THE Swans of Rockcliffe Cricket Club, with a little help from three playing friends from Keswick CC, have just returned from a highly successful and extremely enjoyable tour (by day and by night) of Puerto Del Carmen on the island of Lanzarote where, amid much merriment, songs, drinking, eating and general dalliance and mayhem, they were taking part in the major international Eliro T/20 cricket tournament organised through the Lanzarote Cricket Association; a sort of Canary Island equivalent of The Big Bash and the Indian Premier League, only without Kevin Pietersen.


Four English-based teams flew out from the UK where they were joined by two host sides, the Lanzarote 1st and 2nd XIs, the latter made up of ex pats with dodgy southern accents and acres of bling.


The matches all took place on astro turf (Lanzarote is noted for its volcanic geology and does not lend itself to cricket fields and squares) in the Campo Municipal de Futbol (football stadium to you and me) with its grandstand, surrounding white walls, floodlights and subterranean changing rooms. The playing surface was the soccer pitch itself with a light green plastic strip out in the middle constituting the wicket.


The games themselves were all El Classicos of their kind and Rockcliffe, in their distinctive maroon and yellow playing strip, came into the tournament as an unknown quantity, especially after a first day/night session on the San Miguel  played havoc with the memory cells and sense of personal identity and orientation.


Jimmy Freebairn, for one, woke not so early on the first morning (Friday) and went out looking for his championship rabbits in order to give them their daily feed and could not understand why he could not find them anywhere, and then it dawned . . . he was not in Carlisle, was abroad for the first time in his life and did not have to go on the nightshift.


The Cumbrians arrived at midday on Thursday and spent several hours acclimatising themselves (hic) to their new surroundings and the sun before playing the first of their three games on the Friday morning, followed by another two games on the Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. On the Monday they rested and checked out of the hospital (sorry, I meant the hotel, the Apartamentos de Tulipanes) before flying back to Manchester for a well-earned break. 


All joking apart, the Rockliffe / Keswick CC combined X1 performed extremely well in the tournament and came very close to appearing in the final, only being thwarted in that ambition by the hard hitting of former Essex wicketkeeper / batsman Robert Rollins, playing for Woodford Wells CC.  Yes, the opposition was that good in part.


Rockcliffe / Keswick were very much the Eden Valley cricket ‘village’ team among the sides and surprised everyone (including themselves) by finishing in bronze medal position out of six, courtesy of winning a third / fourth place play off against last year’s winners, Rickmandsworth CC, a team which included an Australian all-rounder who bowled very fast and hit a massive century in a previous match. The Swans claimed his wicket with a crucial first ball run out in the play-off.


Star of the show for Rockcliffe was undoubtedly their captain, John Wharton, farmer and auctioneer, who hit three successive half centuries and also took a hatful of excellent boundary catches (five). His performance earned him the Batsman of the Tournament Trophy and a place in Lanzarote cricket folklore for his outgoing Cumbrian personality, friendly banter and wonderfully direct approach to situations and scenarios. Unfortunately he did not get to try out his Cumberland and Westmorland style wrestling technique; which was probably just as well.

Taking third place and winning an individual trophy at the presentation evening was a source of real pride to the Cumbrian touring team, but when slow bowler Colin (My Eyes Adore You) Carter won The Bowler of the Tournament, the joy among the village lads was unconfined and Colin, beside himself with amazement, shock and total and utter disbelief, was, for once, stuck for words – with the exception of just two which he repeated loudly and often for the next few hours.


The tournament was also a personal success for newly acclaimed international umpire Howard (Tutankhamun) Moon, of Rockcliffe and formerly of China and Tenerife, who was awarded a medal for his part in officiating in several games. Howard also won the unofficial Rockcliffe CC award for the best hairdo complete with cricket hat.


The eventual winners of the tournament were Lanzarote 1st XI on a weekend when Rockcliffe CC chairman Robert Park celebrated his 50th birthday in style with a surprise birthday cake (and lighted candles) at the bar of the Campo Municipal de Futbol and we cheered and sang on England RU to the rafters at the Tequila bar on the Lanzarote strip and in the company of a friendly group of Irish rugby fans who were shouting for the French. And we all ended up singing and drinking Guinness together. Winning and losing did not matter all that much, having fun was the winner here.

In fact the Cumbrians from Rockcliffe, Blackford, Keswick and Carlisle, who took part in this Canary Islands adventure / odyssey will probably remember most the camaraderie and fun among their touring team (not forgetting the travelling supporters) and the truly wonderful time that they all had on the island of Lanzarote and in the town of Puerto Del Carmen.


Until the next time . . . a big thank you to Colin Carter for pulling this all together and to everyone who went along and was carried along on a giant wave of enjoyment and made this Lanzarote spectacular something which none of us will ever forget.


It really was that good.


Keith Richardson





Standing back row (left to right) Jez Sewell, Jimmy Freebairn, Johnny Nixon, Dave Gribbon, Keith Richardson (Keswick CC), Robert Park, Howard Moon, international umpire.

Front row (left to right) Graeme Cross, Karl Link (Keswick CC), Willie Freebairn, John Wharton, Steve Clark (Keswick CC) and Colin Carter.