mystic Meg.

This was the last match against Talgarth, who failed to show up for the game the following year.

By contrast, the two week-end games were slow. Aberystwyth Commoners scored 154-8d. in 47 overs on the Saturday, leaving 44 overs in which Staff reached 138-8. Staff batted first on Sunday and fairly rattled along to 155-6d. off 51 overs, which however proved sufficient for a 20 run win when Llanidloes were all out for 135 in the 41st over.

1992

The team was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Daniel, Dixon, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Pettifer and Mike Smith.

At Aberdare the Mosquitoes were bowled out for 82 and Staff eventually reached 83-7 to win by three wickets. Brecon had told the Staff that they would be unable to offer a fixture this year and the Thursday game was a new fixture at Burghill and Tillington. Despite the return to England, which seemed counterintuitive for a Welsh tour, the fixture proved to be a really good one over the years. B and T batted first on their small, rural ground situated under a lovely, deciduous hanger and surrounded by cattle pasture. The ground has short boundaries on three sides. The B and T batsmen made good use of these to knock up 193 all out in 38 overs, with a number of sixes that the Staff had to retrieve from neighbouring fields. This was evidently regular practice, for the home players had a well-developed technique for finding the balls, involving holding up stumps behind the hedges to get the line. The Staff reply reached 156-8 at stumps.

Expecting another explosive match at Talgarth on Friday, Staff were disappointed to find no opposition to play. One turned up after a while but he had intended to work on the ground and was unaware that there might have been a game. He enabled the eleven Staff players present to make the best of a bad situation with a six-a-side game, Academics vs. Thickoes. On balance the term "thicko" was thought to be less derogatory than the appellation "academic". The Thicko team of Boucher, Cooper, Dixon (capt), Andy Lamb, Hywel Lovell and the Talgarth ringer (wk) almost won a game that the Academics stole by means of constant sneaky rule changes to suit their playing situation at the time. A triumph of sleight over right.

The Saturday match at Aberystwyth was won by 30 runs, 120-8d. vs. 90 all out. Andy Lamb took eight wickets and outthought the batsmen every time. The Llanidloes game was a defeat by six wickets, Staff's 117 all out being overtaken by the home side in little more than half the number of overs - the only defeat inflicted on the Staff by Llanidloes in 26 years until 2002, though Llani have had the better of a number of the other games. Their full team has always been a real match for the Staff, but they have not always put out strong sides.

This was a disappointing tour for Staff batsmen, with no individual batsman scoring more than 71 runs and no individual fifty. Staff innings were also very slow. In four matches Staff batsmen scored 476 runs in 199 overs, whereas our hosts scored 483 runs in 139.4 overs.

1993

The early preparation for this tour was clouded by the news of the tragic and untimely death of Keith Nix. This was a great shock to everyone who had known him. Glynis has continued to come on the Aberystwyth half of the tour, to the delight of the tourists, sharing the social life and scoring the matches. She sets off after the Llanidloes game with a cheery "See you next year." The Staff trust that she will continue to come for many years.

Keith was one of those cricketers who retire every year but the next season find it impossible to give up, and look out their increasingly dilapidated kit. There have been other regular retirers in the Staff club. Had he still been alive, Keith would still be hunting out his kit and looking for a game. Glynis knows that he would be delighted that the tour is still going strong. Keith's intimate involvement with the origin of the tour makes its continuation a fitting memorial to him.

The Talgarth fiasco was dealt with by replacing them on the tour Friday with Brecon, who assured the Staff that they could sustain the fixture. In the event Brecon did not turn up, preferring as we learned later to watch the West Indies vs. Wales game but not telling the Staff - or one of their own team who turned up expecting to play. For the second year in succession Staff had a blank day. The 1993 situation was worse because there was no opportunity to play amongst themselves, and furthermore Andy Lamb had travelled down for that game alone. Phil Dixon also left after the abandonment, though he had had a game of sorts the previous day. Staff did not try to play Brecon again until 2005. Unfortunately the renewed fixture did not long endure, as Brecon were unable to fulfil the fixture in 2006.

Apart from Dixon and Andy Lamb, the 1993 team was Allison, Boucher, Burns, Chaplin, Cooper, Steve Curram, Foster, Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell and Alan Marchant. Clive Gregory, Mike Smith and David Storey joined the tour for one game. This was a rain affected tour, with an unique four-innings match played at Aberdare to avoid unplayable conditions and the Llanidloes game abandoned half-way through the first innings, quite apart from the Brecon abandonment.

Staff line up at Aberystwyth in 1993

From left to right:
Back row - Steve Lamb, Steve Curram, Chris Cooper, Nick Boucher, Rob Burns, Alan Marchant;
Front row - Ken Foster, Dave Chaplin, Alan Lovell, Lincoln Allison, Mike Smith

After recent rain at Aberdare it was decided to play a 20-over game on an artificial wicket, to be followed by a 25-over game on grass to give the main square time to dry out. The official result is a draw, but in truth Staff could be said to have lost twice; 75-8 vs. 110-1 in 20 overs and then 91-5 vs. 120-8 in 25 overs. The bizarre match arrangements did however allow everybody to have a game, and that was very welcome.

The Burghill and Tillington match went much the same way as in the previous year. Staff inserted B and T, retrieved wayward balls as the home side sprinted to 198-7d., and finished at 159-5 for a safe draw, David Storey hitting a rapid 66. Earlier Dave Chaplin, who had rejoined the club for the tour, had faced and countered a really fast bowler who had opened down the hill and displayed a propensity for pitching a little short. Had Dave not seen the bowler off, the outlook for the Staff would have been difficult.

After the blank Friday, Staff played Brynamlwg, a village just to the east of Aberystwyth and contiguous with it. Aberystwyth Commoners had joined a league and were unavailable on Saturdays, to the great chagrin of the Staff. Brynamlwg put the Staff in and after early pressure Staff reached 166-5d. with Rob Burns hitting 73. They then bowled Brynamlwg out for 51 in 21 overs.

Llanidloes batted first on the Sunday and reached 108-6 when the rains came down. The weather could clearly be seen to be coming up the wrong valley, the south-west facing one rather than the north-westerly one.

