Australia 2004 Tour Report...
The England Deaf Cricket team flew to Australia on 18 th January 2004 to attempt to win and bring back the Deaf Ashes home. The tour included three Test matches, five One-Day Internationals and three State friendly matches.
Spirits were high as the squad set off on the 23-hour flight to Sydney for the 4 and a half-week trip and the players were determined to do well.
The squad comprised of some experienced players who had played against Australia in the Deaf World Cup final some eight years before. Of that team, only seven players remained. The remainder comprised of younger hungry players and included Mark Woodman, a 37-year-old seamer who had played over 50 games for Devon in the Minor Counties competition, all of whom were determined to do well.
Prior to the Tour, two training weekend were held at Loughborough Cricket Academy in Nov and Dec which was absolutely fantastic. The hand over of the Official kit by Simon Jones and Ed Smith was the real icing on the cake. There was a strong feeling that the country was right behind us.
On arrival in Sydney, the weather was wet and cold with stunning electrical storms dominating the night sky. These conditions severely hampered all pre match training and acclimatisation for the tour matches ahead. We were only able to have one short outdoor turf net session prior to the first test match, which predictably proved crucial.
Sydney University Campus, which set the standard for all three places in Australia, was a superb venue for lodging with excellent modern accommodation and catering facilities and was close to the venue for the test match. Squad members were able to contact home to be told in no uncertain terms that the weather was minus 9 and snowing a gale, as they wandered around in shorts and T-Shirts lamenting about the wet weather!
The welcome ceremony provided the opportunity to see the Australian Team at close quarters. The Australian squad were considerably younger in age overall and looked ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
The first taste of action was a friendly match against New South Wales played on a bouncy artificial strip (due to wet weather) that saw NSW reach 113, which England reached comfortably within 25 overs to win by 7 wickets.
The first Test match set the scene for the series. After the Australian national anthem was played, Australia won the toss and elected to bat. They were reduced to 67 for 4 before declaring on 450 for 9 thanks to an innings of 176 from the captain, Andrew Watkins well supported by 109 from Phillip Cox. Some key decisions did not go our way. Stefan Pichowski was the pick of the bowlers with 3-69 off 17 overs. In reply, the lack of turf practice was all too evident as the Australians bowled us out for 105, despite a solid 46 from Ben Young and enforced the follow on. In the second innings, a much better response, build around a magnificent unbeaten knock of 186 by the captain Umesh Valjee. Alas, it proved in vain as the innings closed 20 minutes before the scheduled close with England an innings and one run behind. The England Team was extremely disappointed.
Due to the competitive nature of the cricket, there were some incidents during the match, which prompted a meeting between the management of both teams to discuss the "spirit of the game". It is pleasing to say that things took a turn for the better as the tour progressed.
The next day was a rest day prior to the first one-day international. Most players took the opportunity to get some additional rest after the excursions of the previous three days.
The First One Day match was played at Goddard Park Oval and after winning the toss, England elected to bat, scoring 174 build around an aggressive 60 from Mike O'Mahony. The Australians scored quickly, despite losing wickets regularly, before closing in on the target with three wickets to spare. It was a game of missed opportunities.
The second one day match followed a similar pattern at the Drummoyne Oval where England having lost the toss were inserted and scored 215, built around a 5 th wicket partnership between Umesh Valjee and Paul Allen who put the Australian fielders under immense pressure with sharp running which produced 112 runs being scored off the last 12 overs. Once again, missed opportunities saw the Australians get off to a flying start to win the game comfortably by 8 wickets.
Both parties then moved to Brisbane. The friendly match against Queensland was won comfortably by England again by 7 wickets, before the Second Test took place at the wonderful Allan Border Oval, the base of Queensland State Cricket. England batted first following a delayed start due to rain and scored 223, build around an compact innings of 80 by Chris Hughes. The Australians replied with 450 for 9 dec, with Neil Watkins hitting a classy 164 and another century from Andrew Watkins. This followed a spell late on the first day by Ross McCauliffe which was later described as the most intimidating bowling seen in deaf cricket for many a year as he terrorised the opening batsmen in the evening twilight. As the ball softened, so the Australians started to score quickly. England responded with 378 for 5 with significant contributions from many batsmen. The match was drawn.
