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Cricket: Young Gibraltarians get their first taste of playing on grass.

After an eventful coach journey from Gibraltar, which included a four-hour break mid-way due to engine problems, the Gibraltar development squad arrived at their hotel in La Manga late in the evening on Friday, August 25th.

The squad was comprised of a group of Gibraltar’s most talented 10-14 year old players who have been training as a squad since Easter. The main concepts behind the trip were to give a long term focus to practise throughout the season and to provide an opportunity to play in a different environment. The majority of the players had never even played on a grass outfield!

The facilities at La Manga more than justified the long journey down. Two, full size pitches with superbly kept outfields and six artificial nets with full run ups were available to us. The time put in by Neil De La Brook and George Wombeek of the Spanish Cricket Federation in organising the event ensured that both days ran smoothly and GCA would like to reiterate it’s gratitude to them both.

Two, 35 over fixtures were played against a Spanish U15 team, which also included a number of younger players. Many of the Spanish team were involved in last year’s ECC U15 tournament in Italy and have clearly made rapid progress under the guidance of Neil and George since then.

Game 1, Saturday 26th Aug. Gibraltar won the toss and elected to field.
The Gibraltar players were initially intimidated by playing against a slightly older team, but gave a good account of themselves in the field, restricting Spain to 124 in their 35 overs. The Gibraltarians bowled with discipline, Joss Hatcher the pick of them going for just 15 runs in his 7 overs, picking up a wicket in the process. Spain had their opener Joel Brook to thank for their competitive total, who showed solid technique in batting through with a score of 35 not out.

Gibraltar’s reply began in disastrous fashion, losing opener Kieran Paulis first ball. Things soon got worse for the batting side as they found themselves 53-7 off just 15 overs, due to a combination of impressive bowling from the Spanish and undisciplined batting for the Gibraltarians. Brothers Guy and Philip Dumas showed the Gibraltar top order how to bat with application in putting a stand of 41 together for the eighth wicket, but when Brad Seeking finished off the Gibraltar tail with figures of 3-10, in the 33rd over, Gibraltar were left 16 runs short on 108. In truth Spain’s victory was far more comfortable than the 16 run difference suggests.

Game 2, Sunday 27th August. Spain won the toss and elected to bat.
Spain began positively and had clearly discussed their running between the wickets. The Gibraltar fielders were being put under more pressure by the Spanish openers than on the previous day but Kayron Stagno responded well, running out Joel Brooke with a direct hit. Gibraltar were not bowling as well as on the Saturday and were giving away far too many extras. However, 10 year old Simon Dumas came on and turned the game, taking 2 key wickets in his 4 overs, going for just 6 runs. It was then the turn of the Spanish batsmen to self-destruct, eventually being bowled out for 124, the identical score as on the Saturday.

Gibraltar’s top order had learned from the previous chase and showed far more application at the crease. Scott Chipolina looked extremely comfortable before being trapped leg before for 25. Gibraltar looked to be cruising to victory at 109 for 3 with 5 overs to spare but Ben Girling (2-28) took the key wicket of Joss Hatcher (33) and initiated a mini collapse. However, Kayron Stagno showed good temperament in batting through, straight driving the winning runs in the final over and finishing 11 not out.

The weekend was both hugely enjoyable and valuable for the development of both teams. It was particularly pleasing to see the obvious improvement in standard from the Saturday fixture to the Sunday.


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