Cricket 19: Humbled at Home!

In our attempt to fight back and record a series draw in the ground breaking Trans-Channel Test series against England, we made three changes to the playing XI for our historic first Test match on French soil. Gabin Sauvage, Patrick Pierre and Mehdi Qadri were the unlucky trio to miss out with Youssef Rizvi, Paco Georges and Louis Martin the beneficiaries. As much as we would’ve liked to present the jettisoned personnel with another opportunity we felt that it was necessary to freshen things up and present England with opposition that they hadn’t become familiar with.

Captain Xavier Le Tallec won the toss and chose to bat. The decision to bat or bowl was in the balance but we felt trying to put runs on the board first up was the right thing to do.

Put runs on the board is exactly what opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier and Enzo Petit did. Having compiled 77 in the second innings in London the pair picked up where they had left off at Lords. Now In Brittany they constructed foundations of 49 for the first wicket. It required England’s leading wicket taker of all time James Anderson, rotated in at the expense of Stuart Broad, to make the breakthrough. The erstwhile Lancastrian found Chevalier’s (14) edge to present a slip catch to Rory Burns. Gilles Smith joined Petit and the latter soon reached his second-consecutive Test half-century. It was actually Petit’s (55) fourth fifty in five innings in First Class/Test cricket but on none of those occasions has he reached 60. He’s basically the French Mark Stoneman! Petit’s dismissal had an air of familiarity about it in that it came just two balls before a beverage break (An unhealthy habit that we’ve developed!) but at least both batsmen to fall had been ‘Got out’. In Petit’s case Jofra Archer was the bowler responsible. 86-2 were the numbers at rehydration respite.

Post thirst quenching Youssef Rizvi (5) didn’t last long on debut. To only his seventh delivery the right-hander played an audacious pull off Archer that resulted in him being caught by Stokes at slip. Smith (41) and Pitko (25) steadied the ship with a stand of 38 before both succumbed to first Test spin nemesis Dom Bess. Neither batsmen were out playing silly shots mind as the batting unit maintained their enhanced application and contribution that had been displayed in the second innings at Lords. When wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy joined Zidane Thomas at the crease the score was 152-5 but both combined defence and run-scoring finesse to lift us to a more than respectable 182-5 at lunch on day one. Whilst our players dined on soup de jour the Bretagne faithful soaked up the rays!

In the second session Thomas et Leroy continued their procession taking the partnership up to 68. Unfortunately the combo came to a halt in freak fashion! Archer got a delivery to strike Thomas in the undesirables and with the batsman losing his bearings he back heeled the pink orb onto his stumps. Cue more pink in the form of the zing bails and Thomas’ (40) knock as well as the partnership was over. It was such a sorry way for an excellent effort to be brought to its conclusion.

Soon after Thomas’ demise Leroy (38) tried to turn an Archer delivery to the leg-side but a leading edge was collected by a grateful Dominic Sibley scampering forward from mid-on. Paco Georges (0) then wafted first ball on debut and as a result of Buttler’s safe hands Archer had a five-wicket haul. Archer (6-60) didn’t stop there as Le Tallec (7) was suckered into a pull shot and 220-5 had become 244-9 in scenes all too reminiscent of the first Test.

Last men standing Alexandre Riviere (12) and debutant Louis Martin (9*) dragged the innings on past drinks before the former fell to Bess (3-20). The innings curtailed at 255. Having been 152-4 that was a hugely disappointing total but still there were contributions throughout the order providing innings for our batsmen to build upon in the future. We can take huge confidence from the way our batting unit saw off James Anderson (0-66) and Sam Curran (0-51).

In only the third over of England’s reply Riviere trapped Rory Burns LBW courtesy of a superb piece of deception. Riviere delivered a painfully slow yorker that had Burns all at see but DRS saved the Surrey left-hander by a matter of millimetres. Burns then pulled for four before being struck on the pad again. This time the finger didn’t go up but Le Tallec opted to review. Sadly for us it was not out once again. After all that drama we’d lost a review but England hadn’t lost Burns.

England had progressed to 32 when we did eventually make the breakthrough. In a repeat of the first innings of the first Test Sibley (16) was out caught Pitko off the bowling off Riviere. In truth it was not a shot that a batsman of Test calibre should be getting out playing, certainly not when opening the batting. England were 52-1 at tea when the lights came on.

