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!

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!