Wisden review of the 2009 season

(Note: this is the original text, not exactly as published in Wisden 2010)

SCHOOLS CRICKET, 2009 REVIEW BY DOUGLAS HENDERSON

There were the usual gripes about the iniquities of the public examination system but at least the weather held up in most, though not all, of the UK. July and August were wet, but with the school season ending usually at the end of June, most schools completed the vast majority of their fixture list. An additional hazard for 2009 was the advent of swine flu which caused cancellations in quite a number of schools.

Slightly more worrying is the continued drift towards ?making more noise?. This is technically illegal. Though ?The Spirit of the Game? is a pre-amble to the Laws rather than a part of them, nevertheless Law 42 is explicit: ?The responsibility lies with the captains for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit and traditions of the game, as described in The Preamble ? The Spirit of Cricket, as well as within the Laws.? The Spirit section specifically says that players should not ?indulge in cheating or any sharp practice, for instance…seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one?s own side.? I watched one school game where the fielding side did not pause for breath throughout their opponents? innings; their hands must have been sore, too. The next day I watched a Cricketer Cup game (for Old Boys) and there was none of this mindless nonsense. So it is a very recent and irritating phenomenon.

Another dubious practice that has crept in is the surreptitious coaching of one?s side from beyond the boundary. The late Bob Woolmer got into trouble for attempting the same by using a walkie-talkie in a Test Match. He was in breach of the playing regulations rather than the Laws, but it has always been the convention that coaches do not intervene once the players cross the boundary rope. One school coach I sat next to took surreptitious coaching to considerable extremes by effectively captaining the side from third man. The fieldsman posted there relayed copious instructions about who should be bowling, where the field should be set etc, and he openly gestured to the fieldsmen where they should be standing.Too much watching of football managers, I suspect.

Twenty20 cricket continues to develop but, again, there are fears that with the popularity of the professional version it may begin to take over from longer forms of the game both there and in schools. One school?s Master i/c was summoned by his Headmaster and Director of Studies to be instructed that all matches, even on a Saturday afternoon, should be of 20 overs until after the exam season (which is effectively the end of term in many cases). It?s highly desirable as a competitive short game midweek, not interfering with academic work, but hardly the basis for developing young cricketers.

There were new initiatives: Michael Harrison at St George?s Weybridge formed a league in his area for normal term-time fixtures involving nine schools. Called the 50/40 league, 50 overs were played on Saturdays, 40 overs midweek. It was extremely successful, with Hampton emerging as inaugural winners.

Another was a quite elaborate Twenty20 competition in the strong Western schools circuit. Organised by John Bobby of Clifton, it encompassed schools from Taunton to Cheltenham to Bath and Bristol. The inaugural winners were King?s Taunton who beat Clifton in the overall final.

King?s, indeed, proved the most successful school in the country in 2009. They finished on the same overall percentage of wins as Winchester, 88.24%, but lost only one match to Winchester?s two. West Buckland enjoyed one of their best seasons ever to come third with an 84.62% record, while some more familiar names in the top teams lists, namely Oratory, Shrewsbury, Monmouth, Haberdashers? Aske?s, Sedbergh and Hampton also topped the 80% mark. Bancroft?s just missed that target but once again played a huge number of matches, 24, pipped only by Stowe?s 25.

The Leys and Manchester Grammar School were the only unbeaten sides in the country though the latter nearly lost that record in the most extraordinary game of the season. Denstone needed two to win with two balls to spare and seven down. The striker guided the ball to third man and the pair scampered two runs, or so they thought, to win the match with a ball to spare.They met in the middle of the pitch to congratulate each other, not having noticed that an umpire had called one short.The striker was somewhat controversially given run out. Number 10 had one ball to score one run. With ten men round the bat, he was stumped and, as it was a 50-over match, the result was a tie.

Aaron West, Brentwood?s captain, scored most runs with 1290, closely followed by Stamford?s Shaun Masoud-Khan.with 1237. Four others ? Nigel Jacob (Bancroft?s), Michael Baxter (Gordonstoun), Tom Elliott (Tonbridge) and Charles Wootton (Cheltenham) ? also topped 1000 runs for the season. Masoud-Khan with 202 scored one of two double hundreds in 2008, the other coming from the bat of Ben Shepperson of Culford with 205 not out.

