I was contacted via Twitter recently by someone looking for a photo of the Hwange Cricket Club clubhouse. His interest was straightforward enough, he was a cricket lover with an interest in Zimbabwe cricket post independence. Happily I was in a position to assist as I had been there in January 1986 with the Irish team who had toured there and played at Hwange in a warm up game, though the club still went by its colonial name of Wankie at that time. It brought back some long forgotten memories and it seemed like a good time to consolidate those memories in written form while I still could, having not kept a diary of the trip which was my first involvement with the senior Ireland cricket side.

1985 was a good year for me in club cricket. Despite being a wet summer, I had scored heavily and showed some promise in Interpro games.  Although I had not been picked for the English tour in August, the newspapers seemed to consider that I would be selected in a bigger squad which would travel to Zimbabwe in January 1986. Indeed I had been included in a panel for selection late in July. Part of the reasoning for this early wider squad was due to the fact that the players would be paying their own way on this tour and a Banker’s Order had to be set up to run for 10 months at £55 per month.  The squad was selected on the 15th September 1985 and announced in the newspaper on the 16th which made my selection a happy 21st birthday present. It made up for a disappointing season end the previous Saturday when Clontarf had lost the final of the Wiggins Teape Trophy to Malahide. A little worrying was that I was the reserve wicket keeper in the party, despite trying to give up the gloves for years in an effort to concentrate on my batting. It made my 21st present a bit easier as there would be other additional costs which players of that era covered themselves.  Debutants received a cap and short sleeved sweater on debut however if you wanted a long sleeved sweater that cost STG£55, the blazer came at half price STG£27 and the casual jumper cost a further STG£13. And no allowance would be paid to cover food etc as was normal. Accommodation was included and this would be a mix of hotel and being billeted with locals.

Fifteen players were selected for the 3 week trip however when the departure date arrived John Elder was not in the playing group due to injury.  He was replaced by Garfield Harrison however John made the trip as a supporter and was a great addition to the party.  He fell in love with Zimbabwe, later arranging his own tour to the country.  Ivan Anderson was a surprise omission from the party and Simon Corlett was not available to travel. Aside from myself, Robin Haire from North Down was the only other debutant. Micheal Halliday of Phoenix and North Leinster was captain of the side and he kindly sent me a note congratulating me on being picked and rather dubiously suggesting that there would be no “high chair” jokes.  

Derek Scott, Hon Secretary of the ICU had established contact with Mike Vockins, his counterpart in Worcestershire CCC, who had visited the country as manager of the English Counties side that toured Zimbabwe early in 1985. There was a meeting at the Ballymascanlon House Hotel where Vockins met the travelling party and provided valuable advice. There were jabs to be had and malaria pills to sort.  We were advised to take saunas to prepare for the heat that we could expect and do not forget the salt tablets. 

The team had no coach these days and  was essentially in the care of the captain.  The Leinster based players organised some indoor nets in Belvedere College on Saturday mornings to try and prepare for the tour.  My preparation took a knock when Marc Cohen hit one of my gentle leggies back at me, striking me in the arm and breaking it in the process.  It was fortunate that this happened early enough in the preparation that the arm had recovered (only just) in time for me to still make the trip but it was a worrying few weeks.  While that ended my indoor nets, I think it is fair to say that we were far from well prepared, cricket wise in the run up to January although Mike Halliday was very clear that the team needed to be in good physical shape for a long and arduous tour.  Broken arm or not, fitness sessions continued in the dark and damp November and December evenings in my local St. Anne’s Park. One of the last things we had to do was to hunt down some suitable “Irish” gifts  for those who would be putting us up. As I was working full time at this time and three weeks was a sizeable proportion of my holiday allowance, my employers Coyle Hamilton Hamilton Philips gave me 5 extra days of holiday.  I was probably fortunate that one of the Directors of the company was Des Cashel from Malahide CC who would also be on the trip as a supporter and what a fantastic tourist he turned out to be. In December another missive from Captain Halliday arrived, this time it was the list and lyrics of the songs which would form our repertoire for the tour, I am not sure what Michael really expected from this and the best that can be said was that we were enthusiastic vocalists.

