On Thursday Cranleigh’s talented Under 15 cricketers battled to win a tense game against Hurstpierpoint by 13 runs. By doing so the team claimed a place in the South East Regional Final of the Lord’s _MG_6392Taverners’ Cup, and a place in the last 8 of this national competition.

Whereas games early this summer against Wellington and Haberdasher’s had yielded reasonably comfortable wins, this contest provided a much closer contest, partly because the team did not always sustain the high standards they had set themselves in previous rounds, especially with the bat. Winning the toss and taking first use of an excellent pitch prepared by groundsman Dennis Bloomfield and his expert team, Cranleigh posted a total of 177 in 40 overs – probably about 20 runs or so below par for such a good wicket. That this score was reached was to a very large extent down to the efforts of opening batsman Lewis Bedford who faced the first ball of the innings, and was still not out when the final wicket fell, carrying his bat for a superb 100.

Lewis has now played against Hurstpierpoint twice at Cranleigh and has scored hundreds both times. _MG_6396However, whereas his century last year came more easily and quickly through free-flowing stroke-play in a total of 245-2 wickets, Thursday’s innings was one which required tremendous character and self-discipline, especially as at no point during the innings did any of the other batsman really establish a partnership with him to put the bowling under pressure. Due to a mixture of immature shot-selection and poor judgement in running between the wickets, only two other batsmen made double figures and Lewis’s talented teammates totalled 64 runs combined off the bat. This last statistic gives an appropriate measure of how outstanding an innings the wicket-keeper/batsman played.

In fact 177 represented a significant recovery from 93-6 in the 25th over and it was good to see some of those batting lower in the order showing some determined application in ensuring that the 40th over was _MG_6426reached. From that point the second half of the game was evenly matched through most of the Hurstpierpoint innings but it seemed to have swung Cranleigh’s way by the 27th over with the opposition total on 81- 4. Wickets remained hard to take through the next 9 overs but then fell in a clatter towards the end of the innings as the required run-rate rose, and Cranleigh pressed home the advantage. Josh Turner led the attack excellently with two key spells, taking 3 wickets for 22 in 8 overs; he was well supported by the other bowlers including Freddie Austin and Jamie Bloomfield who took 2 wickets each. Captain Angus Dahl showed a cool head in marshalling his bowling resources well, and Lewis Bedford capped his superb day with a typically combative and competent display behind the stumps.

The challenges to come are likely only to be tougher: but this talented group have now won eight rounds of this national knockout competition and are looking forward to the ninth with excitement – and with determination not to repeat mistakes made in this game with the bat. The next game is due to take place within the next eight days.