[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] It will be a case of “best of three” tomorrow when the Pope’s Cricket Team arrive in Canterbury to take on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI. The first match between the Vatican’s St Peter’s Cricket Team and a group of Anglican ordinands was played at the Spitfire Ground, home of Kent County Cricket Club, in 2014. The Vatican side were narrowly defeated on that occasion; but were convincing winners when the two sides met again last year in Rome.
Now, in what has become an annual event, the two teams will once more do battle when they meet at the Spitfire Ground tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. And on Thursday the two sides will be joined by a Muslim side from West Yorkshire – the Mount Cricket Club – for a one-day triangular T20 series at Edgbaston, the home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club.
“The Anglican players share with their patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a belief that faith in God unites people rather than divides them,” the Revd Steve Gray, who captained the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI in the past two years, said. “This is why it is such a privilege to host teams from the Vatican and Mount Cricket Club at Edgbaston. We’re thrilled that they have accepted the invitation – and the challenge.”
The Church Times has been sponsoring clergy cricket in the UK since 1951 when the Church Times Cup – the world’s oldest one-day knockout cricket competition – began. It is one of the organisers of this week’s matches.
“The opportunity to play together is a hugely exciting thing – much better than all those careful, measured ecumenical discussions designed to inch the institutions closer over the course of a few decades,” Church Times editor Paul Handley said. “No one pretends that doctrinal differences don’t exist, but the games this week demonstrate that there is a bigger unity under God to be enjoyed if only people make the effort to get together.
“Also, the openness and generosity of the cricketing community is quite a challenge to people who might have fallen into the error of thinking that the faiths have a monopoly on goodness.
“I’m sure St Paul would have been a cricketer, enjoying the competition, the combination of individual effort and teamwork, the respect for fair play, and the camaraderie.
“In terms of witness, what could be more impressive than a group of sportsmen representing different faiths and denominations playing in a spirit of unity and friendliness? All we need now are some women in the teams.”
The final of this year’s Church Times Cup – the 66th in its history – took place last week at the Southgate ground in north London. The Diocese of Leeds opened the batting and used its 40 overs to run up a tally of 167; but they were comfortably beaten by the Diocese of London who reached their target of 168 in the 29th over.