In Focus – Kent County Cricket Club donates equipment to Sierra Leone’s Kent Cricket Club

  Kent County Cricket Club in England has on Thursday 28th July, 2016 donated equipment consisting of Kwik Cricket sets (bats, stumps and balls and cones) to the Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone. The equipment donated is made of high quality plastic, which makes them light enough for children of all ages to handle in playing cricket.

  In 2013, Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone established a unique partnership with Kent County Cricket Club in England. The County Club in England has been donating kits and equipment in the past and has been very supportive in other areas to the Kent Cricket Club (KCC).

  During the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Jamie Clifford, the Chief Executive Officer of Kent County Cricket Club in England, wrote a letter to the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, asking the British government to increase its support to Sierra Leone in the fight to end the epidemic.

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  “We have a passion for developing cricket and we are extending our philanthropism to support other countries, and have been in partnership with Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone for several years now. Equipment is needed for the development of cricket globally, so it is a privilege to give the Kwik Cricket sets to a developing country in cricket like Sierra Leone.

  “Our aim is to give children in Sierra Leone the opportunity to play cricket with standard equipment as a way of enabling them materialise their passionate potential in cricket. Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone is striving to deliver cricket to as many young people as possible, with the aim of helping young cricketers reach their full potential.

  “We will continue to support in ways that are appropriate for the Kent Cricket Club (SL), we are hoping that the already established relationship between us and the KCC will serve as an opportunity for the growth and development of Cricket in Sierra Leone”,  affirmed Andy Griffiths, Director of Community Cricket at Kent County Cricket Club in England.

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  Emmanuel Pessima, Chief Executive Officer of Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone, in his statement while receiving the equipment said that he is excited about the donation as it comes in at a time when the KCC is deeply in need of equipment for its community cricket projects.

  “We want to see the game of cricket become more popular throughout Sierra Leone, and produce cricketers that will represent Sierra Leone in the future. Now that the Club has got the equipment, we will continue to focus on grass-roots cricket programs. For us at the KCC, Schools Cricket cannot be ignored as the future of cricket lies on our school children”, Mr. Pessima emphasised.

  “On behalf of everyone at the Kent Cricket Club (KCC), I want to say thanks to Andy Griffiths, Jamie Clifford, David Turner and everyone at the Kent County Cricket Club in England for your continued support to the Kent Cricket Club (KCC)”, Mr. Pessima further added.

  Information and picture credits: Mohamed L Bah, Communications and Development Officer, Kent Cricket Club (KCC), Sierra Leone.

Beyond Cricket – Indian rugby set to benefit from landmark sponsorship deal

  Indian rugby has received a massive boost in the form of a three-year sponsorship deal between Rugby India and Societe Generale, the French multinational banking and financial services company. The announcement was made at a press conference at the Bombay Gymkhana in Mumbai earlier today.

  Societe Generale has over the years built a deep bond with rugby union across the world, and has played a great role in developing the sport in emerging nations. The banking giant’s investment in rugby began with the French rugby union championship in 1984-85 and since then, it has gone on to support the sport with great commitment.

  Hong Kong, Turkey, Luxembourg and Senegal are among the nations that have greatly benefitted from the involvement of Societe Generale. Its entry into Indian rugby bodes well for the future of the game in the country, which has seen a rapid rise in the participation numbers over the last decade.

  With this landmark deal, Societe Generale will not only support the national Sevens teams – seniors, juniors and women’s – by serving as the title sponsor, but also indulge in the development of rugby at the grass-root and school level. Given its track record in rugby, one would expect that Societe Generale’s association will lead to a brighter future for Indian rugby.

  The conference was graced by Evelyn Collin, the chief executive and country officer of Societe Generale India; Aga Hussain, the Vice President of Asia Rugby; Mahesh Mathai, the Secretary General of Rugby India, and current and former national rugby players including present captain Nasser Hussain and popular veteran Rahul Bose.

  Collin stressed about how there are common values such as team spirit, respect and discipline that link rugby with Societe Generale, and said that she was honoured to be a part of an exciting period in Indian rugby. Mathai gave an overview of how the game is growing in the country, especially the increase in female participation.

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    Participation in women’s rugby in India has increased manifold over the past decade, and the numbers can only grow in the coming years (source – shethepeople.tv)

  Aga Hussain said that India, ranked 12th out of 32 teams in Asia, has the capability of reaching the top five in the continent in the next five years. Bose, who played for India from 1998 to 2009, spoke about the importance of enriching sponsorship for the sport and opined that Societe Generale was the perfect partner for Rugby India.

