LEATHERHEAD and COBHAM CC Under 16's Tour to La Manga, Spain -DIARY OF A CRICKET TOUR
LCCC embarked on a three match series of games against the Spanish National side at the invitation of the Spanish Cricket Association, following the teams success in winning the Surrey Cup in 2006, and reaching the last 12 in the Portman Building Society National Knock Out. Youth cricket in Spain is flourishing with an ICC backed coaching programme and considerable investment in the excellent cricket facility at LA MANGA CLUB in southern Spain, which hosted pre-season tour to the main Kent and Yorkshire first class sides, and is hosting the European Cup for Under 16's in August.
SATURDAY 30 JUNE
The tour party of 26, including 13 players, under the stewardship of tour manager Peter Ashdown, were sponsored by L P DRYWALL, and set off from Gatwick at 7.50am leaving the rain behind to enjoy six days of unbroken sunshine with temperatures soaring to 39 degrees! A lunchtime arrival at the luxury resort of La Manga Club, allowed the side to enjoy the resorts swimming facilities, before 9 holes of golf on the Championship golf course in the evening followed by dinner at the local Italian restaurant. A great opening day was concluded with a cocktail party hosted by Hugh Fitzpatrick.
SUNDAY 1 JULY
A two hour practice session was held at the picturesque ground that was to be home for the next four days. Excellent net facilities adjoined the cricket ground that had an electric scoreboard, a series of marquees to provide much needed shade for players and spectators, and of course a well appointed sports bar where many of the Dads accompanying the team took refuge at various times of the day. Rehydrating the players was a priority in such intense heat, and all the back up crew (the Dads!) ensured water was regularly available to prevent problems.
After practice, the boys retired to the swimming pool, whilst the Elders enjoyed a fantastic paella lunch in the beach restaurant, with panoramic views across the bay, interrupted only by a series of calls from home with weather reports as the rain continued to fall in Leatherhead. Early evening golf was followed by more fine dining washed down by San Miguel and Rioja. It should be mentioned at this point that the players were encouraged by the "seen it all before Dads" to steer clear of alcohol before games.
MONDAY 2 JULY
MATCH 1 LP DRYWALL SERIES
LCCC 159 -9 (35 overs)
LCCC won by 47 runs
The opening 35 over per side game commenced at 1pm in intense heat. The Spanish team was made up of boys from Madrid, Sotogrande, Marbella, Valencia, Benidorm and Murcia, which meant they had also travelled a considerable distance with their families, for the games and their own training camp.
Spain won the toss and chose to field first, opening with an accurate combination of seam bowlers restricting LCCC to less than 4 an over in the early exchanges with only Steve Burgess (18), Ned Humphrey (19) and Tom Dale (35) able to build an innings. The loss of wickets at regular intervals prevented LCCC from attacking when they would have wished, however and a late onslaught by Will Zuurbier (21 not out) and Dominic Hendry (13) enabled the visitors to amass a challenging total of 159-9 from their allotted overs.
LCCC traditionally perform at their best under pressure, albeit on this occasion they had been guilty of contributing to their own downfall by a lack of application whilst batting. All changed when they took the field with Dayle Honess (1-8) and Niall Cunningham (1-20) creating an early stranglehold on the batsmen that was to remain throughout, supported by aggressive ground fielding led by Matt Sime who made a series of fantastic diving stops backward of square on the offside. It was the introduction of bowler of the tour Dominic Hendry (3-5) who produced a devastating spell of seam bowling that ripped the heart out of the Spanish batting and set the tone for the rest of the series. The inswinging yorker to dismiss Winter first ball would have beaten a far better player with ease. Scott Kelsey and skipper Will Ashdown completed a good all round bowling display. Australian (there always seems to be one wherever you play cricket around the world!) Andre Silvers with 54 not out provided the main resistance as LCCC ran out winners by 47 runs, a margin that slightly flattered the tourists.
An evening swim followed by a Chinese dinner ended a successful day...still raining at Fetcham Grove.
TUESDAY 3 JULY
A morning of leisure preceded a TWENTY TWENTY game with a 2pm start, coinciding with Hugh Fitzpatrick's SAN MIGUEL Challenge, which was a variation on the theme of a marathon.
