THE mainland went into bat on the international stage as a cricketing power for the first time when an all-Chinese team competed in the International Cricket Sixes tournament in Beijing. 'We are making a proper plan to develop cricket in China and organise a league,' said Shi Tianshu, chairman of the China International Sports Exchange Centre, as he watched his team being beaten by Australia. The team, led by Bruce Wayne, a former Chinese international hockey player who learned about cricket in Australia, managed 26 runs in its first game, a score equalled by the Australians in just one over. 'It is rather hard learning how to bowl,' confessed team member Guo Weidong, a clerk in a French joint venture. 'And we only started practising in August.' But team mate Zui Yong, who works at an advertising company, said: 'I think it could take off. After all it is a game of skill not strength, so Chinese might like it.' The team has been coached in the Australian embassy on Saturday mornings as part of what is becoming an international effort to spread cricket to China. South African star Clive Rice is in China trying to promote links and offer coaching. 'Think of what talent lies hidden in a country of over one billion,' enthused Rice. The Hong Kong team presented Chinese officials with a bag of kit that will help Chinese sports universities to set up their own teams and eventually form a league. Sponsors may prove easy to find and Fosters, Tennents and Allied Pickfords were among those who helped finance the weekend tournament, staged at an athletics ground near the table tennis international exchange centre in western Beijing. 'Sure it will take a long time to develop but there is genuine interest here,' said organiser Tony Fisher. Mr Shi said: 'A lot of people in China have been watching cricket on television, so they know about it. It is a civilised activity and when you see it, the rules don't seem so complicated.'