Haywards Heath youngsters lift Sussex Junior Cricket Festival Shield
A group of young players from Haywards Heath CC have been crowned Sussex Junior Cricket Festival Under-11s Shield champions.
With 25 cricket clubs from across Sussex entering teams into this year’s under-11s competition, just reaching the final was a huge achievement in itself.
The team – all of whom are in the under-10s age group and were playing a year above their own age group – emerged victorious following a 44-run victory against Bells Yew Green CC in the festival final.
Having lost the toss and being put into bat by the BYG captain, Haywards Heath lost early wickets and were struggling at 72-6 at the half-way point in their innings.
However, a quick-fire 26 from Ben Simmonds and a partnership of 55 for the eighth wicket between Harry Phelps and Lucas Bryan turned the innings around and Heath finished on 171 all out, leaving Bells Yew Green a steep run chase of 172 from 30 overs.
Heath got off to a good start with Jack Wills taking the first Bells Yew Green wicket with the score on just 10.
With the opposition captain seemingly on top of the bowling attack, BYG kept up with the run rate until the eighth over, when Karthik Harikumar turned the game on its head by returning a triple-wicket maiden in his first over of the game.
From this point on, Heath were on top and despite a quick-fire 42 not out from Bells Yew Green’s wicketkeeper, they cruised to victory with BYG finishing on 127-7 from their 30 overs.
Whilst Heath’s victory may have been quite comfortable in the end, their path to the festival final was far from straightforward.
In their first match of the week, Heath claimed victory, beating Ifield CC by nine wickets. After bowling Ifield out for just 64 (Jack Wills 3-3 and Oscar Bryant 2-9), Heath knocked off the required runs in 11.2 overs with captain Evan Hughes scoring 40.
Their second match was an incredibly close affair, with Heath snatching victory from the jaws of what appeared to be certain defeat.
With Heath collapsing to 101 all out and St James’s Montefiore CC seemingly cruising to victory on 88-4, only one result seemed possible.
But a devastating spell of bowling from captain Hughes turned the game with St James’ losing five wickets with just one run being added to the score.
A nervy few overs followed until the St James’ number 11 holed out to Heath fielder Tommy Brasier and Heath were victorious by the slim margin of six runs.
Buoyed by their exciting victory on the previous day, Heath’s top order batsmen scored at an incredibly fast pace having been put into bat by opponents Three Bridges CC in their third match of the week.
Thanks mainly to a 158 run third-wicket partnership between Charlie Morris (50 not out) and Wills (99 off 55 balls), Heath declared 230-3, leaving themselves 34 overs to bowl Three Bridges out in order to take victory.
However, Heath’s bowling attack faced stern resistance from the Three Bridges’ batsmen and despite limiting them to a score of 73-8, Heath could not take the final two wickets to claim victory.
Having failed to claim outright victory in their third game, Heath went into their fourth game against Keymer & Hassocks CC, knowing that they had to win achieving maximum bonus points, and hope that close neighbours Burgess Hill CC lost, in order to reach the festival final.
Heath were quick to complete their challenge, bowling Keymer out for just 56 (Phelps 3-10, Simmonds 2-7) and knocking off the runs in just 8.1 overs without losing a wicket (Hughes 24 not out, Dylan Carter 21 not out).
Attention then moved to Glynde & Beddingham CC, where Burgess Hill were playing. Despite performing admirably in their previous matches, Burgess Hill could not claim victory in their final match, meaning Heath qualified for the Shield final by the smallest of margins – 0.25 bonus points.