Jersey in late May and the weather is barely behaving, a chill wind ensuring that you take a jacket to the cricket.

The stage is set for our cricketers to rain on the host island’s party and pip them to a place at the World League Four tournament in Los Angeles later in the summer, but have they got it in them?

Oman would win – surely – which means nothing less than victory over the Caesareans would take Ash Wright’s men heading over the Atlantic for a crack at the Americans.

So off we head to Farmers, not so long ago a simple potato field in the heart of St Martin, somewhere down the main north road heading west from Gorey and on the way to the zoo. Blink and you might miss the turn.

I wish we had and the Guernsey team perhaps wish they had, because when the heat was turned up their inexperience showed and, with Jersey triumphant, the Greens had nothing to play for except retaining their Division Five status and on play-off day that would mean gaining a second win over Vanuatu.

It would not be easy.

These delightful, spirited South Pacific islanders had come within a whisker of upsetting Jamie Nussbaumer’s men in their initial meeting and although it would never have come into Guernsey’s thought processes as they prepared for the game which would decide whether they would stay in the division or slip back into regional qualifiers, the issue with that is that it might mean taking the smiles off quite the most exhilarating, fun cricket team I have possibly ever had the pleasure to watch.

And as we settled down to watch the action at Farmers, the thought came into my head that was there not some way we could be safe from the drop and Vanuatu too?

Sadly not.

One had to go and it was the men who had flown halfway around the world to freeze their coconuts in a less exotic island 100 miles south of mainland England, who would depart.

Guernsey won by 19 runs and as GCB officials collectively breathed huge sighs of relief, Vanuatu still smiled.

‘If you ever want to know what ICC cricket is all about, then that was it,’ said Guernsey director of cricket Ash Wright in the immediate aftermath of that 19-run win over Guernsey’s fellow Greens, a side full of esprit de corps in a sporting world of cynicism and gamesmanship, that you felt almost honoured to have seen them play.

‘That’s a proper team,’ Wright added, and he was right.

Their cricket is as bright as their colours, which have a distinct Caribbean look and there is a warmth in their approach that every national cricket team in the world should seek to emulate.

They made you proud to watch them.

Vanuatu, which was first exposed to cricket by the Brits in 1901, has clearly done a fantastic job in developing the game, but across its dozens of satellite islands they still only have eight senior teams, well below the number here.

Clearly, judging by their performance in Jersey this May, they are producing some fine cricketers and, unlike many other competing nations in and around our level, refreshingly they rely on the indigenous population.

They are hugely enthusiastic, fair and respectful too.

It was winter back in the South Pacific Vanuatu islands and the average air temperatures had dropped to a mere 23C, about the same as the azure blue water that surrounds them.

At the FB Fields for much of a dreary, damp opening Saturday, the mercury was pushing the 14C mark and you could excuse the Vanuatu players for giving off an appearance of ducks out of water.

Oh, for the warmth of home, they must have been thinking. But yet they smiled incessantly, jumped excitedly and always played fairly, making a huge impression on every opponent they came across.

They gave Guernsey two huge frights and, so impressively, showed no disdain for the first group result when the unfortunate, confused circumstances in the miserable rain, saw them declared losers.

Other sides would have groaned. They would have scowled. They would have sworn and cursed their luck. Not Vanuatu – a real team and provider of my sporting highlight of 2016.

Raymond Nasse

Sports Editor

raymond@dailypost.vu

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