Monday, 15 June 2009

Day 13 - GAME DAY

Breakfast early as the pitch was re-laid - we had had warnings of people stealing/ruining the pitch to stop the game - and final medical checks were undertaken. With everyone receiving a clean ill of health, it was time for team selection, and telling those people who would miss out on the starting eleven.

Russell volunteered over breakfast not to be in the starting team, aware that he'd not contributed as much as others. Woodsy was also understanding, and I hoped that he'd just be happy to ave made it to Gorak Shep after earlier talk that he may not be able to join us on the expedition.

The hardest call was Blade. For 15 minutes I sat with Blade and told him how my selection had come about, in the hope that he'd appreciate my rationale. I'm not sure that he did, but in the end, he was understanding of the situation. When we left the UK, Blade was in the starting lineup. However, one of the team, who had been a solid contributor in the lead up to the trip, really excelled himself on the mountain. It was really tough to leave Blade out, and it was an agonising decision to make.

I filled in the team sheet and announced the team to the full squad. We changed and went outside prior to the toss. Working to satisfy photographers, documentary crew and umpires, we posed before Haydn tossed the coin. Firm in the belief that 'Tails never fails', I called and won it. We'll have a bat. I later learned that Tenzing would have bowled anyway, which means that they either fell for our bluff, or saw something in the pitch that we didn't.

At 9:38am, Dave Kirtley and I strode to the crease. Dave was off the mark early, and once I was on strike to Blinky, the nerves started to kick in. I kept out the first ball, and clipped the second off my pads. As it flew through the air, I noticed Mark Waters running around to take the catch. I had come all this way for a second ball duck?

To my surprise (and gratitude) he dropped it. We saw off the first few overs, with Dave cracking some boundaries, while I looked decidedly scratchy. Waters came on to bowl, and I hit his first three balls for 16, so started to feel a bit more comfortable. Dave Christie trundled in, and while most balls kept low, one popped and caught the edge, only to be dropped by G-Man and gully.

We got through to drinks at 7 overs, with the score on 69. Dave approached 50, and with the score 82 for none, faced up to Toovey. Somehow, Toovey snuck through and bowled DK for 45. Cuzzer had missed a no-ball. I was then bowled by G-Man for 28, swinging across the line, but Kiwi and Simmo came together to take the score into the 130's. Some tight bowling from Tooves, DC and Butler slowed the scoring and got a couple of wickets. We ended the innings on 151-5, a competitive total.

The hour long lunch break gave us a chance to get some food and fluids in, before we took the field to defend our total. Opening up with CCTV and BJ, we were soon amongst the wickets. Waters and Wes hit out a little, but we soon had Waters back in the pavilion. Wes continued to frustrate and I got a finger to an early lofted drive, so I was worried it would cost us.

I continued to rotate the bowlers and sub-fielders, and more wickets came as we took control. Chris and Tom both chipped in, but 3-for from CCTV had the game in our hands. Our fielding was sharp, and when Julio combined with Simmo for a great run out, we knew we were on top in all departments.

It was left to me to make the final act, as I charged in off three paces to a waiting Mike Preston. A swing and a miss and thought I was in. The next ball, same shot, 6! Seeking revenge, I trusted the number 11 not to do the same again (successfully), and bowled him.

Tenzing all out for 116. Team Hillary had won by 35 runs.

The celebrations began, and were interspersed in the next hour by speeches, photos and champagne. Eventually, as the mist rolled in and the sun faded away, we headed inside to drink the night away. It was a huge night, and I finally made it to bed at about 9pm - EPIC.

12 months of planning. Not knowing any of the team before this began, and taking on such a huge challenge, it had all come to fruition. We'd won and I'd led my team, Team Hillary, to victory in the highest ever official sports match. Twenty20 at Gorak Shep, Nepal.

While I'd thought about it for so long - and had dreamt of leading my team - I never really thought we'd get there, play so well and win. Still now, it is hard to wipe the grin off my face. Unreal - I am a world record holder. And the winning skipper at that!!


