Northamptonshire Under 11s concluded their weeklong stay at the Shrewsbury Cricket Festival by winning the 40 over Festival Competition and the Twenty20 tournament. The team, coached by Rich Hudson and Luke Sharples, managed to complete an impressive six victories in five days to take the honours in both of the Festival’s competitions. Jack Hobbs, Northants captain, was also awarded the Bowler of the Festival award after a string of excellent performances with his slow left arm off-spin.
The format of the Festival was a 40 over competition, with two groups of four counties playing off in 40 over matches on the first three days and finals against the team who finished in a reciprocal group position on Friday, with Twenty20 matches played on Thursday.
The week began with an inauspicious start as extras and a middle order collapse blighted a 4 wicket win over Herefordshire. Stephen Thompson provided vital contributions with bat (29 not out off 23 balls) and 3/19 off 8 overs to help the team over the line. On Tuesday, the opponents were a strong Staffordshire side who outlined their credentials by reducing Northamptonshire to 32/5 off 20 overs, before Harry Gouldstone (64) and Jack Hobbs (30) rescued the innings to provide a defendable total of 133. An inspired bowling and fielding performance prevented Staffordshire from getting close, ending up 36 runs short, with Danny Atkinson providing the stand-out performance of 3/21. The final group game against Scotland’s Grange CC Under 12s followed a similar pattern, with Northants only managing to score 130, but were able to restrict their opponents to 74 all out with Sachin Kalyan, Jack Hobbs and Nathan Piper all taking three wicket hauls.
Thursday provided a change of pace with a Twenty20 competition. Northants’ semi-final match was against Huntingdonshire and they produced an emphatic performance by racking up 137/2 and Hunts finishing 55 runs short. Nathan Piper’s run-a-ball 74 was the mainstay of the innings and he shared a first wicket partnership of 80 with James Esler (23), which provided a fine demonstration of positive running between the wickets. After lunch in the final, Northamptonshire provided a similarly clinical performance in beating Berkshire by 7 wickets, chasing 71 in just 11 overs with Sachin Kaylan’s 39* seeing the team home.
In the Festival’s main 40 over final on the Friday, Northamptonshire were once again up against Berkshire, who had scored over 200 in each of their group matches and had pushed Derbyshire into second place in their pool. Northamptonshire won the toss and put Berkshire in to bat, who begun steadily with it taking until the 13th over for Harry Purton’s bowling to get the breakthrough. Matt Dalrymple dominated the scoring for his side, making a fine half century and Berkshire were finely placed at 100/3 with ten overs remaining. However, an energised bowling and fielding performance took its toll on the batsmen as they collapsed to 121 all out with Harry Penberthy taking three catches whilst Harry Purton and Stephen Thompson both effected run-outs.
In the chase, the balance of power shifted back and forth, with Nathan Piper’s (58) second fifty in two days proving crucial to his team’s fortunes. James Esler (13) provided valuable support, before Harry Purton (9*) and Stephen Thompson (13*) secured Northamptonshire’s five wicket win and the trophy. Although winning the competitions was a fine effort, Northamptonshire demonstrated their objective to develop all fifteen members of the squad, with ten players having the opportunity to bat in the top six and eleven players bowling at crucial times during a thoroughly rewarding week in these young cricketers’ development.
[Report by: Rich Hudson - District Development Coach - Northampton]