Saturday/Sunday 28/29 December 1985

Departure date was December 28th.  Not being a fan of any fuss, I had said my goodbyes the night before, the flight being an early one. My father drove me to Dublin Airport but my sister had other thoughts and a gang hijacked me to say goodbye.  The southern based travellers flew out of Dublin while the Northern group came from Belfast airport.  The Irish Times photographer nabbed us in Dublin for a quick photo all dressed up, I wonder did we travel like that?  The party met in Heathrow and took a coach to Gatwick from where our Air Zimbabwe flight would leave at 6.55pm.

The complete tour party was:
Players - Michael Halliday (capt) Stephen Warke (vice captain), Marc Cohen, David Dennison, Robin Haire, Garfield Harrison, Paul Jackson, Alan Lewis, Junior McBrine, John McDevitt, Alf Masood, Hugh Milling, Jim Patterson, John Prior, Deryck Vincent
Management - Alfie Linehan (Manager), Michael Bannigan (President Elect), Derek Scott (Secretary), Eoin McCann (Selector).
Supporters - Des Cashell, Brendan Burke, John Elder, Dermot Monteith
Alan Lewis had spent some months in Australia so he was travelling from there and would meet up with us in Harare.

The flight was uneventful, boring no doubt, this was before you could watch TV and films at your seat and the plane was not particularly big.  Food, therefore, became the focus and the menu certainly sounds appetising but perhaps did not live up to its billing.

We arrived in Harare at around 6am and the first thing that hit me was the heat almost literally. At such an early time, it was a shock to the system, more accustomed to cold and dark Irish Decembers.

Harare Airport was a classical old style airport terminus reminiscent of the original Dublin Airport.  From there we were met by a coach and transported to our base in Harare for the trip, The Jameson Hotel. This was a nice hotel, friendly staff with a decent and cheap restaurant attached.  Despite the early check in, rooms were immediately available to the team which was great after the long trip.

I was paired with the team’s wicketkeeper as roommates and I am pretty sure that this was deliberate. Paul Jackson is a gregarious and outgoing personality, almost the polar opposite to me.  As a new member of the squad, Paul ensured that I got involved and was included in the group’s plans.  While the idea of rest was tempting it did not take long for restless spirits to want to be up and about and quickly it was discovered that there was an public outdoor swimming pool in close proximity. So a group of swimmers headed down to the Les Brown Complex which was no more than 400 metres down the road from the hotel.  It is a tremendous complex with a small diving pool including a full size diving board as well as a 50 metre pool which was a novelty to most of us as at that time no such pool existed, at least not in the Republic. An effort to complete the length of the pool brought on a new realization. Harare is at altitude, just short of 1500 metre, and a racing heart beat after relatively low effort showed that this was an issue we would have to deal with in addition to the heat. We spent an enjoyable morning at the pool, somehow word got out and a photographer appeared from the local paper The Herald and a photograph of some of the  swimmers appeared the following day along with a preview of the tour.

The first afternoon was spent wandering around the city centre and seeing what was on offer in the city, it was a surprise to find a Woolworths in deepest Africa, a throwback to its still recent colonial past.   In the evening we went to the house of friends of Michael Halliday, the Atkinsons, whose son John (later Trinity, Phoenix) was at the school where he taught, Wesley College.  It was a lovely large bungalow with an extensive garden, and I remember that at 4pm, the heavens opened and it poured with rain.

Monday 30th December 1985

We were on a cricket tour and the cricket started on Monday.  Morning nets were organised at Old Hararians CC which was a very nice club ground in the city. The practise was a gentle enough affair with some fielding and a short middle session. With so little preparation behind me, I felt very out of sorts and batting on a worn middle wicket did not fill me with much early confidence, but I fancy most people had similar feelings.  Lunch was provided by the club which as tourists will appreciate is always welcome and makes decision making an easy task.  With a very early flight the following day, we had to get ready to move onto the next stage of the trip which was a visit, tourist style, to the amazing Victoria Falls.

Tuesday 31st December 1985

A 7.15am flight meant a very early start for the hour and three quarters journey from Harare to Victoria Falls. I dozed on the plane, plugged into my Sony Walkman and it appears I missed something spectacular.  Approaching Victoria Falls we ran into an electrical storm, somehow I remained blissfully unaware.  Certainly I was aware once we arrived as it was teeming with rain and it was quite a dash to the terminus, itself hardly more than a shed.  Our luggage arrived on a conveyor belt but it was a conveyor belt that never moved,  

A bus was on hand to take us to our hotel for this stage of the leg which was the A’Zambezi, which was a short distance outside of the town of Victoria Falls and as the name suggests situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river.  It was a lovely spot with blocks of  thatched rooms surrounding a swimming pool.  Warthogs happily wandered around the grounds, sniffing in the flower beds. 

