SHAFAQNA- A former University of Oxford cricketer who is now a vicar has been chosen to lead a Church of England XI in the first ecumenical Twenty20 match against the Vatican City. The Rev Jez Barnes, vicar of St Stephen’s, Twickenham, has been given the honour of representing the Archbishop of Canterbury against the best that the Pope can muster in a match on September 19 at Kent’s county ground in Canterbury. With the Right Rev Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mr Barnes has picked a squad of 12, eight of whom are trainee priests. They have been practising at — where else? — Lord’s. Mr Barnes, 44, played first-class cricket for Oxford in the 1990s. “My best moment was keeping wicket against Yorkshire and catching Michael Vaughan [a future England captain] standing up to the stumps,” he said. He also made runs that day against Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom, who would go on to bowl for England. He says that his worst moment was losing a game of table-tennis to Alastair Cook, the current England captain, ten years ago. “I probably should have got over it by now,” he said. His squad features the Rev Stephen Gray, 47, chaplain of Bradfield College, who once made a century for MCC, and Chris Lion, a former Hampshire under-15s captain.
Will Foulger, a 28-year-old first-year ordinand at Cranmer Hall in Durham, boasts of once scoring 75 in church-hall cricket, “hitting the fire escape twice”, while Rob Oram, a trainee at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, appeared in Wisden in 1992 when he took nine for 40 for Forest School.
The Vatican side, playing as St Peter’s Cricket Club, has been chosen from among their seminarians under the captaincy of Father Tony Currer, former Catholic chaplain at the of Durham University. “The Vatican team has the edge,” the Church Times noted. “They have been able to draw on the international students studying in Rome, hence the preponderance of players from the Indian subcontinent, and they have been playing together for some months.”
The match will end the St Peter’s team’s Light of Faith tour, which includes a game against a team from the Royal Household at Windsor Castle.
Play is due to begin at 4pm and a collection will be taken for the Global Freedom Network, a joint Anglican-Roman Catholic anti-trafficking initiative. In case of rain, the teams can play the next morning. If it still rains, it’s probably proof that God is more of a rugby man.