Tourists cross new boundaries
Fri, Aug 31, 2007 4:05 PM
An intrepid group of club cricketers completed a ground-breaking tour of eastern Europe that included matches in Estonia, Finland, Russia and Latvia.
The 12-man party, playing for Carmel and District Cricket Club from North Wales, became the first touring side to play in Russian cities St Petersburg and Moscow.
The tourists, from across the United Kingdom plus two Australians, brought home several items of silverware having played matches at a variety of venues including a horse racing track in Estonia and a baseball stadium in Moscow.
The highlight of the 11-day trip was undoubtedly the double triumph at the Helsinki Sixes tournament in Finland's capital.
Carmel entered teams into both the cup and plate competitions in the six-a-side tournament held on July 28 which was played on a hessian mat and a shale outfield. Matches consisted of each side batting for five overs with bowlers limited to one over and a strict four-run penalty for wides.
Matt Somerford is applauded off by captain Tim Abraham in the Helsinki Sixes semi-final In the cup the tourists recovered from an opening group defeat to Estonia to gain revenge against the same opponents in the final. The unusual conditions provided a steep learning curve for the newcomers who became the first touring side to win the competition.
After the opening defeat, group victories over home side Stadin Cricket Club and their old boys team set up a semi-final against favourites Helsinki CC who boasted several Finnish internationals.
Australian left-hander Matt Somerford's unbeaten 47 helped set up a competitive total of 83. In reply Helsinki crumbled under the pressure of some disciplined bowling to finish 34 all out.
Carmel again batted first in the final and took advantage of some wayward bowling to register a mammoth 91. Estonia made a rapid start to their reply but could not keep up with the required run rate as they fell 14 runs short.
Captain and tour organiser Tim Abraham lifted the cup while younger brother Andy collected the plate.
Abraham junior's side claimed their prize thanks to victories over Finland CC, the Phoenix ladies team and Estonia B in their last group match which was effectively a final.
Brothers Tim (left) and Andy Abraham with their trophies at the Helsinki Sixes competition The tourists were indebted to Tim Hill who struck 24 in the final over of the game to chase down Estonia's total of 71.
The tour had begun 24 hours earlier when the squad arrived in Estonia's capital Tallinn by minibus having met for the first time at Riga airport in Latvia.
With many of the players having forgone a night's sleep to catch early-morning flights they were immediately flung into action in a Twenty20 match against an Estonia Development XI at Tallinn's Hippodrome horse track.
Playing on an artificial wicket with a grass outfield Carmel made the best possible start against a well-drilled side when home captain Jason Barry hooked a Tom Horne bouncer into the hands of Justin Peacock at fine leg.
Estonia recovered to register a competitive 111 and, despite Somerford's 65, Carmel fell one short in a thrilling finale.
Having returned from a successful day trip to Helsinki by ferry, the tourists returned to the Hippodrome the following day for a 30-over match against the full Estonia side.
Still recovering from the previous night's celebrations, Carmel posted a modest 148 for eight which a powerful Estonia batting line-up chased down with two overs to spare.
Moscow v Carmel and District at Moscow Baseball Stadium The Estonians proved outstanding hosts during a packed opening weekend of cricket after which the tourists enjoyed a day of sightseeing in Tallinn.
The next day saw a coach journey into Russia finishing in St Petersburg, the following day's opponents, for back-to-back Twenty20 games at a former military compound in Kronshadhd.
Batting first on a football pitch in the opener, Carmel struggled to 68 all out, which their opponents, all Asian students from the local university, passed with only five balls remaining.
Carmel batted better in the second match, posting 124 and successfully defended it by 14 runs in front of some interested passers-by.
An overnight train journey followed a gloriously sunny day of sightseeing in St Petersburg as the party woke in Moscow.
A wetter day of sightseeing in Russia's capital culminated in an evening meal with some of the next day's opponents, a Moscow Cricket League select XI.
Damp conditions on the day failed to prevent play in a 40-over game at Moscow Baseball Stadium next to the imposing Moscow State University.
The hosts, entirely composed of Asian ex-pats, proved to be the strongest opposition of the tour as they dismissed Carmel for 136 in the 30th over. They needed only 17 overs to reach their target but proved to be gracious in victory.
Carmel's players celebrate the victory against Latvia in Riga Another overnight train journey took Carmel to Latvia for their final match against the national side, also dominated by Asian ex-pats, in the capital Riga.
Carmel fielded first on a rugby pitch with a makeshift wooden wicket covered by green matting. Their opponents raced to 194 in their 30 overs with four wickets apiece for spinners Sam Philip and Rob Barnett.
A well-paced run-chase saw the tourists record their first win over international opposition with five balls to spare thanks largely to Australian Justin Peacock's 57 not out.
The team celebrated lifting more silverware and the end of a fantastic, if exhausting, tour which saw them travel over 3500 miles in under a fortnight.