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Vatican XI arrives to take on C of E side at Canterbury

12 September 2014

osservatore romano

Men in white: Pope Francis with the St Peter's XI on Tuesday

Men in white: Pope Francis with the St Peter's XI on Tuesday

WHEN the members of the Vatican cricket team arrive in Britain today, they will still be glowing with the blessing given to them by Pope Francis earlier this week.

After receiving the team on Tuesday, the Pontiff also signed a cricket bat. It will accompany the players on their their tour of England, which culminates in the match against the Archbishop of Canterbury's XI in Canterbury next Friday.

The team is led by Fr Anthony Currer, a British priest at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He told The Daily Telegraph that no "sledging" would take place: "Hopefully nothing will be picked up by the stump microphones - but when you play you play to win."

Commenting on the website of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Revd Dr Eamonn O'Higgins LC, the team's spiritual director and manager, who works at the Pontifical International Seminary, described his side as "rank underdogs with a very outside chance. . . On paper, the Anglican XI has much greater experience and match practice as individuals. That is not surprising in England, the home of cricket. We are a competent side, nothing more."

Fr Currer is captaining a side of from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. many of whom are young seminarians. The lack of facilities means that the team has had to practise on a carpet laid on an astroturf football pitch.

Fr Currer told Sky Sports that the team were "lovely to train with . . . but they've gone from tape-ball cricket on concrete and back streets anywhere in India and Sri Lanka and Pakistan, to that astroturf . . . every stage is a big learning curve."

One team member, Pratheesh Kallarakkal, said the seminarians were living in "an international community where the culture of football is the most famous, and we struggle a little bit to reserve the ground."

The team has already played a Twenty20 match against Roma Capannelle, one of Italy's top sides. It lost by just 11 runs. Tomorrow, it will go up against a side of army chaplains at Aldershot. It will then play St Peter's, Brighton, the Authors' XI, and the Royal Household at Windsor.

"Normally I'm trying to agree with the Anglicans, not beat them," Fr Currer told The Daily Telegraph.

The match at the Kent CCC ground in Canterbury on 19 September starts at 4 p.m. and is expected to end by 7 p.m. Admission is free. For more details, see www.churchtimes.co.uk

Captain injured 

THE Archbishop's XI experienced a serious setback this week, when its captain, the Revd Jez Barnes, announced that a back injury made it "90 per cent certain" that he would not be able to play.

The captaincy has been transferred to the Revd Steve Gray, School Chaplain at Bradfield College (below).

Mr Barnes's place in the team has gone to the Revd Chris Lee. Aged 31, Mr Lee served as a missionary in Tanzania before studying at Ridley Hall for ordination. He is now an Assistant Curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, and works at St Augustine's, South Kensington. He captained the victorious London side in the Church Times Cricket Cup final last week (Full report).

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