Gloucestershire Under 14 Boys won the 2016 West Cricket Festival at King’s College Taunton after a nail-biting one wicket victory over Cheshire on the final day.
Chasing 152 after bowling their opponents out inside 45 overs, Glos got off to a bad start but recovered with a 104 run partnership between Seb Blake (71) (Cheltenham) and James Humphreys (23).
The end of their stand led to a number of quick wickets going down but the boys hung on to win the match and secure the tournament.
To mark their achievement the squad paraded on the pitch at the Brightside Ground, Bristol during the interval of Gloucestershire’s NatWest T20 Blast quarter final against Durham Jets (see pic).
In contrast, the Under 14s week had started in disappointing fashion when rain forced their opening match v Essex to be reduced to 20 overs-a-side before eventually being abandoned.
But they got their campaign up and running the following day with a dominant winning draw against Cornwall.
Glos lost the toss but made a positive start through Tom Quinlan (27) (Bristol) and Saxon Campbell (10) (Charlton Kings). Skipper Henry Findley-Wilson (Langford) led by example with a fine 72 before Blake (24) and Felix McDermott-Krasker (28*) (Charlton Kings) helped them to an imposing 210-8 from their 35 overs.
In reply Glos struck early when Alex Haynes (1-16) (Cirencester) removed opener Charlie Kent for 1. The Cornish fought back with an impressive third wicket stand between Sam Richards (46) and Cameron Bishop (42). But both fell to the leg spin of James Boyle (2-32) (Cirencester). Thornbury’s Josh Riggs (2-26) and Henry Findlay-Wilson (2-10) ensured Cornwall’s middle-order failed to fire as they finished on 150-7.
The third day brought one of the team’s best performances of the summer as they chased down their target of198 v Kent with four wickets and 9.5 overs to spare.
All six bowlers took wickets with Alfie Lewis (3-23) (Stapleton) and offspinner Tim Niblett (2-38) (Hatherley and Reddings) the pick of the attack.
Once again Quinlan (42) led from the front, with number three Findlay-Wilson (46) following suit. As with the bowling performance, there were contributions from the entire batting-line-up including Campbell who finished on 26 not out after coming in at number five.
Against Northamptonshire, Glos won the toss and chose to bowl first. This proved to be a good decision as they bowled their opponents out for 123 in 41overs. Left arm seamer Cyrus Shafi (2-33) (Bristol YMCA), Joe Cuthbert (Old Bristolians Westbury) (2-13) and Boyle (2-18) all took two wickets apiece while ‘keeper McDermott-Krasker finished with five victims – three catches and two stumpings.
In response Quinlan’s fine week continued with 52 off 51 balls as Glos cruised to a seven wicket win with more than 20 overs remaining.
Needing victory on the last day of the festival to secure the title, the boys started well against Cheshire and looked set to bowl them out cheaply before a defiant display from the lower order saw them post 151 all out. Opening bowlers Lewis (3-18), Joe Millard (2-23) (Bedminster) led the way, supported by Shafi (3-34).
Glos should have made light work of the reply but fell into trouble as Cheshire seamer Matthew Worsdale (4-27) cleaned-up the top four without any of them making more than 16.
Staring down the barrel, Blake went on the counter-attack, his 71 bringing Glos back into the game. He was unable to see it through but his side eventually scraped over the line with one wicket left.
Glos U14 manager Mark Guest said: “To win the Taunton Festival is a fantastic achievement for the lads. Everything came together this week, the boys really gelled as a squad and they played some great cricket.
“There were a number of impressive individual performances but the most pleasing thing was that every player put their hand up and made important contributions when the team needed them to and they can feel proud of their achievement.”
Team Photo (taken by Martin Bennett): Back Row (l-r) James Humphreys, Alfie Lewis, Joe Cuthbert, Tim Niblett, James Boyle, Saxon Campbell, Alfiew Lewis, Felix McDermott-Krasker, Tom Quinlan.
Front Row (l-r) Joe Millard, Josh Riggs, Henry Findlay-Wilson, Cyrus Shafi, Seb Blake
Unfortunately the Under 14s were unable to build on their festival success as they went on to lose their last two ECB group games to Somerset and Berkshire respectively.