The Under 14 County Boys became the first Gloucestershire side to retain their Taunton Festival title after clinging on to pip Shropshire to the 2018 prize.
The squad – who won the U13 competition last year – thought they had missed out after a final day defeat to Derbyshire before finding out that their nearest rivals had also slipped up.
Dejection turned to delight for the 14-man squad who won three of their five games, putting in some of the tournament’s most memorable displays along the way.
Glos opened their account in dominant fashion with a crushing 235 run win over Shropshire on the opening day. Batting first they got off to a flyer as opener Praneel Choughule (Thornbury) smashed 83 off 56 balls. The stylish right hander received good support from Cheltenham allrounder Stan Brown who made 56 at nearly a run a ball. They set the platform for a late assault from Sami Hamid (Winterbourne) who marked his return from injury with his maiden county hundred. He finished on 103 not out from 82 balls, including 12 fours and a six as Glos racked up 361-7 in just 49 overs.
In pursuit of such a daunting total Shropshire needed to start well but lost two early wickets – one apiece for opening bowlers Will Gilderson (Dumbleton) and Charlie Brennan (Bristol). The spinners then took control with left armer Ryan Klimister (Dumbleton) ripping through the middle order with 4-39. He was backed up by legspinner Alex Oliver (Tewkesbury) (2-4) and Choughule (1-5) as Shropshire were bowled out for 131 in the 32nd over.
Day two brought a disappointing defeat to Oxfordshire – a team Glos had beaten earlier in the year. Having lost the toss, Gilderson (2-40), Kilmister (3-56) and Choughule (2-14) helped restrict Oxon to 218 all out. Glos felt that this was a very gettable total but despite many batsman making starts none were able to go on and make a big score to build the innings around. Rhys Price (Thornbury) ground out 41 from 83 balls and Brennan blasted 48 from 38 but Glos were eventually bowled out for 187 with seven overs still remaining.
The side bounced back with a 30 run win over Devon. Brown and Oliver both made half centuries as Glos posted 203 but were again bowled out before the end of their allotted overs. Two early wickets for Brown (2-21) reduced Devon to 17-2 but they battled back, eventually putting themselves into a strong position at 154-4. But the spinners continued to chip away before a good spell of bowling from Dumbleton allrounder Will Hope (3-39) ensured Devon lost their last six wickets for 19 runs.
Day four featured Gloucestershire’s most clinical performance as they dispatched Buckinghamshire by eight wickets. A fiery opening burst by Brennan (3-15) and Gilderson (2-24) shook up the Bucks batters, decimating the top order. But a gutsy 34 from George Coomber and 21 from number 10 Bhavan Jeyanathan saw them scrape to 108 all out. In reply Glos made short work of the chase, reaching their target two down in the 21st over. Choughule made 39 and Schubach finished unbeaten on 34.
Gloucestershire went into the final day knowing that a win would secure them the title. But a lacklustre display in the field left them chasing 233 to win. They were unable to lift themselves with the bat and despite an excellent battling 41 from Johnny Edwards (Frocester) they were bowled out for 135 to end the festival in disappointment.
However as they trudged up to the presentation area word spread that Shropshire had also lost, therefore handing Gloucestershire the title by the finest of margins.