1994

The Brecon farce was rectified by persuading Aberystwyth Commoners to invite Staff on the Friday, which they could manage, whereas their Saturdays were now occupied with league cricket. Llandysul in Cardiganshire, the local league side that did not have a game that weekend, filled the Saturday slot.

The team was the largest ever taken to Wales, though not all stayed for five days. The players were Jimmy and Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Curram, Foster, Andy and Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Mike Smith and Pettifer. Phil Dixon, Christopher and Richard Lamb and Chris Stride went down for one game. The party finally allowed Robert Pettifer's memorable grouse that the tourists' bowling consisted of Lamb-Lamb-Boucher-Lamb-Lamb to be justified in full, though the full flock never actually played at the same time.

This was a high-scoring tour with Rob Burns leading the way. He scored 260 runs in five innings, with three fifties, and an average of 130. Mosquitoes batted first on the Wednesday and declared at 212-4, a substantial score that proved quite insufficient when Burns and Ken Foster put on 192 for the opening stand after tea. Burns ended on 94 not out as Staff coasted home for a nine wicket win in only 38.3 overs. In the middle of the opening stand a bowler who was being taken off said to his successor about Rob "Don't worry about him, he's only got one shot." The tourists wondered later which shot that might have been.

Burns and Foster carried on the good work against Burghill and Tillington the next day to put on 130 and Staff declared at 216-6, but this too proved insufficient as B and T reached 218-8 in 38.4 overs. This was a touch of their own medicine for Staff, but nobody minded because the decision had been taken to bat first despite the risk of being overtaken on a fast-scoring ground. B and T had been inserted defensively in both previous games and it was time to take a different line.

Burghill and Tillington, 1994

From left to right:
Back row - Phil Dixon, Hywel Lovell, Nick Boucher, Chris Cooper, Steve Lamb, Steve Curram;
Front row - Jimmy Allison, Chris Stride, Lincoln Allison, Rob Burns, Robert Pettifer, Andy Lamb

The Aberystwyth match produced a hard-fought victory in a long game. Staff batted first and declared at 155-5 after 52 overs. The Commoners were all out for 136 after 50.1 overs. Neil Chisholm had by then handed over the captaincy to Moore-Collyer, another regular opponent down the years, whose old-fashioned and occasionally whimsical attitude to captaincy became a feature of Commoners matches. Chisholm's influence continued through his sons, who both played in latter years and reflected their father's sportsmanship.

The Llandysul match mixed comedy and determination in fair measure. There was something of a pioneering spirit in the club. One of their older players came into the Staff dressing room before the match and quietly said, first in Welsh and then in English, "Welcome to South Cardiganshire". Later the same man explained that they were creating a cricket tradition in the town, which had had no cricket club until recently. A net had been erected and they planned to leave a bat and ball in it so that anyone could try their hand at the game at any time. When asked if he was concerned that these might be stolen, the Llandysul player looked genuinely baffled and said, "I don't think so". Oh for such innocent times. The game itself started late because the home side was short; eventually Chris Cooper volunteered to play for the opposition as an opening bowler, a role that he had filled to good effect with inswing in several recent matches. Staff batted first and their score initially mounted rapidly with Cooper's uncontrollable wides, which Staff umpires first gave with glee and then with embarrassment because it must have appeared that Staff had tried to deceive the home team by giving them an incompetent opening bowler. Staff later batted quite dreadfully. Umpire Rob Burns was unable to look at the batsman as he gave one plumb LBW decision. The all out total was just 106. The tourists pulled themselves together after tea to bowl and field with conviction. Steve Lamb and Nick Boucher bowled throughout to dismiss Llandysul for 42 in 21 overs. Steve Curram took three good catches off Steve Lamb off aggressive strokes at "deep backward gully/point" (Steve Lamb's description of the position in question. No wonder Staff's field placing regularly takes about half-an-hour a game.) Cooper batted at number 10.

A unique occurrence was recorded on the day of the Llandysul match. Chris Stride had been selected for the match, following his assurance that he would be able to get there by his usual combination of travel methods - public transport and thumb. He had already appeared at Burghill. For the only recorded time, before or since, Chris failed to make it to the match. The other tourists conjectured about what might have stopped him. The favourite version was that the police had stopped Stride as he thumbed a lift with his coffin, and asked him to open the vast and graffiti-laden box to prove that the contents were not unlawful. It would have taken so long to explain the paraphernalia inside that Stride could never have reached the ground in time to play.

Llanidloes batted aggressively on the following day to reach 207-6d. after only 42 overs. Staff replied well to reach 200-6, but there was never a realistic chance of victory and the Staff score was helped along by the home team in the hope of easier wickets in a desperate run chase. Earlier, Steve Curram had cajoled the non-swimmer Robert Pettifer into throwing a stone at a seagull. Despite deep relativistic calculations of velocities and the required degree of aiming off, Pettifer fell off a rock in the effort and damaged his back. The seagull was unharmed. The story does not redound to the credit of the naturally ascetic academics in the Staff side.

1995

The fixtures were mostly the same as in the previous year, except that the Saturday team was another Tal-y-bont, this one in Cardiganshire close to Aberystwyth. The tourists were Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Curram, Richard Dobedoe, Foster, Christopher and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Pettifer and Mike Smith. Phil Dixon and Andy Lamb played in the Burghill game.

Mosquitoes batted first and declared at 148-7, a low score after the resident professional had scored 60 and looked set for more. He eventually hit an enormous skier to very deep square leg. Staff also struggled that day but ended up winners with 149-8. The Burghill and Tillington match was a very easy win because the opposition had thought the game was the previous day; it was very hospitable of them to raise another side at very short notice the next day, but the side was weaker than other B and T sides. Staff batted first and scored 219-2d. with Phil Dixon hitting 124 not out. Near the end of the innings a bullock invaded the pitch and trotted about in confusion at the strange white people placed at random about the field. Oddly the surely bucolic home team did not know how to deal with the beast and it took one of the tourists to gain control of the situation. Some time had however been lost and Robert Pettifer was under the impression that the delay had cost Dixon the chance to take Pettifer's club record innings which he said was 128, an event that caused Pettifer much overt joy. The joy was later found to have been ill-founded because Pettifer's score had been 123, not 128, and Dixon's score was for a time the club record. B and T were all out for 86.

