Trip to Sano, Japan

Walnut Taverners  v  The British Embassy Japan X1

As a Dublin Based Taverner side who love touring, The Walnuts were really looking forward to this fixture. The idea was first mooted about 18 months previously by Philip Whelan and Pat Tunney to explore the chance of playing a cricket match in Japan whilst following Ireland in The Rugby World Cup 2019.

Contact was made  with Alex Naoki Miyaji, the President of Japan Cricket. Alex has done immense work in progressing cricket in Japan culminating with the success this year of the Japan U19’s qualifying for the World Cup in 2020. Alex kindly put us in touch with Alan Curr the CEO of Cricket Japan and he arranged the fixture between the Walnuts and the British Embassy Japan X1. The match to be played at Sano International Cricket Ground which is about 2 hours drive north of Tokyo on Monday Sept 23rd.  A 20/20 over game was proposed following Taverner rules of 20 runs max  per player and each player bowling a minimum of 1 over and a maximum of 3 overs. Match to commence at 2.00 pm.

It was with mixed emotions that we set off for Japan on Sept 19th as our Club President and dearest friend Dr. Pat Tunney had passed away in June. Together with Philip he had helped to arrange and organize this trip and was so looking forward to it. He is deeply missed. May he Rest in Peace.

The logistics of putting together ANY Walnut Tour is a lesson in forebearance!  Normally we have  anything from 16 to 20 Players/(Support Guys..! ) keen to hit the departure lounge at Dublin Airport suitably attired in Club polo’s  and bonding together over a pint or two…….This trip was a little different! Dave Bursey was over in Japan playing for The Parliamentarians Rugby Team. He had already encountered Japanese Culture both Physically and Mentally and had a head start on the rest of us! Our international Lacrosse member Tadhg Bolger was in Shinjuku sipping Sake by the time we were checking in and David Green was finishing a year out cycling across Asia. Getting our group together from diverse locations across Japan for a 9.00am departure from our Hotel in Tokyo after the Ireland v Scotland match in Yokohama the evening before was “worrying”! But. The Walnuts are made of sterner stuff! Despite a slight delay setting off….BDB!! Our Star player and Hijacked guide for the day, John Blakeney steered us through the many Train connections with ease. John is an ex Merrion and Trinity player and indeed had played for the Paddy Foleys Cricket Club Japan from 2009 and 2011. He knew his way around  thankfully! We arrived at the Sano ground at 1.30 pm to find Big Dave already there! Nodding dissaprovingly at our tardiness he uttered “what kept you?” Got to admire his assertiveness!! After a few words of Solace to Keith, the BECC captain and Scot. We dispensed of the coin toss and we opted to Bat.  If only the same Spirit and Ethos of Cricket could be applied to Brexit The Walnuts and The BECC could have solved that connundrum in one innings!

In very humid conditions and with temperatures hovering around the 30 degrees plus, our 10 remaining players took on the might of the BECC Japan X1. Keith Franklin, in response fielded a team of 10 to equal the numbers that we had available.  Dave Bursey along with Asala Asanka Wickramaarachchige opened the batting for us. Dave was very unlucky to be out early for 1 run to some fierce bowling  from Kusry but Asala along with John Blakeney put up a great partnership reaching their 20 runs max in some style. Very impressive batting from both players. Philip Whelan was up next as fourth man but succumbed to great bowling from Augustine Jacob. Very cheaply out for a single run. The bowling from the BECC openers Augustine Jacob and Mohamed Yusry was exceptional and they both picked up a handful of wickets between them. From a reasonable enough start our middle order collapsed with David Sheridan making 4, Andy Lamont 3 runs and only Hugo Lamont a respectable 12 runs. Tadhg Bolger and David Green although they batted valiantly were both out for a duck.

With Walnut Player Graeme Cruickshank unable to bat due to injury it was mutually agreed with Keith the BECC Captain that both Asala and John Blakeney could  return to the crease to bat at 10 and 11.

They renewed  their great opening partnership  and put another 12 and 15 runs respectively on the board, not out, after the 20 overs were up. Great batting displays by both Asala and John gave us some hope in defending our total of 111 runs.

Unfortunately it was not to be!  Quick 20’s reached by Duncan Barker, Richard  Bracefield, Vikram Rangunathan and Man of The Match, Mohamed  Yusry paved the way for a BECC Victory. The British Embassy Japan X1 reached 114 in the 18th over.

Cricket is primarily a game of stats but no scorebook can completely convey the personalities or the engagement between players in a friendly but competitive Taverners Cricket match. Our hosts were very accommodating and friendships made is always at the core of The Walnut Taverners  when we take to the field of play. This is what makes Cricket such a powerful sporting force.

Huge thanks to Keith Franklin the BECC captain and to Robert Newman and Jason Fouracres and indeed the entire British Embassy side who afforded us such a memorable day.  Also a word of thanks and appreciation to Alan and Alex of Japan Cricket  whom we had the pleasure of meeting at the ground. Alex was with the Japan U19’s training at Sano when we arrived.

It was a special pleasure to have John, Asala, Graeme and  Dave Bursey  turn out for us and wear The Walnut Jersey with pride and it was great to see newbie Walnuts Andy, Tadhg, Hugo and the 2 Davids (Green and Sheridan)  play with great heart and Spirit with Hugo Lamont doing exceptionally well as Wicket Keeper as well as having a great knock.

To all the people who came out to support us on the day. Those who travelled with us, Wives, Partners and Families and also some of the Irish contingent living in Japan who turned up to show support for The Walnuts a BIG THANK YOU.

Another Walnuts Tour comes to an end. Enjoyable and Entertaining.

Friendships Gained and Friendships Renewed.

Thank you Cricket Japan and The British Embassy Japan X1 for allowing us to be part of a Historic occasion.



Philip Whelan



Walnut Taverners:

British Embassy Japan X1

Dave Bursey

Robert Newman
Asala Asanka Wickramaarachchige

Paul Christie
John Blakeney

Duncan Barker  (WK)
Philip Whelan (C)

Keith Franklin (C)
Dave Sheridan

Richard Bracefield
Andy Lamont

Jason Fouracres
Tadhg Bolger

Augustine Jacob
Hugo Lamont  (WK)

Sam David
David Green

Mohamed Yusry
Graeme Cruickshank

Vikram Rangunathan

Asala Asanka Wickramaarachchige