September 21, 2000

France: Paris Universite snares French championship

Richie Benaud
France's year 2000 cricket season finished with a flourish of innovation, skill and vigorous enthusiasm which sets the scene perfectly for 2001 which will be one of the more important summers for all Associate countries

France's year 2000 cricket season finished with a flourish of innovation, skill and vigorous enthusiasm which sets the scene perfectly for 2001 which will be one of the more important summers for all Associate countries.

The French senior championship was won in splendid style by Paris Universite club after a hectic and exciting final ten overs.

Their opponents, Dreux, needed just eight to win with two wickets in hand when Guy Brumant started the last over. Brumant took a wicket with his first ball, five were taken from the next three balls and then Waseem was lbw from the fifth to clinch the victory.

Stars in the first session of the match were PUC's Sarfraz Ahmed (94) and for Dreux, a town 60 miles west of Paris, Abdul Haleem took 5/36 to restrict PUC to their 247/9.

The semi-finals preceding this game were a mixed bag with rain reducing the Dreux vs Gymkhana game to 23 overs with Gymkhana making 84/5 and Dreux knocking off the runs in just 10.5 overs with thunder rumbling and lightning flashing in the background.

PUC won their semi in quick time with Sulanga Richmond taking 4/19 in Northern's disappointing score of eighty one. Eymet and Cabris were the two teams knocked out at the quarter-final stage.

Three weeks earlier, France cricket had played a draw with the Old England side in a centenary match to celebrate the original Olympic Games cricket contest in Paris in 1900.

This 2000 match was played at Horntye Park in Hastings the same weekend as the England senior side accounted for the West Indies, at Headingley, in just under two days.

The Sussex fixture was delayed by water seeping under the covers, but this didn't inconvenience the teams who provided entertaining cricket - Old England 178/3 (dec) from 38 overs and France 172/7 from 32 overs.

Batting star of the England side was France coach and former Hampshire wicket-keeper Bobby Parks who made a dashing 93* from only 109 balls. It was a good performance by France to finish as close as they did from six fewer overs.

The squad for the Isle of Wight County Cricket Association Tournament travelled to Hastings to watch that game and from there went by bus and ferry to the tournament venue.

The leadup to this event was exciting for the 12 player squad with practice matches followed by a five day training schedule at Chauny involving nets, blackboard lectures, video training and getting know one another in this venture which involved young cricketers born in seven different countries.

The France squad was younger than all the opposition teams and smaller. All the matches were played on grass pitches, something new for the France players used to artificial surfaces, but valuable experience was gained. This experience was added to by the presence of Don Oslear, the former umpire, who talked to the squad each day about lessons to be drawn from the time they had spent on the field. His advice and enthusiasm were a great bonus.

The outstanding aspect of the tournament was that the young players in the squad provided a clear signpost to the future development priorities at national and club level