In the third One Day International, England was once again put into bat and mustered 134, which the Australians easily gave chase and caught. It was a disappointment following the commanding performances given in the test match.
Having won the series, the Australians one again won the toss and elected to bat in the 4 th one-day match, amassing 310 all out after a quiet start. The English lost early wickets in reply and were dismissed for 130. This was probably the lowest point of the tour.
Moving onto Melbourne, after being put into bat once again, England scored 134, which the Australians achieved for the loss of five wickets after being 88 for 5. Once again, some missed opportunities enabled the Australians to win rather convincingly.
The Final Test saw the strongest performance of the whole tour after finally winning the toss and deciding to bat. The team complied 350, thanks to a record opening stand of 190 between Young (81) and Jeff Kan (91). Some missed half chances meant England were unable to produce real pressure to enforce the follow on. The Australians declared on 273 for 7. (McCauliffe 2 -14) Consequently, England batted quickly amassing 240 for 5 setting a stiff target of 325 runs in a minimum 41 overs. Australia closed with 6 wickets down hence the match was drawn.
It was pleasing to report that England managed to produce the best performance at the end of the long tour as the players adjusted to the conditions and intensity of play by the Australians.
After the last test match, there was the Farewell Dinner, in which many spoke of the excellent organisation of the tour and the support of the many volunteers that ensured everyone got what was needed. It also provided the first real opportunity to mix socially with the Australian cricketers and make some lasting friendships.
Well looking back on the tour, it will prove a watershed for many of the younger players as they received "wake up" calls to respond to the standards that the tour presented. It is hoped that this exposure to the climate, the pressures and challenges will enable them to improve their game. Indeed, the Australians fielded no less than seven First Grade Cricketers and had one full New South Wales State representative in the squad who was unable to play due to injuries and unavailability. They were positively aggressive in everything they did, creating the platform to perform with greater freedom with the bat and create more pressure with the ball.
Together with their keenly expressed desire to win, there were conceived fields for each of the batsmen including some 8:1 fields regularly being set, and the bowlers maintained a consistent line outside off stump. They also adopted the pinch-hitting tactic for the first fifteen overs, which more often that not, was successful in gaining early momentum and knocking the shine and shape off the kookaburra ball, which proved to be ineffective after the first 20 overs. It became a game of mental discipline, which the Australians were better equipped to win.
The Tour should make the end of the new beginning for international deaf cricket. The immediate focus is on the next World Cup in India in November 2005. All the players will need to work to improve their skills with the helpful guidance of Ron Young and other coaches. In addition, a recruitment drive to find more good players is needed to raise the standard and depth of the England side.
The Australians have expressed a very keen desire to complete again for the Ashes in England in the Summer of 2007. It is imperative that the England Team moves forward and is ready for the physical and mental challenges to complete and win.
Many thanks must go to the tour committee including the Team manager, Jon Everrett, The Team Coach - Ron Young, The Tour Manager - Blyth Duncan, the Team Physiotherapist - Helen Ashton, the Scorer - Chris Weinmann and finally to Chris Harrison who proved how valuable a fully trained interpreter can be, during his stay in Sydney. Thanks must also go to Martin Redshaw the Treasurer for his assistance in sorting out the accounts and funding for the trip.
Thanks must also go to the firms such as Pinstripe Print Group in Birmingham. Burton Copeland, a solicitors firm in London, Island Cricket in Devon and the many individuals who sponsored the team. In addition, appreciation must be extended to Roger Fuggle and Hugh Morris of the ECB who provided much of the funding and groundwork, the MCC and the Tim Rice Foundation for their support. Finally, thanks must also be expressed to Nigel Laughton for his support during the training weekends. I hope that we can build upon that relationship with the National Academy to build a stronger national deaf cricket team for the future.
Finally, one must remember the patient wives, girlfriends and families who endured nearly five weeks without their partners. Their support has been invaluable throughout the training weekends, trials and the tour itself.
"They are behind the scenes never wanting to share the glory. Without them, . there would be no story".
England Deaf Cricket