|European Under 17 (Division 1) Championship: Northern Ireland, July 2008|
Scotland confirmed as Group A winners
Despite impressing quite a few seasoned observers, Guernsey was given a baptism of fire in the top tier of the U-17 European Championships, going down by 109 runs to a strong Scottish outfit at Downpatrick today.
Chasing a colossal 307 for victory, the Channel Islanders at one stage looked to be mounting a serious challenge, nearing 150 only two down, but thereafter lost their last eight wickets for just fifty-four runs, the Scots closing out an easy win to secure their place in Thursday’s showpiece final at Stormont.
Having been invited to bat first, Scottish openers Freddie Coleman and Oliver Hairs made hay while the sun shone at The Meadow, plundering 172 for the first wicket before even the half-way mark of the innings.
Hairs in particular was merciless with anything over-pitched, flaying the medium-pacers down the ground and commandingly pulling anything short, none of the Guernsey seamers having quite enough pace to unsettle either batsmen.
The runs continued to flow when the spinners came on, both batsmen using their feet with alacrity, with even the long boundaries to the clubhouse side of the ground being recurrently reached and cleared.
This mammoth – not to mention hugely entertaining stand – came to an end only when the Hampshire-contracted Guernsey captain Tim Ravenscroft hung on to a skied return catch from Hairs, the left-hander departing seven short of what would have been a well-deserved ton.
Scotland failed, however, to fully capitalise on this most enviable of platforms, collapsing in some measure by losing their next five wickets for fifty-three.
Anjan Luthra and Aman Bailwal both played back to balls to which they might have come forward, while between their dismissals Richie Lamb was run out following a mix-up with Coleman.
Coleman himself was then run out to leave the Scots on 225 for 5, but not before he had completed a composed and stylish hundred (including twelve fours and one six into the car park), which was the first and thus far only ton of the tournament.
Yet, in spite this hiccough Scotland, through yesterday’s hero Sam Hunt and skipper Calvin Burnett, did regain the initiative with an enterprising stand of 69, the batsmen making sparkling cameos of 33 and 28 respectively.
At 295 for 5, with five overs remaining, the Scots may well have been looking at a final total in the region of 340, but the lower order was then swept away by Max Ellis’ slow-left-arm, leaving it to no.11 Craig Ramsay to take his side past the psychologically crucial 300 mark.
Guernsey began their reply without fear and, at 73 without loss after twelve overs, suggestions of a shock win might not have been laughed out of Downpatrick. Robbie le Corre, having survived two confident shouts for catches behind the wicket, had been hitting fiercely through the line, but Richie Lamb’s extra pace did for him, and Adam Hindle followed soon after in a very similar manner.
Will Thompson, ticking along at the other end, and Jonathan Clark from here took Guernsey up to 143 without further loss, but unable to get on top of the excellent Scottish spin attack of Craig Ramsay and Michael Leask, the run rate climbed ever more steeply. Clark eventually mistimed one to extra cover, and when Guernsey captain Ravenscroft came to the crease more than ‘eights’ were required.
For a while hope remained, but Ravenscroft and last year’s under-15 skipper Thomas Kirk were both smartly stumped by Sam Hunt, trying in vain to get after promising slow-left-armer Ramsay, thus leaving Guernsey some way adrift at 156 for 6.
When Thompson finally went sixteen runs later, caught running backwards at cover by skipper Calvin Burnett for a well-crafted 61, the match was effectively over as a contest and the tail folded without much more alarm for the Scots. The innings closed on 197 with a touch more than four overs left unusued.
Following his side’s comprehensive victory the Scottish coach Craig Wright spoke of his satisfaction that lessons had been learned from Monday’s performance: “We managed to scrape a win yesterday [against Denmark] in quite an unconvincing style, but we sat down and highlighted a few critical areas in which we had to improve and I think, by and large, we managed to do that today.”
And while Wright admitted that his middle order had perhaps thought “too big” rather than consolidating the excellent position which Hairs and Coleman had given to their team, he was more than pleased with the job done by the Scottish fielders and bowlers in the second half.
Finally, though Guernsey may have lost their first match at this level by a not inconsiderable margin of 109 runs, Wright had encouraging words for them: “I think with Guernsey, as with [the Scottish senior team], it’s just a case of getting more games at a good level of cricket. They have a few decent players, and, on the whole, I was quite impressed with them.”