We should salute the wonder of Devon Wanderers, Olympic cricket champions for 112 years

April 5th, 20126:10 am @

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But in August 1900, according to the Devon and Exeter Gazette, the
Devon Wanderers sent a party of 16 members to “play cricket in Paris” as
well as see the Exhibition there.

A couple of them were good enough to play a few first-class matches for
Somerset.

All were amateurs, except for “Jennings, the Exeter professional” who did not,
of course, sully de Coubertin’s Olympics with his presence.

According to the Gazette, the Olympic match was played on Aug 19-20, at
Vincennes, and the pitch was “heavily watered” and the outfield “very
rough”.

The opposition was pretty rough too: nominally it was France, but the team was
composed mainly of our chaps at the Embassy in Paris, no doubt heavily
watered themselves.

Great Britain batted first, and each side fielded 12 players. The only
remotely French surname in France’s team is ‘Roques’, who batted at No 5
between ‘Terry’ and ‘Robinson’ and made a pair.

In these rather impromptu circumstances, one can only imagine the standard of
French television commentary on the match was not very high.

It must have been better, though, than the commentary in the current England
series by Sri Lankan commentators with their long-winded platitudes.

When one of the Devon Wanderers snicked a four, perhaps a French commentator
said: ‘il prendra cela!’

Or when MH Toller, who had represented Somerset, came good, after scoring two
runs in his first innings, by taking seven French wickets, a commentator may
have said: ‘il est venu à la fête!’

Great Britain scored 117. France replied with 73. GB declared in their second
innings at 145 for five. France were then dismissed for 26 — what is the
French for ‘couldn’t hit it off the square’? — and lost by 158 runs.

Back in the French dressing-room, shouts of ‘merd’, ‘mon Dieu’ and
‘catastrophe!’ no doubt rent the air.

Don’t think this match was just some pick-up game, it was the Olympic final.
The Exhibition Committee presented medals afterwards to the Great Britain
team — silver medals, admittedly, but still genuine gongs.

On Aug 28, the Gazette reported that Devon Wanderers had returned home after
“a most successful trip”. I should think so too. Winning an Olympic final
adds up to a successful trip, never mind hanging on to the title for more
than a century.

“From a social point of view the outing was a complete success,” the Gazette
went on.

On the linguistic side, however, it noted a few deficiencies. One member of
the touring team, at a café in Paris, had ordered “café au lait with milk”.

It should be added that at the 1900 Games Spain won the Basque pelota, and
have never yielded their title as the sport has not been contested at any
subsequent Olympics.

For equally long France have been the Olympic champions of Croquet doubles,
and Great Britain of Open class sailing, as well as Cricket.

But cricket may yet be reintroduced. The International Cricket Council is
pitching for 20-over cricket in the next Olympics but two.

As a variation on Allen Stanford’s famous catchphrase of Twenty20 for 20
(million dollars), we might see Twenty20 in 2020.

In the meantime, let us salute our heroes in the words of one of the winners. Olé!
Or perhaps ‘au lait’.

Article source: http://telegraph.feedsportal.com/c/32726/f/568303/s/1e1bd007/l/0L0Stelegraph0O0Csport0Ccricket0C91871240CWe0Eshould0Esalute0Ethe0Ewonder0Eof0EDevon0EWanderers0EOlympic0Ecricket0Echampions0Efor0E1120Eyears0Bhtml/story01.htm