Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Cricket festival winners

Cricket festival winners

It's been another successful year for the RGS first XI cricket team, when the weather allowed them to play. As with every year, the season concluded with the RGS Festival, this year held at RGS Colchester. 

Andy Marshall (Year 13) has written this short blog about the guys experience at the festival:

It had been a pretty successful season, despite the wet summer and we went to the annual cricket festival with high hopes an a strong side. Having said that, our form at the festival has not been great; we've only won two games in the previous 15!

Our first game was a tough won, facing last year's champions, RGS Guildford who have a solid batting side. Despite a couple of early wickets, Guildford raced out to a 120-2, but up stepped Rory Hanley (Year 10) who took their opening batsman's wicket and saw his two spells only go for 21 runs. 

After this breakthrough we took control of the game and wickets started to fall thanks to some fantastic bowling by Piers Davison (Year 12), Ruaidhri Fletcher (Year 13) and Gregor Pearce (Year 12). RGS Guildford were all out for 172 which boosted our confidence to chase down this target.

Openers Rob Thirlwell (Year 13) and Finlay Pearce (Year 12) set the ball rolling flying out the gate to 59-0 in the first 10 overs. Despite losing Thirwell, skipper Rob Peyton (Year 13) entered the crease and put in a quintessential captain's performance, with the helping hand of  Hanley and Davison. Peyton bowed out one off his half century leaving it to Archie Elder (Year 11) and myself to bring home the win with two wickets to spare.

Up next were the hosts, RGS Colchester and we knew we couldn't be complacent. Despite winning the toss and wanting a big start, we found ourselves 9-2 after only five overs. This brought in the skipper and vice pairing of Peyton and Fletcher and they built a commanding partnership of 160, with Fletcher reaching 73 and Peyton getting a deserved century and we finished on a brilliant 281-7 after 50 overs.

Colchester began their chase solidly, looking to keep wickets and frustrate our bowlers. Spin seemed to be the key to unlocking this partnership and Gregor Pearce provided that taking three wickets alongside myself and James Yeomans one. With wickets tumbling, Colchester reached just 126 giving us a very flattering victory and a solid two wins in two days.

Next up would be a grudge match against RGS Worcester, having seemingly thrown victory away the previous year. After loosing the toss we wanted a solid performance in the field from the get-go and we were rewarded with that thanks again to Rory Hanley who took a superb four wickets and finished with 4-21 with four maidens in his nine overs. With Peyton again leading the field, Worcester inevitably collapsed and were 115 all out, setting up a comfortable chase for our already confident batsmen.

Thankfully our batsmen were up for the challenge and with Hanley leading the opening with Thirwell they breezed through the first 10 overs. Knowing that Worcester had very good spin bowlers, our batting line changed and when Peyton reached the crease alongside Parth Mannikar (Year 11), we felt the win was within our grasp. They reached an unbroken 66-run partnership with Peyton finishing on an unbeaten 59, sealing an emphatic eight-wicket victory and a fantastic chance of challenging for the festival title with three wins from three.

Day four brought an old nemesis in the shape of RGS Lancaster, who often play their best cricket against us; and that they did making an early run for it. The bowling partnership of Davison and Hanley once again broke the deadlock, however their star batsmen (now at the crease) kept the pressure firmly on our bowlers and it took some time before our bowlers could make a breakthrough. Thanks to Fletcher with a 3-21 off six overs and Atul Ramesh (Year 11) supporting with two key wickets, Lancaster were 196 all out. 

Now it was up to our batsmen to chase a pretty solid total. It started off well with Thirlwell and Hanley reaching 59 before Thirlwell went. Lancaster thought they were then in the driving seat thanks to a quick wicket of our captain (Peyton) and upping the pressure on Hanley and incoming batter Fletcher. The pair were calm and collected and started to build the runs and just as we started to turn the screw, Fletcher was caught for 36. Hanley continued to blossom and reached his 50 in partnership with Greg Halliday (Year 12), before being superbly run out making the game thoroughly nail-biting. 

The finish was tense, with the pendulum swinging both ways and no-one knew who'd take the win. We only needed 20 runs to win, but every time it looked like we had a hold on it, up stepped one of the Lancaster bowlers to scupper those plans. Ramesh was last man at the crease with Davison and the pair needed just three runs to win from the final over. A timely wide meant just two were needed and Davison facing the seamer, he nudged it through the off-side and the pair scrambled for a nervy two, but an outstanding victory in what must be the closest game the festival has ever seen. 

The final day was upon us and a win against RGS High Wycombe would seal the festival title; but we knew it wouldn't be easy. After winning the toss, we chose to bowl, thinking the weather conditions suited this. However, High Wycombe had their own ideas and struck some good shots in the first five overs before a superb bowl and catch by Thirlwell saw us take a hold of the game. Gregor Pearce was introduced into the bowling and made an immediate impact picking up the wicket after wicket with the High Wycombe batsmen struggling with his varying speeds and spin and eventually they were all out for 130.

Nerves started to filter through the team, but this time it was the wise Year 13 heads who were all of a tizz, contemplating their last ever game for the school. Thankfully the outstanding opening partnership of Thirlwell and Hanley got off to another great start and Thirlwell reached a well-deserved 50 shortly before being caught and bringing in captain Peyton who would be chasing a big score in his final appearance. Unfortunately it wasn't to be for him and it was up to vice-captain Fletcher to bring the game home. Supported by Mannikar we took the win and finished with a festival grand slam, a truly historic feat for our school and our team. 

But this wasn't the only trophy we'd walk away with; Rob Peyton would win player of the festival, Rory Hanley was a contender for young player and Gregor Pearce was joint-top wicket taker. Overall, a truly outstanding performance from every single member of the squad. 

For me and my fellow Upper Sixth teammates, it was a superb way to finish our cricketing careers at the school that has span (for me and a couple of others) 10 years of wonderful memories. For those who will remain in the side, it gives them the motivation and belief that they can achieve this again and keep that winning tradition going. 

From me, my teammates and all at RGS Newcastle, we'd like to offer our thanks to RGS Colchester for hosting such a wonderful festival and plaudits must go to their groundsmen who produced some fantastic wickets despite the weather challenges in the weeks leading up to the festival. Special thanks also goes to Colchester's catering staff for supplying us with brilliant lunches all week. Finally we must pass thanks to all the other school's players and coaching staff for playing in the true spirit of the game and making the festival such a joy and something we always look forward to. 

Bring on the festival in 2017 at Guilford, were I will be watching from the sidelines (maybe via the web!)

Andy Marshall (Year 13)