In the first day’s final session Joe Denly had a reprieve on 11 when Leroy grassed an edge off Paco Georges. He failed to capitalise though, falling to the always in the action Pitko for 25. As with Sibley’s shot it simply wasn’t good enough and Riviere repaid the earlier favour by holding the catch. Not content with batting and catching well in this series, Pitko had promptly rocked up and commenced his spell with a wicket maiden!

Burns brought up back-to-back Trans-Channel tons and with his captain Root had lifted England to 177-2 at close, still 78 runs behind but with eight wickets in hand.

Riviere and Martin failed to make a breakthrough early on day two but captain Le Tallec needed less than three overs to send Burns packing. Again Pitko was the catcher and again, as was the case in the first Test, Burns (139) rather threw the chance of a gargantuan score away. Le Tallec’s spin had made the breakthrough and then it was the turn of pace in the form of Paco Georges. The tall express left-armer angled one past Joe Root’s blade to send the illuminated stumps flying in all directions. The wicket of Root (48) was a prize maiden Test scalp for Georges (1-106) as England stuttered from 226-2 to 235-4 bang on beverages.

Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope steadied the visitors with a stand of 51 (A lead of 31) before Thomas became the fifth bowler in the innings to claim a wicket. The right-arm slinger trapped Stokes (25) LBW and though there was a hint of leg-side about it Stokes opted not to review thus becoming Thomas’ belated first Test victim. Shortly after that the session concluded, a session in which we’d claimed a more than respectable 3-113.

The new ball had the desired effect with our opening duo both getting among the wickets. In his first over with the new pink cherry Louis Martin had Ollie Pope (51) nonchalantly caught by his captain. For Martin, who’d kept things tight up to that point, it was a fully deserved first Test wicket to join Pitko (1-16) and Thomas as christened wicket takers on the second day. As for Pope, like in the first Test he got to fifty but got out, a little like our own Enzo Petit! Riviere (2-123) then had an out of sorts Curran (3) feather an edge to Leroy but our gloveman was slow to react to a nick off Buttler soon after. Martin (2-86) wasn’t to be denied though as Bess (2) perished next ball with Le Tallec snaffling another catch at about fourth slip, this time courtesy of an excellent dive to his left. England had crashed from 332-5 to 357-8 but Buttler and Archer weren’t to be easily removed. Despite both being beaten occasionally the pair batted superbly to lift the score to 397-8. With one session left in the day and the floodlights switched on, the visitors held the aces to the tune of 142 runs.

Sadly the day’s final session was a torturous one for our players as Buttler and Archer took their partnership all the way to 137. The excellent Archer (58) eventually edged to Leroy off Thomas (2-76) but Anderson (10*) reached the close alongside Buttler with England on 517-9.

Our captain Le Tallec (2-77) did at least knock over Buttler’s (138) stumps in only the second over on day three to dismiss England for 524. To have bowled out an established Test nation is something that we should be proud off but we required 269 to avoid an innings defeat.

Chevalier and Petit continued their trend of producing solid starts by compiling 42 for the first wicket in the second innings on the third day. The breakthrough for England came when Petit (27) was caught and bowled by Curran having presented a leading edge to the Surrey left-armer. Gilles Smith (1) was emphatically bowled by Archer resulting in debutant Youssef Rizvi joining Chevalier at the wicket. Having scored only 5 in the first innings it would be an understatement to say that Rizvi looked all at sea early in his innings. To his credit though he somehow survived and soon grew in confidence to display some strong stroke play. By beverages the pair had hauled us from 43-2 to 99-2 with an encouraging half-century stand.

Resuming after rehydration it took only two deliveries of spin to bring our progress to an abrupt halt. Rizvi (32) was comprehensively beaten and bowled by Bess (Bodes well for the tour of India!) before Pitko (5) was a little unlucky to nick behind via his pad off Curran’s (2-44) left-arm seam. Zidane Thomas (15) attacked Bess (2-17) but was only at the crease for a fun time not a long time. Despite using a review he fell LBW to the Somerset off-spinner. A promising position of 109-2 had become a disappointing 139-5 but Leroy dug in alongside Chevalier who brought up a maiden Test fifty in the over before the interval. 156-5, 133 in arrears the details at 4pm.

