AWALI Cricket Club and Bapco kick-off their 70th Anniversary celebrations with the Gulf Air Inter-Gulf Seven-A-Side Tournament today at the newly refurbished Awali Oval at 7am. The competition is part of a four-day festival of cricket coinciding with Bahrain's National Day and is centred around the visit of the world-famous Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) who are here on a four-day tour.
Six teams - Awali Exiles made up of former Awali players, Awali Taverners, Awali Gentlemen, Darjeeling CC from Dubai, Khobar CC from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Casuals CC - are in the fray. The Dubai team are on their first visit to Bahrain.
The MCC, captained by John Emburey and managed by Bob Baxter, bring a wealth of experience with them and two members each from the 12-man squad will be selected to play and strengthen the six sides.
Teams will be split into two groups of three with matches played on a round-robin basis followed by three finals - the two third-placed teams for the Gulf Air Bowl, the two second-placed teams for the Gulf Air Plate and the two group winners for the Gulf Air Cup.
Each match will last for six overs per innings with batsmen having to retire when they reach 30 runs and no one may open the batting or bowling more than once in the tournament.
The MCC, touring Bahrain for the second time in 10 years, will take on Awali CC tomorrow in a 50 overs-a-side contest and the tour will wind up with a two-innings match between the MCC and a Bahrain Select XI of players from the Bahrain Cricket Association league.
The Cricket Festival received the highest compliment last night when International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed sent a message of congratulations to the club on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.
At a formal opening reception, hosted by The Warbler at the Elite Hotel, ICC representative Tim Anderson delivered a message from Speed and ICC president Ehsan Mani wishing both the club and the visiting MCC team every success in the festival.
He also presented Awali CC president Kevin Lovegrove with a personal message and memento from the ICC. "It's a fantastic honour for our club," said Lovegrove.
Entry to the tournament is free and all spectators are requested to follow instructions regarding parking.
Today's schedule: 7am - Awali Taverners vs Awali Exiles; 7.30am - Awali Gentlemen vs Darjeeling CC; 9am - Awali Taverners vs Khobar CC; 9.30am - Awali Gentlemen vs Kuwait Casuals CC; 11am - Awali Exiles vs Khobar CC; 11.30am - Darjeeling CC vs Kuwait Casuals CC. 1pm - Bowl final. 2pm - Plate final. 3pm - Cup final.