Michael Halliday called for a physical training session in the afternoon but the rain had returned and this took place in the restaurant. Early evening after some fun in the pool we travelled a little further along the road to the Crocodile Farm which was another enjoyable trip and a chance to start the souvenir purchases.  As it was New Year’s Eve, there was a dinner later that evening to see in the new year.

Stephen Warke at the Crocodile Farm

Wednesday 1 January 1986

This was a sight seeing day. In the morning along with the captain and his club mate and quick bowler Hugh Milling, I headed into the town to see the world famous Falls.  It turned out that January is about the worst time of the year to see the falls.

The Zambezi drains an enormous area of land stretching into the Congo but the rains had yet to arrive up river and while we were mighty impressed by the sight only when I returned 11 years later (in May) did I really grasp the extraordinary power of the falling water.  After viewing the Falls we wandered up to the Victoria Falls Hotel for refreshment.

In the afternoon a group led by Paul Jackson went back to the airfield and took a sightseeing trip over the Falls in a less than convincing 5 seater plane, it afforded a spectacular  and memorable view.

The final memory of Vic Falls was the famous (infamous) Booze Cruise which in fact was a rather tame cruise up the Zambezi to view the odd Hippo and sights along the banks upriver of the Falls themselves, it did allow a view of the spray cloud which even in low water is a constant over the falls. Dermot Monteith tried to convince us that the hippo we saw was a mechanical one for tourists! With a game the next day the Booze part of the cruise was out of bounds for the players.

Thursday 2 January 1986

This was the day of the first game, a non cap game against Wankie Selected XI.  Wankie is the colonial name for Hwange, the site of a huge colliery and is a 100 km drive from Victoria Falls, a trip undertaken by coach.

It was a damp and wet day, there had been heavy overnight rain. It made the conditions testing for the first game which was reduced to 45 overs after a delayed start.  Unsurprisingly, I was not in the team for this game so I got a chance to use my brand new, second hand,battered zoom lens to record some of the action.  

When I bought it in Berminghams they told me it had been on safari in Kenya and it certainly looked like it had got a kicking from a herd of elephants. But it worked fine.  Batting first Ireland made 140 with good contributions from Warke, Jackson and Dennison.   Rain continued intermittently during the game and the humidity was high.  

In reply, the home side could only match the Irish score as the game ended in a tie after Hugh Milling bowled an outstanding final over.  Halliday was excellent on the drying wicket conceding just 9 runs from his 10 overs but it was a rusty performance from a rusty team. The home club hosted a barbeque in the evening which became a raucous affair as the Club was a social hub for the town, the majority of whom were employed by the colliery. We stayed the night in local small guesthouses.

Friday 3 January 1986

The following morning we returned by coach to Victoria Falls and flew to Bulawayo, the second city of the country for the first official game of the tour against Matabeleland, a 2 day game.  In Bulawayo we stayed at the Holiday Inn which had the attraction of a swimming pool, albeit a very cold swimming pool. A group of us took a wander into Bulawayo which was then a relatively small city.  There we visited the Natural History Museum where our accents were noted by an employee who took us on a private tour including his own office which had glass cases of the most deadly snakes in the country all round the space.  

Saturday/Sunday 4 and 5 January 1986

The rain continued to fall overnight.  The type of rain which in Ireland would ensure there would be no game, but in Africa the sun followed the rain and the ground dried a lot quicker than any of us could imagine.  The game was hosted by Bulawayo Athletic Club (BAC) one of the two main grounds in Bulawayo and one which hosted a test match when Zimbabwe was granted test status in 1992.  

It was a decent ground with squash courts amongst other facilities at the ground. I was included in the team for this game and as wicketkeeper, with Paul Jackson unwell. It was my debut and the nerves kicked in immediately, especially after our captain lost the toss and to no one's surprise we were asked to bat on the drying wicket. I was down to bat at 4.  Primarily an opening bat, I did not have long to wait to get to the wicket when the openers Masood and Warke were out with the score a mere 10.  