Our knight in shining armour Chevalier (51) was gutted to be caught at mid-on when uppishly toe-ending a full delivery from Anderson. Then in a horrible sense of deja vu, Leroy was bowled through his legs by Archer. Thomas had suffered a similar fate in the first innings and this time it was Leroy (9), who’d applied himself maturely for 42 minutes, who saw the ball (Or didn’t!) deflect off the bat, go in between his legs and clip high on the stumps.

Le Tallec (1) was LBW to Anderson (2-34) despite a review. Our captain’s batting efforts in our maiden series read 0, 1, 7 and 1 which is a great shame provided how well he bowled, fielded and led the side. Alexandre Riviere (3) was then outrageously caught and bowled by star man Archer (4-25) to put us in peril at 167-9. Paco Georges (6) resisted temptation for a while but gave into playing a big shot and was phenomenally pouched by Buttler. Having been 42-0 and 109-2 a total of just 172 was disappointing but wasn’t the result of a series of awful shots. We succumbed by an innings and 97 and 2-0 in the series. In general though I think that we can be hugely proud of our efforts against an established and professional Test side in our first two Tests. There’s a lot to build on.

Look out for news on our future series soon!

Cricket 19: Tour News!

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We’re delighted to announce that England have agreed to stay on at the conclusion of the second Test and provide the opposition for our inaugural Twenty20 International. We’ll then be heading to India for an extensive tour consisting of three T20Is and two Tests. They’ll be one warm-up fixture in each format. A spin-bowling camp will run parallel with attendees to be named in due course. After that it’s onto Australia for two more Tests but only one T20I. Again, they’ll be warm-up fixtures in each form of the game. Following that we’ll host Zimbabwe for one T20I and our first ever ODIs in a three-match series before playing one Test. To alleviate strain on Stade de France Cricket in Bretagne, construction on a second national stadium, to be built in Corsica, will begin shortly.

Our squad for our first ever T20I to be played against England at the Stade de France Cricket is as follows:

Jean-Luc Chevalier (Vice-captain)

Hippolyte Gregory

Zidane Thomas

Matteo Phillipe

Zvonimir Pitko

Christophe Martinez

Marwan Leroy (Wicketkeeper)

Xavier Le Tallec (Captain)

Paco Georges

Phillipe La Roux

Mehdi Qadri

Maurice Noe

Louis Petit

Anthony Toure

Who Will be Test Cricket’s Next Nation?

Nepal currently sit 12th in the T20I rankings and are playing ODIs against USA and Oman at present. Star player Sandeep Lamichhane recently expressed his desire to play Test cricket for Nepal.

Papua New Guinea are ranked 18th and have been on the fringes of major tournaments for the past decade or so.

Singapore are in 21st and have been one of the success stories of recent times. They’ve defeated a Test nation in the form of Zimbabwe and have soared up the T20I rankings.

USA has always seemed like an untapped market and it’s hard to fathom that cricket can’t really take off stateside.

Nigeria, an exceptionally populous nation, and Japan, have both made encouraging strides at under-19 level.

Whether or not the transition from T20I to Test cricket will remain relevant in the years to come is an interesting thought. How do amateur players prepare to play multi-day multi-innings cricket. Can these nations implement First Class leagues and afford them and the players?

If they can and the Test world does expand then who do you think will be cricket’s next Test nation?

Cricket 19: Fourth Umpire… If Only!

Three days ago at Lords, eleven men became France’s first ever Test cricketers. Captain Xavier Le Tallec called heads but it was tails that faced skyward when the coin settled on the ground. On a frighteningly verdant deck, home skipper Joe Root had no hesitation in opting to bowl.

Left-handed batsman Jean-Luc Chevalier had the honour of facing the first ball in France’s Test history and immediately grasped the honour of scoring the team’s first ever run. Unfortunately soon after that he had another honour… that of being the first France wicket to fall in the history of Test cricket. Chevalier (5) pushed a little too hard at an over the wicket delivery from Stuart Broad (1-29), got turned inside out and edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler who gleefully snaffled the catch.