The Aberystwyth Commoners game, the first to be played on their second square, was a draw. The Commoners batted first and reached 176-4d., continuing after tea. Staff reached 149-8 in reply. The new opponents Tal-y-bont played on an artificial wicket close to a dilapidated stately home that afforded rather distant and insecure changing facilities, saying that their true home wicket was unplayable. It was indeed wet everywhere. The tourists were to find out about the real ground the following year. Staff batted first with Richard Dobedoe opening and making 73. Nobody else came off until Rob Burns came in down the order and hit a fifty. Tal-y-bont never looked likely to approach the Staff score and were eventually all out for 96.

Llanidloes batted first on the Sunday and declared at 184-6. Staff had reached 32-2 after 19 overs when the match was rained off, avoiding what might have been an inglorious struggle for safety. This was another of those years when more cricket was played than would have been expected from the weather forecasts. Staff have mostly been lucky with their tour weather.

1996

The fixtures were the same as in 1995, though in a slightly different order. The team was Lincoln and Michael Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Curram, Dobedoe, Foster, Steve Lamb, Alan and Hywel Lovell, Marchant, Pettifer and Mike Smith. Alan Lovell played as a guest for Aberystwyth Commoners on the Friday but pulled a hamstring and was unable to play at all for the Staff.

The Burghill and Tillington game was finally and sensibly moved to the Wednesday so that it was played on the way to Wales, thereby reducing the driving. B and T batted first and declared at 238-9 off 47 overs with the usual quota of balls disappearing into the pastures. Staff reached a very praiseworthy 207-5 off only 35 overs, Steve Lamb hitting 74 in quick time. The Mosquitoes match was a draw that might have been turned into a defeat in the last over. Staff batted first and scored 196-4d. Mosquitoes needed 21 from the last over and their only likely batsman hit Nick Boucher's first three balls for four. Fortunately the final three balls yielded only one run, to give a draw.

The Aberystwyth match was a good victory in a closely fought game. Staff batted first and scored 189-9d. with Alan Lovell to the fore in the field. The Commoners were eventually all out for 171. On the following day we met the Tal-y-bont team locally to be given directions to their ground, which was some eight miles up a mountain road with a sign written only in Welsh indicating where cars should be parked. From this point there was a steep walk down to what must be the most picturesque ground in the U.K. A flat field lay improbably in a fold of the high hills with a river round two sides of the ground. Trees ringed the ground on all sides, particularly along the river. There was no pavilion or other construction of any kind; changing was in the open air. The home side were two short, so Nick Boucher and Ken Foster played for them. Staff batted first and knocked up 205-6d. with Alan Marchant scoring 107, a maiden century. Allison's ungenerous declaration prevented the chance of a competitive game and the home side was eventually all out for 131. Some players washed in the river after the game, Boucher, Pettifer, one or two others naked amongst the trees in the setting sun. Steve Lamb said the scene looked like an eighteenth century painting and took a photograph. For the web site perhaps?

Staff just escaped with a draw from the Llanidloes game. The home team batted and declared as usual around 200, this time actually at 197-7. Staff held out at 144-9 at stumps, off three more overs than Llanidloes had taken.

1997

The team in 1997 was Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Curram, Dobedoe, Foster, Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Marchant, Pettifer, Tim Rogers and Mike Smith. The Saturday fixture was arranged with Aberystwyth Town II, played on the County Ground second square.

Burghill and Tillington knocked up 236-6d. in 42 overs, punishing the reluctant bowlers to all parts of Herefordshire for the second year running. B and T usually turned out with one or two very good players, often a minor county batsman among them. The exercise eventually proved too much for Robert Pettifer who pulled a hamstring after scoring 29 in the Staff reply, was supported off the field by two strong men and sat waiting uncomfortably for a large bag of ice to be fetched from the local pub. The injury looked terminal for the season but amazingly he was playing again only a fortnight later. He later decided to return home, the second time that a player had had to do so on the first day of tour. Meanwhile the match was meandering to a draw. The Staff score at stumps was 149-5.

The Mosquitoes game was won by seven wickets, Staff scoring 150-3 after the home side had been all out for 149. The Aberystwyth Commoners game was another win but a much more closely disputed one. Staff batted first and reached 179-5d. at tea, Alan Marchant 60 not out. The Commoners were all out for 154 at the death.

Staff again batted first against Aberystwyth Town II on the Saturday. Tim Rogers opened and made 114 in an aggressive display that led the way to a total of 212-3d. at tea. Steve Curram took five wickets in Aber's innings, which ended at 120 all out. This was our first contact with Norman Williams, a redoubtable cricketing enthusiast who was already looking forward to the following year's fixture when, he said, they had a point to prove. The Llanidloes game produced a nine wicket win for the Staff, who bowled the home team out for 124 and scored 125-1 after tea. Chris Cooper was 67 not out.

There was some disappointment after this tour that three of the games had been won too easily. The competition the following year was to be considerably tougher.

1998

The fixtures were the same as in 1997 and the touring team was Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dobedoe, Foster, Christopher, Richard and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Marchant, Pettifer and Mike Smith. Lincoln Allison was to drop out of the tour after two matches in severe pain from back trouble, leaving the remaining available players to play every game.

The Burghill and Tillington match was for once close. In a 45 over game the Staff batted first and reached 171-6, a score that on the evidence of previous years would be inadequate. Nevertheless it was only off the last ball that B and T scored four to reach 175-8, the fielders all being in to prevent the single.

The match at Aberdare was another 45 over game, this time with the draw. The home side batted and scored 162-8 in their allotted overs. The Staff innings never flourished and ended on 139 with two balls remaining. Lincoln Allison had injured his back during the course of the game. This was the first time that the home side consisted of players only from Aberdare, the side having been made up with players from Mountain Ash in previous years.