It was certainly tense in the middle but in Marc Cohen, I had an ideal partner.  Marc was calm and methodical and he did not allow me to get panicked.  The field was set very attacking but the two opening bowlers, while not quick, were bustling and straight and no doubt they saw an opportunity to get some quick wickets while the pitch was working in their favour.  I do not know how long it took to get off the mark but it felt like forever and it was a huge relief to eventually nudge one into a gap in the off side and scamper a single.  

As time went on and batting started to come more naturally, runs began to follow a little easier.  I have a memory of hitting a six over square leg but that may just be wishful thinking as I have no full scorecard to back me up. What I do remember was that the ball went very soft very quickly as a consequence of the difficulty in sourcing decent quality balls locally.  

However, Marc and myself put on 76 for the third wicket before I was caught having made 36.  While disappointed at being out I was mightily relieved to have started solidly. Again I have no memory of this dismissal.  Cohen went on to make 53 and John Prior came in late to do what he does best and cause havoc,hitting a rapid fire 75 and adding 92 with Garfield Harrison (32 not out) which allowed Halliday to declare at 242 for 7.  

This left an hour of play remaining in the day and it turned out to be a very satisfactory period as by close the opposition had been reduced to 57 for 3.  Halliday and Junior McBrine took the ball very early and started to get prodigious turn with the ball.  This made life very difficult for the nervous and far from international quality wicketkeeper.  Halliday in particular was exceptionally difficult to keep and it was a pretty untidy performance.  

However, overnight Garfield Harrison was unwell, another to succumb to the heat which allowed the selectors to pull a bit of a stroke.  They persuaded the home team and umpires to allow 12th man David Dennison to not only come into the side but also to keep wicket, I think they claimed that I too was suffering sunstroke.  Well they got away with it and Davy was a far better keeper than I was.  While there was a little humiliation and the prospect of fielding all day, it was probably a lesser evil than having to keep again (something I did not do for the rest of the tour).  

It did mean fielding for the best part of the day however as the 2 spinners made short work of the Matabele first innings in bowling them out for 99, 6 for Halliday and 4 for McBrine.  Put in to bat again they made a better effort of their second innings but still were bowled out for 218 with 5 for Halliday and 3 for McBrine. It meant the guts of 100 overs in the field for the day which in the heat was tough work, there were no constant visits by the waterboy to keep us hydrated.  

Wayne James made a good unbeaten 59 for the opposition, he was a fine keeper/batsman who subsequently played for Zimbabwe.  Chasing 76, this time Alf and Stephen had no wobble and knocked off the runs without loss in less than 15 overs with a 50 for Alf Masood.  So the official tour got off to a great start with a 10 wicket win.  My final memory of the day was returning to the hotel standing in the black of a flat bed truck, bottle of beer in hand with a bit of a sing song going on.  

Monday 6 January 1986
John Elder had been busy organising a day trip into Matopos National Park. He hired a bus and worked out an itinerary for the day. Anyone who wished was welcome to go and plenty did.  To my shame I did not, instead I spent the day beside the pool, because “I was tired”.  Eleven years later I discovered what I missed, a remarkable landscape  of granite hills shaped by weather and erosion.  I am glad I did finally go, it was certainly better than a boring day by the pool.

Tuesday/Wednesday 7 and 8 January 1986
If Bulawayo was an exotic place for a debut then Robin Haire probably trumped by making his debut at Turk Mine.  Turk Mine is a very rural community about 60 km outside of Bulawayo.  There we played a Matabeleland Country Districts side on the private ground of Dennis Streak a former Rhodesia player and father of Heath Streak.  

The ground was carved out of the wilderness on his farm and was a fantastic setting.  The pavilion was a converted cottage but there was no doubt that you were playing cricket in deepest Africa, the heat let you know that too.  

The home side won the toss and had a bat but in 44 overs they had been bowled out by Hugh Milling (3 wickets) and Jim Patterson (6 for 27 in 15 miserly overs).  In reply we made 173, batting at 5 I made only 3 before being LBW to Streak, a decision I was pretty unhappy about until Davy Dennison who was at the other end at the time told me I was plumb.  That put an end to feeling sorry for myself.

Robin Haire on debut top scored with 45 while Dennison and Prior scored 29 and 36 respectively.  Before close Jim Patterson took another 2 wickets to leave MCD 6 for 2 and finish a fantastic day for Jim.

