MCC play over 450 Out-Matches in the UK and abroad each year, against a variety of schools, clubs and representative teams. Thursday's match at Chigwell School was a little bit different though.
The Refugee Cricket Project, a group for young asylum seekers established by the charity Cricket 4 Change, were MCC’s opponents for an inaugural fixture held in the picturesque surroundings of Chigwell School, Essex.
The Refugees team comprised nine Afghans, one Bangladeshi and one Sri Lankan, none of whom can be named (or faces shown) for legal reasons. What they lacked in the way of kit they more than made up with raw talent and a tremendous enthusiasm for the game.
Asked to bowl first, the Refugees - coached by the inspirational Danny Baker from Cricket 4 Change - sent down 40 overs of lively medium pace backed up by some energetic and, at times, extremely skilful fielding.
A very promising start from the Refugees saw MCC precariously placed at 13-2, but a 98-run third wicket partnership established a solid platform for MCC.
Richard Walford’s innings of 61 was only ended with one of the best catches anyone is likely to see - a full length dive to pluck a sweetly-struck shot inches from the ground; the undoubted champagne moment of the day.
Some good late hitting from Ben Cocklin (58) and Gulfraz Muwas (40 not out) took MCC to a decent total of 249-6 from their 40 overs.
However, the Refugees were not daunted by the prospect of facing an MCC bowling unit comprised of good Premier League cricketers.
Solid defence was combined with daring - and at times outrageous - hitting from the Refugees and while they were always behind the asking rate, a final total of 199 all out - with ten sixes hit - was ample evidence of their talent.
The Refugees enjoy weekly cricket sessions near Croydon and are picking up a few more fixtures as the group expands and develops.
It was clear to all observers to see the wider benefits that playing cricket provides for them: Antonia Cohen, a volunteer who has been instrumental in helping the group to prosper, explained that "it’s a great way to learn English in a context they understand."
With more match practice and a bit more tactical nous in the field, there’s every chance that MCC will be defeated in this fixture next season.
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