Thinking back and reading this now, it doesn't seem to do it justice. For something to be such a huge part of your life for 12 months, a real focus of every day, and then be over, is simply surreal. Never before had any of us done something quite so magnificent - ordinary people doing extraordinary things - it was an amazing achievement.

While Team Hillary celebrated, I took a moment to think about the people who had got me where I was and who had inspired me to throw everything at this. I know that they were with me all the way up the mountain and played a part on game day. I also thought for Haydn and Team Tenzing, who had invested as much as my boys had, but had not had the result go their way. Some took it harder than others.

In the end, all of the Zingers came down to our teahouse, and joined in the celebrations - after all, the result was less important than the achievement. In particular, I was impressed with two of the most competitive Zingers being the first to walk through the door and congratulate us. Vice Captain Gareth "G-Man" Lewis, and abrasive Australian Nick Toovey. For the duration of the expedition, these two were always there to keep morale up, and the post-match was no different. We drank into the night, champagne, beers, scotch - 50 friends celebrating taking their place in history. It tasted pretty good.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Day 12 - Practice Day

The grounds-team were out early to lay re-lay the pitch, and our training session got under way at 10am. Our first chance to train in view of Nuptse and Everest, and to see what the pitch and field would do, had been much anticipated.

Each batsman had 8 balls from two different bowlers at each end. Not a long session, but enough to see that the ball would keep low and the outfield was quicker than we had expected. Our initial estimation of runs available changed and it confirmed our desire to bat first.

As our session concluded and the Tenzing boys lined up, we were surprised with a special visitor, keen to cheer us on. Russell Brice, one of the biggest legends in Everest history, had come down from Base Camp to show his Sherpas some cricket, and to issue a formal challenge.

Russell has been leading expeditions on Everest for years, and has been the subject of many documentaries. His challenge? To take on a Himalayan Experience XI at Camp 2, at the top of the Khumbu Ice fall on May 28th! He also gave Haydn and I a bottle of scotch for the teams, and wished us well. After a chat and a couple of photos, I traded hats with him , and he invited us up to see his digs at Base Camp.

With no time for lunch, I stocked up on water and chocolate, and we hit the 2 1/2 hour trail to Base Camp. It was a tough walk and at times I began to feel a little light headed. The Khumbu Glacier, and then the Icefall came into view. We held our breath at the beauty of both, before gasping in awe at the power of the mountains around us as another mid-afternoon avalanche broke off on the opposite side of the Glacier.

Walking up to Base Camp provided one of the highest, and lowest moments of my trip. I was really excited to have met Russell, someone whose Discovery Channel DVDs I've watched with excitement. To have him take such an interest in what we were doing, and then invite us up was incredible. And, seeing Base Camp alone was a unique experience.

However, as we walked above the Glacier, the rocks on our left began to send me into some sort of trance. I became dizzier and dizzier and felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me as my headache grew. I cautiously mentioned this to Breck, worried that this short walk could bring on AMS, and that having made it to
Gorak Shep, I may have pushed myself too hard.

I tried to justify (with myself more than anyone else) the reasons why I went to Base Camp, and rationalise that I hadn't put myself ahead of the good of the team. I feared that I would have to turn around and head back to camp, and the I may be at risk of passing the medical in the morning.

Breck reassured me that he was feeling similar, and that I was probably just dehydrated. We pushed on, and as we arrived at Base Camp, I felt a great deal better - and saner.

We passed Russell's camp and the Everest Base Camp Bakery, and headed for the medical centre. Spending about 20 minutes with the HRA doctor provided interesting and useful, as further news of an unwell Simmo came through. We trundled back to the bakery for some amazing apple pie and then down to Russell's camp.

Taking our boots off at the door, we stepped inside the dome and were greeted by Russell and a beer. Not one to turn down such a kind offer, I took the beer and sat down. On one side of the dome was a plasma screen tv and dvd player, and on the other was the bar. In the middle of the floor was a scalectrix track with a couple of blokes racing cars. We sat and chatted for 30 mins, before Russell showed us around his 'village'.

