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C of E cricketers limber up for match

22 August 2014

As the day for the Vatican-Church of England Twenty20 cricket match draws closer, Paul Handley considers the teams and their chances


And I saw a new Eleven: the Revd Jez Barnes, captain of the C of E side, rallies his men at the selection session at Lord's, in early July.

And I saw a new Eleven: the Revd Jez Barnes, captain of the C of E side, rallies his men at the selection session at Lord's, in early July.

THE Church of England team to play the Vatican XI has been selected. Our advertisements for likely players have been answered, the odd gap has been filled, and the chosen few have been enjoined to spend their summer in healthful pursuits, in preparation for the big day on 19 September. The team consists of the following: 

The Revd Jez Barnes, captain (batsman and slow bowler)*
Will Foulger (seam bowler and lower- order batsman)
The Revd Rob Glenny (opening bowler and lower-order batsman)
The Revd Steve Gray (top-order batsman, wicket-keeper)
Jonny Hughes (wicket-keeper and middle- order batsman)
Chris Kennedy (opening batsman and seam bowler)
The Revd Matt Lefroy (bowler)
Chris Lion (top-order batsman and leg-spin bowler)
Rob Oram (batsman)
Jim Robinson (middle-order batsman)
John Summers (middle-order batsman)
Andy Watkins (seam bowler and middle- order batsman)

The selection was made by the Revd Jez Barnes, a regular at the Church Times Cricket Cup Final, in consultation with the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands. Incidentally, they will face each other in the Church Times Cup Final on 4 September, when London diocese meets Lichfield.

We followed the precedent set by the Vatican side, who issued the challenge last December. Their selectors have chosen a team from among their seminarians, average age 28, under the captaincy of a more experienced priest and cricketer, Fr Tony Currer.

Their team, with names as announced:

Fr Tony Currer, captain (batsman)
Antony Shehan, vice-captain (batsman)
Aamir Bhatti (wicket-keeper, batsman)
Shynish Bosco (batsman)
Jomcy Mathew (fast bowler)
Ajeesh George (medium-fast bowler)
Deepak Anto (batsman)
Ruwan Tharaka (left-handed batsman)
Davidson Jestus (fast bowler)
Benedict (fast bowler)
Paulson (batsman) 

Our trawl of C of E ordinands yielded about a dozen players. This was whittled down last month, on grounds of ability and availability, to nine at a memorable nets session at Lord's. To these we have added a couple of more experienced players alongside Jez: the Revd Steve Gray and the Revd Matt Lefroy. A couple of the ordinands don't start their theological training till September, though; so we reckon the balance of experience is pretty fair.

The Vatican team, it must be admitted, has the edge. For one thing, they have been able to draw on the international students studying in Rome - hence the preponderance of players from the Indian subcontinent. For another, they have been playing together for some months, and their week-long visit to the UK in September will include four practice matches.

In contrast, the whole Anglican side will come together for the first time at a practice engagement two days before the big game.

No theological or ecclesiological deductions should be made from these different approaches.

The C of E side has the home advantage, of course, but only if the number of Anglicans in the crowd outnumbers the Roman Catholics - although some sort of ecclesiastical Tebbit test might be applicable. . .


The Revd Jez Barnes
Aged 44
Vicar of St Stephen's, East Twickenham, London diocese
Trained at Wycliffe Hall

"My best cricketing moment was keeping wicket in a three-day match against Yorkshire in The Parks in 1998, and catching Michael Vaughan standing up to the stumps, as well as scoring some lower-order runs against future England bowlers Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Side-bottom (though during my innings, Craig White broke my toe, so perhaps the honours were even). My worst cricketing moment was losing a game of table tennis against Alastair Cook 22 points to 20, nearly ten years ago. I probably should have got over it by now. . ."

*Update, 12 September.

A back injury means that Jez is almost certain not to play in the match. The captaincy has passed to Steve Gray (see below). Jez's place in the team has gone to the Revd Chris Lee, aged 31, assistant curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, London. He served as a missionary in Tanzania before studying for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. 

Will Foulger
Aged 28
First-year ordinand at Cranmer Hall

"I played cricket at school and then, while an undergraduate, for St Andrews University.

"My worst cricketing experience was also probably one of my earliest: colliding full speed with a fellow fielder whilst we were both running to catch a high ball. Positively, though, I once scored 75 in church-hall cricket, hitting the fire escape twice." 

The Revd Rob Glenny
Aged 24
Assistant Curate of St Nicholas's, Old Marston, with St Thomas of Canterbury, Elsfield, Oxford diocese

Trained at Ripon College

"I dabbled a little at school; with some club cricket over the summer, and, of course, captained the mighty Ripon College cricket team. My best cricketing experience (other than the recent nets at Lord's) was sitting down in pub with club team for well-earned pint after hard-fought victory, and a non-churchgoing teammate asking: "'Rob, if all Christians believe in God, why do you need so many denominations?' My worst cricketing experience was not really having a good answer."

