In terms of sport in Spain, this is going to be a very important year for Spains National Cricket team.
Currently playing in division two, the Spanish National team are to compete in a ICC T20 tournament in Stockholm (Sweden) this summer.
Competing against the hosts, Isle of Man, Germany, Israel and Gibraltar the Spanish team know it will be a testing and challenging competition but the prize for the winners will be promotion into the ICC division one league. Promotion to this elite division will do wonders for the development of cricket in Spain and really raise it’s profile internationally across the world.
Preparations to prepare the Spanish squad have been in place for sometime now, but the tempo has really been picked up since the beginning of this year. The Cricket España team have been working closely with the players located all over Spain, with dedicated team managers and coaches holding regular training sessions across the country keeping it’s players focused and in shape.
In the lead up to Stockholm, a number of games have been arranged for the squad to play in giving them valuable and much needed match play practice and experience.
One of these all important games was on the 26th of February at La Manga when a team from the Tom Maynard academy arrived after a weeks training at another venue in Spain, Desert Springs.
(Tom Maynard XI – February 2016)
The opposition are historically strong and have 100% record against their Spanish opposition, and were determined to leave Spain with that record intact after the days two scheduled matches.
In the first of the two games the Maynard academy batted first and immediately demonstrated why these young professional players were on the fringe of county cricket success in the UK. Having not played together for some time, the Spanish bowlers showed a little rustiness, and this was all the visitors needed to stamp their authority on the match.
R.Higgins (77) and B.Duckett (63) took the total to 133 of 14 overs before Talat Nadeem produced a peach of a delivery to get Spains first wicket. With 6 overs to go one would have expected Tom Maynard academy to posts a target of over 200, but credit should go to the Spanish team for not giving up and producing a impressive fight back. Talat Nadem impressed with another wicket and was well supported by Kuldeep Lal who was the pick of the bowlers taking 3 wickets for 29 runs of his 4 overs restricting the batting side to a gettable 189 of their 20 overs.
The Spanish charge was led by A.Khan (25) and A.Ahmed (16) and with the score on 51 of 6 overs, things were looking good for the home side. But then the classy youngsters raised there game and a quick 3 wickets from H.Podmore had the game in the bag with Spain well behind the required run rate.
Though defeated, Spain still finished on a respectable 122 of their 20 overs.
(Spain National Team – Feb 2016)
In the second match, not only did the weather change from sunny conditions to the wintery cold of the UK, but there were also some changes to the Spanish squad allowing all players to get some match practice.
This time batting first, it was Spain turn to give the Tom Maynard boys a bit of a run around with G.Crompton (41) and Y.Ali (31) taking the Spanish team to 80 without loss of 11 overs. But then as the Spanish team tried to up the tempo to post a high score, they lost regular wickets courtesy of some brilliant fielding and fine bowling by C.Jones and T.Rouse who between them took 6 wickets for 29 runs at the end of the Spanish innings restricting them to 139 of their 20 overs.
Though not a big target to defend, the Spanish boys came out with far more energy about them in the field compared to the earlyer game. The opening bowlers gave the opposition nothing and forced them into making errors, at the half way point captain C.Munoz superbly run out J.Jenner and with the batting side on only 37 with 3 wickets down, it was game on.
The cold windy conditions did not stop the home side as they continued to impress, there were two fantastic outfield catches taken when the ball looked bound for 6 runs, and with both dangerous batsman back in the pavilion, could Spain at last squeeze a victory from the UK team. It went down to the last over, and with 12 needed for victory, it could have gone anyway, but C.Jones made sure victory went to the impressive Tom Maynard team, needing just 3 balls to inflict a cruel defeat to the Spanish side. The games were played in a very friendly and sporting manner with both teams exchanging views and ideas afterwards.
Tough games like these against top class opponents are only going to make the the Spanish squad stronger and better, so Cricket España thanks the Tom Maynard academy for coming down to play them and assist in their preparation for the all important competition ahead.
The Spanish Squad were at La Manga the following day where they continued with their ongoing training preparations taking note of the learning points following the games the previous day.
The players will continue to train in their regions and meet up again at La Manga at the beginning of April when the compete in the La Manga Classic T20 tournament.
Anyone wishing to sponsor the team or know more about cricket in Spain can visit the cricket España website.
Gary Crompton batting with Paul Nixon bedhind the stumps.