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!

You Can Hit the Ball Twice!

I received a copy of the book ‘You Are The Umpire’ for Christmas and only a page or two in I learned something fascinating…

A batsman is allowed to hit the ball twice! It seems an utterly bizarre and inconsistent rule because if said batsman prevents a catch by doing so he’d be given out. However he (Or she) is allowed to defend their wicket by intentionally striking the ball a second time.

Wow, just wow!

Should Men and Women Share the Field? – The Results

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The results are in and there’s not much to choose between opinions…

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60% of voters feel that the option should be there for men and women to play on the same team at the highest level. 40% of voters are totally opposed to the concept. Some of you voiced ‘Spirit of cricket’ concerns and that’s understandable. Obviously cricket isn’t a contact sport but some statistics suggest that men average towards 10-20mph quicker than women when it comes to pace bowling. That’s a big step up but then so is transitioning from domestic to international level in either men’s or women’s cricket.

Tennis is probably the most direct comparison. Men and women share the court for mixed doubles matches where the gulf in speed between serves by different genders can be greater than cricket at around 30%. It’s a non-contact sport but is a tennis ball capable of killing someone? Sadly, we know all too well that a cricket ball is!

It’s easy to think about women potentially slotting into men’s sides but what about the reverse. If men are perceived to be a bit quicker and stronger what if they were to slot into primarily women’s teams? Should all teams be mixed then? Would there need to be an even split in the playing XI? Questions, Questions, Questions.

I think that the fundamental question and one that I’ve seen those in the women’s game ask is “Is it necessary? Why can’t the game for both genders simply stand on their own? More questions!

Personally I think that the option should be there but I don’t expect it to happen en masse anytime soon.

Disclaimer: Information sourced from the following article…

http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1104475/how-far-can-women-s-cricket-go

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!

Cricket 19: Oh Man!

It’s safe to say that our captain, Xavier Le Tallec, isn’t a great tosser! He made it a hat-trick of toss losses in Paris but for a change we were inserted to bat. Given that we hadn’t yet reached three figures in an innings that seemed a reasonable decision by the Oman captain. Against international opponents for the first time but still officially playing an unofficial warm-up match, we strolled confidently to 24 without loss. Upon reaching double figures for the first time in his career though, Jean-Luc Chevalier was bowled for 10. Having raised everybody’s expectations we soon reverted to type. Gabin Sauvage was dismissed first ball before Matteo Phillipe made it three golden ducks in five innings. 24-0 became 28-5 and nobody but our openers reached double figures.

All the while that wickets tumbled around him however, Omar Sissoko followed scores of 9, 29, 16 and 15 with a dominant knock of 42 to cement his place as the lynchpin of our batting unit. With the little help of a due-delayed start we actually batted throughout the entire morning session but a team aggregate of 87 all out had an all too familiar feel about it. Given the useful opening stand and Sissoko’s contribution, to fail to reach three figures at the fifth attempt was bitterly frustrating.

Despite disappointment with the batting effort yet again, I was absolutely delighted with our bowling effort and fielding standards. We reduced Oman, a team that has played at ICC tournaments in recent years, to 106-6.

The first two wickets to fall came courtesy of catches, polar opposite in their difficultly, from Christophe Martinez in the slips. Zidane Thomas struck twice in two balls and Matteo Phillipe (1-14) put his batting struggles to one side to claim his first wicket in a French shirt. Oman repelled well however to see out the day without further damage. The following morning they had moved onto 177 before Thomas induced an edge. This time though Martinez seemed slow to react and put a relatively straight forward slip catch down. Maybe he hadn’t had enough croissants for breakfast! It mattered little however as the very next delivery Thomas (4-39) found the edge once more. Wicketkeeper Maxime Bernard flung himself full stretch to his left to claim a magnificent one-handed catch. For the second consecutive day Thomas claimed two wickets in an over to leave Oman 178-8. By the time Paco Georges (1-54) curtailed the innings on 227, gloveman Bernard had pouched five catches. We would need to score 140 to make Oman bat again.

What followed was an all too familiar ‘Build our hopes up then knock ’em down’ batting display. Despite the loss of Sissoko (3), Chevalier and Sauvage (15) lifted us to 43-1, as good a position as we’ve ever been in with bat in hand. We soon slumped to 49-6 however with Phillipe registering a fourth duck in six innings, Martinez failing to reach doubles figures for the fifth time and Bernard falling first ball to leave his top score after six innings… 5!

As carnage ensued all around him, Chevalier batted gracefully to stroke his way to a career saving career best 27 before being the last wicket to fall. 67 all out having been 43-1 therefore losing nine wickets for just 24 runs was another pitiful performance. The margin of defeat an innings and 73 runs and the time for change is upon us. The depth of French cricket is about to be tested!

Cricket 19: Deuxieme Partie – 34, C’est Tout!

Following our narrow innings and 277-run defeat (!!!) in our opening match in Paris, we hosted yet more amateur opposition on our second ground, Stade de France Cricket 2 located in Nantes. Things could only get better right?