The Revd Stephen Gray
Aged 47
Chaplain of Bradfield College
Trained at Ridley Hall

"I have played league cricket and representative cricket for Sussex as a young cricketer, and for the MCC.

"My best cricketing experience was scoring a century for the MCC batting with Chris Broad, former England opener, while his son, Stuart, current England cricketer, was watching on the boundary in Bristol. My worst cricketing experience was being hit full pelt in the nose while fielding. I spent three days in hospital with an operation to straighten it out."

Jonny Hughes
Aged 30
Starting two-year training course with MA in Christian Leadership at St Mellitus College in September

"I played a lot of school and club cricket, growing up, as a wicket-keeper batsman, including representative cricket for Manchester Schools and trials for Lancashire.

"My best cricketing experience is a toss-up between winning a cup final for Manchester Boys v. Bolton at Old Trafford (I like to think my two not-out was central to the batting effort), and taking a diving catch on a tour game at Scarborough CC.

"My worst cricketing experience was getting out first ball of the innings, playing for my school side."

The Revd Matt Lefroy
Aged 51
Vicar of Lilleshall and Muxton, Lichfield diocese
Trained at St John's College, Nottingham

"In the past, I have played cricket regularly for club sides in the Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Nottinghamshire leagues; more recently I have concentrated my efforts on the Church Times Cup.

"My best cricketing experience was being pictured in the same article as another slightly more illustrious Matthew - Matthew Hayden. ("Cricket is Worship on Grass", Features, 4 May 2012.) Bad experiences have been numerous, and have usually involved seeing my bowling sent over the boundary in all directions." 

Chris Lion
Aged 30
Third-year ordinand at St Mellitus College

"I played for Hampshire Junior teams from U13-U17, and was captain at U14 and U15 level; for Cambridge University 2nd team (plus one appearance for a Blues side); and captained Downing College team from 2004 to 2006. I also played for Guildford CC 1st & 2nd XIs from 1999 to 2003.

"My best cricketing experiences include scoring 103 for Hampshire U16s v. Middlesex U16s at the old county ground in Southampton, and scoring 90 not out to lead Downing College to victory in the final of Cuppers, the Cambridge inter-collegiate cup competition. My worst cricketing experience was being out lbw for a first-ball duck in my one and only appearance for Cambridge University 1st XI." 

Rob Oram
Aged 40
Beginning training at Ridley Hall

"I am a five-years-retired ex-Essex league journeyman and general under-achiever with Walthamstow Cricket Club in Essex.

"My best cricketing experiences include taking the best bowling figures in all of schools' cricket in 1992, according to Wisden: 9-40 for Forest School (which also produced other cricketing luminaries such as Nasser Hussain and James Foster, as well as legends from the stage and screen, such as Adam Woodyatt); and taking a '5-for' against the MCC that same year.

"My worst cricketing experiences include being run out without facing a ball, on the only occasion that I ever asked the scorer "to count balls faced" before going into bat; and seeing Walthamstow Cricket Club 1st XI relegated under my stewardship."

Jim Robinson
Aged 28 years
Third-year ordinand at Westcott House

"I grew up playing for my local cricket team in Sleaford, and my school. I have represented Westcott as part of the winning team for this year's "Ashes to Ashes" cricket tournament between Ridley Hall, Westcott House, and Ripon College. Nowadays I mainly play for two wandering cricket teams: the Lincolnshire Poachers and the Lincolnshire Gentlemen. A highlight is having been appointed chaplain to the Lincolnshire Poachers: I think the team decided it could do with some divine assistance, although my responsibilities rarely extend beyond saying grace at our annual dinner." 

John Summers
Aged 33
Second-year ordinand at Westcott House

"I was an enthusiastic school cricketer, but the demands of old age have meant that I wield the willow less frequently than I would wish. My best cricket experience is hard to pick, but acquiring Dickie Bird's autograph on my bat as a schoolboy was a key moment. As for the worst, becoming eligible for membership of the Primary Club springs to mind." 

Andy Watkins
Aged 31
Third-year ordinand at St Mellitus College

"My best and worst cricketing moment happened at the same time. It was the Church Times final in 2012, playing for London against Southwark. Jez Barnes was my batting partner, and was already on about 50. The high point came just before lunch when I scored my 50. It was also my low point, as I smashed the ball straight back at the bowler who tried to catch it, hurting his hand quite badly. Jez called me through for a single, for me to get my 50. I felt a bit bad for the bowler, but I got the run. I then enjoyed lunch too much, and got out the first over afterwards."


This is the first of several encouragements to our readers: please mark 19 September in your diary, and plan a trip to Canterbury. The match begins at 4 p.m. and should end by 7 p.m. 

Attendance is free, although there will be a collection for the joint Anglican-Roman Catholic anti-trafficking initiative, the Global Freedom Network. 

In case of rain on Friday, the teams have an option of playing on the morning of Saturday 20 September.

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