Our first team cricket squad have just returned from Spain where they participated in a tournament organised by The Cricketer Magazine. The games were played at the excellent Desert Springs facilities situated just outside Vera in the province of Almeria. The resort has an excellent reputation in cricketing circles and regularly hosts professional teams.
The tournament gave us an opportunity to play against some of the country’s leading cricket schools and provided us with an excellent pre-season programme to prepare for a busy summer which begins with two T20 games at Tonbridge School on Tuesday 19th April. It also gave us a chance to play the new hundred format.
Despite some initial anxiety and the typical challenges of adapting to a new surface, our batters worked hard in the first game against Winchester College to post 101 off their hundred balls. Alexa Stonehouse got us off to a reasonable start by managing Winchester’s pace attack that included one of Middlesex’s brightest young prospects. A minor collapse meant that skipper, Harry Fulton, had to bat smartly to navigate a tricky surface that was already favouring the spinners. We felt a score of 101 was probably under par by about 15 runs so it would require a disciplined effort in the field to defend the score.
Winchester were never allowed to get away from us and the catalyst for strangling their top order was a brilliant run out from the boundary by Fin Myers. A clip into the leg side by Winchester’s opener would normally have resulted in two runs but Myers attacked the ball and unleashed a bullet throw that was expertly taken by Freddie Fulton to execute the run out. This inspired the bowling and fielding unit to go to another level and through smart captaincy and astute bowling our spin reserves of Jaydn Denly, Harry Fulton, Josh Gallagher and Connor Dale were able to slowly squeeze the opposition and build the pressure.
Importantly, when we reverted to pace, our seamers adapted to the conditions by hitting good lengths with Will Cook, Alexa Stonehouse and Ben Burgess supplementing the good work of the spin pack. Excellent boundary work by Fin Myers, Harry Roberts and Henry Goss complemented the reliable keeping from Freddie Fulton and as a result, Winchester fell way short despite from aggressive blows from one of their batters. Arguably, the win in game one proved to be a key moment across the festival for us. It settled some understandable anxiety and made us realise we belonged in this environment. It may well also have made the other teams sit up and take notice of us.
We trained that afternoon before our second game against a strong Scarborough College side who included several overseas imports in their team. We also have several students who have joined our Sixth Form from other places in our squad but in this game, we were facing players from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and The West Indies. We rotated our team for this game since our pre-tour philosophy was to provide all our players with an equal opportunity over the trip.
We batted first and despite a solid start from Christian Roberts and Harry Fulton, we never really landed a proper punch on the opposition’s bowling unit. Perhaps we were too careful and conservative after knowing we had defended a low score in game one. Whatever it was, our batters will learn from this and will hopefully play in a more carefree manner when it is required this season. There was some late momentum from Emile Haratbar at the end of his innings and Henry Goss played nicely at the back end but 99 certainly seemed short of a competitive score this time. This proved to be the case as despite some more brilliance from Myers in the outfield and wickets for Dale and Gallagher, we lost rather tamely.
A night of reflection and valuable rest set us up for our final group game against Radley College. Ultimately, this game brought additional pressure with it as it would determine group placings and possibly even the final standings if the weather turned in the last two days.
Yet again, we batted first which gave us a chance to learn from the cautious day one approach. Our openers provided us with a solid platform without ever really taking the game away from Radley. Skipper, Freddie Fulton, played nicely and helped Harry Roberts through some tricky moments. Roberts then went on to accelerate and made 50 off 40 balls which included seven boundaries and our only six of the tournament. Ben Burgess and Christian Roberts, both ran themselves into the ground at the end despite carrying lower leg injuries and this epitomised the fighting spirit in the squad.
A score of 115 was a decent effort on a tired surface and our bowling unit went to work immediately by taking early wickets. Excellent field placing from Freddie Fulton and great catching meant Radley lost three wickets in the Power Play. Jaydn Denly took three wickets and Josh Julian bowled beautifully under pressure. Will Cook bowled 10 balls and only conceded one run. Joe Coleman and Darcey Carter played key roles with the ball and fielded smartly with Carter’s strong arm and boundary presence restricting several opportunities to run two. Fittingly, Josh Gallagher, who is one of the players who will leave this summer, delivered the last rites by bowling the last ten balls and Radley ended well short on 58. The sight of our entire set of substitutes running out to celebrate wickets with the team will live with me for some time and other staff commented on the togetherness of our group.
Rain Stopped Play
The convincing victory in this game and Scarborough’s surprise defeat meant we ended up as group winners on net run rate. Then it rained. Then it rained again and again. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Yes, it does and as a result the tournament organisers consulted the original rules and declared The Canterbury Academy as winners. Fin Myers spoke to the entire set of schools and staff at the final presentation and said that this was not how we envisaged winning the tournament. Indeed, it wasn’t, but we played the cards we were dealt with and made friends along the way. The other schools were so supportive and overall, genuinely impressed by what we demonstrated out there.
We’ve told the playing group that this is something to be very proud of but that we must stay hungry and avoid any complacency. There’s a long summer ahead with some great opportunities for the team to compete against good sides. We have a lot to look forward to, but dedication, passion and humility have to be the foundations of everything we do.
I would like to thank a lot of people for what they have done for the players in this squad. Firstly, the players who were left out at the start of the school year handled the disappointment with dignity and then trained so hard that they have pushed the others on. Their response this winter should never be underestimated. We have been lucky to have had several coaches come in to add value to the programme. One consistent presence has been Darrell Carter who has been such a supportive presence behind the scenes. Thank you to our incredible sport science support that we have in place at The Canterbury Academy. Toni Kesisoglou got this group understanding how to train properly and Mark Dayson’s expertise has been valuable. Recently, Gunars Vitolins, has took the baton from Toni and maintained the high standards. A thank you to the students who took a chance by committing to us over the last few years as they have paved the way for this success. One of them, Bradley Goldsack, continues to help us by being part of our strength and conditioning support. Dave Fulton was a joy to work with in Spain and has been such a significant part of how we have developed our culture. His values, expertise and loyalty have been invaluable and his complete belief in our players has been contagious.
Our parental body have been supportive throughout and to an incredible extent in some circumstances through financial support, spreading the word in local cricketing circles and through trusting us to work with their fantastic children.
We have received some significant contributions from Lifestyle Fitness, Space Saver Storage, Granite Electrical Ltd and The Eastbridge Hospital Education Award. Right at the start of cricket’s journey at The Canterbury Academy, local businessman, Charlie Harris, provided us with significant sponsorship to get things going and we are truly thankful for the generosity that kick started something very special.
Finally, thank you to the staff at The Canterbury Academy for enabling this to happen. Cricket is probably dying in some state schools, and it does face real challenges in the modern world. However, as a game, it develops some transferable skills which make it such a great game to work in. I’ve been lucky to have been involved in it at a variety of levels and can honestly say I am enjoying this current experience just as much as the involvement I used to have in a professional set up. Thanks everyone
Fast bowler Will Cook
Skipper, Harry Fulton
All-rounder Alexa Stonehouse
The Canterbury Academy’s Alexa Stonehouse snapped up in The Hundred draft
The Canterbury Academy’s Alexa Stonehouse will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Meg Lanning and Nat Sciver after being picked to represent Trent Rockets in The Women’s Hundred this summer.
On the selection, Stonehouse – who is involved with both the Kent set-up as well as South East Stars – told The Cricketer she was looking forward to mixing with some of the game’s top players.