The match against Aberystwyth Commoners was the last in a series of 20 years, though the fixture was reinstated for a single year in 2004. Staff never lost to the Commoners in that time, winning ten times - an astonishing record considering the strength of many of the Commoners' teams. The 1998 game was a victory by 31 runs, the win coming in the last over on the third successive day of that year's tour. Staff batted first and put up 167-4d. and the Commoners were all out for 136 off the last ball. Sadly it was not again possible to arrange a fixture with the Commoners until 2004, when a Sunday game was played. The Commoners have been absorbed irrevocably into local league cricket, and can no longer raise a side that they feel does them justice on weekdays.

The Saturday game against Aberystwyth Town was against a side that had been strengthened somewhat by a few first team players. The game was played at Aberystwyth's new ground, next to the light railway to Devil's Bridge. The pitch is settling down to become a very good cricket wicket. Once again it was a limited over format, this time of 42 overs. Aberystwyth batted first and reached 170-9 off their overs, with Norman Williams finishing on 93 not out in a determined effort to redress the balance from the previous year. Staff had reached 167-8 when the final ball was bowled. No run was scored, the Staff suffered a three run defeat and Norman had made his point from the year before. The Staff side first met Anthony Evans at this time. As batsman, off spinner and sometime captain he has been a long standing bulwark of Aberystwyth cricket and has rapidly become a good friend to the Warwick Staff side. Norman and he have done much to ensure that the Staff have had regular fixtures at Aberystwyth.

On the Sunday morning a few dedicated tourists, having spent much of the previous morning searching Aberystwyth for heat pads for their ailing Chairman's back, manhandled him onto a train back to the Midlands where his unexpectedly early return undoubtedly met an ecstatic family welcome.

The Llanidloes game was a draw, the tourists clearly affected by four consecutive close games and unable to rise properly to a generous declaration. Llanidloes scored 174-5d. in 37 overs and the Staff reached 150-6 in 43 overs at stumps.

This had been a good tour, displaying clearly the arguments for and against limited overs cricket. The format provided some exciting finishes on this occasion, but the plot in every limited overs game is the same. Declaration games are capable of providing much more variation. Older players generally feel that the game has become the poorer for the widespread introduction of limited overs cricket.

1999

The place so long filled by The Commoners was filled in 1999 by an Aberystwyth Under-21 team. The tourists were Jimmy and Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cooper, Dobedoe, Foster, Richard and Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Pettifer, Mike Smith and David Storey.

The match at Burghill and Tillington was drawn. Staff bowled B and T out for 167 and hung on for the draw at 155-9. The Aberdare match was much more interesting. Staff batted first and declared at 167-4. The home team's innings just about kept up with the required rate but wickets were lost regularly and a couple of late stands were needed to keep the game going. The last over of the final twenty started with Aberdare on 166-9, needing two runs to win. Step forward David Storey to bowl the last over, David having obtained a pass to join the whole tour for the first time. Ever the gentleman, quixotic and generous to perfection, Storey first bowled a wide to bring the scores level and then clean bowled the last man with two balls remaining to secure the only result conceivable to a man of discernment - a tie.

It may be of interest that Word Spellcheck does not recognise the term inswing. The alternative spelling suggested is insomnia.

Upon meeting as usual at the Llanbadarn Fawr pub after driving across the mountains from Brecon, the tourists bumped into Norman Williams from the Aberystwyth town club. Norman did not know that the tourists were in town and due to play his second XI the following day. Nevertheless he said "Leave it to me" and immediately left the pub.

Staff were soundly beaten by a very professional Aberystwyth Under-21 team on the Friday of tour. In a match that was intended to be 45 overs per side Staff batted first and scored 160-7. With correct play and good running between the wickets the junior side scored 161-1 in 33.4 overs. There was a 30-year gap between the average ages of the sides and it showed. Staff felt that they had not done themselves justice, but they had not been allowed to. One fine young player was 90 not out.

On the following day at Aberystwyth Town, Norman Williams turned up with a full team that he had gathered at almost no notice. Aberystwyth batted first and were all out for 62, which the labouring Staff side overtook in 40 overs for the loss of two wickets. Despite the fairly easy win, Staff were very grateful to have had a game in the circumstances.

The Llanidloes game was won in exciting fashion. The home side batted first and were dismissed for 141 in 49 overs. Staff scored 142-3 in 37.3 overs but the manner of the victory was pure Robert of the Rovers. Robert Pettifer had timed the ball beautifully from the moment he went in to bat and had just passed his fifty at the beginning of the 38th and final over, from which 11 were needed to win. David Storey got a single off the first ball, whereupon Pettifer hit a straight four and a swept six to finish the game with three balls to spare.

An off-duty photo demonstrating the club's youth policy, Llanidloes, 1999

From left to right:
Back row - Ken Foster, Mike Smith, Sophie Dobedoe, Rob Burns, David Storey, Steve Lamb, Nick Boucher, Alan Lovell;
Front row - Glynis Platt (m. Nix), Jimmy Allison, Chris Cooper, Robert Pettifer, Christopher Dobedoe, Richard Dobedoe, Richard Lamb

This had been Ken Foster's final tour. The other tourists missed his company hereafter.

2000

The core touring team in 2000 was the smallest it has been, consisting of Boucher, Burns, Steven Cammiss, Cooper, Christopher and Steve Lamb, Alan Marchant and Pettifer. Mike Smith came for three days, Lincoln Allison and Chris Stride for two and Stevie Allison, Andy and Richard Lamb and Alan Lovell for one day. Guests were still needed to make up Staff teams. Staff had used occasional guests before but never, as at Aberystwyth on the Friday, two on the same day. Richard Dobedoe had rendered himself unavailable through paternity leave, with timing more exquisite than he has ever shown on the pitch.

At Burghill and Tillington, Staff had an easy win in a 40 over game. B and T batted first, made 152-6 and Staff replied with 155-2 in 33 overs. The Aberdare match was closer. Staff batted first and declared at 165-7. Aberdare started well in reply and after losing wickets recovered again in the middle order, but eventually were all out for 155 to give Staff a ten run victory.

