Almanac XI v Overland XI – Almanac Captain’s report

by Andrew Gigacz

I believe it’s part of the unwritten ethos of the cricket commentating fraternity that at least once in a career the phrase, “well bowled, well played and well fielded; good cricket all around”, must be used.

Had any of that fraternity been at Gillon Oval on Sunday to call the Almanac XI v Overland XI, it’s debatable whether the opportunity to use it actually arose on any one ball.

Notwithstanding that, the game was a cracker and, although Nathan Hollier’s Overland XI deservedly took home the Jack Clancy Trophy, the Almanackers were by no means disgraced.


In preparation for this match, several Almanackers converged on the Brunswick St Oval nets a week prior to the match, in part to awaken some long forgotten muscles, and also to make an assessment of where players might be best suited in the batting and bowling order.

In hindsight, I think it’s fair to say that that session was helpful to some Knackers, but led to the early downfall a week later of some others. (Two in particular, but more on that later.)

Having met the rigorous captaincy selection criteria (turning up to the one training session and bringing more gear than any one else), I was honoured to have been appointed leader of the side by the broken-toed Almanac CEO, Coach and Chairman of Selector (not selectors; he was the only one), J.T. Harms.

Sunday morning dawned to the news of a double set-back for the Almanac XI. Gideon Haigh and Tom Riordan, both of whom had impressed at training, were late withdrawals, due to the respective requirements of attending baby-sleep school and playing for the regular cricket team. (As someone who missed his own brother’s wedding in order to play cricket, one is forced to wonder about the priorities and commitment of certain players when such news is delivered.)

But this double-dose of disaster was offset by the news that J.T. Harms, and his broken toe would be available to bat if required, and Dips O’Donnell would be able to take the field for the Overland innings.

A passing heavy shower not long before the start of play left Gillon Oval with a classic sticky wicket. Although I thought my coin-toss was quite magnificent, it landed in favour of Overland and their captain, Nathan Hollier, chose to send the Almanackers into bat.

With echoes of the phrase “good toss to lose” reverberating around the dark, history-steeped visitors’ rooms, the twelve-man Almanac leadership squad (thanks to Leading Edge for their contributions) unanimously appointed N Belford and J Butler as the openers.

To say that the damp pitch, a strong cross-breeze and a two-piece new ball contributed to early movement through the air and off the pitch would be somewhat of an understatement. However, Butler and Belford successfully negotiated several balls and a couple of huge LBW shouts before Butler played over the top of a full-length ball from Overland skipper Hollier.

Dave Goodwin paired up with Belford and these two began to look comfortable before Goodwin also fell to a good ball.

Enter David Bridie. Though he took a couple of overs to get off the mark, his first scoring stroke was the very epitome of cricketing majesty. An effortless drive back over the bowler’s head bounced only once or twice before racing to the gutter to give the Knackers their first boundary.

The B-team of Bridie and Belford put on a few before Belford succumbed to a lack of match fitness and became the third victim of the innings. The score line of 3 for 30-odd didn’t look flattering but the run-rate was climbing towards 3 and on this wicket, with a slow outfield and square boundaries that Fredericks and Gilchrist would have struggled to clear, things weren’t as bad as they may have seemed.

PJ Flynn, who informed me that he hadn’t picked up a bat in anger since the mid-nineties, came in at number five. Any doubts about how he would cope were soon dismissed as Flynn worked, drove and cut the ball with aplomb. It was as though he’s walked off undefeated in 1996 and was continuing on his way after a 15-year tea-break.

Flynn and Bridie provided the solid core of the Almanac innings and were the two top scorers. Solid, if unspectacular, assistance was provided by C. Down, A Gigacz and C Little. Flynn’s innings came to a controversial end when he was given out in-front by Umpire “Trigger-finger” Syson despite the ball having seemingly come of the middle of the bat before hitting pad.

Good sport that he is, PJ Flynn trundled off without complaint and even refused the offer of a call-back after Dan Syson informed his father that there just might have been a hint of ball hitting bat prior to pad.