It is nowadays extremely difficult to take large numbers of wickets in a season: the combination of ECB restrictions on bowlers of medium-pace and faster are allowed only a maximum of seven overs per spell (though 21 in total) on safety grounds, while the exponential growth of overs cricket in the last few years has led to another built-in restriction, usually a maximum of ten. You therefore have to be a spinner and attend a school which still plays large numbers of declaration games to have many opportunities to take more than a handful of wickets in any game.Three bowlers achieved an eight-wicket haul: Oli Wilkin of Merchant Taylors? Northwood, Jake Lintott (Queen?s Taunton), and William Culhane (City of London Freemen?s). Twelve others managed seven wickets in an innings.Wilkin also scored 121 in the match against Westminster when he took eight for 14; Lintott?s eight for 45 followed his innings of 145 against the Old Boys.

The most remarkable feature of the best bowling averages is that the top two, Lyle Hill and Haris Chaudry, were both quick bowlers from Glasgow Academy with the extraordinary averages of 4.76 and 6.36 respectively. Both were aged only 14 and Hill went on to play for Scotland?s Under-15 side.This kind of average sometimes happens when a young leg-spinner comes in during the exam season with two weakened sides.and sneaks ten wickets to qualify for Wisden. These two, though, played all season, albeit a rather meagre one of only seven matches.18 bowlers averaged under 10. Most wickets were taken by William Culhane of City of London Freemen?s (56 with a best of eight for 18) and Malvern?s Will Meredith with 53. Nine others achieved 40 wickets or more.

An extraordinary performance by a 14-year-old in an Under-15 match at Eltham had even the experts at Wisden scurrying to their record-books. 48 were scored from a single over, 44 from the bat of Jack Robertson with four sixes and five fours. The over included four no-balls, so there were four penalty runs. As Wisden (page????? ? 144 in 2009) shows, more runs have been scored from an over but only when the bowler was deliberately trying to give away quick runs to force a declaration.

Jos Buttler (King?s Taunton) made his debut for Somerset, while Benjamin Cox, Bromsgrove?s wicketkeeper-batsman, played for Worcestershire against Somerset (stumping Marcus Trescothick); he also scored 61 in his maiden first-class innings. His school team-mate Jonathon Webb played for Warwickshire Second XI. Paul Best (Bablake) ? slow left-armer and batsman – not only played for Warwickshire Second XI but captained them. Others to represent County Second XIs during the summer were Jake Lintott (Queen?s Taunton), Shiv Thakor (Uppingham), Adam Dibble (Taunton), Uzair Qureishi (Marlborough), Aaron West (Brentwood) and Muhunthan Harinath (Tiffin).

Wisden?s second Young Cricketer of the Year, the 2009 choice James Taylor (formerly of Shrewsbury) distinguished himself in his first full season for Leicestershire CCC by scoring an unbeaten double century (the youngest ever to do so for the county), and scoring 1,207 runs in 28 innings at an average of 57.47. He was chosen as Young Cricketer of the Year by the Cricket Writers? Club, pushing Stuart Broad into second place.

The first winner, Jonathan Bairstow (formerly of St Peter?s, York), followed in his late father?s footsteps, making his debut for Yorkshire CCC. In his fifth first-class match, one commentator said that he ?stood like a giant among pygmies? with 84 not out as he defied the Notts bowlers who had savaged the rest of the side. He scored 82 not out on his debut against Somerset.

In recent years, a few players have not been available as normal because they played more for Academies or indeed County Second XIs. They therefore may not appear in the ?Best? lists in Wisden. This particularly applied to Paul Best of Bablake School, Coventry, who played far more for Stratford Town and topped both their bowling and batting averages. He also not only played for Warwickshire Second XI but captained them in most matches. He was selected for the First team squad in two matches but didn?t make the final XI.

However, the Wisden Young Schools Cricketer of the Year is Jos(eph) Buttler of King?s College, Taunton. Like Paul Best, he missed a few games because of England Under-19 commitments, and he also broke his thumb, which put him out for three weeks.

He first represented Somerset Second XI in 2006, played again in 2007, and was a regular in 2008 and 2009. He became one of only two schoolboys (the other was O. B. Cox of Bromsgrove and Worcs CCC) to play first-class cricket in 2009. He toured India with Somerset in the >>>>>>>>>>Twenty20.

For Somerset 2nd XI he scored 145 against Hampshire in 2008 and against the same opposition scored 110 in 2009. In 2008, he was one of only two schoolboys to score a double century. In 2009, playing for his school, in every innings he scored at more than a run a ball.

Douglas Henderson is editor of Schools Cricket Online.