Fellow opener Enzo Petit, fresh from fifties in each innings against Middlesex on the same ground, was joined at the crease by Gilles Smith. The pair repelled the England attack until DRS drama intervened to shatter French dreams. In his first over, Jofra Archer successfully appealed for an LBW against Smith. It looked out but after some deliberation Smith opted to review, seemingly in hope more than anything. Replays soon confirmed however that the right-hander had actually hit the ball prior to impact with his pads. It might’ve been the back of the bat and barely a scrape but it was enough to merit a reversal. A stunned crowd audibly gasped when Smith (19) was given out once again on the big screen. He pleaded his case with the umpire and though we understand the fine dished out and the reasons why, we remain disappointed by it, as I know that many in the cricket community are. It wouldn’t be our last occasion in the match to be underwhelmed by the standard of officiating!

All-rounder Gabin Sauvage (8) survived alongside Petit (30) until the final delivery pre-drinks when the latter edged a beauty of a delivery from Ben Stokes (1-17) to Buttler… who dropped a pretty regulation chance! I’m sure that the beverages tasted better at 59-2 than they would’ve another wicket down.

Buttler’s butterfingers mattered little however as a promising beginning only led to an embarrassing collapse of epic proportions! 68-2 became 104-9 as our batsmen found all manner of ways to get out, namely playing unnecessarily attacking shots as the application we’d applied up to that point evaporated. Included in those dismissals were Zidane Thomas, run out for a third ball duck and captain Xavier Le Tallec, who had his stumps castled first ball by spinner Dom Bess (4-33). To say that those dismissals were an inglorious start to their Test careers would be an understatement. Last men standing Alexandre Rivière (11*) and Mehdi Qadri swung handsomely to at least ensure that we avoided the ignominy of being bowled out before lunch on our first day of Test cricket. 133-9 were the specifics come salad serving.

One ball after the interval and our first innings had reached its conclusion, Qadri (17) wildly edging to slip off Jofra Archer (2-9).

Rivière had the honour of claiming our nation’s first Test wicket when an unconvincing Dominic Sibley (5) edged an unplayable delivery to Zvonimir Pitko at Gully. The muscular Pitko displayed agility and rapid reflexes to execute a stunning catch. Joe Denly (16) played a couple of glorious shots but was run out courtesy of sharp work by Marwan Leroy behind the stumps. As our players appealed for LBW against Rory Burns, Denly scurried to the other end. Replays suggested that he’d completed the run but maybe the umpires were evening things out when they flashed ‘OUT’ on the board, much to Denly’s chagrin.

Despite regular edges that just wouldn’t carry, England progressed from 51-2 all the way to 203-2 courtesy of Burns and captain Joe Root. In the final session we turned to spin and after Qadri had bowled a promising premier over, with only his third delivery skipper Le Tallec rapped Burns on the pads. The left-hander was on 99 as the ball ricocheted off his pad, clearly hit his bat and was expertly caught by Leroy running forward. Burns didn’t move and the decision went upstairs. An LBW decision was rejected by the third umpire. Fair enough but what about the catch? The officials blatantly ignored it and as with the Smith decision in our innings we were left aghast. Our players had dug deep to find a breakthrough. Our captain had stepped up with a clever tactical change by introducing spin with Burns on 99 but the system or/and the officials had failed us and the sport as a whole.

Despite his reprieve it would be spin that extinguished Burns’ night. In truth the Surrey stalwart played an inexplicably poor shot that was swallowed by Sauvage at square leg. Burns fell for 110 and England were on double nelson three wickets down.

Surprisingly spin continued to dominate at Lords. Le Tallec (1-13) got the wicket he deserved when he forced Ben Stokes (7) to drag onto his stumps. England recovered from the departure of the Durham man and reached 240-4 at the close, 107 runs to the good. Root and Ollie Pope elevated England to 315-4 when the latter, on 41 at the time, should have been run out. Mehdi Qadri (1-52) inexplicably failed to break the stumps from just inches away. After the pair had compiled 112 in each other’s company, Alexandre Riviere required only three deliveries with the new cherry to induce Pope’s (52) edge and Leroy claimed a good diving catch.

Sam Curran (27*) was promoted ahead of Jos Buttler and alongside Root (177*) raised England to 405-5 come the declaration. Riviere (2-62) was the pick of the bowlers but messrs Pierre (0-67), Thomas (0-90) and Sauvage (0-88) endured tough Test initiations.

We commenced our second innings effectively -272-0!

