Club Cricket Conference

Friday, 30th July 2021

MCC follow Sierra Leone tour with more good work

By Charles Randall

24 January 2020

Will Phillips, the Richmond CC all-rounder, flies out to Buenos Aires this week as the MCC begin another busy year of touring, with the widely acclaimed visit to Pakistan a significant event in February.

The MCC party in Argentina will be managed by the former Surrey batsman Darren Bicknell, and Phillips, ex Durham University, will be making his fourth MCC trip at the age of 24, having already toured Kenya, Ireland and Menorca.

Other tour colleagues include Sam Burge, the East Molesey batsman and CCC treasurer, Oliver Smithson, the Datchet left-arm seamer, and Johan Malcolm-Hansen, the former Denmark, Leicestershire and Beckenham batsman.

Phillips will always be remembered at Richmond as a key figure in their sensational Middlesex County League 2018 title season when they won every match except one draw. He was credited with one of the finest innings seen at Old Deer Park - an undefeated 153 against Hampstead to snatch victory against the odds.

Richmond had make 332, the club's highest run chase, and Phillips was promoted to opener due to an injury to Ben Compton, but the stop-gap produced the goods as wickets fell  at the other end and he saw his team through to a two-wicket win.

The gesture by Kumar Sangakkara, the new MCC president, to captain an MCC tour to Lahore in February seemed to herald a new era as he had been in the Sri Lanka team bus that was ambushed murderously by terrorists during the second Test in 2009... in Lahore. After that, Pakistan were prevented from hosting international cricket for 10 years.

All the MCC matches will be played at the city's Aitcheson College. Guy Lavender has been confirmed as team manager, supported by the MCC head coach Ajmal Shahzad.

The MCC completed their 2019 touring year with a tour Sierra Leone in December after trips to Costa Rica, Mexico and Nepal. The Freetown visit was regarded as a success, even though the results did not always go their way in intense heat and humidity.

The captain was Gus Kennedy, the Oxford and Cambridge Blue, who has played for Hurlingham CC, and it proved to be a useful trip for Fionn Hand, 21,  the Dubliner who won a find-the-bowler competition in Leinster ahead of 48 hopefuls as a 15 year-old in lower team cricket at North County CC.

The tour manager was Jamie Clifford, the MCC assistant secretary. "It was an incredible experience to tour Sierra Leone," he said, "and I cannot thank the Sierra Leone Cricket Association enough for the warmth of welcome we received. The cricket played was very competitive, and there are some talented cricketers in Sierra Leone." The President of Sierra Leone greeted the tour party at Freetown airport.

Clifford added: "It did take us some time to adapt to different conditions, but this is one of the joys of touring.  I hope that we will have played a small part in helping develop the already well established love for the game.  Certainly, all who took part in the tour will never forget the experience."

Sierra Leone provided very useful opposition, ensuring MCC won only five of their eight games. Cricket was introduced to the country by British soldiers in 1898 and it spread quickly to towns and schools. These days cricket is Sierra Leone's highest-ranking sport when measured by success against other countries.

MCC last  toured here in 2003, and the following year Sierra Leone made their international debut at the African Affiliates Championship. They finished last out of the eight teams, but improved dramatically when they returned at the equivalent tournament in 2006 - Division Three of the African region of the World Cricket League - and this time finished as runners-up to Mozambique, just missing out on promotion to Division Two.

The MCC faced "unconventional" playing conditions and extreme humidity. Two 50-over matches against Sierra Leone Under-19 and an 'A' side were reduced to 35 overs as heat-related illness took its toll on the players, though both games were won.

Despite a hectic schedule of matches, the MCC players visited the Mokonde ground in Njala to assist the Sierra Leone Cricket Association in fostering links with the university, alongside the project to build a cricket centre there. In 2011 MCC donated cricket nets and flooring  from the Cricket Academy at Lord’s.

MCC TOUR PARTY to Sierra Leone

Gus Kennedy (MCC, capt)
Nick Anderson (Didsbury CC)
Sam Arthurton (Great Witchingham CC)
Jordan Bulpitt (Walsall CC)
Andrew Curtis (Weybridge CC)
Toby Drummond (Burton Leonard CC)
Robin Fisher (Chester Boughton Hall CC)
Peter Richer (Thriplow CC)
Fionn Hand (Cricket Leinster)
Edward Jones (MCC)
Ryan Lewis (Belvoir CC)
Adam Soilleux (Hadleigh and Thundersley CC)
Jack Parish (Buckingham Town CC)

Tour manager: Jamie Clifford
Umpire: Chris Watts