The Isle of Man men’s cricket team is gearing up to host the first international series in the island.
King William’s College will be the venue for three T20 games in a bilateral series between the Isle of Man and Austria on July 9 and 10.
Austria will use the series as a warm-up before travelling to Scotland later in the month to take part in the Europe qualifiers for the Men’s T20 World Cup.
Isle of Man Cricket Association community coach Sally Green said the matches would prove an excellent challenge for the Manx team and a good chance to assess its standing.
‘The players know it is going to be tough,’ she said. ‘But they are keen to put on a good showing against a higher-ranked team.
‘The Austria side wanted to play some warm-up games in similar conditions to those they will find in Scotland, and on grass wickets, so it’s a good opportunity for both sides.’
In February, the Isle of Man side hit the headlines after being bowled out for 10 by Spain at the end of a gruelling series of six T20s in three days.
But earlier in the same series of games in Murcia, the Isle of Man posted three-figure totals against a Spain team ranked higher and with a much larger pool of cricketers to choose from.
This summer has already seen cricket enjoy a higher profile in the UK sporting scene.
The Ashes series got underway in Birmingham with a thrilling first Test match between England and Australia.
Following on from a successful 12 months for the home side that saw it take the World T20 title and introduce a new, exciting approach to the longer game, interest in cricket is on the up.
England skipper Ben Stokes shows no signs of changing approach despite the last-gasp defeat in the opening game. That increased interest in the sport is something the Isle of Man Cricket Association hopes to capitalise on and the upcoming internationals against Austria should play a key part.
It is hoped to attract plenty of spectators to support the island team and at the same time inspire new cricketers, building on the extensive work coaches do going into schools to encourage youngsters to take up the game.
Sally, who represented Derbyshire at county level in her own playing days, said: ‘We’ve seen a lot of interest when we go to coach. Through the IoM Cricket Association we aim to get into all the primary schools and secondary schools .
‘We link up with the local cricket clubs with junior sides to hold CricStart sessions for newcomers and there are Kwik Cricket festivals, both with soft ball, to introduce children to the sport.’
Inclusivity is key to the growth in cricket, with a number of clubs fielding women’s sides in addition to the men’s teams, while girls are welcomed into junior sides.
‘It is great to see the increase in the women’s game,’ continued Green. ‘There are professional teams playing at the same venues as the men’s teams now in domestic cricket in England, which is excellent for the sport.’
In the Isle of Man there are eight women’s teams competing across two divisions in the soft ball league.
‘The island has worked very hard to be as inclusive as we possibly can,’ said Green. ‘Clubs are working hard to give games of cricket to all their members in the various different leagues.
‘There are opportunities for everyone to play with division two in the midweek and Saturday leagues.’
The Isle of Man v Austria bilateral series takes place at King William’s College as follows:
11am: 1st T20 International
4pm: 2nd T20 International
11am: 3rd T20 International
For more information on Manx cricket and the many events during the summer, visit www.iomcricket.co.uk or check out the Isle of Man Cricket page on Facebook.