MATCH 2 LP DRYWALL SERIES
Spain 84-5 (20 overs)
LCCC won by 9 wickets
This was one of the most impressive performances by this successful side over the past 4 years. A faultless fielding display with the ever reliable opening bowlers Honess (1-9), and Cunningham (2-18) including a truly unplayable delivery to dismiss the Spanish captain with a ball that pitched leg and hit the top of off stump. Hendry (1-11), Ashdown and Dan Leach turned the screw on the Spanish batters with Silvers (33) once again the best performer, but the total of 84 from 20 overs always looked too few.
Steve Burgess (42 not out), James Layton Hill (14) and Ned Humphreys (19 not out) made short work of the reply with a convincing 9 wicket victory secured with 3 overs remaining giving the visitors an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match series.
The evening was spent dining with the opposition players and their families in the now regular haunt of the tour court jesters Mark Honess and Paul Cunningham, "SI" a Spanish sports bar and restaurant where the entertainment ranged from Clowns and Children's Entertainers to a band that included the lead singer from the 70's rock band "Sweet"...whose signature tune and past number one..."BLOCKBUSTER" proved a hit with the tunes duo Paul Burgess and Peter Hendry, and sound expert Dean Humphreys all of whom were in heaven. LCCC also won the Quiz Night(thanks mainly to Ian Dales superior knowledge of 1960's football) ...beating the Spanish via a tie break, albeit unbeknown to our hosts some of the answers were obtained via the internet on Andy Leach's blackberry! Even the Dads appeared to be taking the tour ethos "play hard on and off the pitch" rather too literally. Still raining in Mole Valley.
WEDNESDAY 4 JULY
An 11am start to allow our hosts to travel home after the game, seemed a huge error, when the players trudged from their coaches in 39 degrees of heat with what appeared the odd headache from the previous evenings festivities. Tour legend Hugh Fitzpatrick, immediately called Jacques Zuurbier, Dave Sime and Lee Humphreys to one side...for what the tour coach assumed to be a need to get extra supplies of water for the boys...only for the foursome to disappear for an early lunch.
MATCH 3 LP DRYWALL SERIES
LCCC 174-8 (35 overs)
Spain 135-7 (35 overs)
LCCC won by 39 runs
Will Ashdown lost the toss for the third game in succession and LCCC batted first, and immediately looked to bat more positively with Layton Hill (37) and Burgess (36) helping to set a good foundation, but a middle order collapse meant the visitors had to rebuild their innings when they should be attacking with 15 overs of the allotted 35 overs remaining. An excellent late order counter attack by Humphreys (43) enabled LCCC to get to 174 at the close of their innings.
Spain were never up with the required run rate with Silvers (35) and Vintor (31) finding it impossible to break the shackles set by Honess (2-20), Kelsey (1-22), Leach (2-19), Ashdown (2-27), Zuurbier (1-13) and the economical Hendry. Good field placing, excellent all round fielding and a great team spirit meant LCCC set standards that Spain found difficult to match, even though at times they appeared to visibly wilt in the scorching conditions.
All games were played in a sporting and competitive manner with both teams mixing well on and off the pitch. A fine post match presentation ceremony was held which proved quite emotional as we all felt we had made new friends and over three days of good quality cricket in the most fantastic surroundings. I have been fortunate to have been on over 30 cricket tours and I do not recall having met so many friendly, sporting individuals. Both teams were a credit to their clubs.
More fine dining followed...the boys celebrating Indepence Day in an American Grill, whilst the Dads went upmarket in a wonderful Spanish restaurant. Latest news from loved ones at home...still raining.
THURSDAY 5 JULY
Twenty of the party competed in the LA MANGA MASTERS GOLF tournament sponsored by ASHDOWNS (Chartered Surveyors) on the magnificent North Course. Tom Dale won the Junior Event and Lee Humphreys the Adult Event. Peter Hendry and Mark Honess went head to head in the battle of the left handers with the latter winning by a short head.
The tour was rounded off by a last night Mexican meal and Awards ceremony where Steve Burgess (Batsmen) and Dominic Hendry (Bowler) won attractive trophies. The party were last seen singing along (yet again) with the ex lead singer of Sweet to Blockbuster as plans for a repeat tour in 2008 were being hatched at the bar with hopes of being joined by at least one other international team in La Manga where the sun always shines. Stop Press on SKY NEWS courtesy of the Sports Café....still raining in Surrey!
FRIDAY 6 JULY
Arrived early evening in Gatwick to wonderful sunshine and wondered what all the fuss was about regarding the rain that fell mainly in Leatherhead and not in Spain!