TO CALL any sporting encounter a “friendly” is often a way of downgrading it. The phrase “oh, it was just a friendly” usually means that the result didn’t matter.
Well, the cricket match on Thursday in Rome, between the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI and St Peter’s, the Vatican team, was a friendly - but in a true sense. And of course the result mattered.
It was a friendly because the Vatican team, drawn from seminaries around Rome, had stayed on after the closure of their colleges for summer simply to play this game, the fifth in a series of encounters that began in Canterbury in 2014.
Several of the Vatican players are finishing their training and returning to their sending dioceses, mostly in the Indian subcontinent, and the match was planned in large part to give them one last opportunity to renew the friendships made with the Anglican players over the past five years.
It was an illustration of one of the points made by Fr Tony Currer, the official in charge of relations with Anglicans and Methodists at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, when the Anglican team visited his offices on Tuesday. Progress towards unity is built on friendship and mutual respect.
The result: in a T20 match, the Vatican team beat the Anglicans convincingly by 75 runs, the largest margin of the series so far.
Winning the toss at the Capannelle ground on the outskirts of Rome, St Peter’s chose to bat. As a consequence, the Anglican team had to field during the hottest part of the day — although the temperature did not drop far below the 35° for most of the game.
The Anglican team bowled well, keeping extras to ten runs (they were nearly four times that in 2015). They took their first wicket in the second over, when Sinoj was run out. (The scorers recorded just a single name for each player in the Vatican side, usually a Christian name.) Two more wickets fell in the fifth and sixth overs, as Kiran was caught by Andy Bunter and Kapila was clean bowled by Chris Kennedy with his first ball.
The other opener, however, Tom, an Australian, proved impossible to dislodge. And he was scoring steadily: seven fours and two sixes. The 17th over provided the clearest indication that it was not going to be the Anglicans’ day. With the Vatican total at 106, Tom was dropped on two successive balls.
He eventually made 71. The second-best batsman was Shehan, who scored an impressive 26 from 17 deliveries before being caught behind by Tom Murray of Nathan Leigh. That was in the 11th over, and the Vatican lost no further wickets, ending eventually on 134 for 4.
At the Capannelle ground, with an Astro wicket and a slow outfield, anything over 100 is a challenge. A combination of tight bowling (they gave away just five extras), a well-placed field, and energetic running by all the Vatican players meant that the Archbishop’s side struggled to find runs from the start. They scored three runs in the first over, one in the second, one in the third, five in the fourth, two in the fifth.
At the halfway point, when St Peter’s had been on 71, the Anglican score was still at 26, and the rate hardly picked up.
The openers, Murray and Sam Rylands, went early and cheaply, Murray to a catch for two, Rylands clean bowled on nine. Kennedy came in at number three and steadied the innings, but he was far off repeating his century in the last encounter between the two sides, and was eventually caught on 13, the top Anglican score.
Thea Smith, who, with Becky Taylor made the Anglican side more representative of its mixed-gender priesthood, acquitted herself well; but lack of experience and ungenerous bowling kept her score down to four before she was bowled by Francis in the 17th over.
Her contribution to the score might not have been much, but her contribution to the game’s spirit was significant, and she exchanged high-fives with the Vatican players who got her out before retiring from the crease.
Leigh was the only other batsman to reach double figures, and at the end of their 20 overs, the Anglicans were 59 for 8.
The result helps to even out the series, which the Anglicans now lead by three victories to two.
The next day, some of the Vatican players took the Anglicans on a tour of the catacombs. There was, of course, a spiritual element to the visit. It did, though, reinforce the knowledge that, this time at least, the Vatican side had buried the Anglicans.
St Peter’s Cricket Club
Tom Christie 71*
Sinoj Neelankavil run out
Kiran Markose c Bunter b S. Rylands 9
Kapila Manjula b Kennedy 0
Shehan Fernando c Murray b Leigh 26
Jogy Kavungal 17*
Bowling: Glenny 4.15.0; S. Rylands 4.27.1; Kennedy 4.36.1; Marshall 4.24.0; Leigh 4.28.1
Did not bat: Paulson Antony, Jose Ettolil, Shine Manjaly, Jinse Pappachen, Francis Samuvel
Fall of wickets: 12, 35, 71, 76
Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI
Tom Murray c Kiran b Jose 2
Sam Rylands b Shehan 9
Chris Kennedy c Jinse b Kapila 13
Andy Bunter s Kiran b Kapila 1
Thea Smith b Francis 4
Mark Rylands c Jins b Kapila 5
Nathan Leigh 11*
Ali Marshall c Pierson b Paulson 5
James Bailey c Kiran b Jins
Rob Glenny 1*
Bowling: Jose 3.6.1; Shine 3.12.0; Shehan 4.6.1; Kapila 4.11.3; Paulson 3.13.1; Francis 2.6.0; Jinse 1.5.0
Did not bat: Becky Taylor
Fall of wickets: 5, 21, 21, 32, 35, 47, 54, 59
Umpires: Roger Driver, Dane Kirby
St Peter’s CC won by 75 runs