The newly-formed Athens Cricket Club has been in action for the first time, losing twice to Faethon Vrillisia but showing that they will be a force for the future in Greek cricket.
Athens were only registered with the federation in the summer but they now have 20 players on their books, seven of them thoroghbred Greek citizens.
It was a 40-something-year-old Greek Australian, however, who made the first mark for Athens in competitive cricket.
Opening the bowling in their first 25-over game against Vrillisia, Peter Failli shattered the stumps of opposing skipper Petros Koutsoumbos with his very first ball.
Vrillisia went on to post 206 in 23 overs before bowling out the newcomers for just 131 in 20.1 overs.
Failli showed his experince by taking 3-23 and then rattling up 36.
"We lost the game but took that as a great omen for the future of Athens cricket," said the club's vice-president Nick Geronimos.
The sides have also met in a 20/20 game that proved to be much closer, Vrillisia winning by just one run.
Sixteen-year-old schoolboy Adam Brown made a good impression taking 1-5 from his three overs of fast-medium as did 13-year-old Nicholas Jackson-Trikatzis who took 2-6 in 2.4 overs.
Heading to the MCG
The good news for Athens is that they are up and running and should be set for an exciting 2009.
The good news for the entire cricket fraternity in Greece is that these opening games have been played at Athens ground at Markopoulo.
The club has pulled off quite a coup by doing a deal with the Equestrian Centre.
"Quite simply it will be one of the best cricket centres anywhere in Europe," says Geronimos.
"When I realised it was going ahead I just thought this can't be happening. I sent a picture through to some friends of mine who work at the WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) and they were just amazed.
"We are very lucky. And for that we have to thank the cricket federation who have been fantastic throughout."
It is early days of course both for Athens CC and for Markopoulo. The lack of a grass pitch and the presence of a trench for a water jump - for the horses - around about where mid-off might find himself could be considered the most obvious drawbacks. Add to that the venue's poor accessibility by public transport.
However, these can all be overcome in time and, as Geronimos points out, at least there is plenty of room to park.
The club is currently using a synthetic pitch laid across the turf, although some rolling of what might be termed the square still needs to be done. But Geronimos is now investigating the possibility with the Equestrian officials of investing in a removable turf square of the kind used at many grounds in Australia where cricket has to share a field with Australian Rules Football.
They are also looking at a similar answer to the question of the water jump which at the moment has a solid metal cover.
"We need to be very careful with that because obviously we don't want any horses getting injured," says Geronimos.
The upsides are immense. The ground is big enough for a proper game of cricket which needs much more space than, say, a football field where a flick off the hip for a single on a normal ground can see the ball whistling 30 metres to the boundary.
It also has a grandstand that can house 10,000 people as well as floodlights. Okay so that is hardly necessary at the moment for a local club game but just imagine...with a decent pitch in place and the good facilities that exist there, Athens suddenly becomes an interesting venue for touring teams.
There are an estimated 50,000 Pakistanis living in Athens. Persuade the Pakistan national team to stop off on route to England, say, and you will fill that ground. It becomes a viable option as well for English counties in the pre-season month of March.
The lights allows for night cricket which has proved immensely popular around the world since it was introduced by Kerry Packer in the 1970s. The possibilities are endless and it really does mark a major step for cricket not just in Athens but in Greece.
"The centre was used for night events during the Olympics so the lights are top quality, easily good enough to play cricket and for television to make good pictures."
Cricket lovers have the chance to watch a game this weekend as Athens are scheduled to meet the third Athens team Alkenos on Saturday December 6 and a game between Vrillisia and Alkenos pencilled in for Sunday. Both games are at Markopoulo.
The winners of this 3-team Athens leg will meet the winners of the much tougher Corfu tournament in the final of the Greek championship.
A new cricket club based in Athens has joined the Hellenic Cricket Federation, boosting the sport's presence in the capital.
Athens CC will take part in a four-team Athens mini-league in July and August. The structure of the championship still has to be finalised but it looks likely that the winner of the Athens group will join three clubs from Corfu in a Final 4 competition at the home of Greek cricket.
"It is a great thing for cricket that we have managed to get up and running," Nick Geronimos, one of the driving forces behind the birth of Athens CC, told sportingreece.com.
"Corfu is the traditional home of the game in Greece and the clubs there are far more progressed than we are. But it gives us a chance to strengthen the game in Athens and to develop teams.
"At the moment there are four teams but who is to say that might not grow to five or six in the next couple of years?"
Geronimos said that Athens CC so far has 20 registered players but he is looking for at least ten more top ensure a depth to cover holiday absences. He also hopes the new club will act as a social magnet.
"Setting up a club like this is good because it creates its own community as well. Yes you can come and play cricket but you can also use it as a place to meet. Cricket is a very social game."
The president of Athens CC is civil engineer Spiros Kyrgiakos, whose father Takis Kyrgiakos is also on the executive board.
Geronimos, a Greek-Australian, is adamant that the game will attract Greeks when they get the chance to see it.
"Cricket is a great game and it is ideally suited to the Greek personality," he says.
"It involves short bursts of athleticism mixed with strategy unlike in any other sport. Captaincy involves working out field placings, bowling changes and so on.
"Once you can explain that it is not just about hitting the ball and that is more like 11 men on the field trying to trap the batsman, then I think they will be hooked."
The Athens competition will be based on the 20/20 format which involves each team batting for just 20 overs. Negotiations are still ongoing with various local councils about the use of a pitch but Geronimos is keeping his fingers crossed for a patch close to Syngrou Avenue.
Anyone interested in joining Athens CC should contact Nick Geronimos on firstname.lastname@example.org
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