England maintained their domination of the INAS Tri-Series by adding victory in the T20 tournament to their earlier 40-over success – but there were no losers at the end of two weeks of competition around Cheshire.
The umpires for the T20 final deserved special mention for permitting the match to be played in increasingly heavy rain, and the same went for the groundstaff and officials of Nantwich CC.
For Ian Martin, the ECB’s head of disability cricket, that ensured a proper cricketing climax to the Tri-Series, rather than an abandonment or a bowl-out – and allowed the England players, led again by their batsman of the series Dan Bowser, to provide one last demonstration of their skills.
Bowser rounded things off in the most spectacular style, reaching a 27-ball half century with one six, then repeating the dose off his 28th delivery to complete an eight-wicket win with more than nine overs to spare.
“The tournament has been exceptional,” said Martin. “It’s just been a real pleasure to be in amongst it. Cheshire Cricket Board have been fantastic as delivery partners, and at each of the clubs we’ve had wonderful hospitality – the clubs and their members couldn’t do enough for us, and the feedback I get is that they’ve enjoyed the experience of hosting international cricket, with everything that comes with it.
“On the field I think the England team have set a new benchmark. They prepared well, and come the big tournament they’ve performed well – and they’ve conducted themselves exceptionally off the field as well, as have all three teams.
“I know the South Africans and Australians will go home more determined than ever to work even harder on their games before we meet again – but also that they’ve enjoyed the experience, and appreciated the way the tournament has been organised.
“It’s been another big step forward for the development and profile of disability cricket. And I think the sport of cricket should take a bit of credit for the way we treat the Learning Disability game.”
South Africa made 105 for six from their 20 overs, thanks largely to some exuberant hitting from Mzwandile Mhlongo, who launched two sixes in the last over to end with 19 from nine balls.
Ronnie Jackson, from Rainham in Essex, had made an early new-ball breakthrough, and Callum Rigby also relished the chance to impress near his Shropshire base.
Another Essex man, Matt Cowdery, claimed two wickets with consecutive balls before Mhlongo denied him a hat-trick, and Surrey pace ace Tayler Young again bowled with hostility and control to keep the run rate down late in South Africa’s innings.
Jonny Gale claimed a wicket in his only over and captain Chris Edwards was typically tidy in his four-over spell. Gale fell in the second over of England’s reply, but Jackson underlined his all-round value by making 21 from 15 balls with four fours.
Then it was over to Bowser, the powerful left-hander who has scored prolifically and rapidly throughout the tournament. “It’s not just what Dan does for us on the field, but he’s a very influential figure within our squad,” said the England coach Derek Morgan.
“He’s obviously very skilful, but he also works very hard on those skills. And he’s also a very humble guy who has really flourished in this environment.
“That’s the beauty of being involved with this form of cricket. One of the features of this tournament has been the spirit between the players of all three teams. They all enjoy being around people who respect them. It’s been a great tournament in every sense of the word.”
Haydn Brumm was named Australia’s player of the series, and Eldrich George was selected as South Africa’s outstanding player. All three teams now hope to be involved in the INAS Global Games in Queensland, Australia in 2019, with proposals for cricket to be included as a demonstration sport.