Believe it or not, the Finals day of the National Twenty20 was played in glorious sunshine. This was at the quintessentially English and indeed stunningly beautiful ground Arundel Castle. The cricket on display was equally impressive.
The most striking feature of the day ? apart from the brilliant ground fielding – was that without exception the scoring rate fell dramatically when the spinners came on. This is in marked contrast with a few years ago when schoolboy captains took it as axiomatic that overs cricket required five medium-quick bowlers bowling short of a length to a widespread field. Perhaps one should also commend the authorities for the notion of power plays, which have made the limited-overs game much more interesting because they force captains to be more attacking. The latter point is also the reason why the National Schools Twenty20 adopts a different notion of Net Run Rate, where wickets taken have a significant effect.
Sedbergh from distant Cumbria met much more local St Bede?s in the first semi-final. An interesting feature of this contest was that both coaches, Martin Speight and Alan Wells respectively, are former Sussex players who used to play under the captaincy of our wonderful host for the day Johnny (J. R. T.) Barclay. Winning the toss, Sedbergh chose to bat. They were clearly a very talented batting side but all too often chose the wrong option, losing wickets at key moments of their innings, especially against the outstanding spin of Elliott Hooper who took four for 14 in his four overs. This meant that they finished with a score of only 101 which never looked like being enough. Another twenty or thirty might have made the result very much closer.
St Bede?s ? relative newcomers to the top echelons of schools cricket ? played very sensibly but again had trouble against the spinners. Though the margin (a win by four wickets, with four overs to spare) seemed comfortable enough, the disinterested spectator was always aware that one more wicket at a key moment could have proved fatal, as might a slightly higher target.
After lunch, the holders of the trophy Shrewsbury took on the winners from two years ago Millfield. Incidentally, the draw for the day is decided by Net Run Rate in all games in the competition up to this point. This battle of the giants was a surprisingly low-scoring affair, not least because of the excellence of the spin bowling. Millfield won the toss and chose to bat. Some wayward bowling from the openers gave them the chance to build a strong platform. However, once the spin trio of Henry Blofield, Mark Prescott and Henry Lewis got to work, the scoring rate fell dramatically, with not a single boundary in the final five overs. Mark Prescott finished with the exceptional figures of four for 14 from his four overs. 115 for seven seemed quite a modest target. Shrewsbury looked a good side, but they lost four wickets in the six-over power play and never really recovered. The bowling of Dan Williams (three for 13), Ali Easton (one for 16) and Charlie Vickery (two for 13) meant that they spent their time playing catch-up and they finished 20 short.
And so to the final. St Bede?s won the toss and inserted Millfield. This was not a defensive move, but in a season where they had hitherto not lost a single match they preferred to chase. Millfield set off with a blast, with another brilliant opening stand by Will Sobczak (49) and Will Jenkins (36) as they had done against Shrewsbury. After they had scored 90 for no wicket in 11 overs, it seemed as if the target would be round about 180. Yet again, a trio of spin bowlers Callum Guest, Elliott Hooper and Theo Allport pegged them back very considerably and Millfield scored only 50 in the remaining nine overs to reach 140 for five.
In a twenty over match this is still quite a stiff target, given the quality of the opposition bowling and a wicket which was still pretty slow but getting better under the hot sun. An early wicket brought the Barbadian Shai Hope to the crease. Clearly modelling himself on Brian Lara, such as a move to drive turning into a deft late cut or a wonderfully wristy straight six, he played the innings of the day, a real joy to watch. While he was in it looked as if St Bede?s would be lifting the trophy as at the halfway point they had reached 70 for one. Alas, in an over when he had decided that it was time to launch a serious assault, Hope ?attempted a straight six off the back foot and was caught on the boundary for 56, the only half-century of the day. That was the end of a most creditable? performance by St Bede?s who finished 17 short. Millfield were worthy winners with an outstanding performance by, yes, their spinners.
Wellingborough are heartily sick of the sight of Stowe?s Ben Duckett though admiring his skill. Last year he scored 145 not out against them and this year knocked up a modest 213 not out. He still has another year at school. His double century ? the first reported this season ? was all due to authentic cricket strokes and no slogging, a lesson which could usefully be learned by others who play ? alas! ? nothing but overs cricket. It may be the moment to mention that ECB are concerned at the remorseless move towards nothing but overs cricket in some schools. A balanced programme of declaration cricket, overs cricket and Twenty20 cricket has long been championed in this column and in Wisden.
