Penkridge juniors get close - very close - to the action at Edgbaston

The Penkridge CC juniors perform their flag-bearing duties
The Penkridge CC juniors perform their flag-bearing duties
©Kev Baker
 
Penkridge CC making their presence felt at Edgbaston
Penkridge CC making their presence felt at Edgbaston
©Kev Baker
 
Ian Bell with Josh Baker
Ian Bell with Josh Baker
©Kev Baker
 
The Penkridge team take over the dugout
The Penkridge team take over the dugout
©Kev Baker
 

The last day of school, a trip to Edgbaston for some T20 action - plus the chance to be a flag bearer and walk around the pitch during the interval between innings. What could be better for a junior cricketer?

Through the links that one or two of our players have with Warwickshire and Edgbaston, we’ve been lucky enough over the last few seasons to have had the opportunity for some of our juniors to be flag bearers at a Birmingham Bears T20 game, as well as at T20 Finals Day a couple of seasons ago - a great experience for children and parents alike. This Friday saw our latest trip to Edgbaston, with some of our juniors flag bearing for the Birmingham Bears game against Notts Outlaws.

A 50-seater coach left Penkridge in plenty of time for the game, and with more club members meeting us there it was a good thing that a seating area had been reserved for us. Even better that it was the seating area right next to the away dressing room, situated at long-on when the bowling was from the pavilion end – a perfect location to possibly have the chance to take a crowd catch. More of that later...

Making our way around the ground, in the area classed as the "Exhibition Hall" we found a large screen showing the England-Pakistan Test Match from Old Trafford, a live band playing, and a beer festival, much to the delight of a number of our party who took advantage of the selection of ale on offer!

There was also a bowling speed gun area, which naturally the kids (and adults) amongst us had to have a go. The bowling speeds that I saw ranged from 23mph (6-year-old Ted Szewczyk) to 54mph (Ross Parker). My speed was 41mph, although in my defence I am a wicket-keeper.

After some food (fish and chips, pretty nice and reasonable value at £8) and a beer we settled into our seats ahead of the game, with a group of our juniors already on the pitch forming a guard of honour with the flags.

It’s fair to say there were some very excited faces as they looked forward to their big moment, and they did us all proud as the teams entered the pitch. In the words of William James, "I loved doing the flag bit!"

Settling down to watch the game, we were lucky enough to be treated to a wonderful innings from Ian Bell who made a superb 80 from 55 balls. It was fantastic for the adults amongst us to see such a class player in action, let alone for the youngsters there.

With Will Porterfield adding 61 not out, The Bears posted a score of 172 for two which seemed competitive if maybe 10 to 15 runs short. Mia Szewczyk said that she "loved the music and fun, as well as putting my card up when a four or six was hit".

It was during Bell’s innings that the most amusing moment of the night happened. As noted earlier, we were situated at long-on, prime "crowd catch" area, and so it proved. As Bell floated an on-drive over the boundary, the ball began to drop and it was apparent it was landing in our section.

Who would be the lucky person with the chance to make a name for themselves? One of our older juniors, or one of the half-decent cricketers amongst us?

No, it would be Mark Axcell, parent of our Under 15s opening batsman Thomas. Mark watched the ball loop over the boundary, steadied himself...and promptly dropped the catch, much to our amusement! The only plus in all of this was that he didn’t appear to spill any of his pint, however we will be expanding catching practice at next Friday’s junior coaching session to include parents.

The Notts Outlaws reply was steady, with Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels and Dan Christian all making useful contributions in support of top scorer Greg Smith who made 52 not out from 31 balls as Notts won the game with five balls to spare.

The second innings was notable for the attempts of our section to start a Mexican Wave, which saw Matt Jenkinson move seats to a section further round the ground in an attempt to get them involved. Alas, this was unsuccessful.

After the game, we were all lucky enough to be allowed onto the playing area, a great experience for young and old alike to set foot onto a Test Match ground. The youngsters were allowed into the team dugouts for some photos, and huge credit must go to the players and coaches from both teams who were only too happy to sign autographs and pose for photographs, which was the highlight of the night for young Ted Szewczyk.

One player in particular proved rather popular: when Bell made his way out of the dressing room he was swamped with requests for autographs and selfies, all of which he dealt with brilliantly which left young and old with a great final memory of the evening. A real class act, on and off the field.

All that was left was to make our way back to the coach for the return journey to Penkridge, with lasting memories made for our junior players of a wonderful experience.

Massive thanks must go to Warwickshire, Birmingham Bears and Edgbaston for allowing us this opportunity; and to Claire Porter from our club for organising the night so brilliantly. We’re already looking forward to next year’s trip!

© Cricket World 2016


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