Leamington's stars take U13 club title
MCC Spirit of Cricket U13 National Club Championship
August 3-6 2004, at Oakham School
The culmination of this year’s MCC Spirit of Cricket U13 National Club Championship was again hosted at the stunning Oakham School in Rutland.
The open and relaxing layout of the playing fields was fundamental to the exhilarating atmosphere which pervaded this Festival.
The hundreds of smiling faces excited by the prospect of a week away with friends in such surroundings were pictures of concentration over breakfast on the first morning; youthful exuberance had been replaced by nervous tension.
For all involved the first crack of leather on willow was a tremendous release, the final stretch to glory had begun.
One fact became obvious as early as the first afternoon: class is relative. These finalists were the finest eight out of 1700 sides in the country; all of them had made it to Oakham via a demanding series of League Knockouts, County Cups and Regional Finals
But many of the regional winning sides were made to look quite ordinary on that first morning as clear favourites emerged.
Commanding performances from strong Ilford and Bath sides were overshadowed by a highly professional run chase by Leamington, who scored strongly and consistently to all sides of the wicket to reach their target 115 in just 106 balls.
In an afternoon of summer drizzle the second round matches were reduced to ten overs a side where the impressive fielding restricted sides to no more than 70 runs.
Shining through the rain in a distinctly Flintoff-esque fashion was the similarly proportioned Naveed Raza of Wolverhampton, who upon opening the innings against Cleator promptly dispatched the first three balls for six, six, and four before trudging happily off the field - he’d already reached the reduced retirement score of 15!
Setting a precedent for the week, however, were Leamington, who took 94 runs from a strong Harrow bowling attack in their 10 overs.
Highlight of the First Day: Magnificent fielding at every turn, great catches and a dozen runouts turned 100 from a losing score before the Festival into one which was clearly going to take some beating.
Leamington’s performances were the talk of the dinner tables. The Warwickshire side’s lead galvanised the pack, producing some extraordinary matches.
In the morning, talented Ilford and Cleator sides were bowled out as chasing became a losing battle; the afternoon round saw Wolverhampton triumph over Bath in the most dramatic of fashions on the last ball with a single wicket remaining.
However, it was the performance of James Hocking of Cleator, in their match against Sawston, which set the competition on fire. His bowling figures of 5-14 included a superb hat-trick.
The revelry which ensued took several minutes to clear, at which point Cleator took the remaining wickets and promptly knocked off the target of 84 without loss in only 15 overs.
However, top-scoring for the day with 239, Leamington bowled Ilford out for only 75 in Round 4, with captain Tom Lewis and Alex Phillips returning figures of 4-6 and 3-6 respectively.
Leamington had to be beaten on Thursday morning, or by lunchtime they would be champions.
Highlight of Day Two: James Hocking’s hat-trick for Cleator
There was a hum of excitement about Oakham School as Cleator, the champions of the North, took about the task of keeping the competition alive and defeating Leamington.
Bath, who had looked like strong candidates for the title after an impressive first day, remained in bad form after the close defeat to Wolverhampton, suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Ilford. Scoring 142 for three, the Essex champions bowled Bath out for only 79 in just 15 overs.
Meanwhile, Hull’s spirited drive to the top brought another fine performance, showing depth in batting and teamwork on their way to victory over Sawston. The champions of the North West, Wolverhampton, had clearly developed a taste for their fingernails as their fifth match saw another tense finish as a lower order surge fell just four runs short.
As is the nature of cricket, sometimes a game can be flat and devoid of excitement, ending in a draw so often that we have redefined the term (cricket is the only sport in which you can have a ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ draw). Yet sometimes things happen with a peculiar swing, such as they did on the Thursday morning.
The decisive game between Leamington and Cleator began under the watchful eyes of everybody, for the proximity of the pitches to one another had allowed all at Oakham to take in the day’s main event.
The favourites were almost immediately reduced to 13 for three, losing their finer batsmen and exposing the middle order to pressure for the first time in the entire competition. Only a solid fifth-wicket partnership between Paul Best and Charles Wootton of 4l troubled the scorers, leaving Cleator with an awkward target of 89 on a lively wicket.
In reply, Cleator had stumbled to 49 for six, and all seemed to be the lost. Fast play in the surrounding games had set up a grandstand atmosphere for the final overs as players, coaches, parents and spectators crowded the pitch to cheer on the underdogs from the Lake District.
Down to the seventh wicket, and with a menacing Leamington bowling attack smelling an unlikely victory, Jamie Harrison and Adam Downes seemed to take strength from the enormous crowd cheering them on and played with a maturity beyond their years.
The 16th over brought two wickets, but the 17th over was loose and brought the chance of victory back from the dead. Jamie Harrison struck an on-drive for four for the winning runs from the first ball of the 18th over, bringing the biggest cheer of the week.
Leamington showed true mettle by picking themselves up and defeating an in-form Hull side.
Highlight of Day Three: Harrison's on drive for four over the favourites.
With Leamington with an unassailable net run rate, many sides reversed batting orders and played substitutes previously unused, which produced some surprising outcomes.
In reply to Ilford’s 101, Wolverhampton managed the unenviable feat of being bowled out for less than the extras they gave away (21 to 17). The match between Hull and Cleator saw batsmen on both sides throw a lot more than the kitchen sink at most of the bowling, although cricket was definitely a winner as the sides managed to finally end an exhilarating game in a tie.
On the top square, Bath took on Leamington and set about the task well, taking the Leamington captain with the second ball of the day.
The champions-to-be, however, showed no signs of nerves and rattled up a total of 120, which would always be beyond Bath as their bowling attack containing at least two bowlers capable of 70mph. The proud champions of the South West struggled to 100 for nine.
For their outstanding spirit throughout the tournament Cleator were awarded the Fairplay Award.
For full results, tables and statistics, see the file below: