The facts (sort of) behind Counties fiasco
I've heard it said, that Cleveland Counties new motto is: “To Be or Not To Be” (Champions!)
Let's go over the chronology and the known facts, if you will:
A, The perennial Eastern Counties minnows finally win the cup outright on the field of play and retain it after a four-decade-long drought in 2014.
B, Within a few weeks of having done so, however, the coveted cup mysteriously disappears from the clubhouse. It is presumed stolen and the club president vows to recover it; only for it to be found in some garage within a quarter-mile of the aforementioned clubhouse.
The culprit is never found. The owner of the residence, meanwhile, admits to never having attended an Eastern Counties Match in her life.
She finally asks why the club is named after a Mr Cleveland, and who was this Mr Cleveland, to which she receives only blank stares from club officials in attendance before they kindly give her three free drink tickets as some kind of bounty, which they inform her can be redeemed at the club for having recovered the cup in question.
C, Following that debacle, another one unfolds like 747s lined up at a Kennedy Airport runway. It seems that on the occasion of collecting the cash receipts from the selling of the so called “spots” for the upcoming season, an executive from Cleveland County CC, who mercifully shall remain nameless, ends up placing the said receipts in a colleague's car at Lord's parking lot, only to leave the receipts unattended as he heads back into the club for a few minutes.
This results in someone smashing the albeit locked vehicle's window and consequently running off with the year's take, rumoured to be $34,000. The suspect is last seen making or, as we say, “hooking a left” at Texas Road before disappearing into the moonless night.
This, however, immediately gave rise to the rumour that the person who absconded with the said receipts was none other than the same person who ran off with the Eastern Counties Cup only some months before. However, this is unconfirmed. At this point, we enter into the realm of lore, my friends.
D, Finally, the ill-fated defence of the cup takes place on July 18 and Cleveland, perhaps suffering from what is known as Eastern Counties Cup Syndrome which usually affects cup-holders — especially those who have not had the cup for decades — decide that not under any circumstances will they relinquish the cup. I repeat: not under any circumstances.
As the syndrome begins to more fully take hold during the match, though, the players increasingly become somewhat deranged — unable to bat, field, catch or bowl.
Bizarrely, at one point, and after a series of questionable decisions by the umpires that fail to go their way, the Cleveland County players are reduced to forlornly and abjectly asking their now totally bewildered coach (in the middle of the game, no less), if it would be possible to simply change the umpires? Of course, this is something that even peewee cricketers know the answer to. And what would that answer be? No!
The match ends in complete disarray as a draw with the scores level, thereby leaving the cup in Cleveland's hands, as a post-game fracas ensues, with even 85-year-old grandmothers running for their lives ... for once the “bad boys” of Bay are viewed as the victims — an historical first — and demand justice.
E, And through it all one Treadwell Gibbons, Jr — perhaps fearing for his selection to Cup Match, which was only days away — stays uncharacteristically well out of the fray at Lord's. In fact, CCTV cameras show him on the long-off boundary surrounded by a phalanx of Safe Guard security officials.
F, The mockery that is the now disgraced competition takes another turn when the Eastern Counties Cricket Association declares a few days after the “the rumble in the jungle” at Lord's that it has decided in its wisdom, although not necessarily as a consequence of the actual rules of Eastern Counties it seems, to wrest the cup from Cleveland and award it to Bailey's Bay. A number of players, including the captain of Cleveland, are suspended and one player, Shaki Darrell, receives a ban that in real terms may keep him out of the Eastern Counties until well into his seventies!
G, Cleveland then vow to have their revenge and lodge an appeal ... and of course the ECCA, upon more sober reflection, has to acknowledge that it acted unconstitutionally in its decision only two weeks before to remove the cup from the vicelike grip of Cleveland County CC.
H, The result: the former champs are champs once more and the mysterious Mr Cleveland, for the moment at least, is no longer turning in his grave ...
I, The latest news is that Bailey's Bay have now declared open war and are threatening to drop a nuclear device on the whole Eastern Counties. They have also stated that they too will take their marbles and go home “indefinitely” and invite big brothers St David's to their backyard to play with them exclusively. As of press time, there was no word from Flatts Victoria; or even if they are aware that there was a recent Eastern Counties match featuring the aforementioned, Bay and Cleveland County!
Go figure ...
• Rolfe Commissiong is a casual cricket observer who is also the Shadow Minister of Human Affairs and the MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21)