After a 7am meet at Lord’s, with pre-tour formalities done, we set off to Heathrow for the fourth MCC tour of Japan.
Despite the early call, everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the trip.
The team was in full touring dress, cutting a sartorial swathe through Terminal 3 at Heathrow ready for our 12 hour flight to Tokyo.
Our flight was delayed by nearly two hours due to a faulty water tank, but to everyone’s relief, the flight was called and we were on our way.
We were greeted by warm sunshine and a tv crew at Narita Airport, Tokyo. Anxious to learn all about cricket, our erstwhile Captain, Daryl Mitchell soon had a bat in hand, helmet and pad on to demonstrate the great game. Ben Scott obliged with a medium paced delivery which bounced nicely on the arrivals hall surface and it was leg glanced for four runs into the adjoining Sushi Bar. The TV crew were ecstatic, but the arriving passengers and security were somewhat bemused, so Mitchell, in an effort to protect his tour average, retired 4 not out and we were on our way to transfer to our first hotel, the Seimei no mori Resort in Chiba.
Rest and acclimatisation awaited.
Spreading the message
A couple of days into the tour we visited a local elementary school in Chiba and The British International School in Tokyo to run various coaching sessions throughout the day.
MCC were struck by the enthusiasm and interest in the cricket of all the children who were aged from 8 to 18.
This was a chance for each of us to give something back in terms of imparting our knowledge of the game and has been a real highlight of the trip so far.
Following the afternoon activities, various dignitaries and supporters of the Japanese Cricket Association, along with MCC were hosted at a reception at the British Embassy by Julia Longbottom, Minister (Deputy Head of Mission).
During the evening members of the tour party were able to discuss the work of MCC in promoting cricket worldwide and also to hear about the efforts in enhancing the game in Japan.
A most unusual dismissal
On day four of our tour we experienced our first taste of cricket in Japan.
At the Togane Arena in Chiba we faced an East Kanto XI which included both the current Japanese National Captain and Coach.
Captain Mitchell won the toss and elected to bat on what would turn out to be a very slow and low wicket.
Openers Mark Tipping and Mitchell got the MCC off to a fine start with a partnership of 115 before Tipping departed for 45.
Mitchell continued to increase the tempo and made history in becoming the first ever MCC member to fall foul of local rules, by hitting the ball out of the stadium and therefore recorded as dismissed for 86 "out of bounds".
Unfortunately rain claimed the rest of the day and the MCC Innings finished prematurely with the MCC on 203/4 off 32 overs with no further play possible.
Sunday saw the first of a series of double header T20 games against the Yokahama Country and Athletic Club and a South Kanto Select XI.
In the first game MCC lost two early wickets but Rudra Singh (58*) and Scott (63) saw the club reach a modest total of 157/4 off the allotted overs. The bowling unit was well supported by some excellent fielding and the pick of the bowlers was Vishal Sethi who returned figures of 2/19 to leave the hosts on 96/6 at the end of their innings.
After an excellent lunch skipper Mitchell once again won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat. Leading from the front with a captain's innings Mitchell (60) was well supported by fellow opener Thomas Philip (29) in setting the platform for a competitive score of 153/5.
The task of maintaining a 100 per cent winning record on tour was once again left up to the bowling unit who secured the victory with a clinical performance. Mark Sullivan (3/5) and Mitchell (2/4) provided a masterclass in the art of containing and attacking T20 bowling which left our hosts reeling on 91/9 at the close of the innings.
All in all a hugely enjoyable and successful day for MCC.
Japan claim first win of the tour
The second series of double header T20's on Monday saw MCC take the field against a West Kanto XI as well as the Japanese National XI.
The toss was won by West Kanto and MCC were asked to bat in the first fixture of the day. Following the loss of an early wicket both Mark Tipping (58) and Charlie Hopkins (61) went about setting a competitive total of 173/5.
Once again the art of slow bowling would prove to be the biggest asset for the Mitchell's MCC side on this tour. Following the early removal of the West Kanto opener by Sethi, fellow spinners Jonathan Riches (2/35) and Sullivan (2/26) ensured that the opposition never had the chance to gather momentum during their innings.
The spinners were ably supported by the seam unit and the West Kanto XI were only able to reach 130/8.
Following a wonderful display of local hospitality which, included lunch and presentation ceremonies with several dignitaries from the local Government, MCC took the field against a highly motivated and enthusiastic Japanese National XI.
From the off it was clear that this fixture would prove to be the biggest challenge for the MCC on the tour so far. Spectators and fellow players alike witnessed what can only be described as a fielding masterclass and this initially found MCC reeling at 18/2 before Tipping (35) and the experienced Scott (82) set about rebuilding the innings to close on a modest 160/5.
From the start of the National XI's innings both openers were intent on approaching their innings in the utmost positive fashion.
Whilst this did provide a few early chances a blistering innings by Khan (65 off 32 balls) provided the platform for Kobayashi 46* and Rodrigo 31* to see the hosts home to a comfortable victory in the last over of the innings. Whilst this was the first defeat on tour for MCC, it was encouraging to witness first hand the quality and strength of the Japanese National XI and it provided valuable match experience in their preparation for the upcoming ICC Associate Nation tournament.
A cricketing education
After a well earned rest day MCC were back in action both in a coaching and playing capacity.
Following several early morning coaching sessions in Akishima, MCC captained by Scott took on a youthful and energetic University XI.
Once again MCC won the toss and elected to bat with openers Edward Lowe (27 off 21 balls) and Tyler Griffin (30) setting what was thought to be a below par score of 135.
After 10 overs the the University XI were on track to chase down the total however, tight bowling by Sethi (3/13) and Lowe (3/14) ensured that the opposition were unable to maintain any momentum falling 47 short and ensuring another well deserved victory for MCC.
Additional blogging by Mark Sullivan.