1996 – The Zimbabwe Youth International Fixture

It’s not every day that the telephone rings with an offer to stage an International cricket match, but that’s exactly what happened to the Thurrock and District Cricket Association when they were invited to stage a warm up game for one of the visiting national U15 teams to England, who had their sights on the inaugural Lombard World Cup, with a prestigious Lord’s final at stake. The Thurrock Association were asked to host Zimbabwe, who would be playing against a local U17 team on Sunday 4th August 1996.  The venue was agreed as being Belhus Park. The youth chairman of the Thurrock and District Cricket Association, John Bennett, hurriedly called a meeting of youth representatives of Thurrock clubs, nominations were received and a team selected. The team manager was agreed as being Steve Toon; the visit of Zimbabwe was eagerly awaited.  Before the game, in a press statement, Bennett said “It is fitting that the game will be staged at Belhus as it has one of the largest youth sections in the country and the cricket pitches are used extensively by local children”.

The match was played to World Cup playing regulations, complete with a fielding circle, being 55 overs per side. Around 200 spectators turned up to watch and they were not to be disappointed as Zimbabwe staged a fine batting display to finish their innings on 281 for 7. Thurrock, despite being at least two years more senior than their illustrious visitors, succumbed to 79 all out after 35.5 overs. Some might say this was a gallant performance against an international youth team, with many of the Zimbabwean cricketers going on to play first class cricket.

Zimbabwe U15 Team

ZIMBABWE U15 SQUAD AT BELHUS PARK – Sunday 4th August 1996
BACK (left to right): Robin Brown (Coach), Guy Croxford, Alester Maregwede, Michael Munson, Brandon Steyn, Senyo Nyakutuse,
Nyasha Chari, Campbell Macullam, Shane Cloete (Assistant Coach)
FRONT (left to right): Hilton Henderson, Gavin Ewing, Gordon Brown, Dave Grant (Manager), Mluleki Nkala (Captain),
Tafadzwa Madondo, Greg Lamb, Travis Friend

Four of the team, Gavin Ewing, Travis Friend, Mluleki Nkala and Alester Maregwede, went one stage further by representing their country at full test level. Sadly, the tourists’ wicketkeeper, Tafadzwa Madondo, was tragically killed in a motorbike accident at the age of 27 while on holiday in Indonesia in November 2008. The match was very well supported, most notably from Jupps (Cinque Ports) Ltd, the catering contractors at the Belhus Park Golf and Leisure Centre, who provided excellent catering to befit an international cricket match, while CE Heath Insurance Brokers provided the Match Balls. The Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Sid Joslyn and Mrs. Joslyn, representing Thurrock Borough Council, provided a Coat of Arms plaque to our hosts. Match officials were umpires John Cecil and Tim McCoy of the Thurrock Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers, while the scorer was Lisa Cansdale of Belhus CC.

The Thurrock youth district team was: Gary Benson (Belhus), Paul Bennett (Pegasus, Belhus), Neil Morgan (Horndon on the Hill), Kevin Sargent (Orsett), Scott Douglas (Orsett, wkt), Roy Heffernan (Belhus), Stuart Morris (Belhus), Richard Shepherd (Pegasus), Danny Biggs (Horndon on the Hill), Dean Cass (Orsett), and Stephen MacAnally (Orsett).

Cllr. Sid Joslyn and Mrs. Joslyn, Mayor and Mayoress of Thurrock, are introduced to the Thurrock Representative Team by Scott Douglas, team captain.
The Mayor is seen here shaking hands with Gary Benson of Belhus CC.  Pictured between them are Richard Shepherd and Paul Bennett.
On the left is Stuart Morris, while almost out of picture is the Thurrock twelfth man, Reshad Mulboccus.


The Thurrock team and their friends look in awe at the Zimbabwe bowling and fielding prowess in the post-lunch session.
Nearest the camera in the foreground (left to right): Scott Douglas, Roy Heffernan and Stuart Morris.

Speaking immediately after the game, Thurrock team manager Steve Toon said “It was truly a memorable day – the support from the local community was excellent” while Dave Grant of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union declared “We would like to thank the Belhus community and the management of the Thurrock and District Cricket Association for a super day.  The welcome and hospitality at Belhus were special”.

So, what became of Zimbabwe U15s in their World Cup campaign?  After comfortably defeating Canada, our esteemed guests lost their remaining three group matches against England, West Indies and India, thus failing to reach the knock-out stages of the event.

To view the scorecards, please click here.

Were you at this game? Did you play in this game? Can you add anything, such as photographs?  If yes, the South Essex District Cricket Board would be very pleased to hear from you. You can email the Board by clicking here.