Welcome to `Beyond the Test World', CricInfo's trip around cricket's outposts. In this edition, in an BTTW exclusive, Ian Healy recounts his Man-of-the-Tournament winning Shanghai Sixes experience; we travel to Brazil for a season update and learn about Mexico City CC's near brush with Hurricane Rita.
Ian Healy in Shanghai
"A casual invitation to play and speak at Shanghai for a six-a-side tournament was turned into reality when I found that my diary could allow it. I'd never been to China so what a perfect opportunity to test the water before the possibility of a family holiday down the track. What a pleasant surprise from every angle.
Most impressive was their commitment to organising things perfectly. Airport transfers, hotel service and quality and the atmosphere created at the Shanghai Rugby grounds were outstanding. The surface itself far exceeded my expectations and when my team and I discovered how fresh and cold the Fosters was at the ground, we couldn't wait for each day's end!
The sponsors not only chipped in financially but physically inviting plenty of guests to the ground and to the associated functions. Pre-tournament drinks at Irish Murphy's, a gala sportsnight at the glamorous Hyatt and a tournament meal one night were all fun. It's hard to believe there were really 450 people attending a cricket function in China.
There was also some serious cricket to be played, however, and this is where I came into my own. I was steady with the bat which was a miracle but, as expected, I excelled with the ball. I'd been assigned to play with Hong Kong club side Lamma CC, where I found that we had two players who couldn't and wouldn't bowl but were keepers. This was a godsend for the team because finally I could showcase my ability, often talked about, with the ball. Now 15 an over is normal in six-a-side innings. With early skill and guile I contained teams to 7 and 6 from my overs before unleashing my now legendary 3-4 to capture an impossible victory.
We were eliminated in the semi-final which was very early in the morning but after a little bit of coaching the kids allowed us to relax and watch the big boys throughout the day. That is where the Fosters played an important part.
Other than that, the obvious highlight for me was seeing the action of Derek Underwood again and getting to spend heaps of time chatting to him. He took a wicket from his first ball. Deano (Dean Jones) struggled to find the middle often which is unusual for him but the general comradeship between all teams was exceptional.
First-night syndrome claimed a few but the second and third nights were equally as dangerous in a city which has plenty to offer. Market shopping as good as I have seen, sales merchants instinctively sniff out money before a battle tougher than a Test match begins, possibly over a five-dollar item. Restaurants, bars and nightlife ensure there is never a dull moment in Shanghai. Hopefully I can get up for it again by next year! Ian Healy
Nuts about cricket in Brazil
This year, the focus for Brazilian cricket has been developing the sport in schools and forming a national Under-12 side. In Curitiba, cricket is being taught to about 200 students, while in Brasília, the University PE Department now offers an undergraduate course in cricket.
Clinics held in both cities and in São Paulo have trained players to become certified coaches. In Fortaleza, an all-Brazilian group is receiving equipment and coaching. Now in its third year, the all-Brazilian HSBC League kicked off in March. These matches demonstrate the tremendous progress the players have made as well as their enthusiasm: wickets are celebrated like a winning goal in the football World Cup.
The Interstate season began in May in Curitiba, with the home side losing twice to São Paulo, thanks to some gritty batting by the visiting captain, Sunny Randolph, who was bloodied by a bouncer. Both clubs play in Brasília in October, and all three state sides will compete in South America's first Twenty20 tournament, slated for mid-November in Curitiba.
A bonus point for every 25 runs in all interstate games gives teams an added incentive. In São Paulo, local teams compete for the Raj Cup, named after a local player who died of a heart attack while bowling. Currently, the India side tops the table. In Brasília, the Annual Ambassador's Match was held in June at the new University Olympic Centre ground, with the Australian Ambassador's team beating a side led by his British counterpart. In Rio de Janeiro, efforts are underway to resurrect cricket in Brazil's most famous city, where it flourished for over 80 years.
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Mexico City CC dodge the hurricane
In the 27-year history of the Travelex Cup, Mexico City CC had never successfully defended the title against Texas's Houston Memorial CC. A 28-run loss in the traditional Saturday friendly indicated a similar fate. Houston amassed 255 for 7 from 45 overs in its innings, with the Mexican captain, Chris Wood, taking 3 for 57.
Needing an outright victory to snatch the trophy, Houston bowled assertively and aggressively. In stifling, sultry conditions, the UK-based opener, Chris Westphal, anchored the MCCC innings, taking blows on the body, until he fell in the 41st over. The Mariachis' tail had to survive six overs, but Patrick Winchester's double-wicket maiden in the 44th over gave Houston the ascendancy. Winchester took Mexico's ninth wicket with three balls to go.
The No. 11, Jay Kishan, surrounded by close-in fielders, faced the last ball, a yorker zeroing in on middle stump. Kishan stabbed his bat down and Mexico held the trophy. Mexico had intended to enter the Houston Sixes, but opted not to, which was fortuitous, as it was scheduled for the same weekend in which Hurricane Rita hit.
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In the next edition, we relive Japan's East Asia-Pacific Cup triumph, learn about one of Uganda's rising stars and wonder whether being a bad boy on Bermuda is necessarily bad for you. Do you have an idea for an article or would like to comment on some aspect of this column? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org