By the time the first wicket went down that deficit had been reduced to 195 as Chevalier and Petit restored French pride. The duo constructed a hugely encouraging opening stand of 77 before Chevalier (18) was bowled by Ben Stokes. I have huge sympathy for Chevalier because such was Enzo Petit’s dominance of the strike that it wasn’t easy for an instinctive stroke player like him and he just lost his rhythm a little. At the time the left-hander was bowled by the 22nd delivery that he received (He didn’t score off his final four) Petit had faced 49 balls, more than double Chevalier. Still, the pair had put on 77 for the first wicket to plant seeds of optimism for the future of French cricket.

Frustratingly Petit (56) was caught behind in the final over of the session. He seemed surprised by the removal of Archer from the attack and change of ends and angle for Curran. You could debate over the choice of shot let alone the execution of the pull but Petit deserves nothing but praise for his efforts both in the warm-up matches and our first ever Test. 100-2 still 172 runs behind was the scenario at tea and scones on day two.

After the interval Sauvage (3) soon succumbed to Curran, caught off a leading edge that ballooned to mid-on. Shortly after Sauvage’s demise Smith (27) naively fell to Bess’ first over of spin, caught on the boundary by that man Curran when a score of substance seemed on the table.

We’d slipped to 114-4 but Zvonimir Pitko and Zidane Thomas began building a partnership that soon had even the home fans on their side. The duo showcased their discipline as well as array of stroke play and had added 142 when Thomas was plumb LBW to Bess’ first ball of a new spell. It was typical that Thomas’ (65) run-a-ball knock ended with him trying to defend when he may have been better attempting to score.

Leroy (1) fell in the same over bringing Le Tallec to the crease. The skipper avoided the ignominy of a pair on Test debut but nicked to the slips off the returning Curran (3-48) to be outstandingly caught by his opposing number Root for just a single.

Patrick Pierre (1) was foolishly run out before Alexandre Riviere smashed back-to-back maximums straight up off Bess. Those strikes ensured that England would have to bat again and we’d avoided an innings defeat (With a little help from a declaration!) on our Test bow.

Bess (5-51) got sweet revenge when Riviere fell for 25 off only eight deliveries before Pitko (73) was out next ball. To avoid an innings defeat was a superb effort from the team but 289 was a disappointing score having been 256-4. England required 18 runs to win the first Test. After limiting the score to just 3-0 from one over we did at least take the game into a third day.

Despite a few LBW shouts and an edge through the slips England won by all ten wickets.

We started well with the bat but lost our way. We stuck to task with the ball then committed as a unit with the bat second time around. Yes we collapsed in all too familiar fashion in both innings but three of our top six recorded fifties and we had two partnerships of real substance. That bodes well for the immediate future. Next up we host England for out first ever Test match on home shores. Gabin Sauvage and Patrick Pierre may be sweating over their places as we look to square the series. I’d like to provide players with plenty of opportunities but it may be necessary to freshen things up. We’ll take a look at the surface before making a decision. We can’t wait to entertain a home crowd who will have had their appetite wetted by a brave display at Lords.

Cricket 19: Caught in the Middle… sex!

For our final preparation ahead of our Test debut we had a big decision to make…

Do we play our best team, providing those players with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of playing at Lords and spending more time together on the field as a unit?

Or…

Do we wrap our best players up in cotton wool, breed competition and answer some questions regarding the one or two places in the team still up for grabs?

We chose the latter. Our team was as follows:

Enzo Petit, Omar Sissoko, Youssef Rizvi, Gabin Sauvage, Timothee Clement, Zvonimir Pitko, Maxime Bernard (C&W), Paco Georges, Phillipe La Roux (2) Louis Martin (1), Mehdi Qadri

After a shower sprinkled the field of play Maxime Bernard won the toss and without hesitation chose to bowl. Debutant new ball pair Louis Martin and Phillipe La Roux were licking their lips at the lush green deck provided to them. By the time lunch arrived both players had made a case for Test selection. La Roux trapped Sam Robson (A Test centurion don’t forget!) LBW for 17 having already had an appeal incorrectly rejected.

Martin then accounted for Nick Gubbins (3) via a brute of a delivery that Bernard held comfortably.

A period of frustration ensued before Paco Georges got in on the act when he bowled Stevie Eskinazi (34) off his pads. The enthusiasm for wicket-taking was infectious and soon Gabin ‘Jacques Kallis’ Sauvage shattered Martin Andersson’s (2) stumps.

