Serbia 2013

Serbian cricket actually has a shorter history than CIPAITMA! After several unsuccessful attempts, cricket finally found its place in Serbia in 2007 when 2 clubs: Stari Grad and Mirijevo were founded in Belgrade. There are now four teams active in the country, and they have a new, dedicated cricket ground which we had the honour of inaugurating. As might be expected, there are a few ex-pats trying to get their cricketing fix - as described this summer in the Guardian - but impressively the majority of the players are Serbian nationals who have developed a huge enthusiasm for the game.

So in April of this year, eleven enthusiastic patent attorney cricketers headed out to Belgrade for a weekend of sightseeing and cricket, as well as a substantial amount of meat and beer!

More pictures here

The first match, against Stari Grad, was not only CIPA's first of the 2013 season, but also the very first on Serbia's newest pitch. The gravitas of the occasion did not dampen Friday night's activities, which were somewhat spurred on by some of our non-playing hosts. CIPA turned up bleary-eyed to the Foxes Oval at 11.30am to witness the wicket being (literally) rolled out. The wicket was a surprisingly true carpet rolled out on a slab of concrete. Unfortunately, the mixture of poor weather and concrete-pouring trucks made for an 'unpredictable' outfield.

After some atrocious catching practice, captain Mark Jolly went to the square and as predicted, lost the toss. Our hosts (rather unsportingly) put CIPA into the field. The honour of the very first ball was given to Rob Patterson who used it to bowl a wide. The bowling performance improved after this, with Stari Grad showing Rob and Mark Jolly a lot of respect, only one wicket falling before the first change. After this, the wickets came quicker when Andy Spurr and Stuart Lumsden resumed their wicket-taking ways of 2012. Our hosts picked up the run-rate towards the end but Stari Grad finished on 129 all out, which we thought was very attainable.

The Belgrade heat must have sapped whatever energy the team had as the first four wickets fell with barely any resistance. Andy Spurr came in at no. 6 after rushing to pad up, with just 6 runs on the board. A solid partnership was in the making with James Shearman but was broken by an excellent piece of fielding running out James Shearman attempting a quick single. Next up was Rob Patterson who valiantly attempted a Cardiff 2009 style block-out; however, being a seasoned T20 player he could not resist the hoick to mid wicket. Andy Spurr soon followed suit, this time holeing-out to deep mid-on. At this point CIPA were 70 for 6 and there was still a slim chance of victory. However, Stari Grad held their nerve and after a spell of straight bowling, finished CIPA off for a paltry 88.

All things considered it was an enjoyable match and Stari Grad were very modest in their victory, which we were told was their first for some time!

After the disappointments of Saturday, CIPA returned to the same ground on Sunday eager to even their Serbian record against a Belgrade Select XI. Captain Mark Jolly continued his 100% record of losing the toss, and CIPA were sent in to bat.

Rob Patterson and Stuart Lumsden approached the early overs in watchful style, keen to avoid another top order collapse. Having seen off the opening bowlers, Stuart begin to accelerate against the first change with a burst of boundaries before eventually holing out to mid-on. Rob Jackson's innings at #3 was rather brief, but great comedy value for the spectators, as a flurry of indecision, followed by a vital slip, saw him run out without facing a ball. But Rob Patterson's continued to watchfully compile an innings at the other end and, when drinks were taken after 15 overs, the platform was set at 57-2. Seemingly distracted by the break, Rob Patterson's vigil was ended in the first over back, skying to mid-off, and CIPA were in danger of throwing away a good start. We should not have worried – Andy Spurr joined Simon Thomas at the crease, and the two of them set about dismantling the Serbian attack. Simon displayed a combination of wristy elegance and ferocious power as he unleashed an array of glorious strokes all around the wicket, with Spurr matching him almost shot for shot. Neither offered a serious chance, despite occasional misbehaviour from the 'lively' new surface, as they both marched towards well-deserved half centuries. Once CIPA's score had moved from promising to imposing, Simon retired for an outstanding 63 not out.

If the Belgrade XI thought they were able to relax after Simon's departure, they were about to be in for a hefty shock as James Shearman wandered out to the wicket and took guard. His first ball was soon flying back over the bowler's head for a very big six. After a massive windmill-and-miss at his second delivery, balls three and four disappeared in the same direction as the first. By the time his innings of wanton brutality (35 in 12 balls) was ended a few overs later, the game was up. There remained time for Spurr to complete his own 50, and cameos of very different styles from captain Jolly (nurdling) and Chris Milton (clobbering), as CIPA finished on an intimidating 259-5.

Belgrade's task in chasing down that target lurched from very difficult to nigh-on impossible after Andy Grant and Tony Williams picked up the wicket of an opener apiece in tight opening spells. Belgrade number 4 – the same Aussie now made famous (!) by the Guardian, but then making his local debut – launched an impressive counter-attack with a quality innings of 88, but with little run support from the other end, and a combination of Mark Jolly, Rob Patterson, Stuart Lumsden and Dave Prothero keeping a lid on the scoring, the required rate begin to sky rocket. A few pieces of comedy fielding from CIPA kept the crowd entertained but the eventual departure of our Aussie foe (to a great catch from Simon at cow corner) heralded a flurry of late wickets, including two for Chris Milton, two more for a returning Tony, and a couple of fine run outs from diminutive keeper Andy Spurr.

Belgrade were eventually bowled out for 163 in the final over, and CIPA had completed a resounding 96-run victory to give them a split of the matches in Belgrade, and some momentum for the start of the season proper. More importantly, all involved had a fantastic time and did their bit to help develop Anglo-Serbian cricketing relations.

The matches and stats have been entered and can be found here.