For this years over 40’s tournament the Spanish cricket team travelled to Rotterdam in the last week of July where they were to compete against the hosts SGS, (Still Going Strong from Holland), Denmark (DANSK XL) and England (The English XL Club).
Last year the tournament was in Spain and as the home team they made use of home advantage and won the T20 competition, however they failed in their quest to impress in the 45 over event failing to win a single game.
The wet damp conditions of Holland were not going to suit the Spanish side, however they had a trophy to defend and one to seriously contest for, and with a small squad of only 12 players, everyone had to perform on the field if they were to stand a chance.
The tournament kicked off on Monday 24th July, the first game of the competition was a 45 over affair against the annual favourites, The English XL club. The English team were to bat first, this resulted in a long and hard afternoon in the field for the Spanish team. The weather was not kind to the fielding side, wind, rain and torrential storms had them coming on and off between the down pours and once the players came off at the end of 45 overs, they were soaked to the skin. Despite some good bowling performances from George Wambeek, 8-56-4 wickets, Harmit Phull 7-38-2 and Nisar Ranjah 9-58 2 the XL club posted a big total of 274. Good batting from Nigel Angus 77 and Neil Canham 50 and some sloppy fielding and over 40 runs in extras did contribute to this total.
The sun had decided to come out for the second part of the game, and though this was good news for the English side to field in, it was also a much welcome relief and back to a little normality for the Spanish. With the sun shining on their backs the Spanish made a good impressive start with Sajid Ali 64, David Williams 57, Stuart Simkins 47 and Ben Fletcher 27 all contributing with the bat but unfortunately for the Spanish team, they lost key wickets at the wrong time and what looked set to be a famous victory, finished with them 30 short of the winning total after their 45 overs in an exciting and enjoyable contest. In the days other match, the hosts, SGS proved too strong for the team from Denmark.
The evening ended splendidly with everyone tucking into a BBQ that had been organised by the hosts, and the sun shone down onto the magnificent Sparta ground making the Spanish boys feel very much at home.
The next day was T20 competition day with two games to play. The Spanish side starting the defence of their trophy against the strong Dutch side. Fielding first George Wambeek continued with his good form with the ball picking up two more wickets, he was well supported by Peter West 3-22-2 and the pick of the bowlers Sajid Ali taking 3 wickets from his 4 overs for 27 runs. Only Ramand Van Der Berg from SGS gave them a decent score with a well-earned 60. This set a target of 149 to win which again because of dropped catches and some bad fielding was 30 runs too many. The Spanish boys knew therefore the top order of the batting line up had to see them home. All the batsman made good starts with Stuart Simkins 39 and Kevin Laundon 36 being the pick, but as per the day before, they all seemed to get out at the wrong time, not sticking around to finish the job.
With overs running out and all recognised batsman back in the pavilion and the target at 7 an over, the Dutch side were clearly on top with the Spanish team staring at defeat! But then, never one to give up, Mark Briggs who couldn’t get bat to ball the day before played a marvellous innings of 15 and bought the scores level. With three balls to go. What followed was two dot balls and a scramble for a single off the last ball to win the match but John Braithwaite’s athletic figure failed to move from the non-strikers end and Mark was run out with the scores level on 148!!! A tie, however, in accordance to the competition rules in the case of a tie, the team losing the fewer wickets win….. SGS lost 8 wickets…. Spain lost …….. 7, Spain declared the winners…..what a game.
After some much needed catching practice, Spain were once again fielding first in the afternoon fixture, this time playing their strong rivals the XL club who just got the better of them the day before in the 45 over match. If there was ever to be an advert for practice makes perfect, well this important game was it. Everyone held their catches, including the catch of the season so far by Jaggie Singh who also had a master class run out. The bowling was excellent, and the fielding was superb, and the result, well the English team struggled to 132 for 5 of their 20 overs, with John Braithwaite the pick of the bowlers 4-22-1 and George Wambeek continuing from where he left off, 4-22-2.
The English team were not just going to roll over and hand the match to the Spanish, and they were soon into the wickets and once more it looked like it was going to be a close finish. Stuart Simkins 70, did his best to be there at the end, but once he fell Harmit Phull and Ben Fletcher guided the Spanish team to a well-deserved victory.
