St Cross Symondians played in the Under 13 ECB National Club Championship Finals at Oakham school last week, having won the Hampshire County Cup by beating Havant, then winning the South East Regional Finals by beating the Kent winners (Blackheath) and the Sussex winners (Brighton). It was the second consecutive year they had reached the National Finals after an absence of 16 years (when current Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams played in the team), and they were determined to improve on last year’s 5th place finish (out of 6).
The first match did not go to plan, as having restricted Horwich (Lancashire) to 91 for 6 from their 20 overs, the Winchester side looked in control at halfway at 48 for 2, but wickets then fell at regular intervals and they finished agonisingly short at 86 all out, despite solid contributions from Felix Organ (18) and Zach Housden (14). Organ and Nathan Birks took two wickets each, with one for Housden plus a run out.
The afternoon match had an even closer finish – St Cross Symondians posted an imposing 120 for 6, with Housden hitting a rapid 30 (retired), Organ a composed 22, and useful contributions from James Thompson (16), Ollie Dunger (14) and Birks (10). Opponents Nantwich (Cheshire) set about their task with relish, and after 9 overs at 59 for 1 looked comfortably in control. However, St Cross Symondians stuck to their task, once wickets started falling the runs slowed up, until at the start of the last over Nantwich needed 7 to win. Team (and Hampshire U13) captain Organ took the ball and bowled a very tight over, and with Nantwich finishing on 119 for 5 the Hampshire champions won by the narrowest of margins. There was a wicket apiece for Thompson, Housden, Organ, Felix Bussey-Jones and Jonnie Wahid.
The first match on day two was against Cardiff, the South West winners, and very accurate bowling with only 4 runs conceded from extras restricted the Welsh side to 95 for 5, with two wickets each for Raff Tellett and Housden, plus a run out. St Cross overhauled the target with ease halfway through the 15th over for the loss of one wicket, with Organ and Housden both retiring on 32.
The second match on day two brought opponents in Caythorpe (Nottinghamshire) who had won their previous three matches. This match followed a similar course to the previous afternoon’s, as the Winchester team amassed 123 for 3 thanks to two more big scores from Organ (35) and Housden (34), both finishing with 6s. There was also an important contribution of 22 from Dunger. Caythorpe’s openers hit the ball to all parts in getting to 55 in 7 overs, but after that wickets fell at regular intervals and the run rate slowed with tighter bowling backed up by sharp fielding. Caythorpe were left with 14 needed off the last over, which proved too much and when the innings closed on 117 for 8 St Cross Symondians had recorded another narrow victory. Birks took the bowling honours with 3-15, Thompson took two wickets and there was one each for Organ and Housden, plus a run out.
Day three brought the final match, against Essex winners Wanstead & Snaresbrook, and with the Winchester side needing a win to take their first ever title (and only the second one for a Hampshire team since the competitions’ inception in 1972) the pressure was on. The Essex team batted first, with nothing to play for their batsmen threw the bat on a pitch with small boundaries, and helped by three dropped catches they amassed a formidable looking 139 for 8; bowling honours went to Birks and Housden with two wickets apiece, and one each for Organ and Wahid, plus a couple of run outs. St Cross Symondians started the run chase steadily, with Organ again showing great leadership at the top of the order with a composed 30, and the middle order added valuable runs through Dunger (22), Housden (21), Thompson and Bussey-Jones (both 19). However, although the run rate was good, wickets fell steadily and at the start of the last over 7 were needed with the last pair together, which became 3 runs off the last ball, with the No.11 Raff Tellett facing. However, cometh the hour cometh the boy, and with nerves of steel he struck the bowler back over his head for 4, which was immediately followed by a pitch invasion by the ecstatic team, coaches and parents.
The boys were presented with the Ken Barrington Cup, medals, and commemorative cricket bags and T shirts, and headed off back to Hampshire very tired but very happy, having proved to be the best club side in England, Scotland and Wales at this level, from 1,734 clubs who had entered the competition.
The St Cross Symondians squad was as follows – Felix Organ (captain), Nathan Birks, Felix Bussey-Jones, Ollie Cook, Ollie Dunger, Harry Fisher, Zach Housden, Sam Mills, Raff Tellett, James Thompson, Harry Trussler, Jonnie Wahid and Jo Winter, plus managing/coaching team Mo Wahid and Ian Bussey. Mention should also be made of Jacob Fay, who was on County duty so missed these Nationals, but he more than played his part in getting the team through the county cup and regional finals. Many thanks are also due to all the parents who helped out off the field.