After three years without welcoming a foreign touring side, Botany Bay CC came to visit, coincidentally from the same league as our previous visitors in 2019, Redbourn! With the Catalan Federation having denied our request for a free weekend with no league game, we were faced with the tricky task of three games in two days! The 18-strong group (with 12 players) arrived to a Barcelona that had been grey, wet and chilly for a couple of weeks, hoping that the games would be able to go ahead.
Having managed to miss the train to Vic (along with yours truly!) our game got underway about an hour late and was reduced slightly to 35 overs. Under overcast skies threatening rain later in the day, Umer Razi won the toss and chose to bat. Nial Evans and Umair Iqbal opened although the former didn’t last long, given LBW by his own teammate. Umer (37) joined Umair (48) at the crease and the two shared a 105-run partnership before both fell in quick succession. Not too long after another two wickets fell quickly: Nathan Blyth was impressively run out by Harris and Todd Fraser was lbw to leave us 169/5. Burhan Ejaz and Maroof Shaikh (32) shared a mini partnership to get us close to 200 before they and the tail collapsed, from 195/5 to 201 all out, 14 balls short of the end of the innings. BBCC had bowled all 11 players, with seven of them picking up wickets.
After a delicious (and far too quick for my liking) biryani and samosa lunch we headed into the field with a few raindrops already starting to fall. Todd and James Smith opened the bowling and it wasn’t long until Todd picked up a wicket, thanks to a brilliant stumping from Ravindu Maduranga standing up to the stumps. The next wicket was another great piece of fielding, this time a run out from Maroof. Todd picked up another wicket, bowling the other opener Anderson (31), before being taken out of the attack. Todd and James were replaced by Sam ‘Tour Craig’ Phillipps and Aragon’s greatest ever leg spinner, Leandro Español. Despite some tight bowling, it wasn’t until his last over that Sam removed the dangerous Harris two runs short of his 50, caught by his fellow jug-avoider Umair. In the same over Maroof managed to get another run out, leaving Botany Bay on 123/5 after 20 overs. Drinks were then taken with Ravi ditching the gloves in order to come on to bowl alongside Umer. Ravi picked up a wicket in his second over before a partnership formed between Marchant (30*) and Penn (32). Although Burhan ran Penn out towards the end, it wasn’t enough and the visitors scraped through with two wickes left, in what we had been told was the final over (but seems to have only been the 33rd!). Despite getting a bit damp and cold, it had been a fantastic game that (hadn’t quite) gone down to the wire. We returned to Barcelona for a quick change and shower before reuniting for dinner, followed by a hunt to find a bar that would fit 20 people in. In the end, the last stragglers got home at 7am!
Given that late night, it was probably lucky that our game on Sunday wasn’t due to start until 6:15. BICC were returning to play at the Olympic baseball ground in Montjuïc after about a decade without playing there. There were debuts for Anton Kritzinger and Henry Hawkes, as well as competitive returns to the club for Bill Brooks and our only ever Catalan player, Roger Pons again after about ten years each. Given Leandro Español’s presence in the 12-man team, it saw us field two Spanish players for the first time in our history. With us having forgotten to bring stumps, it was probably also the first time we’d played a game with a concrete slab/ bin as the stumps…!
First-time captain Umair (eventually) won the toss and we were to bat first. Mohsin Nawaz and Nial Neil Nigel Dave Evans opened the batting, and got us off to a decent start before Mohsin fell in the sixth over. Rez Hassan came to the crease, and after playing himself in a bit decided to dispatch the ball to all parts with all his 30 runs coming in boundaries (six 4s and a 6). During this onslaught, ‘Dave’ had been dismissed with Jon Wong replacing him. He did make Rez run, whilst also making 30. Debutant Henry showed promise with a big 6 but could only manage 11, Bill was brilliantly run out for 1, Roger (apparently) scored his first ever BICC run and our second debutant Anton (32) started smashing the ball around the darkening ground having come in down the order. We finished with a seemingly competitive score of 184 from our 20 overs.
The lights had come on during the change of innings, which was probably a good thing given that Mohsin and Rez were opening the bowling. The English openers struggled to get bat on ball as they conceded just 20 from the first six overs, with Mohsin bowling Anderson and Mullen, and stand in keeper ‘Dave’ sneakily running out Hancocks from behind the stumps. Bill and Anton bowled the next four overs with Mardon taking something of a liking to both of them as BBCC caught up a bit with the runrate. 84/3 at the halfway point, with 102 needed to win, ‘Tour Craig’ and Leandro bowled the next four, with Leandro getting Mardon stumped the ball after he’d reached his 50, some great work by ‘Dave’ to remove the bails hit the bin. Unfortunately for us this brought Saturday’s top scorer Harris to the crease, and he wasn’t to miss out on a personal landmark again. The pink ball disappeared over our heads once again as he made 83*. Mohsin and Rez returned to bowl the final two overs with 15 needed to win and, although Mohsin picked up a third wicket, it made no difference as Harris dispatched the penultimate ball of the match for six. Two very close games that had both ultimately gone the way of the visitors. After a team photo and Botany gifting us a signed shirt of theirs, we retired to the bar for a final drink or two.
Overall, it was great to be able to welcome a touring team again and to play two great, close games both in fantastic spirit despite some hiccups (the weather, the ground, the stumps). We’d happily have them back, and who knows, maybe we’ll even visit them one day!