Aberystwyth Town II were the Friday opposition this year. Staff batted first and made 195-6d. with 69 from Rob Burns and 54 from Paul Wulstan, a guest lent to the visitors by the home club. Once again there were some ominously good fielders in the home team who did not bowl, which led Staff to assume that they might be class batsmen. In practice the only batsman to show real form was the fine young player from the previous year's Under-21 side who this year made 60 before finally succumbing to the pressure and slogging to be clean bowled. Staff just failed to clinch the win, despite a long spell of offspin from the other guest player Anthony Evans, having Aber Town 155-9 at stumps.

On Saturday the tourists travelled to Llanfyllin, about 40 miles north-east of Aberystwyth, to find an open ground amongst mature park trees in the bottom of a valley. Staff batted first and made their way gently to 148-5 off their 45 overs. Batting, bowling and wicket-keeping orders were all changed and Steven Cammiss made the early breakthroughs in an enervating 13 over opening spell. Llanfyllin had one batsman who held the innings together and made 70. Five were wanted off Steve Lamb's last over. A very young teenager connected with a forward shot to score a four, then edged the last ball past slip to win the game by two wickets.

Llanidloes returned to form on the Sunday with a strong batting side which scored 207-4d. Staff batted fairly well but never threatened to win, finishing at 165-6. The home club then put on an alfresco meal to celebrate 25 years of touring, and many memories were relived after short speeches from Phil Benbow and Lincoln Allison. The Llanidloes match is the highlight of the season for many in the Warwick Staff club - long may the fixture be continued. Some tourists have already outlasted the sons of some of the players they first encountered in 1976.

Alan Lovell decided not to tour the following year, so his last tour game had been played in 2000. His expressed intention is not to play again. Like Ken Foster, he will be missed.

2001

It was most disappointing that the worst weather in 26 years of touring should have dampened the cricketing ardour of one of the strongest parties to tour. Two games were abandoned without a ball being bowled and a third was rained off before the end of the first innings. The tour party was Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Neil Carter, Cooper, Dobedoe, Steve Lamb, Pettifer, Mike Smith, Chris Stride, Rob Wood and Andy Wootton. This team could perhaps even have challenged the strong Staff sides of the 1980s. Steven Cammiss also toured but set one of the more unusual records by injuring himself even before he set out from his house, sufficiently severely that he was quite unable to play. The injury resulted from excess zeal in securing a window, trapping and bursting a finger between light and frame. The other tourists vainly tried not to laugh. Steven himself showed admirable sangfroid, and a devastating trigger finger as umpire.

The Burghill and Tillington match was abandoned before the tourists arrived at The Bell Inn. A leisurely lunch preceded a leisurely drive to the cottage and a search for a local evening meal. The Aberdare match next day was on; Staff batted first and made their way to a rapid 219-4d. with Rob Burns hitting 87 and Rob Wood a very quick 52 not out from only 30 balls. The Aberdare innings finished at 138 all out to give Staff an 81 run victory.

The Friday game against Aberystwyth II was abandoned with Staff in some difficulty at 94-4 after 32 overs of their allotted 45. Saturday's fixture was a new and much anticipated one against Llandovery, but despite considerable gentle persuasion the game was abandoned without the need to travel. At this point the tourists became rather bored, and only their great emotional maturity prevented unprofessional behaviour. Some earlier tour parties would have cracked under the strain, possibly even been found to fail drug tests if such had been applied to cricketers in those days.

The Sunday match at Llanidloes was played. It is not possible to say with Surtees that the day dawned bright and sunny, nor with Pepys that the tourists were up betimes, but at least it did not rain much. Llanidloes put out a young side that bowled with persistence if not with penetration. After a long 55 overs the tourists declared at 188-7. Llanidloes lost wickets at regular intervals to be all out for 97. After the match was over, Staff presented Llanidloes with a pavilion clock in gratitude for the home side's hospitality over a quarter of a century. A photograph was taken of the presentation, to be displayed on the clubhouse wall.

As the tourists emerged from the pavilion with pints in their hands, the evening sun broke through and the best summer for years resumed its pattern. It had been evil luck to have struck the weather of that particular week for the tour.

2002

The touring side in 2002 was Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cammiss, Cooper, Dobedoe, Mike Keating, Steve Lamb, Pettifer, Mike Smith, Stride, Wood and Wootton. The position of novice was overflowed by Mike Keating and his guitar, a peripatetic combination that raised the spirits of the tourists during the long van journeys with cricketing pastiches of popular songs from the last half-century.

The Wednesday fixture at Burghill was not renewed because the home team wanted to replace the game with their regular youth night. Had Staff known this they would never have asked for the game to have been moved from the Thursday in the first place, but the knowledge came too late to prevent the home club's decision to call the game off. The fixture was replaced by one against Worcester Fossils, one of Andy Lamb's clubs. The new fixture promises very well, not least because the over-50 age of most of the Fossils matches the age of many of the tourists. The only drawback was the long drive to the cottage after the game.

The short journey to Norton, just outside Worcester, led to a low-lying ground in the former premises of the Worcestershire Regiment. Staff batted first against the Fossils in a traditional declaration game and scored 182 in 44 overs, to which the Fossils replied with 170-9 in 43 overs. John Shepherd scored 96 for the home side and nearly won the game before slogging in the penultimate over to be clean bowled. One unfortunate tour tradition was maintained when Richard Dobedoe dived to make a stop at cover and rolled onto the ball on an adjacent artificial wicket, badly bruising his back and demonstrating the folly of fielding with the kidneys. He took no further part in the tour, returning to Warwickshire the following morning.

Aberdare put out a strong team on the Thursday in a 45 over game with the draw. All the last four games were of this type. Staff had only ten men in Dobedoe's absence and had to borrow a player from the home club. Staff batted first and made 173-8 with a fifty from Wootton. A public service workers' strike on the day had led to panic amongst the home players that tea would not be provided in the Aberdare hotbed of municipal socialism and three of their team had separately provided teas, which were consumed during and after the game. Staff then bowled Aberdare out for 108 in 33 overs, after the late collapse of five wickets for seven runs.

