Eton v Harrow 2018

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Saturday 23rd June 2018 at Lord’s

A bright sunny morning with a light breeze greeted the players as they arrived at Lord’s. The ground looked at its best and the pitch was a couple of strips in from the edge of the square on the Tavern side. It looked firm and dry, but it had been used for two one-day matches previously, and was therefore likely to take spin, especially in the second innings. In the event any turn was slow, but there was occasional inconsistency of bounce with the odd ball keeping low. Eton won a crucial toss and elected to bat, which was very much the game-plan which they had envisaged; they had had much more success in their previous matches batting first, whereas Harrow had both defended scores and chased totals down, and had the better overall record. Harrow were at full strength, whereas Eton were without Butler, the injured off-spinner.

Anscomb and the left-handed Elias negotiated the opening overs relatively calmly, albeit playing and missing at several deliveries, with the latter taking most of the strike; both Falcon and Maxwell generated a heathy pace and generally bowled a good length, troubling both batsmen a couple of times an over. Harrow would have considered themselves unlucky not to break through earlier, but in the 12th over the score had reached 45 (12 extras) when the Harrow captain, Ayliffe, bowled Anscomb, on the drive for 10, with a ball that came back into the batsman, in his second over of medium pace. The Eton captain, Lyons immediately increased the tempo with some aggressive running and positive stroke-play. This encouraged Elias to be more fluent, scoring most of his runs behind the wicket, and the pair maintained the scoring rate at just under 4 an over, so that the 100 came up in the 25th over, and at lunch (32 overs: Elias 59, Lyons 37) Eton had progressed to 126-1. Leg-spinner Chohan struggled to find his accuracy initially, but when bowling in tandem with off-spinner Ali, who finished with the excellent figures of 11-0-32-1, Eton were kept relatively at bay. Elias reached a fine 50 after 89 balls, and Lyons had continued to score at a healthy rate, so that Eton had built a secure foundation for acceleration after lunch with 9 wickets in hand and 23 overs remaining. The Harrow bowling had always been tidy, but they struggled to achieve the breakthroughs that could have slowed the steady rate of scoring.

Eton continued to make healthy progress after lunch, and the pair had just achieved a 100 partnership in 26 overs when Ali straightened a ball bowled from round the wicket to have Elias lbw, half forward for 70 (145-1) – a thoroughly deserved reward for accurate bowling. Elias had played with his usual determination and patience, and had never got bogged down, providing the essential backbone of the Eton innings. Adair was immediately into his stride, looking to strike the ball hard from the outset. The pair added 31 in 7 overs of which Adair had scored 25, when he skied Chohan, attempting an expansive drive, who completed a comfortable return catch (177 for 3 from 45 overs). Lyons had been relatively becalmed, but completed his 50 soon after from 80 balls. Thistlethwayte had looked to bat positively from the outset, playing some attractive strokes, so that runs came quickly until Lyons was bowled by Chohan ‘on the charge’ for 56 (195-4); he had set the tone right from the start of his innings and maintained a steady momentum throughout, never missing the chance of putting the fielding side under pressure with his running. Lowther-Pilkington missed an expansive sweep to a full, straight delivery from the same bowler fourth ball and was palpably lbw for a duck (195-5 in the 49th over); Chohan had bowled increasingly steadily after a rocky start and finished with 11-0-49-3, regularly turning both his leg-break and googly, and increasingly commanding respect. This brought Lytle to the crease in a situation made for his bustling style, and he scored a breezy 10 from 9 deliveries before missing a full straight ball from the returning Maxwell to be lbw (209-6 in the 52nd over). Penny ran well with Thistlethwayte who continued to play aggressively until the former holed out at mid-off off Falcon (234-7 in the 55th over). Thistlethwayte finished unbeaten with an attractive 29 from 27 balls as the innings closed on 237-7. Both Falcon and Ayliffe achieved respectable figures with their fast-medium bowling, and Harrow maintained their concentration and energy in the field, only rarely giving away careless runs, so that the score was never allowed to escalate out of control; they conceded 25 wides however, which was the factor which pushed the final total well beyond par. Harrow would need to bat very well, even by their high standards, with at least one outstanding innings to achieve their objective.

