Czech Republic v Slovenia: Slovenes win their first home 'international'

On 28/29 July 2001 Slovenia played their first ever home international match. The event was a two-day game against the Czech Republic, taking place at Ljubljana Cricket Club's Valburga ground 15 km north of the Slovenian capital.

Last year Slovenia experienced their first taste of international competition when they took part in a European representative tournament in Vienna, playing four one-day internationals. But this was the first time the Czechs had put together an international team.

Neither of these two countries can yet field sufficient home-grown talent to qualify to play higher levels of European cricket, but both Slovenia and the Czech Republic included a good proportion of local players in this game. Slovenia fielded as many as five Slovenian passport-holders as well as other long-term residents.

Slovenian captain Mark Oman won the toss and invited the visitors to bat. In sweltering heat the Czechs made a promising start before Slovenia's bowlers began to make inroads. Czech captain Scott Page played some fluent strokes to top-score with 54, before being run out after a fine one-handed pick-up and throw from Urban Blaznik, who made light of the bumpy and unpredictable outfield.

The Czech Republic put on 77 runs for the 4th wicket, with John Corness joining his captain to make a useful contribution of 20. Otherwise the visitors found it difficult to make headway against an unrelenting assault of fast bowling. The carpet-on-concrete wicket played fast and true despite urgent repairs having been required after it was vandalised over the winter.

The wickets continued to fall at regular intervals, with the Slovenian team sharing around the bowling honours. Eve, Oman and Crawford took two each and Ryan and Mayland one apiece. With a couple of run-outs, both courtesy of Blaznik's quick thinking a sharp throwing, the Czechs turned a fairly promising start to 174 all out at tea on the first day.

With one session left in the day Slovenia set about chasing as much of the Czech total as possible to create a chance of a result. Dan Ryan joined Oman at 54 for four and proceeded to demonstrate a variety of confident shots that had previously deserted him entirely this season. And with Oman playing a steady innings the home team reached 130 for four at close of play.

Having mentally rehearsed overnight the few runs required for his fifty, Dan Ryan promptly popped the first ball of the second day up for a comfortable catch to point, but the chance was put down by John Corness. When Ryan was eventually dismissed for 56, he and Mark Oman (81) had put together a partnership of 112. As Slovenia chased the runs that could make victory possible, Geldart, Eve and Mayland all chipped in with boundaries before the home side declared on 230 at the fall of the ninth wicket with a lead of 56.

For the Czechs, captain Scott Page was the pick of the bowlers with figures of three for 57 off 20 overs, while Corness and Wady pitched in with two wickets each.

In the second innings a combination of some highly effective fast bowling and poor application at the wicket had the visitors reeling at 40 for five by lunch. Highlights included Eve taking a chunk out of the middle stump with a quick delivery, and Daniel Herakovi holding his first ever catch having previously dropped everything that had come his way since his debut in 1999.

The Czechs' ability to concentrate at the wicket was certainly not helped by the effects of a Saturday night on the town that stretched well into Sunday morning, and included copious refreshments as well as goings-on too lurid to mention here.

The bowlers returned to the task after the break and the damage to the Czech batting continued. Mark Oman set a new best bowling record for Slovenia, finishing with seven for 31 off 15 overs. He may have taken eight had he not forced the number 10 batsman to retire hurt after having his toenail removed with a ferocious yorker. The final total of just 95 left Slovenia requiring 39 to win.

In the Slovenian second innings Steve Fish played some big shots in his score of 19 until he lost his wicket running down the track to try and hit the winning runs. That honour went to Greg Davies and Slovenia completed an eight-wicket victory bringing their international record to played five won two.