Once again we lost the toss and once again we were forced to field. In truth we lacked a bit of bite first up with the ball but the visitor’s total of 371 was less than the 400 plus we’d conceded in our first match and owed much to their opening batsman’s 209. No other player passed 44. We finally claimed some wickets courtesy of spin but it was part-timer Jean-Luc Chevalier (1-15) who was the unlikely source to open the floodgates. The slow-left-armer was aided by some smart work from gloveman Maxime Bernard to snap up his first wicket in a France shirt.

Captain Xavier Le Tallec (2-49) and, after beating the bat on countless occasions, teenage spin prodigy Mehdi Qadri (1-61) deservedly got in on the act too. Pace bowlers Alexandre Rivière (2-42) and Gabin Sauvage (2-52) picked up two wickets each.

There then followed total humiliation as we crumbled from 20-2 to a pathetic 34 all out in our first innings. Opening batsman Omar Sissoko’s top score of 16 more than triple the next highest contribution.

I was ashamed, devastated and embarrassed to be associated with French cricket and the players responsible but had my faith and pride restored when, despite the loss of Chevalier first ball, Sissoko (15 from 52) and Sauvage (22 from 51) applied themselves like seasoned professionals to haul us from the wreckage of 1-1 to a promising 37-1 in our second innings. The vision before us was a mirage however and sadly the beverage break brought about our demise with two quick wickets falling soon after. Having been well set to reach three figures for the first time, we fell apart once again and, with a strong sense of deja vu, ran into a cul-de-sac, ultimately succumbing to just 85 all out. Already the weight of run-scoring seems to lay on the shoulders of the stoic Sissoko so I can only hope that the rest of the batting order can learn fast, tres rapide!

Chevalier (8 runs @ 2.00) and Matteo Phillipe, who followed a king pair on debut with scores of just 5 and 4 have much work to do in the nets. Neither has yet reached double figures in four innings each and Christophe Martinez, top score 12, has faired little better. Other squad members may come into consideration for our next match but I do want to keep the core of the XI together and allow inexperienced players to find their feet. Fully fledged competitive matches with official status will soon be on the horizon however so we can’t afford to carry dead wood otherwise we’ll soon be French toast!

Cricket 19: Bonjour!

Introducing the French national cricket team!

L’equipe Francaise de Cricket are currently participating in some non-official practice matches before entering some as yet decided competitions and possibly even going on tour.

Any matches featuring France will be played at the hardest level. There will be no hiding place for this enthusiastic band of continental cricketers. 26-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Xavier Le Tallec will captain the side with wicketkeeper Maxime Bernard acting as vice. Players who herald from celebrated cities such as Paris, Marseille and Nantes are represented as are some less well known towns and villages. Virgin cricket fans from all corners of the country have had their interest peaked and sales of shirts have been off the richter scale even before the team have played a competitive match.

Meet some of the players…

Maxime Bernard, wicketkeeper and vice-captain

Alexandre Riviere, right-arm medium-fast bowler

Matteo Phillipe, middle-order left-handed batsman

Unfortunately our first match ended in defeat by a mammoth margin of an innings and 277 runs. At home we lost the toss against an amateur works side but despite dropping an early catch we posed a consistent threat with the ball to dismiss the opposition for 452. The pick of our bowlers was right-arm sling bowler Zidane Thomas who claimed figures of 3-68. Medium-pacer Gabin Sauvage (2-56), left-arm express paceman Paco Georges (2-81) and right-arm medium-fast bowler Alexandre Rivière (2-90) all bowled well at times. Young leg-spinner Mehdi Qadri (0-64) beat the bat on numerous occasions however all the wickets that we claimed (Excluding a run out) came courtesy of some form of pace bowling.

After 120 overs spread over a day and a bit in the field and with the opposition’s tail having wagged to the tune of over a hundred runs, we then floundered with the bat in both innings. In our first dig we recovered from appalling positions of 39-6 and 50-8 to at least reach 92 before last man Thomas fell for an innings top score of 32. 18 not out from last man Qadri was critical to us totalling as many runs as we did. Our batsmen were caught by surprise when the visitors opened the bowling with spin and their premier bowler promptly ripped through us with figures of 6-34.

I had hoped for better in our second innings but despite an encouraging 29 from Senegalese born opening batsman Omar Sissoko we crumbled to just 83 all out. Our spin foe from the first innings added four more wickets to his day’s tally to finish the match with analysis of 10-94. Sissoko’s opening partner, Jean-Luc Chevalier, contributed scores of just 5 and 1 however they were scores that middle order batsman Matteo Phillipe, who suffered the ignominy of registering a king pair on debut, could only dream of. Both batsmen will be retained for our next match however as we aim to have a good look at players before rushing into changing the playing personnel. I’m confident that the current playing XI will be better for their tough baptism.

With little money provided by the ICC and no sign of a millionaire benefactor, we’ve created a GoFundMe page to help raise costs to cover everything from player contracts, travel and kit manufacturing. Many thanks to those of you who have helped raise €20.00 so far. We’ll also be holding a coffee morning in Rennes later this month and washing cars in Grenoble in January.

Look out for further updates from the squad soon as eleven Frenchmen make history and look to take to the field at Test, ODI and T20I level for the very first time.

Paul Morris, Coach and Selector, France Cricket Team