Veteran cricketers on tough tour of Shaky Isles
Denis Axelby, Tony Paterson, and Peter Howes, all from the ACT, are representing Australia in the over-60s cricket side about to tour NZ. Photo: Rohan Thomson
They have creaky knees, bung fingers and are a bit slower moving between the wickets these days, but that isn't stopping Denis Axelby, Tony Paterson and Peter Howes from representing their country in the Australian over-60s cricket team.
The trio play their first match of a three-week tour of New Zealand on Thursday, having been selected for the side after their performances with the ACT team that won the national over-60s championship in Adelaide last November.
Axelby, 64, and Paterson, 62, play fifth grade with North Canberra Gungahlin, while Howes, a wicketkeeper, spends more weekends umpiring these days, only playing with the over-60s.
Howes, who made his first-grade debut aged 46 after 20 years away from the sport, has also represented Australia in over-70s, but his 72 years are no indicator of his ability behind the stumps.
"Peter would be one of the best wicketkeepers in Australia, even though he's over 70, he holds his own well and truly against the 60-year-olds," Axelby said.
Howes said his knees would feel the strain of 19 games in 21 days, but they were hoping enough of the squad would stay injury-free to allow their own rotation policy of sorts.
"I must admit it's getting hard," Howes said of his keeper duties. "When we played in Adelaide last year we played four days out of five, we just had one [day] off and [the knees] were creaking after that."
Holding the ageing team together will be a big challenge for the squad.
"There'll be some injuries, there's no doubt about that - on the tour to England last year after the first game, we lost three," Axelby said.
True to any Australian cricket side, they will travel complete with an entourage of WAGs; five wives will join the squad of 18, including three from Canberra. "It's most noticeable because there's only two other wives going, so I'm not sure if it's because they reckon we need to be looked after," Howes quipped.
But the cricket will be no laughing matter.
"The games are … no different to the pressure and the tension when you play grade cricket - it's quite solid, but the camaraderie afterwards is excellent," Paterson said.
And the captain, from NSW, will make sure there's no slacking off on the field.
"A tough man he is, there's no kegs on the side - it's warm-ups, warm-downs, communication during a match, no sitting around talking, it's working out what the pitch is doing, where the fielders are, whose got a good right hand, whose got a good left hand, he's real, real serious about it," Howes said.
The team will play four one-day internationals against the Kiwis, who will field a seniors team that could be considerably younger.
"They don't have a strong over-60s competition at all. Part of this tour is to promote the game at the over-60s level, so we're expecting to play players between 40 and 60," Axelby said. "We'd find it tough to beat 40-pluses. But we're going to give it our best shot."