This is a national competition for school teams who won their county cup competitions as U12s. Along the way in the county rounds that had already beaten Manchester Grammar School and Sedbergh Prep.
The Wheatley Park side were a very strong side with 6 Oxfordshire county players and strength in depth in both their batting and bowling, this was match not going to be an easy one for a suitably talented QEGS side. It was going to be down to who played best on the day. The match was played at Horspath CC, a lovely village ground with the best cricket teas that I have ever tasted.
After seeing the rather green and grassy wicket both captains wanted to bowl first. Unfortunately, Alex Cree the QEGS captain lost the toss and, as expected, QEGS were asked to bat first. The pacy Wheatley Park opening bowlers got the ball to zip off the pitch, the bounce was variable and there was plenty of lateral movement from the surface. Openers Scott Godden and Alex Cree kept their nerve and scored quickly for a couple of overs, aided by a string of byes as the wicket keeper struggled to cope with the uneven flight of the ball, until Scott was bowled by a jaffa that moved away and and clipped the top of his off stump when he was on 9 runs. Aadam Hassan replaced Scott and looked assured as he and Alex put on a quick 35 run partnership before Alex was a bit early on a pull shot to a ball that stuck in the pitch a little and he was caught at midwicket. In previous rounds Alex had been the main run scorer and so it was going to be interesting to see how the rest of the team reacted. Thankfully they reacted excellently with everyone chipping in to produce a great whole team batting performance.
Aadam Hassan batted well to score 36, Arsh Gupta scored an assured 24 in a partnership of 31 with Alfie Armitage who supported him well, Sam North bludgeoned a quick 26 including a 6 back over the bowlers head, and the tail definitely wagged as the lower order batsmen batted and ran sensibly to squeeze important runs from the last few overs – Charlie Dissanayaka 10, Max Hutchison 5, Joshua Hen Boisen 11 and Max Field 5 not out. The innings ended with QEGS having scored a total of 193 all out in the 34th of their possible 35 overs. This was a very competitive total but with a very strong Wheatley Park batting order to contend with and a lightning fast outfield the match was by no means over. Were the Wheatley Park team going to regret the 45 extras that they had conceded (17 wides and 19 byes)?
After a fantastic tea the QEGS team started to warm up with some gentle warm up drills and then disaster struck! Charlie Dissanayaka fell to the ground holding his ankle as if he had been shot by a sniper – he had injured his achilles tendon – and Max Hutchison complained of a very sore knee. Two strong bowlers were now out of action before a single ball had been bowled. Charlie put his foot up with an ice pack on the sidelines, Max was given a pain killer and some Deep Heat to enable him to take the field and 12th man George Gillespie came on. Not the perfect scenario in such a big match.
However, the QEGS team coped admirably despite being made to work extremely hard by their opponents in a match that was a great advert for top class school cricket. Alex Cree showed his experience and understanding of the pitch by decided to open the bowling with Scott Godden’s spin. Scott bowled beautifully taking 3 wickets in his 7 overs for only 23 runs. His opening partner Max Field ably assisted him bowling tightly to finish his 5 overs for only 20 runs. He was also very unlucky not to take the wicket of the Wheatley Park star opening batsman, Dylan Driscoll, who everybody on the ground apart from the umpire thought had been caught behind off his gloves. Although, his survival made the match much more even and exciting as he then went on to score 92 runs and almost win his side the match.
Wheatley Park had a number of other talented batsmen though and all of the QEGS bowlers did their part in taking regular wickets, whilst trying to keep Driscoll off strike. Josh Hen Boisen bowled well and was unlucky to finish his spell wicketless, Arsh Gupta showed admirable poise bowling tightly when the strongest batsmen were looking to push the scoring on and took an important wicket, Alex Cree took off his wicket keeping pads and gloves to stand in and bowl instead of the missing Charlie and Max H and did very well indeed taking 2 wickets (including the dangerman Driscoll who was caught coolly by Sam North at deep cover) and Aadam Hassan (1 wicket for 15 runs) and Archie Stancliffe (1 wicket for 14 runs) also bowled well at the tail when things were getting tense and the game was in the balance. The whole team held their nerve extremely well in the field showing a great deal of maturity to hold catches and stop boundaries under pressure and with the backdrop of a partisan crowd cheering every run the opposition scored as they tried to encourage their team to victory.
The match ended with Wheatley Park falling short of the QEGS total by 18 runs on 175 all out. It was an excellent match between two very evenly matched teams who both played great cricket in a great spirit. Well done to all involved from both schools. Scott Godden received the match ball as the QEGS Man of the Match for his excellent spell of bowling. On the way home the team celebrated by refuelling in a motorway service station McDonalds – no expense spared from Mr Barker!, who had travelled down to help manage and support the team.
By winning the match QEGS will now play in the National Final at Oakham School on July 10th against either Whitgift School from Croydon or King Edward VI School from Southampton. This a fantastic achievement in itself but the team are a strong one and will be there to try and win it. It is a shame that as the final is during the first week of the QEGS summer holiday and so a few players can’t play. However, they can rest assured that the rest of the team and their replacements will do their best to bring the trophy back to Wakefield for the first time. The last time QEGS made the final of this competition was in late 1990s (Mr Barker memory isn’t as good as it used to be!) when they lost out to Whitgift, perhaps this year we can get our revenge? Well done boys and good luck in the final.
View the full scorecard!