Batsman Timothee Clement (1-20) did his chances of a Test call-up no harm by tempting John Simpson (7) to inside edge onto his stumps in his first over… in First Class cricket… at Lords! That made it five wickets by five different bowlers.

Max Holden and James Harris then survived numerous scares particularly from leg-spin demon Mehdi Qadri. Middlesex reached 257-5 (A partnership of 90) at close of play with the new ball imminent.

With his first delivery on the second day La Roux toppled Harris’ (35) stumps and Martin (2-48) soon accounted for Roland-Jones (3) in a high-quality display of new ball bowling. Tim Murtagh resisted alongside Holden however. The experienced Irishman benefited from a dolly of a drop by Bernard off the luckless Sauvage. It was in 1640 that Nicolas Sauvage opened the first taxi company. Gabin Sauvage (1-39) may well have wanted his stand-in skipper to flag one down for him when he saw the ball fall from his gloves and hit the turf!

Paco Georges responded to Holden’s upping of the tempo and boundary filled batting by forcing the opener to nick to Sissoko at slip. It was a sharp catch by Sissoko to terminate Holden’s magnificent knock of 193. Frenchman Phillipe Kahn invented the camera phone and spectators click click clicked on their devices as Holden soaked up the crowd’s adulation.

The following delivery Georges (2-103) enticed Sowter to edge through the slips and that brought with it the end of the session with the lord of the manors on 314-8. At first we thought the hosts were declaring but that wasn’t the case.

After the resumption Qadri (26-7-41-1) bowled fellow leg-spinner Sowter (14) with a stunning googly before La Roux, having claimed a wicket with his first delivery of the day, struck in the first over of a new spell to end Murtagh’s (35) vigil and conclude the innings. La Roux’s debut figures of 19.5-0-71-3 were an encouraging if slightly expensive start to his career.

Having reduced the home side to 167-5 to concede 363 and be out in the field for so long was frustrating. Their tactics of continuing to bat in a rain-affected three-day fixture was disappointing both for us but particularly for entertainment-seeking fans.

Our opening duo of Enzo Petit and Omar Sissoko negated two overs unscathed so that we reached tea on day two with all ten wickets in hand. You sensed that the last thing Sissoko needed was a break in play and so it proved. The cluttered mind that had been so pronounced in recent innings reared its ugly head and to the first ball of the day’s final session, a short pitched delivery, an attempted pull went predictably and familiarly wrong. A score of 12 was enough to put an end to a run of five consecutive innings without reaching double figures but not sufficient to secure a Test debut. By the time drinks came Petit and debutant Youssef Rizvi had propelled the score to 83-1 and put their Test aspirations in far more promising positions than the serially struggling Sissoko.

Post pause Petit and Rizvi progressed to 106-1 before Petit got giddy having despatched spinner Sowter into the stands for a maximum.

The right-hander was ingloriously bowled through his legs for 58 the very next delivery. He’d applied himself superbly though and almost certainly cemented his place in the line-up for our inaugural Test match. Sadly Petit’s demise prompted an all too familiar middle order collapse as 106-1 slumped to 116-6, a collapse of 10-5! Rizvi (36) was beaten by a good delivery but Sauvage (5), Clement (0) and Pitko (2) all failed to cover themselves in glory. Bernard (12) and Georges (17) entertained briefly but Sowter (6-38) continued to claim wickets with alarming regularity. Having subsided to 152-8 La Roux (16*) and Martin (17*) lifted us to 180-8 at the second day’s end. At best the pair were competing for one bowling spot in the team so a significant batting contribution could’ve been vital to their chances of making the XI when we revisit Lords to take on England.

Yet again it had been a sense of deja vu and with rain delaying the start of play for a third consecutive day our batsmen were left sweating as to whether or not they would get another opportunity… so we declared… and were made to follow-on! Middlesex were obviously trying to win the game but we appreciated them refraining from being awkward.

With less than one over of our second innings on the scoreboard need I tell you what happened?

Sissoko (3) presented a leading edge to bowler Tim Murtagh (1-68) and his Test dreams were extinguished… for now at least.

Rizvi (6) pushed hard at a delivery from Roland-Jones (2-48) to be caught in the slips and Sauvage (12) played down the wrong line resulting in his stumps being rearranged. It was a disappointing showing with the bat in this match for Sauvage having performed well against Yorkshire.

