In Canada for our first away match Matteo Phillipe, after four ducks in six innings, was dropped from the playing XI. All-rounder Zidane Thomas was rested and opening bowler Paco Georges something in between. Right-hander Gilles Smith debuted in the middle order. Slow-left-armer Louis Petit was promoted from 12th man duties to fill the all-rounder’s slot at six and left-arm pacer Patrick Pierre, not express pace like Georges but maintaining the variety in our attack, also came into the playing XI. Following three consecutive defeats we’d reached the time to roll the dice and breed some competition amongst the players. Christophe Martinez and on the batting front at least, Maxime Bernard, knew that they were extremely fortunate to avoid the axe but we felt that three changes was enough for one match.
At the fourth time of asking captain Xavier Le Tallec won a toss then bravely chose to send the team out to bat.
Omar Sissoko (5) fell in single figures for the second consecutive innings as his early promise started to fade but once again we laid some sort of platform by reaching 21-1. That soon became 21-3 however including Smith nicking behind for a golden duck on debut. The familiar collapse ensued and we found ourselves perilously placed at 58-8. Those wickets included Louis Petit (3) on debut and a seventh consecutive single figure score (Or no score at all!) for Maxime Bernard (1). There was one major positive however as the retained Martinez repaid the faith. The Reunion-born twenty-two-year-old batted beautifully to compile a career best 25. Still, at 58-8 it could’ve been any of our innings to date.
Step forward little known Patrick Pierre batting at number ten on debut. The bearded, bespectacled left-hander cleared the ropes on numerous occasions to make a mockery of his batting position. It was the thirty-two-year-old’s lusty blows that finally helped us accumulate a three figure score at the seventh attempt. Meanwhile at the other end and after requiring eleven torturous deliveries to get off the mark, skipper Le Tallec finally led by example. Soon he too was launching the ball over the rope with ease, Canada’s slow-left-armer (6-0-56-0) receiving the brunt of the damage. Finally we recorded a fifty-partnership and the pair didn’t stop there. Fittingly it was Le Tallec who reached fifty first having overhauled Pierre. It was a proud moment for our captain after a tough few games and his fair share of criticism from various quarters of the media both in France and throughout the cricket world. Soon after the skipper had reached his landmark debutant Pierre, having batted with flair, raised a half-century of his own. The partnership continued to roll onto 130 before Pierre eventually edged behind for 55. Not long after that we were dismissed for 188, Le Tallec left stranded on 77 from 55 deliveries. Neither knock was a case of slogging. Both batsman attacked and cleared the boundary more than once but they also nudged, nurdled and left well.
To cross the century mark was a seminal moment for us and I’m especially pleased that it was our captain who achieved the feat first. Still, in truth, the overall batting display was limp and it can only be hoped that one big partnership and a couple of fifties can inspire our batting unit as a whole.
With ball in hand it wasn’t long before Alexandre Rivière induced an edge and Smith, following his debut duck, sought minor redemption with a sharp slip catch. 14-1… or so we thought! The umpire’s arm stayed down by his side and there was to be no raising of his finger. Our players turned toward the official aghast as it dawned on them that the batsman wouldn’t be leaving the crease, not yet anyway. Clearly there was frustration not least on the part of Rivière (2-83) but I’m immensely proud of how the team handled the situation and got on with the game.
After requiring a little time to clear our heads as the Canadian opening partnership compiled 51 we were soon in the wickets. Petit (1-43) and Pierre (2-107), the first in only his second over and the latter after an expensive start, both claimed their first wickets for the team. The hosts were only one run to the good when we claimed the seventh wicket of the innings and we had aspirations of being able to make Canada bat twice in the match. Any hopes we had of limiting the defecit to a marginal one soon evaporated however as a partnership of 91 took the game away from us. Our standards dropped, the fielding effort became ragged and quite simply we lost our discipline. When we did eventually break the partnership the Canadian tail wagged like a wet dog (A French poodle maybe?) just home from a rain-soaked morning walk. We conceded 121 runs for the ninth wicket and a further 52 for the last. Smith’s eventful match did at least include a maiden wicket and he should’ve had another were it not for Bernard’s slipping standards. Having gone at over five runs per over Pierre did at least finish things off with a sensational run out. Despairingly 189-7 had swelled to an enormous 453 and so messrs Sissoko and Chevalier approached the wicket 265 runs in the red!
Our second innings couldn’t have got off to a worse start as a cluttered-minded Omar Sissoko (1) was run out in the first over. If anybody was expecting the usual collapse however they didn’t get it.
What they got was a mature and contrasting 62-run partnership from Chevalier (45) and Smith (41). We made the decision to promote Smith up the batting order mid-match and it paid off handsomely. The right-hander left the ball well and did the workmanlike stuff as Chevalier showed off his attacking instinct. Disappointingly the middle order failed to fire again and for Gabin Sauvage (0) and Maxime Bernard (7) their failures could be terminal. Sauvage (1-90) hadn’t been at his best with the ball and probably didn’t take his demotion in the batting order well. I know it was tough but it was a move that was made in the best interests of the team. He will come back a better player. Meanwhile Bernard’s glovework went backwards in this match and having been promoted to number four he was dismissed off the first delivery of a new session. That his score of 7 was his best to date epitomises his lack of development.
Debutant Patrick Pierre wrote his name in history however. Aided by some useful cameos from our lower order, the left-hander brought up his second fifty of the match. Freakishly he scored 55 in each innings finishing not out in the second. Our sum total of 215 was, for the second time in the match, out highest team total to date.
Defeat by an innings and fifty runs is still hefty but no doubt much improved. After a bright start in Ottawa, we lost our way with the ball and in the field but the raw talent is there. There were also big steps forward with the bat. Chevalier in particular is starting to look at home and the addition of Smith clearly makes the playing XI stronger. We do need to identify some competent middle order players though and fast!