Anyway, in the Wellingborough game, the opposition unfortunately missing four key players, Duckett and Jake Olley (101) put on 337 for the first wicket to reach a total of 348 for one in 45 overs. Why bother to carry on playing? In a declaration game, a much more sensible target would have given some meaning to the match.
Winchester suffered at the hands of Abingdon?s Charlie Fitchett who took four for two in his opening couple of overs. 50 for eight seemed well short of a target but a recovery of sorts saw them to 110 all out. Abingdon similarly stuttered at 50 for five but then also recovered to reach 104 for nine, the 15-year-old Somerset leg-spinner Dan Escott taking six for 31. The game ended when with considerable chutzpah Abingdon?s Gregor Hearn hit Winchester?s opening bowler for a straight six to win the game. He had a Leavers? ball to go to.
Kirkham?s opening bowler Oliver Jump, who has represented Lancashire since the Under-11s, took seven for 26 in the two-day match against Rossall and followed this up with six for 34 in the second innings.
*Wellingborough 113-9 (40 overs), Kimbolton 114-7
*Stowe 348-1 (45 overs) (B Duckett 213 not out, J Olley 101), Wellingborough 125
Denstone 79 (?F Simon 5-19), ?*St Edward?s Oxford 80-5 (D Burnett 5-26? )
Trent 160, *Oakham 11-1 (rain)
Bedford 214-7 dec, *Dulwich 215-3
*Eton 186 (O Elson 5-39), Oakham 187-6
Taunton 209-8 (40 overs), *West Buckland 155
*Taunton 204-6 (40 overs), Exeter 155-9
*Clayesmore 102 (50 overs), Somerset (RSA) 104-1
XL Club 194-8, *Denstone 195-8
KCS Wimbledon 86, *Dulwich 88-0
*Lancing 135, MCC 136-2
*Stowe 325-3 (45 overs) (B Duckett 161), Brighton 80
MCC 237-9 dec, *St Edward’s Oxford 166-8
Eton 186-7 (50 overs),*Millfield 187-3
*RGS Worcester 185-4 (35 overs) (D Goodyear 103 not out), Bristol GS 150 (W French 5-29)
Filton 240, *Bristol GS 131 (T Richards 5-32)
*Christ?s Hospital 207-8 (50 overs), Halliford 160
*Christ?s Hospital 112-8 (20 overs), Old Blues 102
MCC 227-2 dec , Christ?s Hospital 185
Shrewsbury 229-6 (50 overs), *Uppingham 156
*St George’s Weybridge 168-9 (35 overs), KCS Wimbledon 140
Cranleigh 133 (50 overs), *Eastbourne 134-4
*St Edward’s Oxford 309-9 (50 overs) (J Barrett 152), Brighton GS (Aus) 240-8
*St John’s Leatherhead 105 (50 overs), Cranleigh 106-1
Somerset (RSA) 210-6 (50 overs), *Winchester 191
Leopards (RSA) 185-5 (50 overs), *Winchester 186-5
Winchester 110 (45 overs), *Abingdon 112-9 (D Escott 6-31)
*KCS Wimbledon 206 (50 overs), Hampton 156-9
D. I. Yeabsley’s XI 236, *Haberdashers’ Aske’s 237-8
Fraser Bird XI 206, *Haberdashers’ Aske’s 207-7
Haberdashers’ Aske’s 155, *Bancroft’s 121
*Clifton 302-7 (50 overs)(T Smith 143), Westminster (Aus) 160-9
Clifton 167-8 (50 overs), *King’s Taunton 170-5
Bishops (RSA) 196-9 (45 overs), *Dulwich 114
*Dauntsey?s 179-5 (20 overs), Summer Puddings 139-8
*Dauntsey?s 248-4 (40 overs) (K Patrick 135), Kingswood 209 (Peak Sports League)
Kirkham GS 127 &?141, *Rossall 113 (O Jump 7-26) & 120 (O Jump 6-34)
National Twenty20 semi-finals at Arundel Castle
?Sedbergh 101, St Bede?s 102-6
Millfield 114, Shrewsbury 95
National Twenty20 finals
Millfield 140-5, St Bede?s 123
?ESCA National Under 15 T20 Midlands Final
*Shrewsbury 154 (20 overs), Denstone 153-9.
Shrewsbury progress to the National Finals Day in September
School Sport Magazine National Under-17 Quarter Final
Bedford 189-8 (40 overs), *Shrewsbury 190-8
Shrewsbury progress to the semi-final and now meet Richmond High School (Yorkshire)