Overnight we stayed with a local young couple, Chris and Karen on their beef farm.  The farm was a huge plot of land and very isolated but they were an extremely nice couple who treated us very well in their small farm house.  I was billeted with Alf and Garfield. One recollection is that they used their water reservoir as a swimming pool.  I was to leave a sum of money in my room and they wrote to me, care of the Jameson Hotel returning the money later.

On day 2 of the game, the side's good form continued when bowling them out for 125 with Milling the main wicket taker with 4 to add to his first innings haul.  With just  38 runs needed to win openers Warke and Masood finished off the job in just 9 overs and we had our 2nd 10 wicket victory under our belts.  A satisfactory start to an international career (PS in the next 19 caps I was not on the winning side again!)

An early finish  was welcome and it was nice to socialise in a relaxed atmosphere, although I remember a competitive game of football and some tennis with the locals including some children, perhaps including a young Heath Streak?

However, we had to make our way back to Bulawayo to catch a flight back to Harare for the following day’s game against Zimbabwe Schools which was to be played at the country’s main ground Harare Sports Club.

John Prior batting

Thursday 9 January 1986

We were back in the Jameson Hotel in Harare for a couple of nights and the non cap game against the Schools side.  I was not in the side for this game, which was fine by me as the heat of the previous games was taking its toll.  Indeed there had been a lot of issues with heat stroke and selection at times was dependent on who was fit or indeed fit enough.  Harare Sports Club is situated in the heart of the city and was a neighbour to the residence of  Robert Mugabe.  He never came around for a visit but it was rumoured at various stages that he would call in.  Occasionally the sirens indicated that he was coming or going but we never saw him.
An early start after such an amount of travel meant that it was inevitable that we would be asked to bat when the toss was once again lost.  A wicket in the first over did not help when Alf Masood was out hooking a bustling quickie Angus Mackay.  The Schools side were no mugs by the way, they were a very good side and included Andy Flower who we would meet again later in the tour.  Indeed at 8 for 2, things looked a bit tricky. But Marc Cohen again dropped anchor  and with Alan Lewis in a more expansive mood added 96 for the third wicket.  A total of 206 in the 60 overs would need some defending and a solid all round bowling performance bowled Schools out for 176.  Milling led the way with 3 wickets but the spin bowling of Halliday and McBrine conceded just 39 runs in their 24 overs.  Sports Club has a lovely ground, a big nicely manicured outfield and an enormous scoreboard.  The pavilion is palatial and there is a swimming pool in the grounds which was great if you were not in the 12.  It was also the first ground at which there were nets, grass nets too. 

Being back in the city meant a few things. Firstly we could call home, although that was a bit of a trial.  A call would be booked with reception and it could then take for up to an hour for that call to materialise.  The reception was never great and the cost meant you did not hang on the line for long.  Also it was a chance to transfer money from STG into Zim dollars.  A receipt shows me that the rate available in the hotels and likely the banks too was 2.27 dollars to the pound however, much more attractive rates were available…...unofficially.  There was no shortage of approaches by strangers who managed to spot the tourists and offer rates of up to $20 Zim dollars to the pound.  Highly illegal but the difference in rates made it inevitable. 

Friday 10 January 1986

We were off on our travels again, this time we were going to Norton a short distance outside of Harare where we would play Mashonaland Country Districts at Norton in a two day game.  Norton is a tobacco growing area and for 3 nights Marc Cohen, Robin Haire and myself were put up by Tuppy Wench and his family on his extensive tobacco farm.  Zimbabwe is a large grower of tobacco with Rothmans the major buyer.  Tuppy was not slow in telling us how he had been World Tobacco Man 1980 something, nor to show us his award.  However, they treated us extremely well.  The farm was huge and his large number of workers lived in their own village on the farm where medical and education was provided by the Wenchs.  We were taken on a tour of the farm which I dreaded as someone who never smoked and actively disliked it.  However I was taken aback when we were brought into the drying barn and the smell was really nice, a bit confusing for me.

Saturday/Sunday 11 and 12 January

And so to the game.  Derek Scott’s official report of the game says that I was unwell and therefore not available.  Honestly I have no memory of that, but I do remember feeling less than happy at being left out of the team.  The game was badly affected by rain and it was damp and humid throughout.  I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the Norton Country Club where the game took place. A very nice golf course surrounded the cricket ground which itself was picturesque.  Back at the game I took some photos of the action but in honesty it was a poor enough game.  

