England Claim Victory In ‘Afghan Ashes’ Cricket Match
In Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, British and Australian soldiers are battling it out with each other. The weapons of choice? – good old English Willow and leather – better known as the cricket bat and ball.
The Australian soldiers, gunners of the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, are working alongside British gunners from Colchester-based 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery in Forward Operating Bases and patrol bases across Helmand.
Although the situation in Afghanistan requires that the military mission works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during the precious down time enjoyed by the troops, the sound of leather on willow helps keep morale high and allows the troops of both nations to unwind.
The recent Ashes series added an extra element of competition to the informal games, as Australian and British gunners in Forward Operating Base Budwan competed with each other for bragging rights. The match was an eight- a-side, 16 over format, allowed for every player to have a bat and a bowl and resulted in a closely fought contest – but eventual narrow victory to England.
British top-scorer Warrant Officer Class 2 Craig Mason notched up an unbeaten 52 not out.
The 38-year-old said: “The friendly rivalry between us is all part of Army life. Living and working with the Australians during the Ashes series will just add to an already healthy level of banter. At the end of the day though, cricket aside, we are here to do a professional job and having the Australian gunners here can only strengthen the team.”
The Ashes was shown live across Helmand Province on the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). Internet terminals made available in many of the larger bases, allowed soldiers across theatre to keep up to date with progress of the cricketers ‘down under’.
The Australian gunners from 105 Battery, 1 Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, based in Brisbane, are on attachment to 7 Para RHA. The attachment, an arrangement which first saw Australian gunners working with their British counterparts in Afghanistan in 2008 – also with 7 Para RHA, is the last of its kind.
The 15 Australian gunners arrived in Colchester back in February 2010 after completing a six month training package in Australia. They went on to complete conversion training to enable them to use British equipment, including the L118 Light Gun, and then completed the usual six month British pre-deployment training. When they return to Australia in April of next year, the gunners of 105 Battery will have been away from home for 14 months, a tough ask given that half of them have spouses or partners at home.