A group of 15 Haileybury cricketers, together with Master i/c Cricket, Mike Cawdron, and tour manager, Harry Baxendale, recently returned from a four-match tour of the United Arab Emirates.
The team stayed in a hotel in Dubai, but played one match in Abu Dhabi and three in Sharjah as part of the Arabian Cricket Challenge, a round-robin tournament featuring Dubai College, Hurstpierpoint, Winchester and Haileybury.
Harry reports on the tour:
We played four matches in six days (three group matches and the 3rd/4th playoff). Having brought a young and inexperienced team with us (three Middles and five Fifths in the 15-man squad), we knew we might struggle and yet, for much of the tournament, we outperformed our expectations in the field. Sadly, the pressure of batting second in each of the first three matches proved too great, along with the fact that the first two matches were played under floodlights.
However, the boys were tremendously excited about playing under floodlights and in coloured clothing (kindly provided by parents Steve Carter and Tim Lane), and even more excited about the quality of the stadiums we played in: the first match was at the Sheik Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi, which is a 27,000-seat, brand new one, soon to be used for some Pakistan-Australia matches; the next three matches were at Sharjah, a 20,000-seater, which has hosted more ODIs than any other ground in the world.
Our first match was against Winchester, who were restricted to 187 for 8 off their 40 overs, with Sam Anthony taking 3 for 55 and Blake Carter 2 for 8. Caleb Stewart kept wicket outstandingly well, to the extent that many couldn’t believe that Sam Billings could have done a better job. Caleb then scored 38, opening the innings, and at both 40 for 0 and 80 for 2 we looked to be in the box seat. However, the pressure of chasing soon told and we collapsed to 154 all out off 36.1 overs, thereby losing by 33 runs.
Our second match was against Hurstpierpoint from West Sussex. We bowled and fielded outstandingly to restrict them to just 148 on a beautiful batting track. Sam Boothby bowled with skill and pace for figures of 7-3-17-1 and Sam Anthony took 3 for 24 with Ben Carter also grabbing two wickets. Unfortunately, disaster then ensued: we lost two wickets in the first over, including Haydn Elliott, who ran himself out off the first ball of the innings (the fact that he was the non-striker and that it wasn’t even a legitimate delivery, as it was a wide, made it even more galling). Things got progressively worse from there with only Brad Lane passing 10 (he got 22). We were swiftly bowled out for just 50 (it would have been 55, but Tom Billings ran down the wicket and got us 5 runs/10% of our total deducted by the overly officious umpires). As a result, we had lost by 98 runs and could not qualify for the final.
The third match was all about us regaining some confidence after the shell-shock of the Hurstpierpoint game. We were up against a composite side of Dubai College and Jumeirah College players, who were on a real high after performing very well in their first two matches. They batted well on another excellent surface, reaching 248 off their 40 overs following a cultured century from a Year 9 boy and some slogging from an ex-pat Australian. All our bowlers acquitted themselves fairly well, with no one standing out. We never looked likely to get close to their total, especially with our batting confidence so low, so it was actually quite an achievement to total 167, even though that meant a third successive defeat, this time by 81 runs. Sam Anthony was the star with the bat, scoring 66 at number 5. Luke Frey and Calum Watson both formed good partnerships with him, scoring 24 and 16 respectively.
Our final match was the 3rd/4th playoff against Hurstpierpoint, the team who’d bowled us out for 50 and had been desperately unlucky not to reach the final at Winchester’s expense. This time we finally won the toss and proved that we could bat. We finished our innings with heads held high, having posted 212 for 3 off our 40 overs with Caleb Stewart scoring 64 and Sam Anthony 57 not out. We then bowled and fielded magnificently and ended up crushing them by 69 runs. The Anthony family’s fun continued with Luke getting the exceptional figures of 8-2-23-6, this was despite conceding 10 runs in his 1st over. He had both a triple and a double-wicket maiden in there. Again, Sam Boothby and Sam Anthony bowled extremely well.
So, we ended the tour on a genuine high, having proved that we can bowl and field very well and that, when people knuckle down, we can post decent totals too. Caleb Stewart was the talk of the tournament with his exceptional keeping and fluent batting and Sam Boothby and Sam Anthony also impressed many neutral observers. The fact that Luke Anthony had the best bowling analysis of the tournament meant that three out of our four star players will still be at the school in two years’ time, which bodes well.
The tour team comprised:
Bradley Lane (BFr), Luke Frey (Th), Ben Carter (BFr), Luke Anthony (B), Ryan O’Leary (E), Caleb Stewart (Tr), Alex Scarborough (K), Harry Hughes D’Aeth (E), Nick Birch (Tr), Blake Carter (BFr), Haydn Elliott (L), Tom Billings (BFr), Sam Anthony (BFr), Sam Boothby (Tr) and Calum Watson (Th).