Batting for Iranian workers

Kelly King congratulates everyone on a friendly match that raised a thousand pounds

This year’s solidarity cricket match between Hands Off the People of Iran and the Labour Representation Committee – a fund -raiser for the Workers Fund Iran charity – contained all the excitement you might expect from an August bank holiday: a torrential shower, a gallant but unavailing run chase by the LRC, and another CPGB member joining the ‘golden duck club’. Around 50 people attended the 32-over game last Sunday in Victoria Park, east London.

All the weather reports had predicted golden sunshine, but after captain John Sidwell won the toss Hopi went out to bat first under gloomy grey skies. Their youngest player, James Carruthers, a stalwart wicketkeeper aged just 15, opened the batting in partnership with Martin Jones. The partnership was not to last: a fast ball on target bowled by Mary Partington took the first wicket for the LRC, and James was replaced by Vic Marelic, dashing out to bat so quickly that he wore a child’s helmet over his sunglasses, and completely forgot his gloves. Martin Jones retired after his cool half-century, and anyone who attended last year’s match will be relieved that Ben Lewis stayed in well past the first ball, eventually notching up 43 runs before finding himself at the wrong end of a more than controversial lbw decision from the umpire, Weekly Worker editor Peter Manson. Sidwell and newcomer Luke Mackenzie went on to bat steadily until the darkening clouds opened around 2.30, and both teams retired – or rather raced off – with the spectators trying to stay dry under two small gazebos. It was clearly time for lunch.

Players and supporters tucked into their sausages, burgers and salad as they huddled together under the crowded awnings. Drinks sales shot up as the rain poured down. Special thanks go to Milly Morris for managing to keep the barbecues alight throughout the downpour, while her daughters, Iggy and Bella, showed off their lightning-fast arithmetic behind the busy bar for most of the day.

Eventually the rain slowed to a trickle and the two captains, John Sidwell and Sean McNeill, in consultation with umpire Manson, decreed that it was safe to continue. Hopi eventually reached 175 runs, despite the best efforts of LRC bowlers Partington, Rowan Kennedy, Andrew Fisher and Jim Gleeson. The LRC then came out to bat, and with them came the sunshine. Within half an hour all evidence of the storm was erased, as the outfield started to dry up and the skies turned blue.

It is worth noting that the LRC fielded a slim-line but extremely game team: several last-minute cancellations led to a desperate shortage of batsmen, meaning that some players had to bat twice and Hopi comrade James Turley came out for the other side at number nine wearing black trousers and shoes! Such lack of respect for cricketing decorum did not go unpunished by the gods, and he was bowled by Sidwell for a golden duck.

Pressure mounted as virtuoso bowlers Sidwell and (Martin’s brother) Gareth Jones bowled a series of unplayable deliveries, but Partington and McNeill put up the best partnership of the afternoon, and McNeill also provided the quote of the day after facing lethally slow bowler Frances Grahl: “I told myself I couldn’t get out to someone wearing denim hot pants!”

At the end of an exciting day, the LRC’s brave fight brought them 94 runs, but they couldn’t catch up with Hopi. Mary Partington and Martin Jones were declared player’s player by the respective teams, and Hopi would have been presented with a shield but for someone forgetting to pick it up from the engravers.

Summing up the day, Yassamine Mather reminded everybody of the serious political work that must continue after the beer and barbecue had been cleared away. She gave more bad news from a factory threatened with closure in Iran, and smilingly added that the workers had been pleased to hear about a cricket match played in London, despite their own critical situation.

This is the message we need to take away from Sunday: while we can congratulate ourselves on a fun and friendly match which raised around a thousand pounds for Workers Fund Iran (www.workersfund.org), we cannot walk away from the pitch, unstrap our pads and forget about Iran until next August. Cricketers and spectators – find out now what more you can do for Hopi.

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