With no results at all because of half-term, I have the opportunity to reflect on this season’s National Schools Twenty20 competition. There were serious concerns that with an unusually late Easter and consequently late start to the summer term, the whole competition would be badly squeezed. Thanks to fairly decent weather, though with a strange repeat of the meteorological phenomenon of a couple of years ago there have been a few very wet Fridays, the competition is reaching the final stages already. It is hard to recall that last season’s glorious summer started with waterlogged grounds and the postponement of most of the first two rounds.
The North East already have a champion in St Peter’s York (alma mater of Jonny Bairstow) and they stand ready to face the winner of the North West section, either Sedbergh (recent winners of the competition and regulars on Finals Day) or Manchester Grammar School. That will determine who represents the North region on Finals Day at Arundel. This will be held, unusually, on a Sunday (June 30th 10am start) which should guarantee a good crowd of local supporters of the ground, the magnificent Arundel Castle Cricket Club. Free admission and ample free parking.
In the East section The Leys face Ipswich in one semi-final and Oakham face Rugby in the other, and the winner plays the winner of the West Midlands and Wales section, where Shrewsbury, Malvern, King’s Worcester and Wycliffe remain in contention. Shrewsbury are regulars at Finals Day and Malvern were recently finalists but all others have yet to enjoy their glorious day in the sunshine at Arundel.
Tonbridge, also recent finalists, have already won the South East section and prepare to take on the winners of the London section. Merchant Taylors’ will represent North London and will now face Whitgift or Langley Park (that match to be played on Friday at Whitgift). Only Merchant Taylors’ from the London section have played at Arundel.
In the South West, the familiar strong cricketing foes Millfield (last year’s winners), Taunton, Clifton and King’s Taunton are vying for supremacy in their section and the winner will face either Dauntsey’s or Wellington (Berks) of the South Central section. Millfield, King’s Taunton and Wellington have all made an appearance on Finals Day.
In the latter section’s semi-final, Dauntsey’s playing Winchester won under DLS by nine wickets but with only five balls remaining. For Winchester Jonny Figy scored 62. A rain interruption left Dauntsey’s needing 124 in 16 overs. Wicket-keeper Alex Ayers then scored 63 not out from 43 balls and Jack Grant 46 not out as Dauntsey’s won in the final over.
Regular readers and all Masters i/c will know that I have been campaigning to save our national (or should that be notional?) summer term sport from the depredations of the exam system – revision mania really – which nowadays commands excessive devotion, especially among parents. It was chilling to read recently of the extraordinary pressures exerted by parents at the very high-powered St Paul’s Girls’ School in London.
Some will know that I was invited to write an article about the pressures on schools cricket, and especially state schools, by The Cricketer Magazine for their May edition. As it is now June, I am allowed by their kind permission to reproduce my article here Cricket is in crisis in all schools.
Many will also know of Alan Wells, formerly of Sussex and England, but now Master i/c at Bede’s in Sussex. He was yesterday moved to email me about his thoughts on the current state of the game in schools and his fairly radical solution for his own school. He is happy for me to share it online and maybe start something of a debate. Send any thoughts to me via email, as I don’t have online comments to satisfy trolls. You can read his reflections here.