By DOUGLAS HENDERSON
This is as originally written. There are a few variations in the printed version.
For the second successive year, the weather was kind to schools cricket, except in a very few places. Many schools reported not a single match abandoned without a ball bowled, though one unlucky school had five.
The most striking development was the introduction of the National Schools Twenty20 competition, promoted by HMC schools cricket but including several state schools some of whom, like The Judd School, performed with distinction. There was a former version involving some 60 schools promoted by Rumsey travel, but this was the first year of a truly national competition involving the vast majority of schools who appear in these pages. For assorted reasons, the first year included only English schools. The winners were Millfield who defeated Bedford in the final. The other semi-finalists to appear at Lord?s on a glorious day were Shrewsbury and Abingdon.
This column has not favoured wall-to-wall limited-overs games, but the format did produce one astonishing match. In Nottingham High School?s contest with Solihull, the latter batted first and rattled up 408 for five in 50 overs. This was led by Chris Williamson with 263, who had never scored a century before. He was eventually run out. Nottingham replied with 401 and three balls remaining. With one over to go, they needed 12 to win with nine wickets down. The last man was stumped.
Nottingham also had an extraordinary match in that endangered species, the two-day declaration game. Following the game reported above, they declared at a comparatively modest 333 for seven. Wellingborough then declared at 484 for five in only 69 overs, Jack
Johnson agonisingly falling on 199. The game ended in a slightly dull draw but it was clearly a feast of batting.
Two others finished on 99. Hugo Darby (Bradfield) was particular unlucky as he was not out on that score with one needed for victory when the Free Foresters bowler bowled a wide. Wilf Marriott of Radley was run out on 99.
Sedbergh?s spinners, Tim Raglan and Charlie Thwaytes, were the top two wicket-takers in the season with 48 and 46 respectively, and of the 200 wickets available to be taken in 20 matches Sedbergh?s bowling attack took 195. Another extraordinary feat was by Jack Oughtred, Oundle?s slow-left-armer, who took all ten wickets against The Perse School and 40 in the season. The following week, he scored a century against Eton. Others to take 40 wickets or more were Arthur Jones of Malvern, Alex Colville of St George?s Weybridge, Jack Lintott (Queen?s Taunton) and Andrew Tinsley (Radley).
Topping the bowling averages was Alexander Russell of Adams Grammar School who, though bowling only 22 overs in a very successful season but limited to eight games, nevertheless took eleven wickets at 7.27. Others to average under ten were Lewis Catlow.
(Ipswich), Joseph Schindler (Cranbrook), Tom Hessey (Arnold), Harry Rouse (Kingswood), Rakeeb Patel (Merchiston Castle), Ben Ladd-Gibbon (Clayesmore), Tim Raglan (Sedbergh) and Fred van den Bergh (Whitgift).
Will Vanderspar, Eton?s captain and playing for his fifth year, was the leading run-scorer with 1286 on a very strong circuit and 4268 in his career. Oakham?s Tom Fell, still only in his GCSE year, was not far behind with 1242. Zafar Ansari (Hampton) scored 1111 and averaged 101, with 179 against Eton. Rory Osmond, Oundle?s captain, scored 3135 runs in four seasons.
Following last year?s Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year, Jos Buttler from King?s Taunton, this year?s captain Alex Barrow averaged 160.60 while his opening partner Craig Meschede averaged a mere 105 though hitting two double-hundreds. Another outstanding player was Freddie Coleman of Strathallan, with an average of 139.20. Two other notable performances, but with slightly quirky averages, were James Kempley who averaged 186 mainly because in 12 ininngs he was dismissed only twice, and Craig Atherton of Adams Grammar School who averaged 156 by scoring that number in only two innings, one of them 114 not out. Previous winners including Buttler (Somerset), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire) and James Taylor (Leicestershire) have already distinguished themselves in the first-class game.
In a very close contest, Wisden chose Will Vanderspar of Eton as the Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year, with Zafar Ansari of Hampton, Alex Barrow and Craig Meschede, both of King?s Taunton, not far behind.
In these days of limited-overs games where you do not have to declare, double-hundreds are less of a rarity than they used to be. Those recording them this year were Craig Meschede of King?s Taunton (twice), Will Vanderspar of Eton, Uppingham?s Shiv Thakor and Henry Hughes, and Chris Williamson of Solihull.
Dulwich was the outstanding school: in a very strong circuit they won 19 of their 21 games. They also did extremely well at the Sir Garfield Sobers tournament in Barbados where they lost in the final. They were only the second school in fifteen years to reach the final, following Canford?s winning of the tournament in 1995. Others to feature strongly were Denstone, Trent, King?s Taunton, Abingdon, Sedbergh and Bromsgrove, all with a winning percentage of more than 80%.
Denstone were unbeaten, and King?s Taunton, Winchester, Hymers, Felsted, The Perse and Adams Grammar School lost only one match each.
Two years ago, the HMC Schools Cricket committee circulated a paper to all schools to be given to umpires asking them to enforce the provision under Law 42 which says that captains have a responsibility to ensure that the game is played not only within the Laws of the game, but also following the Spirit of Cricket, which is a pre-amble to the Laws. This does seem to have had an effect in concentrating the minds of schoolboy players, and several reports suggest that behaviour on the field has improved. Nevertheless, at all levels of the game there is still concern that standards are slipping and the ECB is determined to press players at the highest level to show a good example to the young. We do not want the old saying ?It?s not cricket? to be outdated.
Douglas Henderson is the editor of Schools Cricket Online.