Strollers enjoy a Happy End to 2022 in München
posted: September 27, 2022
Five years. It had been five long years since the Pimlico Strollers last ventured overseas on tour partly because, in the interim, there was of course the small matter of a global pandemic to navigate. So it was with unbridled glee and gusto that, just one week after the close of the domestic season, we boarded our flights to Munich with an impressive party of 14 ready to go big in Bavaria and take on not only the two local teams waiting to host us but also that legendary carnival of beer consumption itself… Oktoberfest. Quite some prospect.
In addition to skipper Harry our number included no less than three further tour virgins in the shape of Ali ‘the Rookie’ Rookes, ‘Cold Hard’ Kashif Khan and Gaurav ‘Sweeper’ Jain along with the usual suspects – George ‘Mad Dog’ Brown, Dickie ‘Das Legende’ Betts, ‘Sturminator’ Tim, ‘Groß’ Gav, Davie ‘Heavy Balls’ Gorton, Davie ‘the Kitten’ Couldrey, the ‘Spengali General’ Fowler and of course that raconteur and cattle-herder without equal ‘Master’ Andrew Bates.
Owing to recent wrist surgery, Harsh joined us as a non-playing tourist on this occasion but more than made up for his absence on the field with his presence off it. This fine body of men had been expertly marshalled into action by tour secretary Ron ‘Boundary’ who surpassed himself in orchestrating the weekend’s frivolities with more German efficiency than even the most bullish of Bavarians could have mustered. In other words, we hit it hard.
With most of our tourists arriving late on Friday evening, we checked into the temptingly named Happy End Hotel near the city’s Hauptbahnhof only to find it to be anything but tempting. It quickly became apparent that the establishment had only just flung open its doors to the world a few days prior in a hurried effort to cash in on the anticipated demand for Oktoberfest but along the way the new owners had neglected to complete the tiling, unpack the bedding and – in the case of your writer’s room – even clear out the previous guest’s mess, clean or indeed flush the WC. To describe conditions as basic would be a massive overstatement.
Never mind. The meagre comforts of our accommodation served only to spur us onward and out into the city to find the nearest bierkeller where we reconvened with the advance party of Strollers who had already arrived. Here we got stuck into the first of literally dozens of steins, brimming over with frothy beer served by a busty young fraulein dressed in a traditional dirndl. Things were looking up. After a brief excursion in search of local sausage-based sustenance we holed ourselves up for the remainder of the night and into the wee small hours in the ‘Speed’ bar, handily located opposite the Happy End, where we contemplated the cricketing challenges to come over the following 48 hours.
We woke on Saturday morning in surprisingly sprightly spirits and, boosted by a fine breakfast at a local backerei, we made our way to the Städtische Sportanlage in the centre of town to face our first opponents, the MCC no less (that’s Munich Cricket Club for avoidance of any doubt). The team was comprised of expatriates from throughout the Commonwealth, led by their affable English president Phil and cheery Aussie skipper Jonty who we feared might share more than a slight similarity with his South African namesake of some cricketing note. We were made to feel more than welcome with beer and cider on offer from a groaning fridge and the promise of a post-match barbecue to come.
And so, to business. We broke out our gleaming new tour kit, emblazoned on the back with the emblem of a broadly moustachioed Bavarian holding a stein in one arm, a cricket bat in the other and lined up for a team photo, for all the world giving a surprisingly good impression that we knew what we were doing. The thick cloud overhead and light rain in the air mattered not as, this being a multi-sport venue, the all-weather Flicx pitch was rolled out alongside a running track and we smiled wryly at the notices on the boundary fence advising German passers-by that they were welcome to watch but to “watch the ball, it can kill!” (possibly still mindful of RAF raids raining down on the city many decades ago).
Not that spectators would be in much danger as it turned out. With Harry having won the toss and electing to bat we immediately found ourselves in trouble – George bowled out for a second ball duck misreading the non-bounce of the artificial track. Kash looked to be faring better but, having made it into the teens, he flicked a return catch to Veith and was gone too. Thus the pattern for the afternoon was set with Stroller after Stroller struggling to get to grips with the damp conditions and the variable bounce offered by the Flicx mat – as evidenced shortly after George’s dismissal when, by contrast, one delivery reared up and sailed two feet over Spencer’s head. This would be some challenge.
Tim found himself trapped LBW to another low one and Spencer somehow managed to talk himself out of being bowled (his reasoning being that the previous delivery was a no ball, even though we weren’t playing free hits) but this was to be only a stay of execution as he was stumped a couple of balls later. Ron managed only a single before Veith bowled him round his legs and Harry, as has frustratingly often been the case this season, managed to hole out to a waiting fielder at deep midwicket.
Only Gav, batting at five, managed to mount any kind of resistance although scoring opportunities were almost non-existent, thanks especially to the probing leg spin of Neeraj who gave the big man all kind of headaches. With Gaurav joining Gav in the middle at 52-6 the pair knuckled down to consolidate, get to drinks and then rebuild a platform to try and get us near or over three figures.
Despite Gaurav slipping repeatedly on the wet surface and Gav receiving a lucky let off when was dropped at cover the pair applied grit and determination and, with the reintroduction of pace after almost 30 overs of spin, Jain finally found his mojo, carting a flurry of boundaries to kickstart our final effort as we finally reached the hundred mark in the 32nd over, much to the relief of the Strollers watching from the sidelines.