The Eton opening attack of Gammell (out-swing) and Hardy (left-arm in-swing) generated aggressive pace and accuracy, so that there were 3 maidens in the first 5 overs; Dicketts and Harrington-Myers also played and missed a couple of times an over. In the 8th over, Hardy lost his rhythm and conceded 13 runs (6 extras); the score reached 26-0, and he was replaced by the medium-paced Penny. In the next over, Gammell swung a full delivery back into the left-handed Harrington-Myers to have him lbw (27-1). This brought the 15 year-old Sheopuri to the crease, who had scored two centuries for the 1st XI recently. He was immediately into his stride, scoring two impressive boundaries, when Penny bowled a perfect in-swing delivery which pitched just outside off-stump and hit the top of middle and leg (37-2: 10 overs). 16 year-old Wijaratne was also in good form coming into the game and soon opened his account with a boundary, however, in the same over, Penny trapped Dicketts lbw, half-forward, for 7 (44-3: 11.3 overs). Immediately afterwards, in Gammell’s final over of his spell, he bowled another fast in-swinger to trap the left-handed Wijeratne lbw for 5 (49-4), and came off with impressive figures 7-3-11-2. Captain and ‘keeper, Ayliffe and Ferreira now came together to attempt to stem the tide, and the latter started briskly with a couple of boundaries in Mathur’s first over of off-spin. The bowler had his revenge from the first ball of his next over, however, as Ferreira edged to the ‘keeper, pushing forward for 12 (65-5: 16.1 overs). Harrow had kept up with the required rate but the stuffing of their innings had been ripped apart in 8 overs. Ayliffe remained watchful but South African Langston is another aggressive player, and hit four boundaries, being particularly severe on Penny, before the introduction of Elias’ left-arm spin induced him to sky the ball to the ‘keeper for 21 (94-6: 24.5 overs) just before tea. Falcon joined his captain and there followed a quiet period where both batsmen were circumspect and scored a few singles. Eventually Falcon hit a boundary off Elias on the off-side but two balls later, was smartly stumped by Lytle attempting something similar for 6 (107-7: 29.4 overs). Chohan did not last long before being bowled by Elias for 2 (113-8: 31.2 overs), and in the following over, Ayliffe’s defiance finally came to an end as Mathur persuaded him to hole out to Adair at mid-off for 10 (117-9: 33 overs). The last pair of Ali and Maxwell took their time and played sensibly for 6 overs before Elias finished the match by having the former smartly caught by Lowther-Pilkington at slip for 7 in the 40th over. After Gammell’s decisive opening burst, Eton had kept the pressure on with Penny (7-0-44-2 – expensive but two vital wickets), and spinners Mathur (11-2-28-2 – a miserly spell as usual) and Elias (8.4-4-11-4 – highly effective on an increasingly low, slow pitch), and they had been backed up by tidy and athletic fielding; their ‘keeper Lytle was always busy and alert; the only negative was that they conceded 14 wides. Harrow had been routed for 123, and Eton had the sort of day on which the original game-plan had spectacularly come-off and had been expertly executed, winning by the substantial and unexpected margin of 114 runs.

It was a disappointing final game at Lord’s for Stephen Jones (Harrow’s excellent and much admired and respected coach of 14 years) and Robin Martin-Jenkins (a distinguished County cricketer with Sussex and 5 years at the helm as Harrow’s Master-in-Charge). Both have overseen many Harrow successes in their time, been generous and welcoming hosts, and most importantly, encouraged their charges to be themselves and enjoy the game. Umpires Laurie Allan and Neville Kent (both of Minor County standard) had a very good game, soundly keeping control of the match and being prepared to make decisions decisively when batsmen were clearly out. The players should be applauded for playing the match with the necessary competitive spirit, but entirely fairly, without any unnecessary noise or fuss. The sun had shone all day on a glorious ground on which it is a real pleasure for these two famous schools to play each other: how lucky they are to be invited to do so, and may there be many more in the future. Eton will look back on a day which could hardly have gone any better, especially Ben Elias who was the clear Man-of-the-match, and Harrow can take consolation that they competed hard all day, and have had a very good season to date.

Mark Williams

Schools Cricket Online