SCHOOLS CRICKET 2006
REVIEW BY DOUGLAS HENDERSON
(Note: this is DCH’s original, not the edited printed version)
The saddest report in these pages comes from a school where the record was Played 4, Lost 4. The master in charge goes on to fulminate against the vagaries of the weather and, more particularly, the overwhelmingly adverse effect of examinations upon the summer term. Such sentiments, though not so keenly expressed, formed a very common theme.
It is very frequent that, throughout much of the UK, May is a very wet month indeed. Alas, it is the very month when schools pack their fixture cards with anything up to four matches a week. Once half-term arrives, the cricket coaching season is all but ended, and most schools manage only Saturday fixtures thereafter; at least until the end of term, where many schools enjoy festivals, even if they are not as numerous as in recent decades.
Thus, just as the admirable initiative ?Chance to Shine? may begin to have some impact on those many state schools (by no means all) where cricket has dramatically declined since the mid-1970s and the Houghton report into teachers? pay and terms of service, schools where facilities are excellent and the coaching skilled and enthusiastic are being frustrated by forces beyond their control. The most retrograde step for cricket was the recent introduction of AS levels for Year 12 or Lower Sixth pupils. This now means that all top three year-groups are overwhelmed by exam pressures throughout the summer term, leaving little time for anything else.
Nor is the proposal to make University entrance application process ?post-result? likely to make things better. This proposal, long discussed, would be brilliant if it were sensible and radical: start the University year in January, and then there would not be the squeeze on examination boards to produce A2 results early enough for Universities to accept pupils for October. What is now being discussed is the proposal that public exams would be even earlier in the summer term, so that the application process can still be completed for October entry.
With schools ending at the end of July (as they used to) and Universities accepting pupils in January, not October, the school year could return to a sensible pattern of three terms of roughly equal length. As it is, the school year, from Year One onwards, has been mangled to accommodate the needs of University entrance and thus the examination boards.
Almost the whole of May 2006 was indeed a complete washout in most of England and Wales, but Scotland enjoyed some unusually fine and warm weather, even though Gordonstoun had to clear the snow off the square only a few weeks before the first game. The latter school enjoyed the benefits of their new sports scholarship with the arrival of Preston Mommsen from South Africa who comfortably led the country?s batting averages with 151.71, including five centuries in twelve innings. His outstanding performance enabled Gordonstoun to feature highly in the best seasons list.
Even better were Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh who lost only game but won 17. The batting was based on very strong performances by Alex Tilley and Hamish Locke, with 1171 and 855 runs respectively.
(somewhat mysteriously curtailed ? I?m afraid you?ll have to refer to Wisden 2007 for the rest).