The "Cricket España" over 40''s team arrived in Neston, the UK near Liverpool to defend their historic 45 over four Nations trophy and T20 cup win cup accomplished last year in Koge, Denmark.
After a few unavoidable dropouts, they held firm and with last minute help from Madrid United Cricket Club and Lanzarote Cricket Club, managed to start the tournament on the 22nd July with 11 men.
Playing Denmark first up, the Spanish team were happy that the Danes decided to bat first after winning the toss.
They made steady progress against the opening bowlers, Hugh James and Rico Phull, and to start with the rub of the green was soley on their Side as the Danish batsman got away with lose shots and lucky edges. However, it wasn't long before Hugh, on the eve of his 51st birthday broke the deadlock and with the score on 36, got Spain's first wicket of the tournament.
More frustration followed followed for the Spanish bowlers as the Danish men rode their luck and continued to keep the score board ticking at a rate of 5 an over.
But then the introduction of debutant, Richard Lake taking 2 for 34 of his 9 overs and Rory Ellison 2 for 22 of 7 overs, helped reduce Denmark to 139 for 8.
However Cricket España took their foot of the pádel and allowed their Danish friends to recover slightly and finish on 187 for 9 with Kevin Waters who had been the pick of the Spanish bowlers taking 3 prized wickets, being hit for 18 of the last over. The Danish team posted a respectable target of 187, the Spanish team were disappointed to see themselves chasing more than 160 to win the match.
Spain started their response in steady cautious fashion with Muhammad Aklam dispatching the bad balls to the boundary. But when he turned a ordinary ball into a yorker to be bowled for 24, Denmark's sprits were lifted. However captain Kevin Laundon (50) held firm and showed his grit and experience against the hostile Danish attack, and steadyed the innings playing the anchor role allowing in form Adam French (61) to play some mouth watering shots all round the park before he lost concentration and played round a straight ball which bowled him.
The two shared over a 100 run partnership and when Kevin was out caught brilliantly by I Moore, the Spanish lost two further quick wickets before Nigel Holmes and man of the match, Kevin Waters saw them home finishing 188 for 5.
After all the drama of the week, and struggling to put 11 men out, this was a fantastic and gritty performance from the Spanish team who now go head to head with the Dutch on Tuesday 22nd, knowing a win would set them up with a winner takes all match in the 45 over tournament on Thursday 25th against the English XL club.
Well done to our Spanish over 40's, and good luck against the Dutch.
Vamos Chicos, Vamos España
On Tuesday the 23rd of July, after a great win against the Danish team the day before, the Cricket España team faced the stronger Dutch opposition on pitch one.
Losing the toss and being made to bat first, the Spanish openers, Aklam and Laundon realised that this pitch was very different to the pitch they played on the day before. With the ball not coming on to the bat and staying a little low, batting was not easy. The openers found runs hard to come buy but grafted away patiently before Akmal's decision to take on the bowlers backfired when he presented Sandri with an easy catch. gone, with the score on 83.
The skipper continued to bat sensibly on the tricky wicket putting on another 50+ partnership with Adam French before an ambitious attempted shot saw him bowled for 71. When French and Lake followed soon afterward and Spain were 148 for 4 and the last of the recognised batsman needed to bat well in the Last 15 overs and look to score pver 200+ for Holland to chase. Nigel Holmes and Chris Gladwin did just that putting on a healthy 50 run partnership before Holmes fell for 28 and Gladwin was out trying a cheeky reverse sweep for 40. Even though all rounder, Kevin Waters was out for a three ball duck, their jobs were complete with cricket España finishing on a healthy 244 for 7.
After tea, the Spanish wasted no time in picking up quick wickets reducing Holland to 42 for 3 after 12 overs. Then birthday boy Hugh James removed Smit for 29 and Richard Lake, after seeing his previous ball disappear for a massive 6, took a world class caught and bowled to remove a stuned Moorjani out for 36. That wicket marked the end of the Dutch fight back with of the remaining 5 wickets falling for 18 runs, all out 102.
It was a great day for Cricket España, having won two matches out of two like the English forty club, a mouth watering winner takes all final is set up for Thursday.
Before then tomorrow see's the start of the T20 tournament with Spain playing the Danes in the morning followed by the Dutch in the afternoon..
Thursday night was time for all the squads, officials and spectators to get together for the tournament dinner, a special 50th anniversary gala dinner.
As always it was a fantastic event with everyone enjoying speeches from all 4 team managers while enjoying each others company.
The teams shared momentos with each other before the award ceromony commenced.
Runners up, Spain recieved a tremendous ovation from all as they picked up their silver medals, showing once more just how many friends they have made over the years.
The Spanish boys gave the winners, the English XL club a standing ovation and congratulated them on their deserved title.
The night came to its close with everyone being informed of next years tournament venue, the La Manga Club Spain.
Friday saw the last game of the tournament, a T20 match against the host team. With the tournament already won by UK based team, this match was played in a very relaxed and friendly manar. Cricket España batted first and good hitting from Keith Masset, Chris Jones and an impressive 37 from Hugh James saw boys from Spain set 125 as the winning total. With some players on flights back to Spain because of work commitments, the opportunity came up for the Spanish women's cricket captain Cate Barnett to step into the side. And the magic moment was when she smashed the English captain Neil Cannon for a delightful 4.
In their innings, The English lost their 1st wicket of their first ball. But then they took control of the match, after young Braithwaite was hit for 20 of his first over. After 15 overs the English team had it all wrapped up.
It was a hard and exhausting week for Spanish players, they played competative cricket but more importantly, re united with old, and made many more new friends, who they look forward to seeing in Spain next year when they host the tournament.
The annual Spanish awards for the players concluded this great week, Nigel Holmes won bowler of the tournament, Kevin Laundon was the batsman and the players player deservedly went to Richard Lake.
Well done to the host nation for all their organising and a excellent tournament.
The Spanish team manager thanked all its players and officials for their dedication and commitment to the team, and the event and look forward to hosting a memorable tournament in 2020.
Harmit Phull (The Twelfth Man)