Editorial: Shrews Crickey on a Saturday

by Patrick Kidd


Entering my fourth year of study at USKAR (University Still Known as Rhodes), I arrived in Makhanda with the simple ambition of getting more involved with the university’s sport programme. This ambition led me to the university cricket club and more specifically, “The Shrews”.


The Rhodes Shrews cricket team is the less competitive and more spirited understudy to the university’s first XI. Led by captain Thomas Knight, the Shrews put enjoyment and humour ahead of a hunger for victory. Hopping on that early morning bus with my Shrews teammates, I brim with optimism and excitement for the fantastic day of cricket ahead.


Though banter and recreation exists as the core of the Shrews’ ethos, the lads can play some quality cricket. During my short tenure with the team I’ve seen centuries scored, blinders caught and corkers bowled. Though our performances are routinely inconsistent, when the chaps are on it, we’re on it.


Most recently, I had the privilege of playing for the Shrews in the annual Kowie Toyota Pineapple Cricket Tournament, more affectionately referred to as “Pineapple Week”. Pineapple Week is a 50 over cricket tournament which took place across Port Alfred between 5 and 12 March. The tournament is split into two divisions, namely the A and B sections, with the first XI playing in the A division and the Shrews in the B. Also competing in the tournament were various Eastern Cape cricket clubs and development sides.


Shrews players enjoy the shade as they eagerly wait to get into the middle and bat. Source: Kowie Toyota Pineapple Cricket Tournament Facebook.

To provide a brief history of the tournament, Pineapple Week is the oldest club cricket tournament in South Africa, dating back to 1904. 2022’s competition marked its 110th edition and its first since 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic halted proceedings last year. The esteemed history of the tournament is embraced in the highest regard with the tournament’s management and supervision being handled with the utmost discretion. I could not sing higher praises of the event's organisers.


As far as the Shrews’ involvement in Pineapple Week went, the chaps got off to a flyer on Saturday 5 March. After a patient run chase against one of the B section favourites, Port Alfred Cricket Club second team, the underdog Shrews put points on the board in a contested group consisting also of Southwell Cricket Club second team and Tiger Titans.


The following day, the Shrews came up against Southwell seconds who proved tough competition. We batted first after a successful coin toss, but a classic “Shrews Shuffle”1 left us with little on the scoreboard. Southwell chased our score down swiftly and the Shrews went home deflated.


In a wide-open group with the top and bottom sides separated by just two points, everything was left to play for on Tuesday 8 March. The Shrews would take on the talented Tiger Titans, a Bathurst-based development side. After another coin toss win, the Shrews batted first but succumbed to another “Shrews Shuffle” (see glossary). Though our total left a lot to be desired, we had confidence that we could defend it. But our confidence was short-lived as Tiger Titans’ captain Zukisani “Zakes” Simange went hell for leather and our score was chased down easily. The Shrews finished bottom of our group.


Following the group stage, the B division is split into three four-team sections competing for separate prizes: B Section Trophy, B Section Shield and B Section Plate. The Shrews would fight for the Plate.


Our semi-final was forfeited by our opponents, Early Birds, so we would face Southwell in an all-or-nothing rematch on the final day, Saturday 12 March.


Despite the Rhodes first XI’s elimination from Pineapple Week, a few of the players arrived at the ground on Saturday to support the Shrews. It was heartwarming to see this support from the far more talented and competitive first XI players. Our second outing against Southwell was far more competitive than the first. Batting second, the Shrews were chasing a mammoth score of 359 and all previous performances suggested a rout. But after a courageous batting innings, the Shrews accumulated a most commendable 280/9. Though we lost, the fight and ferocity of our performance left the team brimming with pride. It felt more like a win than any sense of victory I’ve felt before.


We headed afterward to “Tent” at the Port Alfred Country Club to engage in our final “fines” session as a team, a tradition which had followed our previous three group matches too. A fun incentive from Pineapple Week is the provision of half a case of beer to every team after a game. A “fines” session occurs after most matches and involves a thorough review of the day’s events, from the bus’s departure to the last ball of play. Drinks are handed out for poor performances, good performances, hilarious comments, graceless behaviour and everything in between. The session is run by the captain by-means-of deep traditions and formalities, it is quite a daunting environment upon first encounter. Naturally, the atmosphere becomes more gleeful and affable as more drinks are sunk and the joyous sounds of chants, laughter and chit-chat take over.


The Shrews team having some post-game fun during a “fines” session at Tent. Source: Harcourts Real Estate Port Alfred Facebook

Being involved in the camaraderie and banter during and after the Shrews’ Pineapple Week participation will remain one of my fondest memories. Being a part of the Rhodes Cricket Club has exceeded every expectation I had for university sport and I regret the fact that I hadn’t joined earlier. Though the cricket season is currently on-hold, I eagerly await its recommencement in September!


Glossary:


1 - Shrews Shuffle: A Shrews shuffle refers to a devastating batting collapse following a positive start to an innings. A top order batsman will usually get the team off to a good start, but rarely is it capitalised on.


2 - Tent: Tent is an outside bar located at Port Alfred Country Club. Aptly named, it is a large white tent with tables, benches, a dance floor and a DJ booth all residing beneath its shelter.


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