423rd ABG cricket team plays local team

UPWOOD, United Kingdom -- Accepting the challenge for the second year from their honorary commanders that anyone can learn cricket, the 423rd Air Base Group cricket team started practicing twice a week for the past two months in preparation to square off with a local team Aug 28.

Under the direction of their coaches, Derek Stebbing, the 423rd ABG honorary commander, and Cliff Walker, the previous 423rd ABG honorary commander, and the captain of the team Squadron Leader Clive Wood, the RAF Commander for RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth, prepared for the team's game against the Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) Cricket team.

The game was played in a Fifteen15 format, which is based on Twenty20 cricket, a form of cricket originally introduced in England and Wales for professional inter-county competition by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2003. A Fifteen15 game involves two teams, each having a single inning and batting for a maximum of 15 overs. Fifteen15 games are fast paced and allow players to take more risks than the typical Twenty20 format.

"The toughest part about learning cricket is to unlearn dropping the bat," said Col. Steven Sweeney, 423rd ABG commander. "In cricket you bring the bat with you when you run. Our first few practices were absolutely hilarious to watch as we fumbled around trying to understand what to do, when to run, who to throw to and how to bowl."

The 423rd ABG cricket team started a new tradition of awarding the Most Valuable Player award voted on by the spectators. Lt. Col. Connie Banks, 423rd Medical Squadron chief nurse, was the first recipient of the award.

"This was my first time ever playing cricket," said Banks, "I never understood what they were doing, but actually playing the game gave me a new perspective on how much fun it really can be. Their hospitality, patience and kind nature made the game even more enjoyable, I can't wait for our next big outing."

The HDC defeated the 423rd ABG 94 runs to 83.

"Playing a U.K. team was very humbling, as their members all grew up playing cricket," said Sweeney. "We have challenged the Huntingdon District Council Cricket team to a U.S. softball game at RAF Alconbury and they have accepted."