Petit picked up where he left off in the first innings and Clement avoided the ignominy of a king pair on First Class debut.

The duo batted with a hint of swagger to rescue the score from 36-3 to 93-3 at lunch on the final day. We still required another 90 runs to make Middlesex bat again.

Far too predictably spin soon proved our downfall. Just when he was pushing his case for Test selection, Timothee Clement (24) nicked behind off the first ball he faced from Sowter (4-49). Zvonimir Pitko steadied the ship but Enzo Petit (59) could only go one better than his first innings score. Petit had set the standard for other batsmen to follow though.

Bernard (10), Georges (16) and La Roux (20) all made contributions of sorts as we chalked up 217-8. With one session remaining the lead was 34. Could we hold out for a draw?

Pitko (58) and Martin (4*) battened down the hatches and the overs ticked by before the former fell to the 100th delivery that he faced. Qadri (0) was also bowled next ball by Harris (2-8) to leave Middlesex needing 43 runs to win and plenty of time to do it.

We opened with spin but it was Georges (1-12) and Sauvage (1-11) who accounted for Robson (12) and Gubbins (19). The less said about an all-run 5 to level the scores the better as Middlesex secured an eight-wicket win.

Despite another defeat there were some huge positives for our team. Petit, Rizvi, Clement and Pitko all made contributions with the bat while debutant quick bowlers La Roux and Martin made encouraging outings with the ball. There are some tough decisions to be made in regards to our playing XI for our inaugural Test match.

It’s been one hundred and twenty years since our nation claimed the silver medal at the 1900 Summer Olympic Games. There are 120 deliveries in a Twenty20 match but it’s the limitless possibilities of Test match cricket that await the current generation of French cricketers. Fill the cafetière, butter your croissant and smell the camembert. Fingers crossed that one of our batsman can score 120 against the mighty England at Lords!

Cricket 19: First Class Livraison

In the majestic surroundings of our new home ground we won the toss and were inspired to bat.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Enzo Petit (3) to come in from the cold and open the batting and the right-hander soon nicked behind. Jean-Luc Chevalier (19) and Gilles Smith (42) put on 46 to enhance their reputation as a strong pairing. They’d compiled two sixty-something partnerships in as many warm-up games prior to our First Class debut. The recalled Gabin Sauvage looked a much improved player but Christophe Martinez and Zidane Thomas both fell first ball as Ben Coad claimed a hat-trick. Marwan Leroy (22) batted maturely but soon after his dismissal came the controversy that marred the very first morning of our professional existence…

Sauvage (40), having applied himself so well, was adjudged run out when scampering through for a leg bye following an LBW shout against our captain Xavier Le Tallec. Replays from multiple angles confirmed that Sauvage had grounded his bat before the stumps were broken. Please refer to the below image for evidence…

The decision was hugely frustrating for the player in question and the team as a whole. We’d underperformed but were fighting hard against the strongest opposition that we’ve faced so far.

Le Tallec soon fell for 13 courtesy of a catch at short leg when fending off a fierce bouncer from Coad (6-31). 89-2 ultimately subsided to 157 all out and we actually lost our last four wickets for the addition of only five runs. The middle order collapse was frightful but the application (If not the results!) was there and there were some hugely encouraging signs. The run out decision undermined all that however and though it was only one of ten wickets we were robbed of our most set batsman. We hope that the standard of officiating in the Tests will be of a higher calibre.

Moving on, our premier wicket in the First Class game wasn’t a brute that nicked the batsman’s edge or a sensational inswinging delivery that knocked over the stumps but a run out following some calamitous activity between the wickets. Three of the six wickets that we claimed on day one were achieved in such fashion and at times it was hard to distinguish which team were the experienced professionals.

Patrick Pierre had the honour of claiming our first bowler’s wicket with a full delivery that was far too good for Will Fraine and dismantled the batsman’s stumps. After slumping to 42-3 courtesy of two run outs (The big wickets of Kohler-Cadmore and Ballance) Harry Brook and Jonny Tattersall performed a high-quality rebuilding job. The young pair compiled 76 before the ever-reliable Pierre (2-76) got Brook (44) to edge behind to stumper Leroy in the first over after tea. There was another run out and a maiden First Class wicket for Zidane Thomas (1-75) but all the while the imperious Tattersall batted on. By the end of the first day’s play Yorkshire were already a healthy 51 runs ahead.

