Alicante 2017

After a less than impressive (and rain-affected) season, CIPA CITMA Cricket Club was eagerly looking forward to sunnier weather and tamer opposition on their annual overseas tour. The team decided to pause ticking off Eastern European countries (previous tours have included Serbia, Croatia, Lithuania and Slovenia) and settled on Alicante, Spain to play a team from the EUIPO.

The team on the mandatory hike up to a castle

'The Intellectuals' Cricket Club was founded in 1997 - the inaugural match interestingly being against Marks & Clark. The have regular fixtures against other teams up and down the Mediterranean coast, and also have their own overseas tour (we were told that this year this was a sound drubbing in Yorkshire!).

Despite the tour being scheduled for the first weekend of November (to avoid a clash with UK exam revision) the weather proved more than ideal, and we even managed to fit in a game of beach cricket as a warm up to the first game on the Saturday.

Having successfully lost the toss, CIPA CC batted first in the Spanish sun, and Rob Jackson quickly demonstrated the captain's misplaced trust by returning shortly thereafter. We then promptly wilted to 15-4 due to the variable bounce from the coconut matting pitch, making batting conditions treacherous for the struggling tourists. James Duffy showed some resistance scoring what turned out to be a respectable 13 - 'relative' being the operative word, given Chris Milton was comedically bowled second ball by an octogenarian.

A 9th wicket partnership of 52 between Stuart Lumsden and man-of-the-match Bruce Torrance brought some resemblance of respectability to the CIPA score before Bruce chased a wide one to depart for 58. Andy Grant put on more valuable runs at the death with Stuart, who was eventually bowled for 35.

CIPA set the Intellectuals a target of 133 to win. It was immediately clear that the catching practice on the beach the day before had paid off. There were only 2 dropped catches and James 'dead eye' Duffy was unlucky to not run out a batsman from a direct hit. The wickets were evenly shared - everyone got at least one except for Milton. The game was looking like it was slipping away from CIPA with a talented batsman carving boundaries with ease. A half-tracked delivery induced a heave across the line which picked out Andy Spurr at full stretch near the square leg boundary. The momentum had shifted firmly in CIPA's favour, but the score crept up to the Intellectuals needing just 2 from the final 2 overs with a wicket to spare. Captain Andy Spurr put himself back to bowl and, to much jubilation, clean bowled the Intellectual's number 11 without troubling the scorebook.

A happy team!

We arrived at the ground for our second match against The Intellectuals feeling quietly confident in view of the events of the previous day, where we had been mediocre but nonetheless won. A neutral observer might have considered our confidence misplaced: clearly three nights out in Alicante was starting to take its toll on even the hardiest amongst us. The fact that Bruce Torrance had decided to play that day in a kilt and woolen socks should also have been a warning sign. As it happened, there were no neutral observers present to break these home truths to us, and consequently we swaggered onto the field in the manner and with the confidence of the great West Indian teams of the 1980s.

We had agreed with the Intellectuals that we would bowl first, given that our northern contingent of Lumsden and Mark Jolly had to depart early for their flight back to Manchester. Lumsden took on the roll of captain, and opted for the fearsome combination of Jolly and Andy Grant to open the bowling.

Unfortunately, the two batsmen we faced this day were more than up to the task, and dispatched the ensuing array of leg stump long hops to the boundary with ease.

At the other end, Grant (switching between spin and medium pace apparently at random) did a better job at troubling the batsmen, but did not manage to dislodge either. Indeed, this was rather the theme of the innings. Dave Prothero, Spurr, Lumsden and Milton in turn sought in vain to secure our first wicket. Their valiant efforts in the searing midday sun were, it has to be said, not supported by the fielding: a total of six catches went down in this period, with notable mentions going to Mark Dean and Jon Bailey for dropping two each. With the benefit of hindsight, we could perhaps also have helped ourselves by having more than one fielder in the fine leg to cow corner sector, where the majority of the runs were scored.

Eventually one of their batsmen reached his century, and retired, then the other also reached his century and retired. But with the score now at over 200, the two quick wickets secured by Prothero and Dean (decent catch by Duffy) and run out (by Milton and Dean) were scant consolation. The Intellectuals finished on a challenging but not insurmountable 228 for 3 off 30 overs.

As a team used to playing 20 over cricket, scoring at 7.6 runs an over for 30 overs ought not to be too difficult. That said, our record in chasing down large totals (particularly in the absence of star batsman Simon Thomas) is shaky at best. And so it proved again.

A tired display of fielding...

Jolly and Lumsden opened the batting, but their eagerness to get to the airport showed: Jolly lasted just two balls, with Lumsden scratching around a little longer for 11. Justin Wilson looked even scratchier for his 11 (strike rate of 28), and was eventually (and unjustly) put out of his misery by the kilted Torrance, who adjudicated him LBW. Duffy looked more fluent in scoring 12 at nearly a run a ball, but tried to find the boundary one time too many and was bowled. Grant also perished, as did Bailey (who took 13 balls to score 1 run).

At this point, we were plodding along at less than 3 runs an over, rather than the required 7.6. A humiliating loss by a huge margin seemed inevitable. However, Torrance (sweating into his woolen socks and kilt) and Milton (just sweating generally) had other ideas. A superb 100 partnership, with Torrance ending up on an unbeaten 55 and Milton scoring a rapid 50 of 27 deliveries, invigorated the crowd and showed what could be done. Unfortunately, it was too little too late, and we ended up on 172 for 7, a losing margin of 56 runs.

The tour thus ended up 'honours even' with a win a piece. An enjoyable time was had by all, and special thanks go to Mark Dean who organised the entire tour by himself - despite having four UK papers to sit for the first time.

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