Aberystwyth, sadly without Anthony Evans or Norman Williams who both came to watch, reached 159 to which Staff replied with 160-2 to win by eight wickets. Cooper scored a solid not out fifty. The following day Staff travelled to Llandovery for a new fixture, to find a large, lush field next to the castle and a car park that was used for an evangelical meeting with preaching and singing during the game. The game itself was an easy victory. Staff batted first and put up their highest tour score, 232-6, with a quick opening fifty from Lamb and a very quick not out century from Wood. Llandovery reached 98 all out in 32 overs to lose by 134 runs.

The Sunday was a beautiful day. The traditional game at Llanidloes was preceded by breakfast outside an Aberystwyth café, a swim at Borth and a drive across the mountains, all in sunshine. Phil Benbow had again come out of retirement to captain Llanidloes and claimed to have a weak side, but its performance was to belie his description. Staff batted first and hit 176-3 with fifties from Burns and Wootton. A superb tea may have contributed to Staff's occasional fielding lapses but Llanidloes were in trouble after 20 overs at 60-5, with a hat-trick by Keating - all bowled - primarily responsible. However, familiar adversaries Adrian Foulkes and Simon Moorehouse then put on 93 and despite three late wickets the home side reached 177-8 after 41 overs for a very good win in an excellent game of cricket. Foulkes had done much to win it, with 2-36 off ten overs and 88 not out.

So a marvellous tour ended with memories and a drink in the evening sunshine. The new pavilion clock eventually reminded the tourists that it was time to leave, after five full matches - so different from the previous year - and the 27th Llanidloes fixture.

2003

It was at first feared that the tour would be oversubscribed in this year of membership growth for the Staff Club, but eventually a party of 14 - the ideal number - emerged. The tourists were Lincoln Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cammiss, Cooper, Dobedoe, Steve Lamb, Alan Lovell, Hywel Lovell, James Perkins, Pettifer, Mike Smith, Stride, Wood and Wootton. Alan Lovell travelled with the tour initially as umpire, an innovation greatly welcomed by all, but was eventually pressed into service to play on Saturday after defections had reduced the playing strength to just ten players.

The first game against Worcester Fossils was played at Barnards Green in Malvern, amidst sultry weather that constantly threatened a thunderstorm but caused only an interruption of some half-an-hour. In a 36-over game Staff scored 201-8 with Rob Wood contributing 70 in 43 balls. Fossils replied with 165-7 for the draw, bolstered substantially by Barnards Green regular Hancock who batted throughout for 67*.

Cottage breakfast the following day manifested two innovations which demonstrated the increasing gentrification of the tour; real coffee, and grilled tomatoes rather than the traditional tinned variety. The game at Aberdare was almost abandoned before any play because of storms the previous day, but eventually the groundsman and the home club were persuaded to play a 30-over game. Staff scored 125-9 after a frenetic opening in which the enthusiastic young home team bowled 21 overs in the first hour despite the fall of four wickets. Aberdare won with 129-6 with two overs to spare. James Perkins finished the game in quixotic style, tilting at a windmill far away from the stumps with an analysis of 0.0-0-5-0 (five wides, for those challenged by the changing laws of cricket).

The Friday morning drive to Aberystwyth was as picturesque as ever, but rather spoiled by a call from Phil Benbow to tell the tourists that Llanidloes would not be able to fulfil the Sunday fixture. At Aberystwyth we found Glynis, there to meet old friends and to pick up the scorebook. As ever she was very welcome and it was a pleasure for the veterans to renew their acquaintance with her. Staff scored 209-9 from 45 overs, greatly helped by Rob Wood with a very quick 75 from number eight in the order. Anthony Evans bowled an excellent spell of off-breaks into the dusty end to take 4-18. Aberystwyth were all out for 155, which required Staff to take 11 wickets because Norman Williams batted, having spent the first innings umpiring.

Aberystwyth, 2003

From left to right:
Back row - Mike Smith, Rob Wood, Howell Lovell, Robert Pettifer, Rob Burns, Steve Lamb, James Perkins;
Front row - Stephen Cammiss, Nick Boucher, Alan Lovell, Chris Cooper, Chris Stride

The Saturday game had caused problems for months because league commitments had made it impossible for many clubs to play a touring side on a Saturday. In the event the opponents were Yoxall, another touring side, who had been able to borrow the pitch of their Sunday opponents Penallt, close to Ross-on-Wye. Yoxall scored 201-8 from 40 overs but Staff topped this with 202-7, of which Rob Burns hit 63. Richard Dobedoe starred with ball and bat, supported by his family tribe.

The touring party returned to play a Sunday game in Birmingham in the absence of Llanidloes. There was a determination to find out what had happened to Llanidloes, to reclaim the fixture if possible. If they no longer want to play a touring side because of other commitments it might prove necessary to arrange a mid-week tour rather than the Wednesday-Sunday fixtures of the last 25 years. Older tourists would much regret this because the Llanidloes fixture has been a great favourite down the years.

A good tour but one without major comic incident ended one day early with two good wins.

2004

The touring party in 2004 was small and only just able to meet their fixture obligations; Lincoln Allison, Mike Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cammiss, Cooper, Dobedoe, Perkins, Vivek Singh, Mike Smith, Stride and Wood. David Hughes and Richard Lamb joined the party for the Sunday game. Chris Cooper was injured on the Friday and took no further part in the tour. There were relatively few batsmen in the party, so it was important that Mike Allison, Rob Burns, Chris Cooper, Mike Smith and particularly Rob Wood should make runs as they did.

The first match, played as last year at Barnards Green against Worcester Fossils, was a comfortable win. Staff scored 187-8d. in 40 overs, with Rob Wood's 79 prominent. Fossils, whose team contained a lady player, replied with 130 all out. The crucial breakthrough came when last year's leading player Hancock was caught by Wood on the leg side, having been tempted to hit there by a 7-2 field. Later at the cottage the team were unable to effect an entry by conventional means, and Wood had to dive through a window to secure the key.

The morning of the Aberdare match dawned cloudy with periodic bouts of drizzle. It had been drier on the south side of the Beacons but the drizzle started there just as the game started, and continued throughout, turning to rain twice to cause brief interruptions. Both sides played through the difficult conditions. Staff scored 180-8 from 40 overs but lost to the home side's 181-5 with one over to spare. For the second day running the home team featured a woman player. Stephanie Davies had represented England at under-19 (she was 16), was arguably the best bowler, made 20 good runs at no. 3 and fielded like a player of far greater experience.