The Records show that Marc made 50s in both innings while Stephen Warke found some form with a 50 and Junior McBrine made an entertaining 45. None of the bowlers made much of a stir with only 7 wickets taken in the 2 innings.  It was that sort of game. 

Marc Chen batting

On our last night, the Wenchs hosted a special dinner for us in their house.  Most memorable about the dinner was that the staff were a little worse for wear in serving dinner.  A bit exasperated Mrs Wench finally admitted that Sunday was usually their day off which was generally spent socialising and it seems that although they had been called into work the socialising had continued anyway.  Not that we minded, far from it.

Monday 13 January

What a day this was.  We moved from Norton and on to Wedza, a similar distance out of Harare but in a completely different direction. We visited the private game park of the Travers family, Imire Game Park. We had played against one of the Travers boys already but we had a tremendous day with a game drive, a wonderful barbeque on the kopje where elephants came to visit and also a walk around the enclosures.  Imire remains in the Travers family hands to this date and works very hard at conservation ( www.imire.co.zw ).  

We were once again billeted out, I remember little about this stay though I think John Prior and Stephen Warke were the others who stayed with me.  The family had young children and I recall the father getting quite angry over having to bribe Agriculture Department officials.  

Tuesday 14 January

I was not in the team for this game either, a one day effort against same opposition (in title anyway).  Frankly I was pretty annoyed at this stage and hardly bothered taking the camera out at all.  It was seriously hot and it was our worst performance by far.  The opposition totalled 228 in their 60 overs with Ian Butchart the main contributor, he was an international and a fine player.  In response, we managed only 143 with Stephen Warke consolidating his good form with another 50 but that was just about it.

We stayed quite a while in the club, it was here that our singing capabilities were put to the test.  The locals liked it a lot strangely and in particular John Prior’s Elvis impersonation, with an empty Coke bottle acting as the microphone.   It was a good night after a bad day.

Wednesday 15 January
We were back in Harare and back to The Jameson where we met an American Diving team who were also in the city for a meet against the Zimbabwean team the coming weekend, more of which later.  The next  game was a one day game against The Stragglers of 50 overs each and played at Harare Country Club, a nice situated ground which was surrounded by another golf course!.

Put in to bat, we once again found ourselves in a spot of bother with both openers gone with only 12 on the board.  Davy Dennison and myself set about the repair job.  From memory, we had to work very hard in the early stages, the opening bowlers Eamon Burke and D Lake (known as Swaney) were good straight bowlers and runs were hard to come by.  Davy was suffering very early from the heat and our mid wicket conversations consisted of keeping each other focused.  Note: water breaks were not allowed these days.  We managed to bring the score to 88 for 3 before I was out for a hard fought 32 but Davy motored on scoring the first 100 in a one day game for Ireland.  It was a brilliant innings against a very good side. 

The Stragglers were captained by David Houghton who also captained the national side. Also in the side was Russell Tiffin who is now one of the leading ICC umpires but then a wicketkeeper. There were good knocks from Prior and Lewis which gave us a decent total of 226 for 8.  At least we thought it was a good score and especially so after Hugh Milling removed opener Murphy for a duck.That however brought to the wicket Graeme Hick.  

Graeme’s father John had been Derek Scott’s contact in arranging the tour and was in and around the trip when we were in the Harare area.  But we had yet to meet his son.  What an introduction he made. He hit a magnificent 155 not out to end any hopes of victory.  His runs came in 116 minutes and included 9 sixes and 13 fours.  Many of the balls that disappeared onto the golf course never found their way back.  It was a stunning display of hitting. Mike Halliday picked up a wicket but that was it and the game was over in 33 overs.  As the Harare based The Herald headline said “Hick hammers the Irish”

Thursday, Friday, Saturday  16/17/18 January 1986

Thursday was supposed to be a rest day but Harare club cricket took place on Sundays so in order to maintain availability the three day game against Zimbabwe President's XI was brought forward by a day.  A much needed rest was denied the visitors therefore.  We had no chance to lick our wounds after our mauling by Graeme Hick as he was in the President’s side as was Houghton and Andy Flower.  Internationals Ali Shah, Andy Waller were also included in a very strong side which included 6 internationals.  

