USA - The Cricket Team, by Peter Jones (1964)

When I arrived in New York on my first permanent overseas posting, I was surprised to be asked whether I played cricket. I had to admit that I had played a bit at school, but had not been very proficient and had never progressed beyond the third XI. This did not appear to matter, as the BOAC ‘team’ consisted mainly of people of my own standard, leavened by a few enthusiastic American-born softball players. I remember that our captain had played a bit of county second XI cricket in Essex, but his skills were in a minority.

In those distant halcyon days, airlines used to provide each others’ staff with seemingly unlimited free tickets at weekends, and in my first season we travelled quite extensively. We had two or three fixtures against teams of West Indian expatriates up and down the east coast states. Most of these possessed at least one Curtly Ambrose look-alike, and, on distinctly bumpy pitches, facing them could be a daunting experience.

Our first ‘international’ was in Canada, where we played a closely contested game in Windsor, Ontario. We had a fixture in Denver against the English Speaking Union; this was believed to be the first game of cricket played in the State of Colorado. I remember that in the rarefied air the ball seemed to go in the air over the boundary quite often, and a loudspeaker van patrolled the boundary, explaining the game to bemused local spectators: “There are two kinds of home run, a four and a six!”

We flew to Jamaica one weekend, courtesy of BWIA, and played two games, one in an idyllic rural village called Annotto Bay, and the other against the Red Stripe Brewery in Kingston. Goat curry and, of course, copious quantities of beer, were served during an extended tea break, and the brewery hit off the runs they needed to win under the stars, with the mosquitoes already biting!

Our furthest venture was to Hawaii, and we travelled first class all the way, courtesy of United Airlines. Champagne flowed freely, and was further augmented when Henry Ford II, who was on board with his new bride and had brought his own case of champagne, learned of our expedition. We tottered out of the aircraft in Hawaii to be greeted by representatives of the Hawaii team, who took us out to show us the town - it was well after midnight local time when we got to bed.

The following morning we were greeted by a completely different group, serious looking athletes, mostly Australians. They batted first and ran up over 300 plus for five wickets by early afternoon in the searing heat. When we batted, we amassed a total of about 40. However, despite the ritual humiliation, it was a memorable weekend!

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