An excellent match at Aberystwyth yielded a victory for Staff by one run. Staff scored 208-5 in 45 overs, Rob Wood scoring a powerful 77 not out and Chris Cooper sadly having to retire hurt on 54 when he trod on the ball when regaining his ground. Makeshift footwear on the artificial pitch, inevitably used after much rain, contributed to the injury. Aberystwyth were all out for 207, off the last ball, to a plumb and honestly given lbw. Glynis was there to score the match, reliable as ever, and to meet old friends once again.

The tour Saturday had no game, all possible opposition being involved in local leagues. An impromptu game of golf threw up champion Lincoln Allison, who knew the rules better than anyone else. The Sunday opponents were the Aberystwyth University Commoners, previously played in 1998 but not since. This arrangement led to a welcome return to the Vicarage Fields and to the Commoners' idiosyncratic skipper Richard Moore-Colyer. Staff scored 181-7d. with Rob Wood again starring, this time again with 77 not out. Wood's tour total was 276 runs, a new tour record, from four innings. The Commoners were all out for 143 with four overs of the final 20 still available in a traditional declaration game. Nick Boucher had taken eight wickets.

It was notable that Llanidloes, long time Sunday tour opponents, had been due to play the Commoners in a cup match on the Sunday. Commoners preferred to play the Staff touring side and Llanidloes were left without a game. Staff scrupulously avoided schadenfreude, and would like to play at Llanidloes again one day if they could be sure of the fixture.

A good tour ended in the Llanbadarn Fawr pub when Glynis left for Manchester and the other tourists started the long drive back to the Midlands.

2005

The 2005 tour started in very hot weather that led to a thunderstorm after tea on the Wednesday game and rather cooler conditions after that. The tourists were Lincoln Allison, Mike Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cammiss, Keating, Steve Lamb, Kevin Morrell, Perkins, Mike Smith, Stride and Wood. For the first time, the tour was played from Tuesday to Friday with the week-end reserved for the inevitable league games.

The first game against Worcester Fossils was drawn. It was chiefly notable for Lincoln Allison's highest ever score, 48, which ended only when a high full toss was hit straight up in the air - a classic case of hoisting and petards. Later Fossil's gentle lady bowler Dean dismissed both Rob Burns and Rob Wood in an over. The scores were Staff 176-9d, Fossils 155-6. Steve Lamb went home after this game. The second game was against Brecon, after an interval of some ten years but at neither Penlan nor the Army grounds but instead at the Christ's College ground. This was a batting paradise in the heat. Mike Allison opened and finished with 96 not out after 45 overs, from a total of 198-3. Rob Burns scored 56. Earlier, a young teenage bowler dismissed both kevin Morrell and Rob Wood for a excellent return of 2-15 before having to go off with a damaged finger. Brecon's reply was cut short at 44-2 by a storm which ended play after just 11.5 overs.

The Thursday game was against Aberdare, where the tourists were disappointed not to find themselves playing again against the Young England player Stephanie Davies. Staff again batted first and this time got off to a flier, with the score 56-1 after only six overs. Chris Stride and Kevin Morrell had done the damage. Stride went on to score 55 and five other tourists hit more than 20 to produce a substantial total score of 245-5 after 45 overs. Aberdare batted consistently but ended on 198 with seven overs to go. In the heat the remaining 48 runs to win would have been gettable in seven overs, and it was as well for the tourists that they did not have to run about for the full 45 overs. Stride completed a fine game with 4-33, and then as if that were not enough for a single day went off to Cardiff to DJ a gig.

And so to Aberystwyth, to play the town's midweek team on the tour Friday. Three nights had been spent in the Cottage and none in Aberystwyth, to the despair of those who wanted to succumb to some more Pier Pressure. Staff were all out for 131 in the 45th over, with only Mike Allison and Rob Wood making any runs in a second wicket stand of 86 in 32 overs. The later batsmen could not accelerate the rate. Kevin Morrell had been unable to play, having damaged his finger taking a catch off his own bowling on the previous day. The home side scored the runs quickly to reach 133-5 after 28 overs, thanks largely to their powerful no. 3 who had just scored a big hundred for Wales at his age group and now scored another 64. If this same team keeps together for another year it will be formidable next year.

The long road home seemed even longer with the prospect of league games on the following day. It had been a quiet tour, largely for once without Rob Wood's batting extravaganzas, but a good one.

2006

The weather in 2006 was hot throughout, with no hint of rain. The touring party was Lincoln and Steve Allison, Boucher, Burns, Cammiss, Cooper, Rob Evans, Keating, Steve Lamb, Morrell, Storey, Stride and Wood. Clive Gregory and Richard Lamb joined the tour for the Friday game at Aberystwyth.

The team for the Barnards Green match was the home club's midweek team rather than the Fossils, and an altogether stronger outfit they were. Staff batted first and scored 150 in a 40-over game, win/lose. Barnards Green were hitting the runs off very rapidly when Lincoln Allison was brought on in the 20th over. He went on to take 5-28 in 3.4 overs to restore some degree of respect to the Staff, who lost by four wickets rather than nine as had seemed probable.

The Wednesday match was due to have been against Brecon but they had telephoned on the Monday evening to say that they could not fulfil the fixture. Tony Derrick of Aberdare volunteered at very short notice to raise a side to play a 20-over game on the evening, to prevent a totally blank day for the tourists. The home side proved to be a team of all the talents from Aberdare and Mountain Ash clubs, a strong side which won easily. The Mosquitoes - it was a return to the Mosquitoes teams of the 1980s - scored 153-4, to which Staff replied in the gathering dusk with 95-7. Steve Lamb was both the most successful bowler and the highest scoring batsman. Despite the result, Staff were very grateful for the chance of playing at all.

Back to Aberdare for the traditional afternoon game, 45 overs, win/lose. Staff batted first and disappointingly, totalling only 136-7 with a substantial contribution only from Kevin Morrell. Staff bowled and fielded with resolution but were unable to prevent Aberdare from reaching 140-6 with almost 15 overs still to go. The game, which had been without incident of note, was too one-sided to have been exciting despite the loss of six wickets by Aberdare.

