Hot and humid in Kuwait for ICC WCL Div 8
Kieron Ferrary reports from the first two matches in Kuwait.
After the Euros in July, a new looked Team Gibraltar that included a couple more new, young local home-grown players stepped up its training; focusing alot more on the fitness side of the game in preparation for the Middle Eastern heat.
And so, touching down in Kuwait on Thursday 4th November after a very long days travelling, it was evident from the start how hot and humid Kuwait is this time of year. Today was just a case of settling into the brilliant hotel facility along the coastline, getting used to the heat again despite coming from "Sunny Gibraltar," shake the travelling off with a short pool session and a bit of fun down the beach. First impressions were excellent.
A two hour practice session per squad at one of the grounds was the order of the day on Friday. We headed off expecting low and slow wickets, and after having a short net, we were right! A big eye-opener for a few of the new young additions to our squad who hadn't tasted action on grass wickets before. Conditions reminded me of those I played in at the European Academy in Mumbai a few years ago in which it was all front foot stuff for batters, with not many balls arriving over waste height.
Not quite what we are used to back home on the artificial wickets which have good carry for the seamers (and spinners.) However, there was some spin in there for a couple of our spinners, myself included (on a part-time basis of course seeing as I am also second wicket-keeper in the squad.) Nevertheless, good intensity was shown throughout the session, especially the fielding/ fitness side of it in what was a very bumpy and uneven outfield, and spirits were high looking forward to getting our campaign going the following day versus Bahamas.
So to game one. Another low and slow wicket in store and another suspect outfield at Unity cricket ground. Batting first, we posted 213 on the board. Good contributions all round from our top seven. I top-scored with 52 coming in at 3, however opening batter Chris Phillips, and our number four Ian farrell made very good looking and useful 35's.
It was frustrating none of us could convert these great starts into a good 80 or 100. However, our middle order consisting of Mark Bacarese, Iain Latin and Richard Buzaglo gave us momentum in the last few overs and so we headed into the break feeling upbeat at having got runs on the board. During the mid-innings break we managed to meet quite a few local dignitaries, including the British Ambassador for Kuwait in a mini ceremony which I thought was rather nice.
However, disaster then struck for me personally. Before taking the field, warming up on the outfield I twisted my ankle after landing on a hole, keeping me out of the fielding. Thoughts of being ruled out for the tournament crossed my mind as I have had this injury before. However, the 11 took to the field and found it hard to make an early breakthrough as the Bahamas openers latched onto anything wide or overpitched. Bahamas chased our score down with nearly 7 overs left. A disappointed and reflective group headed back to our hotel thinking what could have been if we scored another 20 or 30 runs and fielded and bowled a lot better.
Sunday arrived and our game versus Germany! After receiving plenty of treatment from one of Gib's finest physiotherapists Keith Ramirez, and a late fitness test on the ankle, I was passed fit to play versus our long-standing rivals. Skipper Christian Rocca won the toss and elected to bowl first. 0815 local start times meant it could swing a bit early on with the dew factor, so we were looking to make early inroads.
Youngster Matt Hunter, in only his 2nd senior appearance and 2nd ball of the day picked up an early wicket, deceiving the opener with a slower ball, subsequently lofting it to mid-off. In all fairness, our two opening bowlers, Ross Harkins and Matt Hunter threatened to take many more, and were very unlucky. The German batsmen survived multiple outside edges and dropped catches and proceeded to pile on the runs, and after their 50 overs, they scored a massive 363. Our fielding was disappointing to say the least, and under very hot conditions, we made our lives alot harder for ourselves.
Batting wise, we were always behind the 8-ball after losing opener Chris Phillips and myself early on trying to chase over 7 an over from the off. As the game seemed out of our reach, we decided it best to try bat the 50 overs, put a decent score on the board in order to help out NRR (net run rate) and give our batters invaluable time at the crease. Mark Bacarese again looked good, as did Ross Harkins and the experienced Richard Buzaglo. However, our highlight had to be the innings played by our longest serving, and inspirational skipper Chris Rocca. Chris batted beautifully all afternoon, and it was extremely sad to see him fall on 99. One more run and he would have been the first Gibraltarian ever to hit a ton in an international. If it is any consolation, he surpassed our Tour Manager's (Tim Buzaglo) score of 98 to hold the highest international score by a Gibraltar player, a record he had held for around a decade.
And so today was a rest day. Most of the squad headed into town to explore Kuwait city. From a cricket point of view, it hasn't been the best of starts, however Kuwait so far has opened its arms to us all and laid on a good show. It still amuses me that we need our suncream out in November!! That's all for now folks.