Bowled over to support RAF cricket in Italy

Earlier this year, the RAF Central Fund was able to support RAF NATO personnel serving at the DACCC in Poggio Renatico, northern Italy, by enabling them to form a cricket team through an enrichment grant of £1,764.52 to buy essential cricket equipment.  

 Following the establishment of the club, they were honoured to receive an invitation from the Commonwealth Club of Rome to partake in the 2021 Commonwealth Club Cricket Cup held in Spinaceto, Rome. The historic event would see teams including the Embassies of Bangladesh and Pakistan, a United Nations team, the Commonwealth Club of Rome Cricket Team and of course the NATO team, compete to become tournament champions. 

 Team manager, FS Colin Yeomans explains: 

The Commonwealth Club Cricket Cup is organised together with the Italian Cricket Federation. Originally called the Rome Ashes, the tournament was played in the 60’s & 70’s at Villa Pamphili by teams from the British and Australian Embassies, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the FAO (the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations) and a couple of international colleges in Rome. In 2017, the tournament was revived, with teams from the British and Australian Embassies taking on new challengers, including a team from the Commonwealth Club of Rome as well as teams from the Indian and Pakistan Embassies. 

Today, the format of the tournament is a six-a-side, five-over game with each team playing two games to qualify for the next stage. Eight of us travelled down for the tournament and rotated the players to ensure that we all played. 

NATO Poggio Renatico, managed by myself and Captained by Wg Cdr Andy Cooper, were first up and saw us secure a comfortable victory against the UN Team. Our next opponents were last year’s champions, the Embassy of Pakistan. Electing to bat first, they were a confident and well-practiced team with a large support crowd of family members. Scoring a respectable 60 runs, the Pakistan team remained confident as we took to the crease for our innings. It was a tight game with Pakistan taking a couple of early wickets, but we battled through to score 61 runs with only 2 balls remaining, finishing with 68 runs including a 6 off the final ball. 

Winning both of our qualifying games meant that we had secured a place in the final. Bangladesh lost both of their games and were eliminated, with the remaining teams all winning one. This meant that the other finalist would be decided by runs scored and saw Pakistan as the second finalists and the team to beat.  

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first once again. Their immense support continued, with waving of national flags, cheering and loud music playing over the PA system in an attempt intimidate our team. Our great bowling, fielding and teamwork held the Pakistani batsmen back, finishing with a total of 39 runs from the five overs. Their confidence was diminished as we took to the crease. Steady, sensible batting from Sgt Martin Barry and SAC Graham Crosby saw us make the victory in the fourth over, reaching 40 runs comfortably from just 20 balls. Celebrations begun immediately as the NATO team were crowned champions and our team captain also taking home the trophy for best bowler.   

Traditionally, the winners of the tournament have been invited to play the Pope’s first team from Vatican City, St Peter’s Cricket Club. We await our invitation to what would be a fantastic event and hopefully a chance to meet the Pope! 

Our thanks go to the Italian Cricket Federation for such a well organised event that brought together multi-national agencies as well as the local community.  

A special mention also goes to the RAF Central Fund to express our gratitude for making this possible for us! We hope to have laid strong foundations for an enduring and successful Cricket Club. 

FS Colin Yeomans 

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