Cricket on Kili sets new record


A group of eccentric international cricketers on Friday set a new record for the highest-ever match with a lung busting effort at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The teams, including England's Ashes bowling legend Ashley Giles and South African icon Makhaya Ntini, the country's first black Test player, trekked to the roof of Africa before dawn and played 10 overs each of a Twenty20 game before cloud stopped play.

The game was played at 5,730 metres (18,910 feet), in the dusty and icy crater just below the dormant volcano's 5,895-metre summit, an AFP correspondent said.

The standing record for the world's highest game had been 5,165 metres, played in the Himalayas at Everest base camp in Nepal in 2009.

"It was such hard work breathing and running at this altitude but something like this only happens once in a lifetime," said cricket fan and participant Steven Smith, 22, who was bowled out for a duck.

The summit of Kilimanjaro has half the level of oxygen than land at sea level, doubling the energy needed for the match. Participants also ran the risk of acute mountain sickness and even potentially deadly pulmonary or cerebral oedema -- the flooding of the lungs or brain.

"It was great fun, worth coming all this way even if I didn't stay long in the crease," Smith said. Giles said the experience was "absolutely incredible".

A plastic track, stumps, bats, pads and plenty of spare balls were all hauled up by Tanzanian porters during a seven-day trek, and qualified umpires were on hand to ensure the game was played properly and eligible for the record.

The final score was a winning 82 for 5 for the 'Gorillas' team, led by England women's vice-captain Heather Knight, against 64 for 9 for Giles's 'Rhinos' team.

"It was tough running between the wickets but it was easy bowling Ashley Giles out! Fully worth coming all this way, with such an amazing feeling getting to the top, and -- I hope -- breaking a world record!" Knight told AFP.

Top scores were 20 each by Heather Knight and Phil Walker, editor of the London-based All Out Cricket magazine.

The game is expected to qualify as a new world record, as under Twenty20 rules a minimum of five overs per team constitutes a match.

Tanzanian mountain guide Mukuru Mugapablo, one of a handful of bewildered spectators, said he had seen nothing like it.

"I've seen football played on strange pitches, but nothing, nothing beats this game for madness. Altitude up here is a serious issue, people really do get sick... this is a crazy thing to have witnessed on top of Kilimanjaro," he laughed.

Players are raising funds for charities including Cancer Research and conservation charity Tusk Trust, which works to stem rampant poaching of elephants and other animals.

Funds raised will also go towards building Rwanda's first international cricket pitch. The game is growing rapidly in popularity in the central African nation after being introduced by those who returned after fleeing genocide 20 years ago.

- Peter Martell


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