LOCAL cricket clubs are preparing for a unique test against some of the world’s upcoming cricketing nations.

Both Germany and Norway are coming to south Essex in the next fortnight to take part in the ICC Europe Division Two championship, but they will take on two Shepherd Neame Cricket clubs before the competition begins.

Germany will take on Basildon & Pitsea in two matches at Mopsies tomorrow (at 6pm) and Sunday. Ranked 37th in the world, Germany are coming to the UK with high hopes of an impressive showing in the ICC championship.

The German team’s general manager Brian Mantle said playing Basildon & Pitsea would be the perfect preparation for their first ICC match against Austria next Monday.

“It is a great competition to be part of and we are thoroughly looking forward to testing ourselves against Basildon & Pitsea. We are here to be competitive and I am confident we are in good shape to do well this year.

Some star names to look out for are captain and all-rounder Rishi Pillai, spin bowler Shakeel Hassan and batsman Andre Leslie.

“We are a small, developing country in the sport,” said Mantle, “but there are about 2,000 players in the country at the moment and a lot of young players coming through as well.”

All the teams participating in the tournament (also including Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Austria and Belgium) are staying in Basildon.

Dave Ayres, from Basildon & Pitsea, said it was a great occasion for all at the club.

“This sort of match doesn’t happen every day and I can’t wait to see the action. We are just hoping for some nice weather but also want to give Germany a good game. We will take a lot away from the experience and I know the players are excited to get underway.”

Austria and Belgium will take on Billericay as part of their preparation for the tournament, with the south Essex club hosting some of the second round matches, along with Southend’s Garon Park.

The two matches are the main focus of Billericay’s ECB Club Open Day, which helps hundreds of clubs across the country bring more people into the game.

Billericay commercial manager Dave Randall is hopeful the attraction of international stars will only serve to enhance to club’s reputation in the community.

“Having the tournament and being able to play against teams on the ECB Club Open Day will be great,” said Randall.

“We have had first class matches here before and the international T20 tournament will help to supplement the day.

“I think there should be between 60 and 100 people coming so if we can retain a few of those then that would be amazing.”

Elsewhere, Norway are travelling to Southend to take on Old Southendian & Southchurch before they play the Isle of Man on Monday.

Chris Bunce, chairman of the Division Three Shepherd Neame side, said their first XI would play against the Norwegians after their local match against Pegasus & Corringham was called off after their opponents folded.

“We will be putting out as strong a side as we possibly can,” said Bunce about Saturday’s match. “We have been talking about this for months and it is a great opportunity to raise the profile of local cricket and it is something we will never experience again.”

Shepherd Neame division one side Wickford will play Gibraltar in another stellar friendly on Saturday at the Patmore Memorial Sports Ground, from midday.

Hadleigh, meanwhile, will host Isle of Man in a Twenty20 match at their John Burrows base on Sunday.

The game starts at 1pm.