  Asia today is an important market for World Rugby, what with the vast amount of talent waiting to be tapped. Initially regarded as an elite sport in India, rugby has reached remote areas in the past few years and there are now 55,290 players across the country. Societe Generale’s involvement has the potential to bring about a revolution in Indian rugby.

  The proposed increase in the number of teams (from 20 to 24) at the Rugby World Cup from 2023 underlines World Rugby’s long-term objective of making rugby a truly global sport. Moreover, the 2019 edition is set to be hosted by Japan, an emerging nation that created ripples in the 2015 World Cup by upsetting South Africa.

  2016 is significant for rugby as it makes a return to the Olympics after a gap of 92 years, in the Sevens format. Rugby Sevens has proved to be a highly popular concept in Asia – the Hong Kong Sevens is one of the most prestigious events on the rugby calendar – and in this scenario, the time is ripe for Indian rugby to progress to the next level.

  Ranked 77th out of 102 nations, India would do well to maximise the advantage set to be derived from the relationship between Rugby India and Societe Generale. As Bose said, there could also be the exciting prospect of a televised national rugby league in the next 12 to 18 months – which would be a dream come true for players and fans alike.

  The growth of rugby in India in recent times has been heartening and here’s hoping that following this significant sponsorship deal, the sport will further reach out to the public consciousness and create a positive impact on Indian society.

Specials – The best from Kevin O’Brien’s blade

  Talismanic Irishman Kevin O’Brien became the first cricketer from his country to feature in 100 ODI matches, when he took the field in the final game of the series against Afghanistan at Belfast last week. The Dublin-born all-rounder has been one of the lynchpins of the Irish team over the past decade.

   O’Brien, who is Ireland’s second-highest run-getter and highest wicket-taker in ODIs, has a record of 2561 runs at 32.01 and 88 wickets at 30.84 thus far. His powerful hitting in the middle order, coupled with his crafty medium pace bowling, has made him a household name across the cricketing world.

  While O’Brien’s bowling has no doubt stymied many a run flow in the middle overs and is an asset to his team in its own right, it is his explosive batting that has won him a legion of fans in the past few years. As a tribute to his century of ODIs, we look back at five of his best batting performances in the 50-over game.

1) 113 v England at Bangalore, 2010-11

  In what was arguably the most staggering run chase in the history of ODI cricket, O’Brien blazed his way into the record books with the fastest World Cup hundred of all time. And the fact that it came against a Test nation – England, no less – made it one of the most heroic international innings ever played.

  Ireland had the worst possible start in reply to England’s massive 327/8 as captain William Porterfield was bowled off the very first ball. Even the most optimistic of Irish fans would have had lost hope when the score wobbled to 111/5 at the halfway mark. But then O’Brien – who had come in at 106/4 – decided to take matters into his own hands.

  O’Brien proceeded to inflict a barrage of fours and sixes on the English bowlers, who simply had no answer to the hitting spree. He reached his half-century off 31 balls while his second fifty made the first look sedate in comparison. He lit up the Chinnaswamy Stadium with a scarcely believable effort that stunned and delighted the crowd in equal measure.

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     Kevin O’Brien played the most extraordinary World Cup innings to power Ireland to a historic win against England at Bangalore in 2011 (source – the42.ie)

  He let out a celebratory roar as he got to his 50-ball hundred with a double off Michael Yardy in the 41st over. The previous fastest World Cup hundred was made by Australia’s Matthew Hayden in 2007, off 66 balls. O’Brien’s sixth-wicket stand with Alex Cusack fetched 162 runs, and it was enough to bury England’s chances.

  When he was finally run out, O’Brien had brought Ireland to within 12 runs of a famous victory, which was duly achieved by three wickets off the first ball of the final over. His score read a mind-boggling 113 from 63 balls, with 13 fours and six sixes.

  The sight of the pink-haired O’Brien powering his side to the highest successful run-chase in the World Cup will be remembered for as long as cricket exists. Besides taking Irish cricket to another level altogether, his innings also gave a fitting riposte to the parochial ICC.

2) 84* v Pakistan at Dublin, 2013

  Faced with a stiff target, O’Brien nearly guided Ireland to a sensational victory against Pakistan. A rain intervention meant that Pakistan’s innings was curtailed after 47 overs, in which they scored 266/5. The D/L target for the hosts was 276 from 47 overs.

