DUNEDIN is known as the “House of Pain” for Rugby teams touring New Zealand. For Heathcote Cricketers the Dingee home ground plays the role of its boogyman, with the visitors not having won there in over four years.
But this week it was not with dread or trepidation that the side viewed the game playing at Dingee, quite the opposite.
A topic that has dominated training, team planning and performance management weekly for the Heathcote cricketers over the past five years is organising a bus trip to a game.
In the deep dark hours of Thursday night Gilmore posted the following side “Pat, Fish, Joel, Slats, Bocca, Willa, Ben Con, Sheepa, Baby Morgs, Jacquesy, .. still a couple short boys, if anyone has a couple of mates let me know".
The first observation is the team sounds more like a running sheet of circus acts than a cricket side. Secondly that “still a couple short boys” has been selected for Heathcote every week for the past two years and has done nothing.
Also the final comment should not be taken as Gilmore himself does not have a couple of mates, its just that Dave Farley is overseas and Kevin Bloom is in Melbourne and both are unavailable to play for Heathcote.
Former Cricket Club Captain and form player Luke Bell in his role as Heathcote Football coach also organised a team building sleepover for the footballers in the club rooms Friday night ahead of the Dingee cricket match, further weakening the cricket side as a number of players were sleepy from having been kept up all night by whispering, giggling and pillow fights at Bell’s slumber party.
Bell declared himself unavailable for the cricket match against Dingee adding further evidence to the argument that team sport of cricket is all about the individual.
It was on a bus that a sleepy and undermanned Heathcote side arrived at the Dingee “House of Pain”, and after a quick inspection of the pitch the side could appreciate the task at hand.
The pitch was so green that it would make Snoop Dog wish he knew where Dingee was, which would have been good because at least someone would have cut and rolled the grass ahead of the game. Dingee won the toss and sent the Heathcote side into bat.
Joel Condon saw off the first two deliveries, a high point of the Heathcote innings. The scorebook reads he was then clean bowled, no one from Heathcote is sure of this though as none of the players, including Condon, had really started to pay attention.
The Heathcote bats struggled under heavy conditions and on a green deck with wickets continuing to fall. Cox proved a main stay but his batting partners did not hang around.
Chris Slattery provided some clean hitting off the leg spinner Ellis with three 4s in one over but picked out the square leg fielder in Elliss next over.
A handy 11 runs from Liam Jacques saw Heathcote limp to be all out for 64 in the 26 th over.
Thoughts now turned to an early finish and taking full advantage of the bus trip home as Heathcote went out to defend a meagre total.
So short was the Heathcote innings the Umpire did not even allow the afternoon tea break to be taken, particularly harsh as the afternoon tea spread is normally great at Dingee and it helps digest all the flies you end up swallowing in the field.
Heavily overcast, high humidity with a green top deck are conditions that Pat Ring dreams of bowling in.
The opening bowler did not disappoint as he seamed the first ball just short of a length, the ball defied the first law of thermodynamics as it increased in pace off the pitch, rearing up and cramping the Dingee opening batsman Patten for space.
Despite taking evasive action Patten found there was no room to hide as the ball feathered his gloves and shot through to Slattery.
Slattery the Heathcote keeper leapt full stretch like super man and cleanly took the hot chance. The Heathcote side stood dumbfounded at the brilliance that they had just witnessed.
Brenton Conforti bowled from the other end also extracting plenty of movement and bounce off the pitch until the weather turned to a heavy persistent drizzle and the bowlers struggled to keep their footing on the now sodden pitch.
Heathcote looked to the sky for the opportunity of both a drawn match and an early finish in hoping the game would be called off, the Umpire and Dingee wanted to persist.
Cox managed to extract a little bit of turn from a ball now so water logged it had the consistency off wet soap. Osicka had to reduce his run up to just one step when the umpire stopped play for some pitch repairs.
After a token amount of sand was spread around play was allowed to resume despite the wet conditions. Osicka slipped over for two consecutive balls raising occupational, health and safety concerns.
His frame hitting the deck potentially could have reverberated through the earths crust and caused a tsunami somewhere in South East Asia.
The game was put on hold much to disgust of the Dingee players. The Dingee players complained that the Heathcote team was not adequately prepared in not wearing spikes.
It showed a fairly simplistic understanding of the opposition as it is a challenge to get a Heathcote side together and they should have just been happy we turned up wearing shoes.
What will be next, teams expecting Heathcote to have a captain that plays without a broken arm?
The rain intensified with Heathcote desperate to claim a draw and get back on the bus.
Dingee continued to don the Umpire in snorkelling gear to again inspect the pitch and the Heathcote team contemplated beginning to work on an Ark.
It is with fortune that the weather didnt get all Old Testament on us and the Ark was required.
The thought that life on earth would have to be re-esablished by the Heathcote Cricket Team and 20,000 blow flys from Dingee is too horrific for contemplation.
The Umpire retracted an earlier promise to call the game off and notified the teams that he would review the pitch to consider play to resume at 5.30.
On being advised of this the Heathcote team did the only sensible thing and went to the pub. Dingee showed far greater commitment to the game of cricket with only half of their players going to the pub.
In air conditioned comfort, away from the flies and with cold beer the team enjoyed two hours of its best cricket this season but lost the authority to raise concerns about O, H and S in continuing to play.
Play resumed at 5.30 pm and Dingee made light work of the remaining 24 runs.
The only highlight for Heathcote in that passage of play was Ben Connolly managing to take a clean catch without using his hands. The player of the day goes to Chris Slattery who drove the bus.
Heathcote is still looking a very strong chance for finals this year, thanks not so much to its own success but the failure of other sides.
With the return of big name players such as Nicolas Malavisi, Ben Harris and Luke Bell there is plenty of upside to strenthening the team.
Admittedly Harris and Bell are pretty short names but Nicolas Malavisi does have 15 letters.
There are two home games to finish the season and no doubt master curator Grant Baker will produce cricket wickets for the Heathcote side to demonstrate what it can do.
Most surprisingly there is a quote from Snoop Dogg that is both poignant and useful “Sometimes a loss is the best thing that can happen. It teaches you what to do next time”.