ICC Combined XI v England XI, Dubai, 1st day January 7, 2012

'Waited for a chance like this my whole life' - Viljoen

ESPNcricinfo staff

Christi Viljoen, the Namibia medium-pacer, has said he had waited all his life for an opportunity to play against a top international team, and was determined to do well for the ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI in their three-day match against England at the Global Cricket Academy ground in Dubai. Viljoen was picked in the Combined XI primarily as a bowler, but impressed with the bat on the first day, scoring 98 to help his team recover from 122 for 7 to 281.

It was Viljoen's highest score in first-class cricket, and only his third half-century. He said he usually found it hard to bat down the order - his previous best of 87 came batting at No. 3 against Ireland - but raised his game because he realised the importance of the occasion.

"When I first got to Namibia, every time I batted up the order I got runs," Viljoen, who was born and raised in South Africa, said. "Then, when senior players came back I had to move back down, and I find it difficult to bat later down the order. But today I just buckled down, and tried to stay there and not get out because it is a massive opportunity and hopefully I have used my chance."

Namibia did not qualify for the 2011 World Cup, so Viljoen had never played against a Test-playing nation in any form of the game before. Coming out to face the World No. 1's Test team, England, with his side tottering at 90 for 6, he said he was quite nervous.

"I've been waiting for an opportunity like this all my life: to play against one of the top teams. When I first got out there I was a bit nervous, but once the pitch got a bit flatter it got easier and then I just didn't really think, and just batted and enjoyed the occasion."

Two runs short of what would have been his maiden first-class hundred, Viljoen was caught by James Anderson in the deep. "I was willing the ball to go further and get to the boundary," Viljoen said. "I thought I was on the way to my maiden first-class hundred and I was gutted when James Anderson caught that ball. But it was a good performance for my team so I am happy with that."

Viljoen began the ICC XI's recovery in the company of Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad, who scored 51, before putting on 96 for the ninth wicket with Ireland fast bowler Boyd Rankin. "Shahzad played amazingly well," Viljoen said. "When I was batting with him it was easy because I just gave the strike to him and he played some amazing shots. Then Boyd supported me really nicely and we had a great partnership going there."

While Viljoen averages just 15.92 with the bat in first-class cricket, it is his 74 wickets from 23 first-class matches at an average of 27.87 that earned him a place in the Combined XI. He is the joint-leading wicket-taker in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, and will hope to do well with the ball on the second morning, when, he said, there might be a bit in the pitch for the seamers.

"The pitch moves a bit in the morning so we will try to exploit that and get some swing and movement of the track, and get early wickets. Hopefully we can get them out for less than the score we put up and then we will get the chance to bat again."

England are using the match as preparation for their upcoming Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. Viljoen said the English bowlers got some reverse-swing on the first day, which could help them in their series against Pakistan.

"Towards the middle of the day the ball started reversing a bit, which made it a bit difficult. It's England's first warm-up game and with them already getting some reverse, I think if they just keep working on their reverse then they will pick up wickets with the older ball."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Stephen on January 8, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    I think that this "ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI" is a great idea. It could help to ensure that the best players of the non-test playing nations have some experience when those teams eventually step up. Hats off to the ICC for coming up with it, and let's hope the team gets more games in future.

  • Bryn on January 8, 2012, 5:44 GMT

    well done mate. england always are good at providing a guy with career best performances haha

  • Nathan on January 8, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    Maybe some of the players that perform during this game will get some attention and get to play some county/state cricket?

  • Randolph on January 8, 2012, 4:47 GMT

    Viljoen looks like me might be a good prospect for England. They have Zimbabweans and South Africans, another Southern African in the team would look great.

  • wayne on January 8, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    Wouldn't it be great to see this concept expanded? Something's got to help drive development of the game with the associates, and Viljoen's excitement at having an opportunity to prove himself against a test-playing nation should be enough encouragement for the ICC to do more like this. Good luck guys - show the world there's more to cricket beyond the members.

  • rahul on January 8, 2012, 0:13 GMT

    This was a great idea. Why not have associates play tour games in other venues. Instead of the home side A teams, that will surely boost the confidence of the minnow nations. Viewership would also be great as the fans from those teams would look up to the matches.

  • Terry on January 7, 2012, 23:25 GMT

    It was good to see him and the team well. Lets hope that the team score of 282 is followed up by some good bowling that keeps The Associates in this match. I hope that this is just the first match of many for The Associates. The Associates need to be the 11th test team to play test cricket. Just like WI was formed because individual countries in WI couldnt compete against the top sides (Aust, Eng, SA) when they first joined, I hope ICC will create the Associates Cricket Organisation (ACO) which will be responsible for selecting, organising, sponsorship and home matches for The Associates cricket team (at Associate grounds). Eventually the ACO (controlled solely by 36 Associate teams) could be responsible for Intercontinential Cup & other Associate comps with funds provided by ICC (that they currently spend on ICup & other competitions) and % of profits from Associate teams (eg: seat tickets / merchandise). First home test series should be in Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Hollands grounds)

  • Garreth on January 7, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    Im not one usually to praise the ICC but this is a fantastic idea that could grow legs! For these associate players to get the chance to see what standards they need to reach is wonderful and the fact that it is against the number 1 side in the world is a perfect cauldron to throw them into. We could be seeing some future stars here. Really excited by Afghanistan and Namibian players and everyone already knows of the Irish. An enitre team of them could have been put in here and knowing their passion for facing the English they probably would have given them a good run.

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    nice story. i can understand his feelings.. i m still smilling.. i myseflf always wanted to be a national cricketer so can understand his joy of sense of achievement...

  • Mark on January 7, 2012, 20:11 GMT

    Great to see these players getting a chance to show what they can do. Many people think that there should be a combined team such as this playing Test cricket to give players from the non-Test nations a chance at the top level. It would also give players like Eoin Morgan and George Dockerell a chance to play Test cricket without changing alliegance.

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