Damian Callinan’s Advent Calendar : December 12th, ‘World Series Callinan v Anderson Cricket’

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Damian Callinan padded up and ready for World Series Callinan vs. Anderson Cricket?

 

The ‘ANZAC Day MCG Blockbuster’ between the Bombers & the Magpies may not have surpassed the annual ‘Callinan v Anderson Christmas Cricket Match’ in importance, but it had its similarities. Both are steeped in tradition, riddled with overblown war analogies and on game day, no-one could remember who had won the last one.

The game always seems to have been played at the same venue although as it was at Aunty Margie and Uncle Vin’s Forest Hill front yard, there was no neutrality and all the box office takings went to the Andersons. I’ve never really thought about it before but the reality must be faced, much like the Indian national team, the Andersons didn’t travel well.

There were a couple of games played at our place in Watsonia but the memories seem to have dimmed and all I can recall are glimpses of the Andersons struggling with the bat on our harder, bouncier northern suburbs wickets. They were also reluctant to use our ‘In-House DRS: Our neighbour Jeanie Mac had a deadly eye and was rarely wrong and her Polaroid Camera saved many an argument between my brothers and I.

The Forest Hill matches were traditionally played in the twilight on Christmas Day but as my siblings matured and found life partners that inconveniently had their own families with their own selfish Christmas traditions, the match scheduling began to move around.

The venue itself suited the limited range of skills of the home team and was bowler friendly. The pitch, or driveway as the cars preferred to call it, had a narrow strip of grass down the middle with concrete edges, that the strong Anderson bowling attack exploited. The neighbouring fence prevented any off-side shots and the leg-side only opened up from mid-wicket due to the annoying presence of their house. Thus the only scoring shots were in the ‘V’ and as the Callinan’s were brought up on bouncy ‘matting’ wickets we tended to play off the back foot. They may remember history differently but for mine, the families were evenly matched.

Let’s meet the teams. Before we begin though I’d like to apologise here to the females in our respective families who are all but invisible in this cock-heavy reminiscence.

I was going to ask for individual pen profiles from the other players but felt like more fun to work from a combination of cold memory and bullshit.

The Andersons

Mark (C) – The first to cut off the small talk once my mum’s pavlova had been demolished: he’d drop his splade in the sink and summon the combatants out to the field of play. A more than handy right arm fast bowler who could hold a bat the right way up as well: His achievements never quite matched his bluster but he was definitely the glue of the side.

Peter (VC) – Less prone to sledging than his mouthy siblings, he let his scything left arm deliveries do the talking. Landed the ball on an unerring length and always troubled the exclusively right-handed opposition. At times he let himself and his family down with the bat and as the years passed he became more concerned about his appearance and whatever girl had taken his eye.

Matthew – The third prong in the potent Anderson attack: Easier to put away than his bros but still capable of a wicket-taking ball. Despite coveting a career in the military he was the most likely to divulge family secrets making him unpopular at times in his own change rooms. Lacked the concentration to occupy the crease for any length of time but on occasions he could trouble the terracotta rooves of the houses across Sylvan Crt.

Phillip – He was known as the 4th Chappell at our team meetings. Despite being the youngest he never seemed to develop the competitiveness required to survive in this cauldron. Mind you as I look back, the truth is he possessed a strain of individuality that manifested in ‘not really giving a shit’ and for that maverick spirit he is to be applauded. The few times he did pick up the bat though he showed enough to suggest he wasn’t a product of the postman.

Geoff (Brother In Law) – Geoff played every game from the day he entered the family with a look on his face that suggested he expected to be asked to leave the family if he didn’t participate. The lone spinner in the line up he was responsible for so many lost tennis balls that Slazenger named a new product line after him.

The Callinans

 Chris (c) – The middle brother took the mantle as captain for the simple reason that he was so competitive his first words were ‘Bring him on at both ends.’ As a bowler he could swing the ball late and as a batsman he had the patience of a kelpie tied to ute a outside the butcher. Some of his lofted drives down the Anderson driveway bounced off Mt Dandenong and landed back in the car park of Forest Hill Chase.

Paul (vc) – Batted in all in forms of the game like his occupation at the crease was the one thing preventing the apocalypse. One innings lasted so long without a shot being played even the saintly Nana Purcell started to sledge him.

Damian – The Goldilox of the Callinan brothers, Damian batted, bowled and wicket kept in the 3rd person with style, aplomb and modesty.

Laurie (Brother In Law 1) – in the tradition of ‘In-law Tweakers’ Loz landed his innocuous off breaks with similar results to Geoff. Sold his wicket cheaply but unlike his vice captain he didn’t bore the surrounding hydrangeas into premature wilting.

David (Brother In Law 2) – Came to the annual clash in its final years and as a result his figures are hard to analyse.

Results

No actual records survive of this dramatic era of ‘Frontyard Cricket.’ As the home team, it was incumbent upon the Andersons to maintain the statistical data so it seems more than coincidental that they have so actively denied the general public access to the archives. Thus the reader is left to make a judgement on the weighted recollections of one of the participants who is seemingly driven to enliven his blog with controversy. Thus I will open up the comment section of this blog for the Andersons to respond with their own memories.

Sadly Vice Captain Pete is unable to respond as he passed away in April of this year. He probably would have chuckled and clicked delete on this post anyway.

So as we approach our first Christmas without Pete let’s picture this …

The sun has just risen and Paul has been batting for 13 hours. Pete arrives back from a late night rendezvous and holds his hand up. Mark obliges and tosses him the taped up tennis ball. He starts his loping run from the opposite driveway. He glides to the letter-box and lets it go. It swings late into the statuesque right-hander and leaves him late off a crack in the concrete. It takes the outside edge as he pokes at it like a poorly trained bomb disposal engineer. It crashes into the ‘automatic wicky’ of the garage door.

‘Thank God for that!’ says Nana

 

This is just one of the many outstanding stories written by Damian Callinan as he prepares for Christmas in probably the most unique and inventive of ways in this digital age. CLICK HERE to read some more great Chrissie yarns at ‘Damian Callinan’s Advent Calendar’.

 

 

Comments

  1. Damian Callinan says

    NB – Since the post went live the Andersons have consulted their lawyers and challenged the Callinan to a rematch.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    I did so much want to say the Andersons were part of my clan for this story but alas it’s not true. We were just down the road in Blackburn South but the new generation were more interested in the Arts than the art of bowling and batting while avoiding the Hills Hoist and barbeque.
    Speaking of barbeques and cats ending up in them, I saw ‘Backyard Ashes’ the other night starring Damian and John Wood which was set in Wagga. Not sure of the pitches up there but I don’t think the Andersons would travel that far anyway.
    Looking forward to seeing Damian Callinan at the Warrnambool Lighthouse Theatre next year.

  3. Love it Damien! Really vivid.

    Impressed by the dining etiquette in the household with the use of splades.

    And glad to see Nana has the last word.

  4. Great stuff Ernie. Made me think of the interminable Tests against my brother in Nan and Pop’s backyard when we came to Adelaide from the country for the Chrissie Holidays. He was 4 years younger than me and 4 times better.
    Mrs Webster’s on the straight drive was 6 and out. A top edge into the retired copper’s backyard over the back of the shed was 6 and out and rapidly running out of tennis balls. He was not as keen on returning them as Mrs Webster and had a big Alsatian dog.

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