Pope Francis also blessed the Vatican XI © Getty Images ( Generic Representation)
Pope Francis blessed the Vatican XI before the tour  © Getty Images ( Generic Representation)
London: Sep 21, 2014
The Vatican‘s first cricket team, having seven Indian players, notched up two impressive wins in five matches on their first foreign tour, but ended their campaign by losing to the formidable Church of England side.

The team, comprising seven Indians, two Sri Lankans, one Pakistani and an Englishman, aged between 24 and 41, arrived in Britain just over a week ago.

They began their five-match series in England on September 13 by thrashing the Army Chaplains in a 20-over match at Aldershot.

The following day they were beaten in Brighton by a club team and last Monday they recorded their second win in a 30-over match against the Authors XI in Buckinghamshire.The scribblers were set a target of 151 and needed 64 off the last 10 overs, with six wickets in hand, but fell four runs short.The visitors were defeated by the Royal Household in the grounds of Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

The concluding Twenty20 showdown on Friday against the Church of England XI at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury – a city to which, 1,400 years ago, St Augustine- was sent by an earlier pontiff to establish the English church.The two sides had never played before and the match came more than 500 years after the Church of England split with the Vatican under the reign of King Henry VIII.

After the current Pope Francis’ batsmen had compiled 106 runs for the loss of four wickets in the 20 overs, the Archbishop’s boys won off the first ball of the final over with six wickets to spare, The Guardian reported.

Though the Vatican side lost three out of the five matches on tour, they showed that they were no easy pushovers.The team’s captain is Father Tony Currer, a former Catholic chaplain of Durham University and now a member of the Vatican’s pontifical council for promoting Christian unity.Currer said his teammates had virtually no prior experience of formal cricket and all their preparation had been on a matting strip laid over an artificial football pitch.

“Some of them played street cricket back home but none of them had played on grass. This is their first experience with a leather ball and proper pitches. They didn’t know things like the names of the fielding positions,” Currer said.

A couple of the Vatican team members are full fledged young priests but the majority are seminarians, undergoing their theological training in Rome.