Mike Hallliday finished his tour by losing yet another toss and we found ourselves batting.  17 year old wicketkeeper Andy Flower got in on the act quickly catching Warke off the bowling of Burke who had become very friendly with the tour party, in the Harare portion of the trip. Alf Masood started well and after Cohen went early as well he was involved in a good partnership with the previous day’s hero Dennison.  

Alf was out for 53 at 78 for 3 when I came to the wicket.  I felt good and was playing quite nicely up to lunch.  However, I fell for 21 immediately after lunch. Dennison’s excellent form continued in scoring 84 but only Junior McBrine reached double figures (30) as we finished on 211.  We were all out in 58 overs and there were mutterings of “batting like millionaires” from the travelling supporters.  They probably had a point. 

Davy Dennison batting

The opposition batted for 40 overs and reached 189 for 4.  Ominously, Hick was already 112 not out.  And even worse at 17, he clipped Jim Patterson off his legs to mid wicket, where one of the team’s best fielders John Prior was stationed.  From my position at cover point, I can still see in slow motion John move smoothly to his right to take the regulation knee high catch and somehow spill it.  

It was probably this night that we were invited by the Mashonaland Irish Association to a reception in our honour in a local hotel.  Anyone with an Irish connection was there but it was not really the time or place for such an event.  A long three weeks was taking its toll and 2 long days loomed as well.

Day 2 continued pretty much as day 1 had been, Hick gave no more chances and passed 200. Then 300 before John Prior made up for his early mistake by catching him on the boundary with a terrific effort.  Well that is how John saw it, his teammates were possibly a little more subdued in their praise for him.  The President’s XI declared at 517 for 9 after a wearying 126 overs for us in the field, Milling and Patterson both took 3 wickets which was a good effort on a flat enough wicket and high temperatures. This allowed 14 overs to bat before the close and while Stephen Warke was out early, Alf Masood went off like a train.  He was already 43 at close. 


The final day was a strange affair in hindsight and possibly a strange affair at the time for those watching.  Firstly Davy Dennison was not going to be able to bat after his exertions on the previous 2 days.  Then Alf continued his blitz on the bowling when the plan was to bat as long as we possibly could.  He smashed 81 before being out and a mini collapse, self included after I did not pick Hick’s arm ball and was bowled for 11.  Jim Patterson and Junior McBrine counter attacked effectively with Jim scoring 67 and Junior 36.  Jim hit one ball into the swimming pool which is quite a hit.  However with just an hour left to salvage a draw, the final wicket fell and defeat was by an innings and 67.  

The cricket was over.

That night by way of thanking everyone who had made the tour such a wonderful occasion, we hosted a party for everyone and anyone.  Graeme Hick came and was gracious and modest as you would wish a cricketing star to be (but rarely are). In contrast to the Irish Association do, it was a convivial affair and a great way to finish a great 3 weeks.

Sunday 19 January 1986

The final day.  Although the flight was a late one, packing was the first thing. Some had sold off their gear in an effort to increase space for souvenirs and to offset some costs.  I gave my cricket rubber soled shoes to one of the hotel workers who had been so good to us in our stays at  The Jameson.  He was a tiny little man but endlessly good humoured and helpful. While I remember him well, I do not actually remember giving him the shoes.  

I know this to be true as 11 years later on our first morning in The Jameson, I answered the door to our room to a man who was delivering towels.  He immediately asked if I had stayed here before and when I said that I had, but a long time ago, he informed me that he remembered me and that I had given him my “white shoes”.  

Next on our list was a visit to Space Age Products, a company that specialised in hand carved ivory and other tourist gifts.  It was a chance to finish the shopping, which in fairness we had had little time for up to now.  And in the afternoon, we went down to the Les Brown swimming pool to watch our American friends compete on the diving board.  In front of a large crowd we all became expert diving judges and the enjoyable afternoon was a great way to finish our visit.

And so to the final journey home, our last Zim dollars were spent in the Duty Free, not that there was much to spend it on before the long flight home, via Frankfurt and London.

Reflecting back, it was a fantastic tour.  An incredible way to begin an international career, albeit a short enough one.  I do not remember a cross word during the three weeks or any dissent of any sort.  Players, management and supporters gelled and everyone was part of the party.  We were treated with wonderful hospitality and saw a wonderful country, a country I was very happy to return to and would love to do so again in a stable political climate.