Wednesday was a must win 45 over match against the home nation, and though the sun had decided to come, the Spanish boys on this day had wished they had stayed in the hotel!! The Spanish skipper Kevin Laundon did win the toss, but that was as good as it got for the Spanish boys. In fairness though, with the Dutch team batting first, the Spanish did manage to contain them for 30 overs, but in the last 15 it all went wrong and the home side set a big scores, one they had nearly chased before, 274.
The Spanish team knew they had the talent and ability to chase the target, but they got off to a horrible start with 3 key batsman out without hardly troubling the scorer. Kevin Laundon 22 and Ben Fletcher 39 got a little batting practice in but once they were out, it was game over, the Spanish dismissed for a miserable 111 in 43 over.
So with two days of competition left there was plenty to prove, firstly a win against Denmark in the T20 would see them crowned back to back champions, and in the 45 overs also against Denmark, pride was at state, couldn’t go home without once more winning a single 45 over match.
Deep Heat, freeze spray, and supports for all parts of the body kept these magnificent athletes together for the final two days, credit to them all for making it through this gruelling week, and they finished in style. Firstly was the victory on Thursday when a fiery spell from Harmit Phull 4-2-9-2 took out the top order and supported well by John Braithwaite and George Wambeek who also took 2 wickets each in their spell restricted Dansk to 82 for 8 in their 20 overs. In reply, that man again, Simkins 32 and Sajid Ali 39 gave Spain a racing start abut again unable to finish the job, left David Williams and Harmit Phull to complete a comprehensive victory, T20 Champions for the 2nd consecutive year!!!
On Friday the Danes did their best to spoil the Spanish party with a magnificent batting performance, setting the Spanish a daunting 194. It started well for the Spanish with the opening attack of Phull again taking 2 quick wickets for just 9 runs in his first 4 overs, but an excellent knock from Tammy Jespersen 87 and good supporting roles from Alan Mathews and Stuart Spalding both making 25 each, had the Spanish on the back foot. With the Danes looking to post a target of around 250, Nisar Ranjah got the badly needed break through finishing with 2 wickets for 45 of his 6 overs, but it was Jaggie Singh’s day with the ball wrapping up the innings with an excellent spell of spin bowling, taking 3 wickets for 30 runs.
Chasing 195 to win it started badly for the Spanish with all-rounder Nisar once again failing with the bat, with the score at 1 for 1 and then later 21 for 2, the Spanish were in trouble and needed a decent partnership to get them back on track. This time the Spanish batsman did not repeat the mistakes that had cost them in the earlier games, Stuart Simkins 106 not out supported by David Williams 50 not out stayed there and finished the job, Stuart Simkins ton added to his other scores over the 5 days of cricket rightly earned him the award of batsman of the tournament, take a bow that man!! What a fantastic way to finish the tournament for the Spanish team. The 45 over winners were the English XL club with an easy victory over the Dutch who had a bad day at the office.
It was a great week, the cricket was important and played in a very competitive, sporting and fair manner, However the key thing is that the games were played in the right spirit, friendly gentlemanly manner and once the games were over, everyone from all the teams, officials and supporters shared in each other’s banter and had a few drinks together. The atmosphere was brilliant all week long, and if you’re a Spanish cricketer over 40 years of age you can join in all the fun and action next year when the tournament is in Denmark at the same time of year.
Congratulations to the Spanish team, as always at these events, the Spanish team made loads of friends and were the team that kept the others well entertained. At the awards evening the team were awarded the T20 cup and individual player souvenirs, Harmit Phull was given an award in appreciation of all his hard work at last year’s tournament at La Manga while George Wambeek was awarded the gentleman’s cup for all his hard work and effort not just during these tournaments but for all his work developing and supporting cricket in Spain.
Congratulations to all the Spanish squad comprising of players, umpires and scorers:
Kevin Laundon, George Wambeek, John Braithwaite, David Riley, Ben Fletcher, Nisar Ranjah, Peter West, Jaggie Singh, Mark Briggs, Harmit Phull, Stuart Simkins, David Williams, Sajid Ali, Nigel Green.
Reported by the Twelfth man.