Eventually Gaurav took one slog too many and was bowled by Nishant for an invaluable 40 and Gav followed soon after when, in an effort to find his first boundary of the day, he swung, missed and was stumped for a steely 17.
The valiant efforts of the two Gs set the stage for Davie Gorton who marched out to the middle windmilling his bat and, throwing the textbook out of the window, he boldly declared he was going to “take the ball out of the equation” and simply play the shots he wanted to. To the astonishment of those watching the ploy actually worked and he creamed a huge straight six over the long on boundary to our unabashed delight. Adding a few more thanks to some sharp running between the ends with Master Bates, Dave’s cameo took us up to 128-7 at the close – a total which, although modest, was far better than we might have hoped for prior to the drinks break and we marched off feeling markedly more upbeat.
Having enjoyed the local beverages kindly made available by our good hosts we returned to the field of play with a spring in our step after a 30 minute interval, with Harsh boldly deciding he couldn’t sit things out any longer and joined us to field. Our spirits lifted even more with a trio of early wickets that put us right back in the box seat. It looked to be Davie G’s day when he took a fine soaring catch at deep long on from Spencer to see off opener Simrat. The Spengali General followed that up by taking a sharp return catch to send Owen back to the hutch for just a single – taking Fowler to within just two dismissals of being the Strollers’ all-time leading wicket taker.
Following his successes with the bat and in the field, Gorton was brought on to bowl and was further rewarded when he stitched up Vinny with a trademark heavy ball to clean out his stumps and at 30-3 the oppo were reeling. At the other end Kash completed an excellent containing spell to take us to drinks with the MCC still requiring 70+ for victory. It was in the balance.
With the luxury of a substitutes bench at our disposal Gav and Dickie retired to make way for Browns Snr and Jnr who brought themselves on to bowl after the resumption – in itself a notable moment with, for the first time, Strollers of two generations from the same family appearing in action on tour. Unfortunately, the father and son combo failed to fire and Munich’s batsmen – Jonty and Vish – cranked into top gear, dispatching both Browns to the boundary with ease.
On the sidelines we were honoured by the arrival of Munich’s old guard including their founder Alan Lees who had started the club way back in 1982. Alongside such dignitaries the cricketing gods clearly came out to smile on the hosts, offering the best batting conditions of the day as the sun began to poke through the cloud and, with it, the MCC’s run rate kept climbing.
All too soon the total we had posted came into the oppo’s sights as they passed 100 with Vish and Jonty continuing the charge, the former reaching a fine 50 as the fat frau began to warm up her lungs. Without further loss Munich reached their target with 5 overs to spare and, with warm handshakes all round, we ended our first game as runners up.
Regardless of the result it had been an enormously enjoyable afternoon, made even more so by the delicious barbecue that our hosts then served up with all manner of würst and local fare on offer, all washed down with bottle after bottle of Bavarian beer. Jonty and Harry exchanged club caps and each gave a rousing speech, respectively awarding Gaurav and Vish as men of the match. President Phil then handed Tour Secretary Ron a much-sought after MCC tie, to his profound delight …that’s the Munich CC version of course. We warmly thanked our hosts for their splendid hospitality and made it known that should they wish to cross the channel for a visit to North London, we would happily welcome them for a rematch on our patch.
With our first game under our belts we repaired briefly to the Happy End before, after the swiftest of turnarounds, we ventured out for the evening’s main event… Oktoberfest itself. This was your writer’s first experience of the Bavarian beer extravaganza and it didn’t disappoint. Having kickstarted our evening at Speed with the traditional round of Vodka Fantas (© Pimlico Strollers, Mallorca tour 2005) we muscled our way through the thoroughfare of the massive Theresienwiese fairground in the city centre and made our way into one of the immense tents at the heart of the carnival.
What greeted us was nothing short of a sea of humanity, with literally tens of thousands of revellers – mostly adorned in charming lederhösen – dancing atop row after row of benches, losing their collective scheiße to an excellent live band playing a mixture of classic bangers and Krautrock, all the while raising toast after toast before downing the never-ending supply of frothy steins being served by dirndl-clad fräuleins.
How these buxom junge mädchens summoned the strength to carry up to a dozen litres per serving was beyond mesmerising but, having ordered our first round, we happily availed ourselves of their services. Having somehow secured ourselves a bench amongst the throng we quickly made friends with the good volk around us (mainly called Sebastian) and got stuck in, mercilessly necking stein after stein. And so we went on, and on, and on ‘shunkelning’ until our calves burned from keeping our balance on the benches and our vocal cords were utterly shredded (a particularly rowdy rendition of ‘Highway To Hell’ being largely responsible for that).
After last orders were finally called the Strollers stumbled back out into the fairground to either seek out more sausage (Currywürst a particular favourite) or offload the contents of their bellies by whatever means, depending upon their constitution. But the night was still young so, regrouping, we carried on and made our way forth to a nearby Turkish restaurant where Ron and Batesy demonstrated their newfound talent for Bavarian dance and, in a rite of passage for the new tourists amongst us, Tim graciously passed round his box for the younger Strollers to drink from… which most of them surprisingly did. In the interests of public decency and avoidance of libel charges it’s probably best to draw a line under the evening’s frivolities there but, needless to say, further and full merriment was had by all thereafter.
tour report continues >>