Nomads vs Hampshire Mercenaries at Borden Military Camp, 1991. Darrin Wilkinson, Steve Hambleton and Roger Kinsella – our first game together in England. We clap politely as Andy Marshall is dismissed, for f**k all as usual.
Steve Hambleton, 1988 – 1994:
I joined up with the Nomads CC on the recommendation of fellow Wellingtonian Darrin Wilkinson in 1990. On first arriving in London the previous year I’d made contact with Finchley CC, and played that summer for their 2nd and 3rd teams. That had been okay, but it was a bit too close to the cricket I’d been playing back in NZ – semi-competitive, and the grounds we played on weren’t always that nice.
Darrin had told me about the picturesque village greens and gentle nature of the Nomads cricket, so in early ’90 I headed down to the Oval for some pre-season practise. The people I met there immediately made me feel welcome. When the games began that April, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my London summers. With most matches outside the M25, every match day was a release from the noise and bustle of London life.
It was also a chance to mix with some charming English gentlemen (although I use the term “charming” advisedly). For us Kiwis, who generally lived and socialised amongst the colonial unwashed, it was important to gain an understanding of what real English life was like. Here was how your typically well-educated, successful Pom relaxed. Although, having a family myself now, I can’t for the life of me understand how some of those guys managed to play upwards of 50 games of cricket a year, and still keep the missus happy.
There may have been the odd dreary game on a rough council ground, but those memories have been pushed aside by those of places such as East Horsley, Oxford Downs, Kimble, Brook, and of course Stowe.
In 1994, we played Plaxtol on the Sunday (the day of the Football World Cup Final in the USA), with Stowe the next day. At Plaxtol, after a healthy lunch at Nigel Taylorson’s (what other kind of lunch could it be at Little Egypt?), I got a duck, and was later sulking on the boundary as Plaxtol sped towards our meagre total. It was an overcast day, but just for a moment, the clouds parted and allowed a shaft of sunlight through. Was it my imagination, or did that golden shaft home in directly on my little patch of Kent? I stood there transfixed – was this a sign? Was I destined for a revelation to change my life and those of others, in that utopian slopping field? Within seconds I knew what it was: it was a warning. The next ball was hit straight out to me, and in my emotional state I dropped their best batsman, and we lost the game
We later watched some of the football in the pub, but our driver, Tony Whiteway, was grumpy, and wanted to start the journey back, so we heard the rest of it on the car radio. The next day it was up early for the trip to Bucks. We fielded first and Andy Marshall got angry when Stowe’s best and fattest batsman spanked him through the covers, and said “nice buffet”. Next ball was considerably quicker, and the guy was caught behind. Two other Kiwis featured after that. Terry Hills, a work colleague of mine, bowled some tight little mediums, and picked up five wickets. My fading memory advises that at least two of those were wide down leg, and turned into stumpings by Ben Yock, a youth on his OE who later kept wicket for Canterbury. I opened up our run chase, and early on shouldered arms to a ball from Oliver Croom-Johnson that pitched marginally outside off. Naturally it seamed in, and I was about to get my coat, when the umpire, some enthusiastic but obviously myopic old codger, advised Oliver that it was missing off. I stayed on quietly whilst other more talented players got runs, notably Charles Peerless. With 1 run to get I was on 96, and slogged wildly out to mid-wicket, where the only fieldsman not in saving one made a brilliant diving save. We trotted the single
Darrin Wilkinson, 1988 & 1991
I was on a mission in London: to play as much cricket as possible, and hopefully earn enough money to support my cricket fix. A few days after arriving in 1988 I spotted an ad promoting the Nomads Cricket Club in the TNT magazine. I was desperate, and, luckily, so were they. My Nomads career began at East Horsley. We won, and Andrew Dunley ran me out (he claimed it was my fault). I also opened the bowling that day, notable for the fact that no team previously had ever let me open the bowling (or bowl, period).
