Philadelphia International Cricket Festival 2012

08/05/12 Category: Blog, Events, News Posted by:

The Museum’s USA Ambassador Michael Johnson has just filed this report from the annual festival at his country’s cradle of cricket on the US east coast.

Late-nineteenth century Australian tours to and from England frequently paused there as the USA was seen as an important opportunity for international cricket experience. At that time the US teams were often more than competitive with victories regularly recorded to home sides against our teams (Ed.)

Day 1
Well after a very challenging day of flying, not flying, and staring at others also not flying I did finally make it to the Philadelphia International Cricket Festival. Thursday evening and overnight had some very bad storms across most of the central USA and those storms caused havoc with flying schedules for me today.  After almost 7 hours of travel, I did reach the Philadelphia Cricket Club. No effort is too large for a chance to see some cricket!

The PCC sits is a lovely and leafy area just outside Philadelphia called Chestnut Hill. The ground is very well tended, the grass is very green, and there is a nice old (by US standards) church just outside the boundary.

My dear friend Frank and I were able to catch the last match of the day at the PCC to watch the hosts fall to Commonwealth. PCC was able to reach 114 all out in 19 overs with Commonwealth completing the chase at 116 for 4 in 16 overs.

It was a lovely sun drenched day and it was a true joy to see cricket being played in the USA. The crowd, slightly larger than the typical ‘3 men and a dog’ but not by much, was engaged and really seemed to be enjoying the play. We were all treated to a bit of bowling by South African Paul Harris who was the celebrity for the PCC. Paul also had a big tonk of 6 in a chanceless innings since he just faced the 1 ball before the final wicket fell.

There is a long cricket tradition here in the Philadelphia area and this annual Festival is part of what keeps that tradition strong.

That’s all for today’s report. Tomorrow, we hope to visit two or three other venues and perhaps even pop over to the CC Morris Cricket Library and Museum.

Until tomorrow then.

Day 2
A truly brilliant day today. After a night of hard rain, the weather turned beautiful with a mix of mild sunshine in temps hovering around 23-24C. We were able to take in 3 different matches at three different venues in and around Philadelphia.

The first match was at Merion CC where we saw Sarasota succeed in a tough chase and beat a valiant Littleton side.

Merion is a wonderful club set in another lovely area just outside of Philadelphia. The club dates all the way back to 1865 and began with the following simple statement “We, the undersigned, agree to unite together in a cricket club to meet for play next spring at least once a week.”  Merion CC has added several other sports like lawn tennis and squash, but cricket is still regularly played there and Merion CC is one of the anchors of this festival. Merion also has a classically odd cricket scoring rule. If a batter hits the ball in the air and it hits the clubhouse on the full, he is given out automatically and his team must sacrifice 10 runs. Only in cricket!

From Merion, we drove over to Haverford College for a very different type of experience. The other clubs we have seen have been different levels, although all high, of private sporting clubs in the traditional fashion. Large and well groomed playing areas, stately pavilions, and magnificent club houses fit for formal events and gala balls.

Cope Field at Haverford College is much more on par with a village green.

Mr. Cope donated the land to the college in the 1870s with the understanding that it would be used for cricket in perpetuity. The field itself is modest and somewhat irregular. The pavilion is also modest.

However, in all its modesty, Cope Field shone just as brightly for me because the love of game was just as strong, the bowlers bowled just as hard, and batters still fought mightily to defend their wickets.

In addition to Cope Field, Haverford is home to the C.C. Morris Cricket Library and Museum. Haverford College also has the only University XI in America.

The third venue was the Germantown CC*.

Another of the grand cricket clubs of the Philadelphia are, the GCC has both a lovely field and a lovely clubhouse. Alas, the match we watched was very one-sided with Indoor Cricket USA chasing down the hosts in only 12 overs. Still a lovely place to spend part of a May afternoon.

More to come tomorrow including a visit to 5th venue and a report on the finals!

*Pavilion illustrated in the Bradman Museum Origins of International Cricket Exhibition 1870 (Ed.)

Day 3
Well, what a wonderful day to wrap up a wonderful Festival and a splendid trip overall. The weather was cooperative with a bit of a cool morning turning off into a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon for the final.

I started the morning with a trip out to into the country side for the 5th and final venue, The British Officers Cricket Club which is completely contained within the Evansburg State Park. Evansburg is over 1000 acres in total with plenty of outdoor activities from fishing to hiking to, of course, cricket.

There are two wickets maintained by the BOCC and I was treated to a bit of match overlap as the Collegeville Cricket Club was just starting their Sunday league 40 over match as BOCC was rapidly dispatching Littleton CC in the last of the Festival regular play matches. The grass was a bit high, but it would have been no matter in this contest.

BOCC were clearly the better side this morning and Littleton had to cobble together an XI will a few local fill-ins since their side had been dramatically reduced due to absence and injury.

Throughout the Festival, I have seen a variety of skill across the 16 sides. While every side had their share of good batsmen and bowlers, most sides also had a few players who were not up to the running and sliding demands of fielding and a few others who were truly challenged to handle the pace of some of the bowling. Let’s just say some of the 4s were due to a fielder’s surrender rather than a ball well struck through cover.

As is always the case, quality wins out and the Finals was a great pairing of two undefeated sides Commonwealth and Sarasota. I had the good fortune of seeing these sides play during the Festival and I was not at all surprised to see them again in the Finals here at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. There was also a standing room only crowd which added to atmosphere.

Everything about the final raised the level of play including club jackets for the PCC members and a proper inspection of the pitch before the coin toss . The level of play matched this higher form. The bowling, both spin and pace, was spot on. The batting, including some massive blows for 6s, was equal to the task.

Commonwealth opened the innings with a rather tight and tidy 124 setting a target of 125. Sarasota, having traveled over 1000 miles to play in the Festival, took the crease ready to go. With a required run rate of just over a ball a run, Sarasota remained measured and took every run they could in every way.

From the start, it looked as if Sarasota would quickly make the chase. However, cricket is cricket and a few key wickets fell and the match outcome once again was in doubt. After the 4th wicket was lost, Sarasota got deeply focused, hit a nice bunch of boundaries, and in the end completed the chase at the end of the 15th over.

Sarasota has done well in the Festival, having been the runner up three times. 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Festival, proved to be the charm as they final got the trophy.

I’ve seen a lot of cricket over these past three days and I enjoyed every ball. As I said early, the play was a bit irregular but all of it was in full earnest. When I look over this field of teams, I see a real future for cricket here in the USA. The 16 teams came from 8 different states and from the UK. Team members old and young tried their very best and really shared in the true spirit of cricket.

This has been a wonderful experience and I’m already looking forward to a return visit in 2013.

There is more good cricketing news here in the USA as the West Indies are due to host New Zealand for two 20/20 matches in Lauderhill, Florida at the end of June. Sadly, not a US team. However, it is international cricket being played on US soil. Another bit of progress.

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