France to take on England in cricket prior to London Olympics

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London, Apr.15 (ANI): The French national cricket association, France Cricket, will formally announce tomorrow that it has challenged old foe, England, to a return game in Lille just before the London Olympics in 2012.

According to The Independent, this would be the first "official" England-France match for more than a century in a sport that, according to recent research, may not have originated in Hampshire as stubborn Englishmen insist, but in Flanders or the Pas de Calais.

Cricket, banned as an "alien" sport in 1940 by the collaborationist Vichy government, is on the rise again in France.

There are 10 clubs in the French cricket "super-ligue" which begins its 2009 season next week. Roughly one third of the players are French. The rest, like almost all the "France" team of 1900, are expats from England, the West Indies, Down Under or the Indian subcontinent.Whether the England Cricket Board would send a full team remains open to question. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) indicated to French cricket officials yesterday that it would be happy to take part.

"It would be a one-day game. I don't think that the French public is quite ready yet for a Test match stretching over five days. Perhaps, one day, who knows? The paper quoted Maxime Parent, a spokesman for France Cricket, as saying.

Recent historical research has found references to a game which sounds suspiciously like cricket in northern France (and what is now Belgium) in the Middle Ages. A letter to the French king, dated 1478, speaks of a riot after a cricket game at Liettres, near St Omer in the Pas de Calais. Even the word cricket is thought to come from the old French word criquet meaning a stile or wooden gate.

Horace Walpole mentions cricket being played in Paris in 1766. Two decades later, the MCC laid down the rules of cricket as we know them today. In the summer of 1789, it planned its first foreign tour - to France. Unfortunately, on 14 July that year, the French turned to another pastime - revolution - and the tour had to be cancelled.

In the past decade cricket in France has, if not exactly boomed, at least thrived. There are now more than 30 clubs and 950 registered players. The France national team is ranked 35th in the world and regularly defeats Germany in the European second division.

There are four France youth teams and a France women's team. The captain of the France team is Waseem Bhatti. The vice captain is Arun Ayyavooraju, 23, who signed to play professionally in Guernsey this summer. (ANI)

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