The u13 Cup team defeated Chester-le-Street in a nail biting finale at Grange Loan on Sunday 18 July and progressed to the Northern regional finals day at Neston Cricket Club on 27 July.
We were fortunate that the victorious team were all available to play at Neston and the players and many of their parents travelled down to Cheshire on the afternoon of Monday 26 July. Some of the team stayed at the MacDonald Hotel outside Neston and enjoyed a refreshing swim in the pool when they arrived. Many of the others booked in to the Premier Inn and headed off for some beach cricket. The team met up in the evening at the impressive Red Fox pub for an excellent dinner and games of football in the extensive grounds of the pub. A reasonably early night was planned, and most of the players were in bed by around 10pm.
The team assembled at Neston cricket club the next morning, perhaps not quite as well rested as might have been wished. The ground itself was impressive, with two pitches, albeit the one earmarked for Carlton’s semi final against Lincolnshire team, Louth, was very small. Skipper Fergus won the toss and chose to bowl. After a good warm up under the beady eye of head coach Stevie Gilmour, the Carlton team entered the fray. The weather at this stage was fine, although there was an apocalyptic forecast and the groundsman indicated he thought play in the afternoon was unlikely.
Ferg and Oli opened the bowling and Ferg bowled one of the Louth openers early. The introduction of Harry got another in his first over, pinned lbw. A solid partnership then took Louth to 57 in the 10th over before a fine run out from Nick got the third wicket. The Louth batters pressed on and a flurry of late wickets from Nick, Oli and Ferg restricted Louth to a final score of 124 for 9 off 20 overs. The Carlton bowling and fielding was perhaps not quite as sharp as against CLS, but they had kept Louth down to a manageable total on a very small ground.
As the Carlton openers headed out, the sky was getting darker and darker and it appeared that the groundsman’s prediction was looking increasingly accurate. Disaster then struck as first Oli and then Ferg were bowled early. However, Lewis and James survived some early scares and set about rebuilding. James hit a superb 34 from 17 balls, finishing with a six before retiring. Lewis was steadily accumulating at the other end. More drama then, when Robbie was bowled first ball and Harry was run out in a comedy mix up. At that stage, the heavens opened with Carlton on 69 for 4.
As it became clear that play was not going to resume any time soon, the coaches were summoned to see the officials. It was determined that the game would be decided by Duckworth Lewis. There was then a debate as to whether James’ retiral counted as a wicket. At 69 for 4, Carlton would win. If the score was deemed 69 for 5, Louth would be victorious. Thankfully for Carlton, the ECB officials were clear that a retiral was not a wicket and after an agonising wait, Carlton were pronounced winners. Much to the credit of the Carlton players, they did not celebrate their victory with any great enthusiasm and commiserated with Louth on the unfortunate manner of their defeat.
The players lunched on chicken burgers and chips provided by the hosts. The parents headed off to the local chippy. Then on to the final against New Rover from Yorkshire. The weather had by now miraculously cleared and it was agreed to play 16 overs a side to ensure a result could be obtained. Carlton won the toss and Ferg opted to bowl, as Carlton had done in every round of the competition to date. The final was played on the larger main ground.
Ferg and Oli again opened the bowling, but the New Rover openers were a different proposition to anything that Carlton had faced to date. They scored off most balls and confidently smacked anything slightly loose to the boundary. After 3 overs, New Rover were 31 without loss. However, Oli induced two errors from the New Rover bats, both very well caught by Harry at mid on. Hamish F picked up another wicket, but at 86 for 3 in the 11th over, New Rover were set for a big total. Then the Carlton youngsters came roaring back with a wicket from Harry, a run out from Ferg, another from Hamish F and an incredible 2 overs from Ferg where he took 4 wickets for no runs! New Rover were bowled out for 95 off the last ball of the 16th over.
Lewis and Oli strode out to open for Carlton, but once again we lost early wickets; this time both openers gone after 7 balls. Ferg and James started to rebuild, but the New Rover bowling was not easy to score off. At one end, very accurate spin. At the other, real pace. After 4 overs, Carlton were 4 for 2, a huge difference from their Yorkshire counterparts. James eventually was caught behind for 19 and none of the other Carlton bats were able to get going. Ferg was left stranded on 23* with the score on 62 after 14.2 overs. Carlton lost by 33 runs.
The players (and their parents) were very disappointed to have lost, but they can be very proud of getting to the last 8 in the UK in this competition. New Rover were a very strong team, with 7 players who play for their County. It was no disgrace to lose to such a team. The Carlton players conducted themselves magnificently throughout and received many plaudits for their sportsmanship and behaviour. This was further demonstrated when after the match they went over to the second game and loudly supported Louth in the 3rd/4th play off. Many thanks to all the other teams that we played in the competition, the parents, the coaches and most of all to the players for their fantastic efforts. This is a very talented group who we will be seeing lots more of in the years to come.