Almanac Cricket: The Art of Afternoon Tea




Today’s COVID-normal world has rendered the Art of Afternoon Tea a solo rather than a team sport, what with regulations leaving players to fend for themselves. The following fable recalls a time when the meal breaks of local cricket were a highly scrutinised event and when the first question you’d hear upon arrival wasn’t “have you checked in?” but “what’d you bring for tea?”


It was a simpler time…


Nobody has ever trudged inside after 40 sweltering overs in the field to a trestle table covered in Brumby’s pull-aparts and been overwhelmed with excitement. As my Dad would describe it – like he’d never told the joke before – “they wouldn’t be underwhelmed, or overwhelmed, they’d simply be whelmed.” Of course, Brumby’s and Baker’s Delight both have fantastic arrays of savoury and sweet, bread-based scrolls, perfectly designed for hungry local cricketers to ‘pull-apart’ (or, ‘twisted delight’, as I’ve found Baker’s Delight calls them). One must only venture as far as the classic cheese & bacon to enjoy the fluffy, golden goodness of this Aussie delicacy. For those hesitantly new to the world of tearable breads, this mere gateway option provides a safe bet you’ll be feeding the lads and ladettes well at afternoon tea. But beware: the phrase ‘safety in numbers’ does not apply to this bread-based universe.


Before long, word gets out that your addition to arvo tea can come at a bargain basement cost of $6.50. Next thing you know there’s two pull-aparts adorning either end of today’s spread. They’ll be far apart so as not to draw attention to the obvious copycat behaviour and lack of communication amongst the team. This imposter, this lazy excuse of a contribution, will likely take the form of an herb and garlic or, god forbid, spinach and feta. The eyes of the visiting team will dart about in search of the owner of this secondary scroll. Who could possibly own up to such a lowly act? No-one does. Time passes, play resumes, and the obvious mistake is forgiven and forgotten. But you best believe this virus moves quicker than can be contained.


You see, much like the windmills of a paceman’s arms, or the clean strike of a batsman’s cover drive, afternoon tea is an art form. These are traditions begun thousands of years ago, when kings and emperors of Greece and Egypt unfolded their gold-plated trestle tables, blew the dust off their tablecloths, and laid out feasts of much celebration. Icey poles of any flavour, with transparent wrapping for flavour-choosing purposes; fruit platters of such grandeur and variety it could make a silly mid-wicket cry; sandwiches cut into soldiers, triangles and rectangles. Some are even left uncut for the hungrier man or woman (usually a designated slipper). These were better times. Boxes of shapes were yet to be carved from the Earth, and the technology to twist pull-aparts into unholy knots was still being developed in the West. Until a fateful day, somewhere amongst the 2018/19 season, when all hell broke loose.


I’ll cut to the chase here – the act of remembering renders me unable to articulate the atrocity: 7 pull-aparts.


A piece of my Wantirna South Cricket Club broke that fateful day. When a likely sum of $40 was forked out on the trestle for whoever the unlucky visitors happened to be. Many thanks were given to Sandra, wife to ex-president Graeme ‘Grub’ Smith, for her weekly contribution of sandwiches which, despite providing a platter of even more bread, helped to alleviate some of the embarrassment. Club president and captain of the 3rd XI, Ian “Slash” McKay, labelled it “A Celiac’s Nightmare” and nothing could fix what had been done. There was talk of abandoning the match in the wake of such a travesty. Alas, 8 crucial points were on the line and, instead, a pact was made. From now on, we would use the team group chat to its full capabilities and an open dialogue of calling “dibs” on our selected tea-time item would be mandatory to avoid any double-ups.


Like all complex systems of communication, the pact took time to take shape. But after weeks of tinkering with the process, the standard of the Wantirna South 3rd XI’s afternoon tea was on the rise. While the exploits of the side were often a disappointment on-field, the promise of a fulfilling tea became an expectation. Soon, even our mullet-headed 17-year-old Zach Templeton was cutting his own fruit and plating up on a Saturday morning, much to our astonishment.


Fast-forward to Round 1 2019, and the 3rds served up arguably our best work to date. Lamingtons, fresh fruit, donuts, Madeira cake, sandwiches, and my gorgeous mother’s first and best attempt at a blueberry and coconut cake. All topped off by Calippos and assorted icy poles (from yours truly). These were but highlights from a day we agreed was a huge success. All it took was teamwork and communication to come out on top. And while I no longer remember the match result, I’ll never forget that turning point for our 3rd XI’s afternoon tea. Every exquisite detail teetering perfectly atop that old trestle table. And the pièce de résistance: a cheese and bacon pull-apart, just the 1.


Written and experienced by Henry Ballard.


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About Henry Ballard

21 year-old student of journalism, local footy, and fluent conversation. Of which I have perfected none and should never hope to.


  1. Welcome back to The Almanac, Henry. We missed you this season. I see you’ve lost none of your skills with this whimsical offering. Full marks to the WS Thirds for setting the bar high. Any chance of a vanilla slice or a custard tart in there?

  2. Progress indeed. In the early 1980s my cheese and tomato sandwiches rated higher than the traditional packet of biscuits that everyone else brought

  3. Henry Ballard says

    Cheers for your comments Ian and Noel.
    I’d like to think our standard of eating fell somewhere between packs of biscuits and custard tarts, but we’re always striving for those higher grades.

  4. Bowled Shane.

  5. Henry Ballard says

    Absolute pies, John.

  6. Jatz crackers and cheese or even party pies go down well. Also nothing quite like an apple turnover laced with cream.

  7. Great topic Henry.
    As with everything, a club’s afternoon tea reputation is hard won but easily lost.
    As for the tea…
    I never did clock the idea of a cup of tea at 3:25pm on a 35 degree Saturday afternoon, having just patrolled point for a few hours and bowled a few overs of right arm out swing. Can of Solo every time.

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