International Cricket makes massive strides forward in Europe.

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When we talk about international cricket we generally have images of England, Australia, India, Bangladesh etc pop into our heads.

Test matches involving South Africa and New Zealand or one day internationals involving The West Indies, Pakistan or Afghanistan. All of these examples and fixtures between all of the above, and others, in all formats. However, historically speaking, we don’t often think of European countries other than England and, more recently, the likes of The Netherlands, Ireland or even Scotland when discussing international cricket matches. Why is this?

European Sport has been dominated by football for decades. Other sports such as golf, tennis, basketball and rugby have all been popular too but cricket….. not so much. The reason behind this probably lies with the length of the games played in the past and the space required to play the sport. However, since the introduction of the shorter formats of cricket, along with a steady increase in immigration, we have seen cricket come alive in Europe. Over the past 20 years cricket has been growing throughout the continent.

Immigration is a key factor to the growth. People migrating to Europe from Asia has had a huge impact on the growth of the sport. You only have to look at Cataluña, Spain to see this. In the 1960’s Madrid Cricket Club was the only recognised club in the country. In the 80’s we saw teams such as Sporting Alfaz and Barcelona Cricket Club immerge. But by the year 2001 there were still only a handful of registered clubs playing league cricket on the Spanish mainland and the two large Spanish archipelagos. Within the space of a few years the sport took on new life. Cricket is now played across the majority of the Spanish provinces but not more so than in Cataluña. With over 40 clubs playing league cricket in Cataluña and a large investment by the Cataluña Government, the sport is thriving.

 

The other key factor for many European countries regarding the development of cricket has been the introduction of the shorter formats.  6 or 7 hour games were not very appealing to many Europeans that have been used to their favourite sports events lasting about 2 hours. But introducing the shorter formats has helped entice the locals to start participating. Admittedly, the percentage of locals against the percentage of immigrants is very low still, but it is improving. Madrid CC currently boasts 15 different nationalities in it’s membership list, but the number of adult Spanish players is very low. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact there is no ground still in Madrid. The future looks bright though, as the youth system is producing some talented Spanish born players.

So for the past 20 years we have seen a steady growth in the sport but none of the European countries other than England, The Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland have really made much of an impact internationally. There really hasn’t been a platform in which the new cricket playing nations have been able to showcase their sport to the world. There have been international matches and ICC Tournaments, but none of which have been extensively available to watch on the TV or Internet. Until now!!!

Daniel Weston is a visionary and a keen, talented cricketer. His vision to create the new European Cricket League was met with enthusiasm by Roger Feiner. The two of them together have been unstoppable. The inaugural ECL, held in La Manga Club Resort Spain was a huge success. Watched by over 140 million people on TV and the Internet in over 40 countries, the new event really made people sit up and take notice. The following European Cricket Series just cemented their intentions and brought over 1000 T10 games to the screen in the space of a year, being broadcast from all over Europe to the watching world and creating a platform in which talented European cricketers could show off their abilities! And this has led to the European Cricket Championship!

The ECC is being played as I type this article. With 15 international sides taking part over 4 weeks, it is by far the biggest international European tournament to have ever been played. Now everyone can watch the games live on the Internet and on TV channels, such as BT Sport, and can see exactly what European Cricket can offer. Being streamed live from the majestic Cartama Oval in Cartama, Malaga, Spain you really couldn’t wish for a better location for a European Tournament.

Spain has already played it’s group games. Here you have a short description of how their tournament has started. Written by our very own Rico, enjoy his enthusiasm below and follow his commentary live from Cartama.

Written by Jonathan Woodward

Spain’s ECC progression by Harmit Phull (Rico):

Spain were in group A alongside Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg. The group was always going to be a complicated one with all sides very closely ranked by the ICC based on T20 matches. Spain took on Belgium in the first ever match of its kind, The Dream 11 European Cricket Championship, the Euros of Cricket!!

Unfortunately, it was not the start they wanted, losing in a close game against Belgium, one of the favourites to win the group along with Norway. Spain had to regroup and come back strong which is exactly what they did. Led well by Spanish captain, Christian Munoz, that’s exactly what they did.

Hamza Saleem was in great form with the bat in the recent 2 - 1 T20i victory against Germany at the beautiful Desert Springs Resort, and it was he and Awais Ahmed that got Spain back to winning ways. After that first defeat Spain went on to beat Norway, Sweden, and Luxembourg and were growing in confidence. Their rematch against Sweden was a sensational game, but Spain let themself down with the bat only scoring a low par 87 all out. Everyone feared the worst, that Sweden were going to beat Spain and leave the home team too much to do to be one of the 2 teams to progress from the group. However, even with Sweden only needing a handful of runs with 2 overs to go, the equipo rojo showed what a strong unit they are as the whole team produced a masterclass final 9 balls to pull of one of the most unbelievable victories that anyone could imagine.

All this meant that Spain finished on top of their group and to progress into week fours Championship week, they had to win one of 2 matches. Despite another master class performance from Jack Perman, a player that has come up through the junior system, Spain fell to Belgium once more as they did on day 1, Belgium had booked their place into finals week. This meant Spain had to beat Sweden, a team keen to get their revenge on Spain after that unbelievable shock defeat Spain inflicted on them. 

What a match this was, Hamza Saleem and this time Asja Butt performed with the bat helping Spain to 134 -4.  Sweden were not going to give up easily, but finally, thanks to more great bowling from Tom Vine and Atif Mehmood, beat Sweden by 13 runs to the roars of the jubilant crowd.

To the delight of the Andalusian supporters at the magnificent Cartama Oval Cricket ground, Spain joined Belgium as the two teams going into the grand final starting on the 4th October. What an event, Spain leading the way forward for European cricket in the Euros of Cricket, 4050 runs scored in just 5 days of cricket, just amazing!!!!!