Over the course of my time in England I had the privilege of playing at some of the most beautiful grounds I had ever seen. New Zealanders rarely get the ‘village green’ atmosphere in our cricketing environment. The norm is converted rugby grounds, with 2-3 games in progress at once with overlapping boundaries (occasionally dangerously so). Venues that remain in the memory include Oxford Downs, Stowe and Brooke.
I also had the pleasure of playing cricket with a great bunch of guys over the course of my Nomads career. The usual suspects in 1988 were Leslie-Miller, Maloney, Ghersie, the Dunleys, Willis, Whiteway, Barson, Drayton, Blumberg, and Bourke. We won more than we lost, and had some great times on and off the field. By 1991 (my second tour of duty) many of these players turned out only sparingly (fatherhood perhaps played a part in this). The team had assumed a distinctly Antipodean flavour in the meantime, but it was still Nomads cricket as I remembered it.
Some of my favourite Nomads highlights:
- Drinking beer, wine and port at Oxford Downs during the lunch break. We were routed in the afternoon session.
- James Drayton hitting a six off the final ball to win at Brook, chasing 300. first (and only) century at Leatherhead, and killing the game off in the process.
- Playing cricket in France (it was a Cryptics tour, with a large Nomads contingent). Watching Fifi parade around naked all day (I think this was a highlight, although my memory fails me).
- Introducing my old mates Steve Hambleton and Roger Kinsella to the Nomads Club.
The lowlight of my Nomad career involves my bowling. Thirty overs, no wickets. I could drone on at length about an absolute dolly Blumberg missed at Haslemere, but hey, which bowler hasn’t suffered at the hands of Blum’s fielding? All the very best to everyone I played cricket with. I hope the Club continues to prosper in the years to come.
Roger Kinsella (Dodge), 1990 – 1991:
I played 24 times for the Nomads during two seasons in England in 1990-91. Only five of these were wins, although I personally performed well. But figures can’t do justice to my time with the Nomads. My fondest memories are of my teammates, the numerous characters amongst them, some of the lovely grounds, the superb lunches and afternoon teas, and the mixture of humour and controversy and quirkiness of some of the events which occurred.
At Headley, I followed up a golden duck on debut in England by having about five slips catches missed, discovering that the reason old coots like Mike Blumberg and Mike Willis fielded there wasn’t based on ability. There were the visits to Woldingham, home of the Dunleys, for our ritual beatings; the undulating ground at Milford, a fixture which disappeared off the calendar courtesy of some quality sledging from William Buckland; the sloping ground at Brook where I had to run in uphill to bowl; and the April day at Kingston Bagpuize where I experienced snow falling during a cricket game for the first and only time.
At Reading University, my damaged contact lens dried out in the wind. On removing it while batting, I discovered that my glasses prescription was outdated and endured another fifteen minutes of batting blind before being put out of my misery. The day of my 8 for 17 against the Hampshire Mercenaries, the hero was a 12 year-old boy who batted last and survived my final three deliveries. The cunning home umpire played the psychological trump card of telling me to keep it pitched up to the young lad.
Two visits to the stunning venue of Stowe School were real highlights, with the games themselves a mere irrelevance. The first year Tim Bourke and I stayed overnight and savoured the hospitality of the old boys which, apart from imbibing copious amounts of alcohol, included trying to drive golf balls over the school buildings and across the grounds. Next year saw the Nomads as the guests of honour, with both teams emptying a large barrel of punch on the front steps of the main building.
All these events and places retain a permanent place in my memory, along with characters as diverse as Mike Blumberg, Tony Whiteway, David Oatway, John and Andrew Dunley (my bosses), Nick Leslie-Miller, Andy Marshall, Alex Smith and Antipodeans such as Tim Bourke, Geoff Lewis and my good mates Darrin Wilkinson and Steve Hambleton. They combine to remind me of a thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable way of playing cricket that is everything I imagined it to be long before I ever thought of venturing as far afield as England.
If you are an Antipodean cricketer resident in Greater London or thereabouts seeking cricket outside of League then Nomads may be your best choice. You chose when you want to play and most of the matches take you out of London to many very attractive grounds. Among our current membership is Ross Ormiston (Wellington & Central Districts).Do get in touch.