Over the next month or so, Russell's team completed numerous summits, and in doing so, took one of our branded balls and the ET hat that I had given him to the summit of Everest. It completed an incredibly successful season for Himalayan Experience and I'd like to congratulate Russell and his team for another great achievement.

As it started to get a little greyer and darker, we were on the trail back. Buffeted by a light wind and a little snow, we pressed on back to Gorak Shep. Before dinner, it was a rules session with the umpires, then I hit the sack.

I didn't go straight to sleep mind you. After speaking with the brains-trust of Team Hillary, I continued to work on bowling and fielding rotations as Jamo began to snore across from me.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Day 11 - Lobuche to Gorak Shep

Awaking on the 19th, our last trekking day would see us here for Gorak Shep, our final destination. With Nuptse in view all day, as we got closer to the Shep, Everest came into view. Finally, we rounded the last corner and our field came into view. The feeling of excitement amongst the troops was amazing, as we all felt such a lift.

I was back with Team Hillary today, as we split the groups into the flight groups again. It gave me a chance to talk to Kiwi about my thoughts on team selection and tactics that had been running through my mind. Unfortunately, Simmo was still behind us, slowly catching up and hoping to acclimatise, so I'd need to wait another day to check on his health. We all knew we were getting close, and that the past 12 months work would come down to the next few days.

We ran the last couple of steps, dropped our packs and embraced - in a very manly way. After lunch, we began removing rocks from the field, but it was evident that some of the boulders would be immovable. Haydn and I agreed on the position of the pitch and the grounds-team went to work on levelling the surface with a couple of ladders and a shovel or two.

While this went on, Haydn and I walked the perimeter of the field, working out the boundary line and which rocks would be in play. After the pitch had been laid and lifted (so that it didn't freeze overnight) we headed in for dinner. Another early night followed, with the promise of a 10am practice session the following morning. Tucking into bed, I grabbed the earplugs I knew were required for rooming with Jamo.

Day 10 - Dengboche to Lobuche

As we got higher up the Himalaya, our bodies began to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. However, simple mental activities became more laborious, and the capacity and desire to play cards or write diaries waned. I fell behind a little, and so this entry and the next were written a little later in an attempt to catch up - and you may see how laboured some of the writing has become.

I've been a little slack of late, so will do my best to update. Kimbo's comedy night was amazing. Highlights were Chris' compare skills and Nepali observations, Hillsy's poem, Woodsy's Italian story and Joe, Milo and Jules' rap and beatbox - MC Shark and Base Camp 1. See them on YouTube here. Kimbo was very grateful and we all went to bed.

We arose on the 18th and set off for Lobuche. The walk was a mixture of flat and undulating, as we traversed the hills with mountains on the left. We crossed the river and stopped at Dukla for noodle soup. It was great noodle soup, but the best was yet to come. RS100 chocolate bars (about 90p) - get it in!!

The bad news was that Simmo was suffering from AMS, so had to spend the night there. Luckily, the news of Blade shitting his sleeping bag in the night was nothing more than a rumour started by Butler and Chris Martin.

Following lunch, we set off up the steep hill, which resembled a rock waterfall. Switching packs every 15 minutes, we climbed steadily up the rock face. As we reached the top, we stopped again for an update on Simmo and to capture the view.

I was walking mainly with Team Tenzing and a couple of the doctors. While there are some great guys in the 'Zinger camp, with match day drawing nearer, I would have liked to be with a few more of my lads. Having Simmo go down, and hearing false rumours about Blade didn't help. He had struggled with the shits and vomiting early on, and not really knowing how he or Simmo were getting on, upset me a bit. I also wondered what the team thought about not having their skipper around, but maybe it didn't cross their minds.

Climbing on, we pushed towards Lobuche and eventually settled in for tea. An early night saw me retire to bed to consider team selection and game plan, which had been on my mind all day. The fielding substitutions posed the biggest questions, so at 10:30pm (with Mark Waters snoring on the other side of the room), I finally went to sleep.