We made a scintillating start to the second day with Alexandre Rivière (2-53) striking twice in the first over.

First he had dangerman Tattersall (90) snapped up by Martinez in the slips before Poysden was superbly caught by Enzo Petit at gully off the very next delivery. Steve Patterson survived the hat-trick ball and having survived he thrived. Experienced Patterson (45) compiled 96 alongside Jared Warner before the former nicked behind to Leroy off Sauvage (1-60).

Another 41 frustrating runs were yielded by the last wicket pair but in the first over after lunch Petit (1-10) rolled his arm over for the second time in the match and promptly trapped Warner (78) LBW to terminate an excellent innings from the youngster. Ben Coad remained undefeated on 19. The sum total was 347 meaning that Petit would walk to the crease alongside Chevalier effectively -190-0! “Bonne Chance” to them we said.

With the help of a little extras, 25 by the end of the innings, the opening pair put on a hugely encouraging 29 for the first wicket before Petit (8) nicked a brute of a delivery to the ‘keeper. It was a huge shame as the debutant had applied himself well and got out trying to defend a ball that he could’ve left alone. A horrible misjudgment saw Gilles Smith trapped LBW first ball but there would be no second hat-trick for Coad. Chevalier (22) and Sauvage (26) looked in good touch but would’ve loved to have made scores of substance. As was the case first time around a decent score looked on the cards but from 66-2 we slipped to 125-8.

A knock of just 5 means that it’s the end of the road for Christophe Martinez but Zidane Thomas (21) and Marwan Leroy (15) hinted at better things to come.

The less said about Leroy’s brain freeze dismissal though the better!

Patrick Pierre registered a king pair on professional debut, a shame for him having made runs in the warm-up games. Captain Le Tallec was left undefeated on 17 after Alexandre Rivière whalloped 36 from 22 deliveries. The number ten, who had struggled for runs in the practice matches, sensibly got his eye in before feasting on Poysden’s spin though the leg-break bowler (3-35) ultimately had the last laugh. When Qadri was out to Coad (3-19) the game was up. We went down by an innings and 13 runs. It was bitterly disappointing not to make Yorkshire bat again but individually there were plenty of starts with the bat and collectively we bettered our first innings total.

Next up it’s Middlesex at Lords, our final preparation for our Test debut!

Cricket 19: Competition sur la Menu!

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Having now completed five (Winless!) unofficial warm-up matches I’m delighted to announce the details of our first competitive games…

We’ll be playing against England in a ground-breaking two-match binational multi-geographical Test series. Eleven French cricketers will make their Test debuts at the historic Lords cricket ground in England. We’ll then host the second match, our first ever home Test in our new stadium located in Brittany. Our newly constructed Stade de France Cricket is a modest but inviting stadium in keeping with our nature and philosophy. All energy is renewable, all food packaging on sale is bio-degradable and all staff are paid above the national living wage.

The team are extremely grateful to the England squad for agreeing to be our premier opponents at the highest level and are eagerly awaiting the challenge. A fourteen-man squad for the trip to London will be announced following the completion of two final warm-up matches. The first of those matches is against Yorkshire and will be staged at Stade de France Cricket and the second will be against Middlesex at Lords. Both these matches against English county sides will have First Class status. It’s free entry for the friendlies but limited entry while tickets for both Tests are on sale now. There’s 20% off all merchandise at the team website for this week only, so grab your shirts and get ready to support Les Cricket Bleus!

Our squad for our First Class debut is: Jean-Luc Chevalier (V-C), Enzo Petit, Gilles Smith, Gabin Sauvage, Christophe Martinez, Zidane Thomas, Marwen Leroy (W) Xavier Le Tallec (C), Patrick Pierre (2), Alexandre Riviere (1), Mehdi Qadri, Paco Georges (12th man)

Omar Sissoko simply couldn’t be retained at the top of the order following his alarming loss of form. It’s sad that he’s been on this journey with us but misses out at this stage. It’s also unfortunate that middle-order batsman Timothee Clement drops out after only one match but we felt that it was necessary to recall all-rounder Gabin Sauvage. Despite a frustrating time with the bat so far he provides experience and critically another bowling option. Aymerric Gautier and Anthony Toure also drop out from the side that narrowly lost in New Zealand but their time will come.