  Paul Stirling gave the chase a bright start and went on to score a brisk 103. When O’Brien came in to bat at 158/2, the requirement was 113 from 85 balls. It was a situation tailor-made for him, and he proceeded to launch an onslaught on the Pakistani bowlers.

  He raced to his fifty in just 27 balls, keeping Ireland in the hunt as the match went down to the wire. The much-vaunted Saeed Ajmal, who was taken for 0/71 in his ten overs, was to bowl the final over from which 15 runs were needed with five wickets still in the bank; O’Brien the man on strike.

  Only two runs were managed off the first three balls, which left O’Brien with the task of scoring 13 off the last three. He determinedly clouted a six over long on before squeezing a couple. A flick down to the boundary off the final ball ensured that the match was tied, O’Brien scoring 84* off 47 balls with 11 fours and two sixes.

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      Kevin O’Brien rescued Ireland from a worrying position against UAE in the 2015 World Cup, hitting 50 in just 25 balls (source – AFP)

3) 50 v United Arab Emirates at Brisbane, 2014-15

  Ireland had convincingly beaten the West Indies in their opening clash of the 2015 World Cup, but found themselves in a spot of bother against lower-ranked UAE in their next match at Brisbane. UAE had recovered from 131/6 to post a challenging 278/9.

  Ireland were progressing well at 72/1 in the 19th over, but soon fell to 97/4 with half the overs already used. A 74-run stand between Andrew Balbirnie and Gary Wilson ensued, but when the former was dismissed, the equation was still delicate – 108 to win from 68 balls.

  In walked O’Brien, the game-changer. He signalled his intent immediately, getting off the mark with a boundary. The pressure was back on the UAE bowlers as he displayed his characteristic calculated hitting, collecting at least two fours per over to bring down the required run rate.

  The 45th over began with O’Brien clearing the boundary twice in three balls, before Amjad Javed got one back, having him caught at extra cover. His breezy 50 from 25 balls, studded with eight fours and two sixes, gave Ireland the upper hand, and after a few anxious moments, the men in green sneaked a two-wicket win.

4) 142 v Kenya at Nairobi, 2006-07

  Ireland took part in the ICC World Cricket League in Kenya a month before their memorable World Cup sojourn. In their third match, they were up against the hosts at the Ruaraka Sports Club. This was O’Brien’s fifth ODI.

  Ireland had stumbled to 57/3 in the 15th over when O’Brien joined opener William Porterfield in the middle. The duo proceeded to turn their team’s fortunes around and stitched together a record partnership of 227 – the highest in ODIs by an Irish pair – for the fourth wicket.

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       Irish captain Trent Johnston (left) and Kevin O’Brien exult after the former hit the winning six against Pakistan in the 2007 world Cup (source – AP/guardian.co.tt)

  While Porterfield (104*) was the more subdued of the two, O’Brien played the role of the aggressor. It was not until the last ball of the innings that they were separated, when O’Brien was run out for a glittering 142 from 128 balls, including ten fours and six sixes. This was his first ODI hundred and remains his highest score.

  Kenya however ensured that O’Brien’s effort went in vain, as they overhauled the robust total of 284/4 with an over to spare. Down for the count at 231/9 in the 44th over, they were indebted to Thomas Odoyo, who cracked an unbeaten 61 to star in the one-wicket win.

5) 16* v Pakistan at Kingston, 2006-07

  This innings may not denote much by number, but it was worth its weight in gold during a tense chase. The Irish bowlers had dared to dream by bowling Pakistan out for 132 in their second match of the 2007 World Cup at the historic Sabina Park, and the onus was now on the batsmen.

  Ireland were reduced to 15/2 in reply before the reliable Niall O’Brien, elder brother of Kevin, began to play a superb innings on a difficult pitch. At 70/4, Ireland were not yet out of the woods when the younger O’Brien joined his sibling.

  The two shared in a crucial fifth-wicket partnership of 38 runs in ten overs, defying Pakistan’s resilient bowling until Niall was stumped for 72. Two more wickets fell within the next over and Ireland were now 113/7, still 15 runs away from their D/L target of 128.

  However, Kevin O’Brien would not let his brother’s knock go waste. He curbed his natural game and battled for 92 minutes to end with an unbeaten 16 from 52 balls with two fours. It was captain Trent Johnston who ultimately hit the winning six to seal a three-wicket victory, and Irish cricket was never the same again.

Who Would Have Thought It – Revisiting a Franco-German cliffhanger

  Footballing giants France and Germany played out the latest round of their long-standing rivalry in the semifinal of the UEFA Euro Championship last week, with hosts France securing a 2-0 win to make the final.