The tourists pondered the loss of the first three tour games and remembered the previous year's heavy defeat by Aberystwyth on the Friday. There was considerable determination to do better on the day and to avoid the first ever tour whitewash. Staff batted first in another 45-over game, win/lose, with a team containing six regular batsmen. A disciplined batting performance against Anthony Evans's tight captaincy produced 223-4, finishing with an unbroken stand of 105 between Rob Wood and Kevin Morrell in only 12 overs. Wood scored a dominant 79 not out and he and Morrell changed the game. Aberystwyth were all out for 188 in the 39th over, after the last two batsmen had put on a record last wicket partnership of 56 against the tired Staff fielding and bowling attack. So the whitewash was avoided, and so was a repeat of the previous year's final day defeat.

Once again the tourists said their farewells to Glynis and determined to meet again the following year. If the weather were to be as good as that just enjoyed by the team, there would be every prospect of another fine tour.

2007

Alas this hope was not to be fulfilled in the drowned summer of 2007. In fact it was remarkable that 3 of the 4 fixtures were completed though the 4th was rained off so comprehensively that the tour party didn't even bother leaving Brecon for Aberystwyth.

However the success in actually playing the fixtures was not matched by success on the pitch. Part of the problem was the balance of the tour party, which featured pretty much every slow bowler within the club (including tour debutants Tom Day and Hari Singh) but contained a seam attack comprised of Cammiss and an injured S. Lamb, and a batting line heavily reliant on Wood, Wootton and Burns.

At an unusally green Barnard's Green the Don's attack made a fine start against a strong home batting line-up, but their NZ star at no.7 whacked the ball over the short boundary (and pavilion) umpteen times to take the home side to 240 from 40 overs. Staff never got close, despite an entertaining tailend flourish from Tom Day. All retired to the cottage and a cricket-oddities quiz from the chairman: sample question "Which former England cricketer made a fortune from toilet cleaning tablets?"...

The following day's opponents were a new fixture; Whitchurch Heath CC based in a lush hospital sports facility in the Cardiff suburbs. The straw coloured wicket was a red-herring; both pitch and grassy outfield were unsurprisingly pudding-soft. With Rob Wood, the only real bludgeoner in the team, falling cheaply, such conditions were not condusive to a high scoring or entertaining batting display. After limping to 152 courtesy of a typically grafted Wootton innings, the locals showed how it should be done, though Hari Singh and Cammiss apart this was a disappointing performance in the field. A routine win by 7 wickets for our excellent hosts duly followed.

Next up was Aberdare; the extent of the summer monsoon was such that even their usual rock-hard strip was less than batsman-friendly. However one-day tourist Hasan Arshad got the innings off to a rollicking start, and Wood and Wootton combined to put the Dons in a strong position with the first half-centuries of the tour, only for the innings to fizzle away well short of the 200 mark. Stride gave some hope with 4-40 but the aggressive Garthwaite eventually found a solid partner and smashed Aberdare home to a 5 wicket victory with over 10 overs to spare. The post-match drinking was begun on the outfield, as the home side managed to persuade the tourists to pose for multiple photos with bottles of cider, coincidentally of the same brand that were sponsoring them!

The overnight and Friday morning rain prematurely ended a tour which was a great success socially but was a disappointment on the field. A determination to improve the tour stats in 2008 was unanimous!

Postscript

Only two of the original tourists play on into their sixth and seventh decades and the tour's fourth decade. Rob Burns and Steve Lamb move less nimbly now than in 1976, but make up for immobility with anticipation and wisdom - sometimes. Nick Boucher, Ken Foster, Alan Lovell and Robert Pettifer toured for many years but have now finished. Lincoln Allison, Chris Cooper, Hywel Lovell and Mike Smith are tourists of long standing, and Richard Dobedoe, Chris Stride, Rob Wood and Steven Cammiss have joined them. Glynis Platt has joined part of every tour and scores some of the games, including always that at Aberystwyth, though she claims not to be in Chris Cooper's league as a scorer. These are the people who have formed the core of the touring party and give it its continuity.

Shooting stars come and go, and add hugely to the mobility of the party's core. Phil Dixon and Andy Lamb toured for years and in their time were key players. The Staff Club needs some more, younger players to become regular tourists; they will be assured of a magnificent social occasion that will be a source of memories for many years to come. The current tourists can vouch for the unique and invigorating quality of the experience and on the hospitality of their hosts, dependent for full realisation only on the weather.

The relationships built up with the clubs that host the tourists are an essential part of the charm of the tour. Tour matches have lacked the niggle that has crept into much contemporary league cricket because the home clubs and the tourists have developed a respect and liking for each other. This is of enormous value, and should help to ensure that the tour continues for as long as the tourists want to tour.

Long may the tour continue.

Some Statistics

More complete statistics are available in the statistics archive, but here are some highlights.

Of 148 matches arranged in the 31 years from 1976-2006 69 have been won, 24 lost, 2 tied, 38 drawn, 3 cancelled and 12 abandoned.

Most Frequent Opponents (1976-2006)

Llanidloes 27 fixtures
Aberystwyth Commoners 21
Mosquitoes and Aberdare 20
Brecon 18
Aberystwyth Town II 11
Swansea Staff 11
Burghill & Tillington 9
Llandrindod Wells 9

Leading Batsmen (1976-2006)

Rob Wood 938 runs at 52.1
Rob Burns 3018 runs at 42.6
Phil Dixon 1344 runs at 33.6
Chris Cooper 1352 runs at 27.5
Steve Lamb 1910 runs at 27.2
Ken Foster 1079 runs at 22.5

Leading Bowlers (1976-2006)

Andy Lamb 74 wickets at 12.5
Nick Boucher 208 wickets at 15.3
Steve Lamb 122 wickets at 15.8
Richard Dobedoe 51 wickets at 17.5
Lincoln Allison 95 wickets at 19.9

Leading Catchers (1976-2006)

Lincoln Allison 28
Ken Foster 25
Nick Boucher 22
Steve Lamb 18
Robert Pettifer 17

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