Last weekend three Spanish Cricket teams met in a contest to decide who would be crowned the Spanish National Cricket Champions.
The splendid Woodbridge Oval at Alfas de Pi was the venue where Cataluña Cricket club, champions of the Cataluña league, St Georges cricket club from Lanzarote, champions of the Spanish Islands and the Eastern and Central league champions, Sporting Alfas Cricket Club came together on Friday 13th November to battle it out over three days. Many spectators had come to watch the finals take place, even the famous duck pond seemed to have more feathery friends than usual, they flew in from everywhere!!
First up was Sporting Alfas CC hoping that home advantage would see them into Sundays final. Their opponents for Friday’s clash over a forty over contest was St Georges CC, hoping that this was to be the year of the underdogs.
Winning the toss the home side put their opposition into bat and got of to a fine start with young pace bowler Jamie Roper having both openers caught behind the stumps in a fiery opening spell.
St Georges had to dig in deep and show some grit, and the French brothers did just that, keeping the score ticking with a 68 run partnership.
N.French (28) went for one big shot too many and was caught on the boundary. However A.French (78) continued to bat sensibly and new man at the crease D.Stormer joined forces with him in a fine 47 run partnership to keep the side from Lanzarote scoring at a healthy rate. When these two departed the new batsmen could not accelerate the run rate but St Georges still finished their innings on a healthy 172 for 7.
In reply Sporting Alfas were cruising at 30 without loss when opener P.Pennick played a lazy shot giving St Georges CC a boost.
However a chancy 61 from S.Mohammed and classy 51 from C.Muniz took the game Sporting Alfas’ s way. A.Algar (23no) and G.Crompton (31no) steered Sporting Alfas CC to a comfortable victory in the 32 over, and into Sundays final.
The Island champions had to be at the very top of their game if they were to beat the impressive Cataluña CC on Saturday, knowing the winners of the game would play the home team in Sundays final.
Having won the toss Cataluña CC decided to bat, but disaster struck when in the first ball of the second over A.Ali was back in the pavilion for a first ball golden duck, the ducks in the pond quacked him off with the team score on 8. The second wicket fell some 229 runs later, a superb 154 from Y.Ali and 77 from A.Mughan changed everything, and to rub salt into the wound further, there were also quick runs scored by the other incoming batsman, highest being that of M Singh unbeaten on 50 setting St Georges CC a massive 367 to win.
They started briskly with M Mc Dermott (35) taking up the challenge but they lost early wickets at key moments just as partnerships were being formed. Then the batting side collapsed, losing 6 wickets for just 26 runs, pick of the bowlers was M.Singh taking 3 for 11 completing a fine all round performance from him.
The win set up a mouth watering final on the Sunday against the home side.
Not many grounds would look better than the Woodbridge Oval, soaked in sunshine, clear blue skies and surrounded by a beautiful landscape, a perfect setting for Sunday final. As spectators tucked into their bacon baps and sipped at their tea, the captains started proceedings with the toss of the coin.
Cataluña CC won the toss and decided to bat first, knowing that they needed to set Sporting Alfas a competitive total of around the 250 runs.
However they started poorly and once again the Alfas opening pair, J.Roper (3-52) and M.Dhabyara (4-46) did the damage, at 12 overs the score was 60, but more importantly, Alfas had Cataluña CC 4 wickets down. It was going to take something special to post a big score from here, and that came in the shape of A.Ali. Almost single handedly the No 3 batsman coming in when the score was 23, tore into the home sides bowling attack and got the score board racing. He was the 8 wicket to fall in the 39th over, the score now at 230 and he himself scored 134, a terrific, and possibly match winning effort. Cataluña CC finished on 243 for 9, and with only one other player getting to 20, this summed up the importance of A.Ali.’s innings.
Refreshed by the usual high standard tea and sarnies (thanks tea ladies), Sporting Alfas were fueled and ready for the challenge.
There was no early hiccup this time with P.Pennick and S.Mohammed putting on 65 for the first wicket, with the second falling at 93.
Everything was going so well but as we know in this game, things can quickly change, and change they did. The home side lost focus and before you knew it, 4 quick wickets fell. Looking down and out of it, the silence from the home supporters was bought back to life by F.Afzal who smashed 50 of 35 balls in a unlikely 57 run partnership with J.Roper (39no).
Sporting Alfas were back in it. It was now anyone’s match, and everyone were on their feet, you could feel the buzz and suspense around the ground, even the ducks in the pond were silent.
K.Raza bowled fantasticly under pressure at the end, taking 5 wickets in his 8 overs, but it was his last over which will be remembered. Taking a wicket of the 4th ball bought new batsman M.Dhabyara to face the 5th ball, needing 15 of 8 balls. The crowd erupted when the the first ball faced was smacked for 4, 11 needed of 7 as Raza ran in to deliver his last ball to complete the 39th over.
The noise made for his previous shot was nothing compared to this one, he caught the ball sweet and it sailed high towards the jubilant home side and it’s supporters. As the ball descended to drop over the boundary rope for 6, and the umpire got ready to signal by raising of both arms…..but out of nowhere a Cataluña CC player flew into the air and one handedly plucked the ball out of the sky. Ball in his hand everyone fell silent waiting to see where his feet would be as he landed back on the ground. If a 6, then Alfas need 5 of 6 balls with 2 wickets in hand, if out, then it’s 11 of 6 with the last man at the crease!!
The Cataluñaen players and supporters went wild, he landed inside the rope, what an incredible catch, and for all the great bowling and batting we had seen over these 3 days, ladies, gents and ducks, it comes down to that old saying….catches win matches.
Sporting Alfas couldn’t add more drama to this throughly entertaining final, with the last wicket falling with 2 balls to go, finishing on 232, the cup and the title of the National Champions was going to Cataluña Cricket Club.
It was a marvellous 3 days of entertaining cricket and all the players, officials, helpers and supporters should be praised and thanked for the spirit in which the games were played.