Tim Ivins complemented the solid if unspectacular batting with a spectacular and anything but solid cameo innings. It was fortunate that Tim had a firm grip of the bat-handle because, had any of his wild and windy swings resulted in him letting go of the bat, it’s almost certain the bat itself would have cleared the boundary (even the square ones).

Smokie Dawson was also a solid lower-order contributor and he combined with JTH, whose lusty yet orthodox strokes took the Almanac total into three figures. (Despite the rumours, Harms’ initials really are JTH, and it is a coincidence that they are also an acronym for “John’s Toe Hurts”.)

A real positive for the Almanac XI was that every player managed to get off the mark. Not a duck, golden or otherwise, was to be seen.

After an afternoon tea of sausages in bread (and thanks go to Andrew Fithall who turned the sausages lovingly throughout the day), the Almanackers took the field, confident that the total of 102 in 35 overs was defendable.

Craig Little and myself took the new ball. Craig bowled brilliantly and I was lucky enough to sneak one under the bat and before long the Overland side were struggling at 2 for 8 after six overs.

At this point Neil Belford, whose left-armers had hit the pitch superbly in the nets the previous Sunday came on to relieve Little. As it turned out, though, the net-session seven days earlier had left Neil’s arm connected to the rest of his body by a single thread of a sinew. This thread was severed on the first ball he sent down. To his eternal credit and in an act of extreme Almanac heroism, Neil bowled out the over and even managed a second. Unsurprisingly, his pace suffered, as can happen when one’s arm is connected to one’s shoulder only by skin.

At the other end, David Bridie send down three excellent overs of medium pace and was unlucky not to claim an Overland scalp.

With Belford down, I turned earlier than planned to J Button. He too had looked good in the nets the Sunday prior, hitting the spot on a regular basis. But, as with Neil, John found that one training session prior to a match was one too many in his case. Though he survived his one and only over, several players had their phones at the ready, in case a 000 call was required.

Craig Down and Dave Goodwin provided some very good overs of spin, but the Almanac attack lacked penetration. Tim Ivins, who had fielded with the same application he had applied to his batting, threw down three overs of medium pace. All were good and each one better than the one before.

Dips O’Donnell, on the oval in place of John Harms, fielded brilliantly. Melbourne University’s Professor of Mathematics, PJ Flynn, conservatively estimated that 30% of the shots played in the Overland innings were picked up by Dips.

As a reward, Dips was given an over but, in his case, he probably would have benefitted from a prior session in the nets.

A couple of potentially injudicious Overland retirements and some late wickets to Dave “the Sheik of Tweak” Goodwin provided late hope for an unlikely Almanac win, but in the end the Overlanders overhauled the target with a couple of overs to spare.

Special mention must be made of Smokie Dawson, whose glove-work was virtually faultless.

Though the Almanackers weren’t far off the mark, this loss will burn deep for this captain and next year’s return match cannot come soon enough.

Great umpiring by Ian Syson (although we have two LBWs I the bank for next year, Syso) and a great day was had by all.

Thanks to all who took part and all who contributed to making it an excellent event.

A final word to Almanackers. If I should somehow manage to retain the captaincy role next year, a minimum of TWO training sessions will be required. We must do all we can to return the Jack Clancy Trophy to its rightful owners.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Cracking article, cracking day Gigz,
    May I suggest that next time we complement the day with a game of the Indoor variety. I just don’t feel comfortable without being surrounded by nets.

  2. A most enjoyable return to the game – thanks to all involved in putting it on. The only thing I had on ice post-game was my right buttock.

  3. By the look of the team in Marion’s happy snap the best way for the Knackers to get the trophy back is a bit of the old break and enter the Overlander’s compound, grab it, and run.

  4. #3. We’re flying you over especially for next year’s game, Phantom. Start training.

  5. Good plan Gigs.

    No one would have a clue who the class all rounder in the Phantom suit really was.

  6. #5. Of course, when it comes to taking quick singles, you’d have to become the “Ghost who runs”…

  7. John Butler says

    Nice Freudian slip Gigs (Button).

    Like young Benjamin, my cricketing abilities regressed before my eyes.

