I never expected to visit Iceland, let alone play cricket there. But the Iceland national team was off to play in the Pepsi Cup in Prague last week, against Hungary and Poland among others, and needed some easy meat to practise on. So the Authors XI found themselves in a vast indoor stadium in Reykjavik with artificial grass and a yellow ball, playing three 20-over games.
The floodlights were dim and the ball swung prodigiously. When it bounced, it either stood up, stopped or hurried through low. The best word to describe batting conditions would be ‘difficult’. Our opening bowler, the novelist Nicholas Hogg, took four for seven in four overs. The Iceland team had one native Icelander and one Brit; the rest were from Sri Lanka or Pakistan. They were fit, quick and able — as players from that part of the world tend to be. Every time they threw at the stumps, from whatever angle, they hit. I’m proud to report that we acclimatised quickly enough to win the third game.
We then had one of Iceland’s rare sunny days for a bus tour of the island. It was like a crash course in geology GCSE, as our guide pointed out volcanoes, tarns, magma, calderas, tectonic plates and terminal moraine. We urged him to go further on the basis that one good tarn deserves another.
The only drawback was that since the ‘investment’ bankers trousered all the money in Iceland, everything is expensive. With beer at almost £10 a go, the duty-free at both ends had been plundered and our resourceful scorer found a restaurant that would let us bring it all along. The dinner table looked like the police station after a speakeasy raid in Prohibition-era Chicago.
But the Authors XI enjoy a challenge.