Midi CC wound up the hosting of the region’s first three-team cricket tournament with a convincing eight-wicket victory over UK visitors Red Square Lions but the weekend spoils went to a Barbarians XI whose two wins gave them the title of champions as the first holders of the Beziers Cap d’Agde Airport Cup.
The Barbarians’ triumph on the first two days of competition on 27 and 28 September on Midi’s home ground at St Pons de Mauchiens owed much to the batting prowess of James Millinship whose 91 not out against Red Square Lions and 67 against Midi earned him the Player of the Series award.
Millinship’s 133-run partnership with Nick Allison (43), on loan from Midi, in the opening match against Red Square Lions took the Barbarians to 153 runs for only two wickets, and a quickfire 28 from Patrick Dubois set a formidable target of 257.
Despite the threat of a deluge on a dull, overcast day, Red Square seemed up for the task and openers Adam Barnes (41) and Dan Roper (49) gave the London-based visitors a solid foundation as they moved to 129 for one after 21 of the allotted 35 overs.
But once Barnes, Roper and Luke Templeman (32) had departed, the Lions’ run rate slowed and although they surpassed their best-ever limited overs score with 212, it was not enough to challenge the Barbarians who won the tournament’s first encounter by 44 runs.
Best bowler for the Barbarians was Paddy Hamill who took three for 30 in a tight six-over spell.
While scorer Reg Gratton, an ardent Leyton Orient supporter, initially wanted to award the Man of the Match award to Dan Roper, when he had learnt of his 10-year role as the Orient’s mascot Theo the Wyvern, ultimately sense and justice prevailed and Millinship was adjudged Player of the Match with his unbeaten 91.
Millinship, Hamill, Phil Palfreyman and Lauren Chamberlain, from the Queniborough CC club just north of Leicester, formed the backbone of the Barbarians team, with former Midi stalwart Greg Hannaford as their captain.
The weather was ever more grim and threatening on the second day of competition as the Barbarians were sent into bat after Midi won the toss.
With most of the Barbarians snarled in traffic on Pezenas market day, Nick Allison was joined as opener by Kevin Gatsby, publisher of the Herault Times, one of Midi’s partners.
Gatsby, who hadn’t played cricket for 15 years, proceeded to hit two searing fours before getting stumped but his stay at the wicket allowed precious time for the arrival of the Barbarians and in particular Millinship who provided the heart of the innings, helping to push the score to 163 for five before falling to a brilliant ball from Midi’s Dutch import Joris Verdaasdonk.
Millinship had support from downunder in the shape of Australian visitor Shaun Molloy who hit a sparkling 39, which included two sixes and four fours, before being comprehensively bowled by captain Dom George
Once again it was George who stemmed the run flow and produced the best bowling figures, a niggardly 3 for 25 off six overs, which included a great catch by Alex Lalljee running in from the deep.
With the match reduced to 30 overs because of the threatening skies and niggling drizzle, Midi’s 175-run target still seemed obtainable until Patrick Dubois, buoyed by his cameo innings of the day before, scythed his way through Midi’s top order.
Dubois removed openers Marc Dalling and Jason Armstrong, then Neal Atkinson and Ken Miller in a withering spell which produced tournament best figures of 4 for 16.
His final dismissal of Midi’s American import Ken Miller was the most bizarre of the weekend and particularly confusing for Miller’s mum who had never witnessed this strange game before and thought cricket was a sort of grasshopper.
Donning a pair of gloves made slippery by the wet conditions, Miller’s first delivery saw bat not ball go skywards and, wandering out of his crease in abject confusion, his bails were removed and in the true spirit of social cricket, he was sent on his way.
To the rescue came captain George and ably supported by Verdaasdonk, the pair took the score from 47 for five to 87, despite a rain delay during the partnership.
Verdaasdonk finally went for 19 bowled by Dean Molloy, Shaun’s younger brother, but George battled on, finally falling for 49, one short of his 50, but not enough to bring Midi victory, the Barbarians winning by 37 runs.
After Dubois, Shaun Molloy capped a good all-round performance with figures of three for 17 but it was George who was rightly named Man of the Match.
Despite a dire weather forecast of thunder, lightning, hail and the kitchen sink, the morning was bright and sunny for the final match between Red Square Lions and Midi.
The Lions batted first and once again Adam Barnes (42) and Dan Roper (31) proved impregnable but dogged as they progressed to 53 after 10 overs, with Midi opening bowler Joe Whitworth putting the brake on their scoring, conceding only nine runs in his first four overs.
A brilliant throw from the deep by Jason Armstrong ended Barnes’ innings and though both Charles Seville (32) and Bill Ridgers (37) accumulated runs, the scoreboard ticked over sedately, with captain George again proving difficult to put away with his seven overs producing figures of 1 for 20.
A jaunty sixth wicket partnership between Mike Jakeman (10) and Sam Fox (10) enabled the Lions to set Midi a target of 180, a target made easier after an unexpected tea break deluge which made bowling conditions difficult, nay almost dangerous, with the umpires deciding to bowl from one end with the aid of sawdust.
Sawdust aside, Midi opener Jason Armstrong was a man on a mission. Having regularly lost his wicket this season when seemingly on the way to a big score, he produced a chanceless innings, hitting 12 fours on his way to 81.
The opening stand of 78 with Alex Lalljee (25), laid the foundation for the Midi win which President Marc Dalling fittingly helped to finish off with an unbeaten 29, to give the home side victory by 8 wickets.
Armstrong was named Man of the Match for his highest score of the season and the main contribution to one of Midi’s rare victories in 2013.
Before the well-attended post-match barbeque, in presenting the trophies sculpted by Midi’s very own Nick Allison, President Dalling announced that the tournament would now be an annual competition on the Midi CC calendar and the club had already teams lined up for 2014.
Dalling also thanked the three umpires, Colin Trickett, Martin Eade and Roger Linsley for their officiating over the three days.
Patrick Dubois, in a pythonesque postscript to the tournament, apologised for not being available on the last day – a reptile convention had taken precedence.
Midi CC is now partnered with Cancer Support France, a local organisation providing support in English for those affected by cancer. Help raise funds for CSF by taking part in the Walk for Life being held this year in the Montagnac area on Sunday, 29 September. For further information visit the CSF website: www.csf-languedoc.com