  8. #7. Whoops! Sorry, JB. I know John Button’s son, James. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

    Do you want me to change it and delete these two comments?

  9. You’ve missed the point Gigs.

    We could slip a first class Tassie smokie in in the purple lycra pj’s and mask instead of me.

    George Bailey to bat and Rana Pakistana to bowl.

    I could sit in the crowd and observe because no one knows what the Phantom really looks like.

    Don’t tell them.

  10. #9. Thanks Phantom. The Overland batsmen kept missing the point yesterday too. If I had a backward point, they’s hit it square. And if I had a genuine point they’d hit it between there and gully.

  11. John Butler says

    No Gigs

    I think it suits the afternoon’s events. :)

  12. That’s just not cricket.

  13. Gigs – Anyone would think the Knackers were running dead in order to get some healthy odds next year! Then, as P Flynn is want to say, “Look out”.

  14. Maybe we need to recruit a few quality cricketers to the Knacker writing team.

    We could suss out a few dodgy bookmakers as well.

    Will there be a bidding process for players?

    What will the awards night be called?

    Will there be competition amongst the ‘Jack Clancy Trophy’ WAGs?

    Will Fev be doing the interviews on the red carpet?

    Will that dead chook franchise be sponsoring us?

    This is starting to get very big. What are we going to do with all the profit?

  15. Actually, it’s worth pointing out that two of the Overland XI, including match-winner P Dimitriadis and Tony Wilson, should have been appearing for the opposite side.

    When someone asked post-match, whether Tony Wilson has actually written anything for Overland, JTH magnanimously replied, “no, but he could”.

    Never mind that he already HAS written for the Almanac.

  16. #15.

    Does this set a precident Gigs?

    Could we next year have a contemporary World XI and argue that although they are not technically Knackers they could be.

    Is team fixing akin to match fixing. It’s getting murky.

    I think we need an enquiry into the game. Hold all bets.

  17. Phil might not have written for Overland, but he has played for them before.

  18. And what’s Tony’s excuse?

  19. Thanks again, Ian. Great day.

  20. I was very happy with the XI Knackers who toiled on behalf of the Knackery. And equally on the compilation of the Overland crew. Selection occurred in the time-honoured fashion of park cricket, as explained beautifully by Jim Young in Any Old Eleven. You get who is silly enough to agree to play when you mention to them and those around that the game is on.

  21. Any chance of an Almanac football match?

  22. # 21 – I’m in.

  23. Peter Flynn says

    Josh, it mighn’t be the best day to ask this question (only kidding).

    Thanks Gigs. Great article and enjoyed the show.

    Ian, D Syson looked a player with a future. Nice driver of the ball, played with a straight bat and had time to play.

  24. PJF

    Is that a round about way of saying the progeny has no future as an umpire?

    Yes, Dan looked every bit a young batsman in the making. Also kept his head over the ball when keeping.

  25. Peter Flynn says


  26. Indeed, Dan “Son Of” Syson looked the part. Ian would be proud.

    Hardly a suprise that Daniel Syson is an anagram of “Sonny’s ideal”.

  27. #18. Gigs, an ex-editor of Overland (ie me) wrote the most glowing review he’ll ever get.

    I guess I’m going to have to wear the umpire rap until next time.

    Thanks for the kind words about Dan. He enjoyed himself as well. He’s known many of those Overland guys since he was three and it was nice to see them playing together in a circumstance where he was just one of the team rather than the young bloke who gets a bit of a go.

  28. Opponents, team-mates and umpires alike…
    It was indeed a grand and enjoyable day. The result did not go our way, but we gave a good account of ourselves considering we batted in the worst of the conditions.
    Big thanks to Ian S, JTH and Andrew F for their organisational skills and generosity.
    Smokie “Iron Gloves” Dawson.

  29. Anyone else just see a familiar face on the 7PM Project on Channel 10 before?

  30. #29. No. Who was it, Josh?

  31. Not our demographic Josh. And none of us visited that apartment!

  32. I turned it over to Channel 10 and saw a clean-shaven JTH talking to Hughesy and the like about Ricky Nixon.

  33. Was he still wearing those “Dunlop Volleys”?

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