Prague 2006 will be remember for many surreal things which occurred on the trip from the minute the tour meet to the minute the tour touched down at Birmingham Airport.
A tour without Mr Megson for one was a strange occurrence but the tour had to carry on with Meggers left scoring more runs than he did all season (runs to the toilet that is!)
As the boys boarded the train bound for the airport the heavy morning rain almost threaten the trip as flooding in the Coventry area meant that the train was redirected to Solihull where we at the mercy of public bus transport from here on.
To carry on with our journey Virgin Trains said we would be allowed on local buses with our train tickets but a jobs worth bus conductor held the bus up for 30 minutes while we and virgin trains argued the toss… This wouldn’t be the last confrontation with transport staff. However we finally we made it to the airport on time.
First impressions of the hotel or should I say Botel Racek (Floating Hotel/Boat) was interesting, a slight leaning to Port made things tricky when going to the bathroom in the night, more so with a gallon of Czech beer inside you. The hotel catering staff was also of the highest order and a big thumbs up to them for feeding the swans outside Sabins cabin at 5.30 am every morning.
Friday saw the tour party venture into the City to see the sights and sample the beer, within moments of reaching Wenceslas Square, Cakes and Rossco saw and opportunity to finally get one back on Sabs for his super glue antics 3 years ago in Munich. Sneaking up behind him he was swept off the ground and was heading straight into the squares main water fountain, in the scuffle that in sued Sabin recovered to leave Cakes up to his waist in it and egg on his face.
Lunch was taken in the very picturesque Old Town Square over a couple of refreshing Czech beers, when an American tourist came over to our party and asked whether we were a national side as we were all sat together looking important in our tour shirts.
Tour chairman, Jimmy replied to the American lady and explained that we weren’t a national side but a regional one…. Aston Villa Football Club infact… on tour in Europe while our team mate Milan Baros was visiting his family in the Czech Republic.
Much the delight of the tourist she called over her husband to subsequently have her picture taken with the so called Villa team and Villa Captain for the day Pup! Jimmy then suggested to the lady that she should purchase a Villa shirt to take home and wrote down the details on a napkin for her and sent her on her way.
Thinking nothing of it the American lady then returned later half way through our lunch, clutching proudly not one but two Villa shirts and a rather large felt tip pen. The next 30 minutes was spent signing shirts and autographs for the unsuspecting American, much to amusement of other British tourists in the restaurant area.
Saturday saw the first of the two cricket matches against Prague CC. Upon arriving at the ground much to the surprise of the tour party we were sharing the ground with a 16th Century Medieval battle re-enactment with thousands of infantry men in traditional dress with cannon and musket fire going off over our heads. ‘Jug ball’ calls were replaced with ‘Incoming’ as Banbury CC were caught up in the front line!
After winning the toss and electing to bat Banbury composed a steady 201 – 8 with Sabs making a steady 65 backed up by a hard hitting 34 from Steve Beck.
In reply Banbury took wickets at regular intervals despite dropping 10 catches by 10 different individuals with Ross Freeman the only man not to put one down. With Prague needing 13 off the last over wicket keeper Edward Phillips convince his brother Jimmy after Jimmy said mid innings ‘We are going to struggle to make a game out of this’ that he should bowl the last over. Eddie then manage to bowl big long hops and subsequently went 6 – 6 – 4 to lose the game by 2 wickets.
On the tram journey to Sunday’s 2nd Match, John ‘the sniffer’ Woodhead became embroiled in a dispute of the tram conductor over whether he had stamped his ticket. Sniffer who was about to be thrown off the tram, then stood up and argued the point with conductor and refused to leave the train until the Police arrived, holding up the packed out tram for everyone
Match 2 saw a similar fate to Saturday, as Banbury put together a score of 206 with everyone weighing in with 20’s and 30’s.
In reply they scored steadily and when Procky was thrown the ball for the last over they required 2 off the last ball, which was dispatched and sailed further than a medieval cannon ball on the adjacent field for six to lose by 5 wickets.
To round the trip off and to add more misery to the transport situation on this tour, our flight was delayed by 4 hours. Finally we made it back to Birmingham 2am in the morning with very heavy eyes and very empty wallets as the tour had now run over into a record sixth day!
A big thank you to Prague CC for their hospitality, which was fantastic and for great cricket that was played as well!