  Be it France’s 6-3 win in the 1958 World Cup or the thrilling penalty shootout in the semifinal of the 1982 World Cup, this all-European fixture has provided football fanatics with many a memorable moment over the years.

  While the Franco-German duel enjoys legendary status in football, one would rarely associate this fixture with a cricket match, let alone expect an entry for it in a coveted Wisden list. However, the final of a seemingly nondescript tournament in Switzerland produced a contest that would have made headlines had two established nations been involved.

  The 1997 edition of the 50-overs European Nations Cup was played at the Lyceum Alpinum school ground in the town of Zuoz in the third week of August. Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Malta and Portugal were the participants, besides hosts Switzerland. The semifinals saw France beat Portugal by seven wickets and Germany notch an eight-wicket win over Malta.

  Defending champions France and Germany were thus pitted against each other in the final, which was played on August 23, 1997. The two teams had earlier met in the group stage, where the Germans had easily won by seven wickets. It had only been less than seven years since the unification of Germany, whereupon it was made a member of the ICC in 1991.

  Wides and no-balls were the order of the day as France reached 61 without loss. Opener S. Palmer was looking settled at 35 when all-rounder Tayyab Rathore cleaned him up with his off-spin. Pace bowler Younis Khan (not the well-known Pakistani batsman) bowled an economical spell in the middle overs, taking two wickets as well, while opening bowler Saeed took 3/61.

  Even though extras were aplenty, the German bowlers ensured that no partnership was too big to allow the French to run away with the game – the highest stand of the innings being 52 for the fifth wicket. Leopold-Therese Brumant was the top scorer with 42 from number five, but nowhere near Mr. Extras, who tallied a staggering 67 runs out of the final total of 267 in 49.5 overs.

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  There was drama in the final over when last man David Bordes came out to bat without a helmet. A rising ball from Saeed struck him on the forehead; however he showed great presence of mind and determination in scampering a single. Moments later, he collapsed due to a fracture in his skull and had to be hospitalised for two weeks.

  Germany got off to an excellent start in reply, with Rathore and Shams Khan putting on 90 for the first wicket. Both the batsmen were in good form coming into the final – while Rathore scored 84* against France and 106* against Malta in the semifinal, Khan had creamed 200* out of a total of 467/1 against a hapless Switzerland.

  Rathore and Khan (45) however fell within three runs of each other as France clawed back into the contest. J. Howe removed the Bhatti brothers – Abdul Salim and Abdul Hamid – cheaply and when M. Mirza was run out for a duck, Germany were in real trouble at 118/5. Five wickets had fallen for just 28 runs.

  Younis (44) and A. Dar (45) turned the tables again, courtesy a partnership of 89 for the sixth wicket before the former fell to leg-spinner George James. Saeed hit a quick 22 from number eight to bolster his team’s hopes. At 241/6, it was anybody’s game and a close finish loomed large.

  Medium pace bowler Simon Hewitt, who had played for Oxford University in 1984, dismissed both Dar and Saeed in quick succession, the score now 260/9 in the 49th over. Brumant’s off-spin was entrusted with the last over, and the target eventually whittled down to two off one ball. Number ten Burghard Patzwald missed the line and was stumped by Shabbir Hussain.

  Germany had fallen short by just one run, losing their final wicket off the last ball of the innings. France’s title triumph could not have been closer than this. Mr. Extras top-scored in this innings as well, with a neat 58. Hewitt was the pick of the bowlers with 3/44 while Brumant bowled splendidly, collecting 2/16 in his ten overs.

  The eventual margin of victory emphasised how crucial Bordes’ plucky single was. This thrilling match was honoured by Wisden in 2000 as one of the ‘hundred matches of the century’. The incident involving Bordes certainly added to the intrigue. Bordes, a leg-spinner, went on to play an important role in French cricket as a coach and selector.

  The 1998 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack remarked the following, which also found a mention in The Essential Wisden: An Anthlogy of 150 Years of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, published in 2014:

  “France retained the Nations Cup at Zuoz, Switzerland, in astonishing circumstances. They beat Germany by one run in a pulsating 50-over final. The unwitting hero was France’s last man, David Bordes, who was hit on the forehead, and staggered through for a single at the end of the French innings before collapsing with a fractured skull. He had to spend the next two weeks in hospital, and was ill for some time but, happily, was able to resume playing indoor cricket before Christmas. Bordes normally bats with a helmet but did not bother this time because he had only the one ball to face.”

Match Scorecard