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

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.

Cricket 19: Canterbury Tales

Following back-to-back matches against international opposition in the form of Oman and Canada we flew to New Zealand to take on domestic side Canterbury. I’d like to say a grand “Merci” to Air France for their assistance in getting the squad and support staff to Aotearoa.

The match in Christchurch served as continued preparation for us ahead of participating in full international matches. Though not international opponents on this occasion it was an opportunity for our players to gain further exposure in overseas conditions.

With their positions in the team having become almost untenable the underperforming Gabin Sauvage and Maxime Bernard were dropped from the XI that performed so admirably in Ottawa. As a consequence of Bernard’s omission Omar Sissoko assumed the role of vice-captain. Meanwhile Alexandre Rivière and Mehdi Qadri were rested and conditions dictated that Louis Petit, who debuted in Canada, was unfortunate to sit this one out too. Zidane Thomas returned to the side while batsman Timothee Clement, wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy, all-rounder Aymerric Gautier and fast-bowler Anthony Toure all appeared in a France shirt for the first time.

The playing XI was as follows: Sissoko, Chevalier, Smith, Clement, Martinez, Thomas, Leroy (W), Le Tallec (C), Gautier, Pierre, Toure

Old habits die hard as Le Tallec lost a fourth toss in five and on a frighteningly lush green deck we were inserted to bat.

Two deliveries into our innings and Sissoko’s (0) stumps had been sent flying leaving him one innings to save his career. It’s such a shame that having started so well Sissoko is now struggling to contribute at all. For the second match in a row though messrs Chevalier (20) and Smith laid firm foundations. The left-hand/right-hand pair combined to lift us from the despair of 0-1 to 67 before the former edged to slip. Debutant Clement (11) didn’t look out of place either before a poor LBW decision cost him his wicket.

Like Sissoko, Christophe Martinez (1) left his place in the team hanging by a thread as he fell in single figures for the seventh time in nine innings.

Smith (78) was unfortunate to edge behind when trying to leave but had already reaffirmed the positive impression that he’d made on debut. Thomas thwacked a characteristic 37 and Marwen Leroy (10) briefly applied himself well in his first outing.

Captain Le Tallec (58) passed fifty for the second consecutive match and the score had surpassed the two hundred mark by the time we reached lunch… WE REACHED LUNCH!!!

Post soup du jour et baguettes Patrick Pierre (34) picked up where he left off in Ottawa but couldn’t quite make it three fifties in a row. His average plummeted to 72.00 as a result! Aymerric Gautier (21) lacked fluency but was just starting to find some rhythm when he was dismissed to curtail the innings on 291.

Proud would be an understatement. Eight of our team (Three debutants included) reached double figures to help us register our highest team total (Remember we were 0-1) for the third innings running. Those knocks included our highest individual score, Smith’s 78 and a second half-century by our skipper. Jean-Luc Chevalier’s application at the top of the order shouldn’t be underestimated either. Even if he didn’t go big himself the left-hander provided the middle order with some breathing room. It goes without saying that we batted far longer than we’d done previously and remember that was having been put into bat in bowling conditions.

Said conditions were still exploitable if we pitched the ball in the right areas and our bowlers did just that. Pierre, who was far more disciplined than on debut, put their opener in a horrible tangle to force an early breakthrough.

Soon after the impressive Anthony Toure (2-65) claimed his first France wicket courtesy of a premier catch for gloveman Leroy.

Leroy would later execute a sharp stumping to provide Omar Sissoko (1-11) with a maiden career wicket.

There was a period of frustration on the second morning before Pierre (2-51) struck for a second time and despite an annoying last wicket stand we limited Canterbury to 313, a deficit of 22. Zidane Thomas (3-57) was the pick of the bowlers whilst their was also a maiden wicket for Aymerric Gautier (1-40). A defining innings for messrs Sissoko and Martinez lay just ahead as did a shot at our first victory.

A clutter-minded Sissoko’s fate was soon sealed when he top edged an unnecessary pull shot and was caught for only 1. Chevalier (15), Smith (10) and Clement (13) all got in but got out. I’m happy though that they at least tried to apply themselves properly. Christophe Martinez battled his way through the pace bowlers before slapping a few sixes off the spinner. The right-hander notched a career best 32 and though it wasn’t always convincing has probably done enough to keep his place… for now at least. He and Le Tallec (46) put on 52 to lift us from 62-6 to 114 and Gautier (14*) looked good once again. Still, a score of 163 looked like we’d left a few runs out there. Canterbury required 142 for victory and to deny us our first.

Pierre struck in the first over to get the game on and should have struck again soon after. Sissoko’s misery continued however as he put down a chance in the slips. Left-armer Pierre (2-30) got his man not long later though with gloveman Leroy doing what Sissoko couldn’t… holding on! When the second wicket went down Canterbury still needed another 101 to win.

A partnership then mounted and frustration was growing when Thomas induced a flashing edge to first slip. Like his opening partner earlier in the innings though Chevalier shelled it and another chance went begging. A lightning quick outfield and dropped chances were helping Canterbury race to victory but in Omar Sissoko’s first over the alert Marwen Leroy executed a run out to leave the home side 99-3 and still 43 runs from victory.

Just two deliveries later Zidane Thomas effected a run out off his own bowling as the pressure built on the hosts. Both set batsmen were back in the hutch and our players dared to dream! One ball later and the score had subsided to 101-5, Leroy snaffling an edge to provide Thomas (1-36) with a wicket of his own in the final over of the day.

Anticlimactically we just couldn’t force a breakthrough the following morning.

Only when Canterbury were one run from parity did we manage to take the sixth wicket courtesy of Sissoko (1-6). Whether or not two wickets in the match is enough to help Sissoko (2-17) retain his place after yet more failures with the bat and an iffy display in the field femains to be seen. Ultimately we went down by four wickets having dropped two catches. What could’ve been?

Look out for news regarding our step up to competitive matches soon!

Cricket 19: Pierre, Rivière and Despair!

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!