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Lord’s and back again

Lord’s and back again

Jack Prince12 Sep 2023 - 17:35
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A coach’s tale by Jack Prince

An Unexpected Party

At a cricket club in South Manchester there lived a coach. Not a nasty, dirty, dilapidated club, filled with concrete and high walls, having a dry, bare, sandy outfield nor a club with nothing and nowhere to sit down on or to drink: it was Didsbury CC, and that means comfort.

Didsbury has become a very special cricket club, mostly thanks to our unbelievable army of volunteers, incredible coaching team (of which I am so fortunate to be a part of), and fantastic player base, both at senior and junior level, that have bought into the values and ideals that we hold. I think our success with our junior section has to be our crowning achievement in recent memory in my opinion (The 1st XI may disagree of course! Their heroic year last season to win the CCCL Premier division a close contender..). Our provision and support for our junior players is second to none in this corner of the world and that is shown by our consistent success in both leagues and cups, but perhaps more importantly by our player retention and the number of our juniors that have progressed into our senior teams and now play a vital part in those teams from the Friendly XI all the way up to the 1st XI. The tale of our intrepid adventurers begins with this thought in mind. A large portion of our U13 cup team have been here since being Mini’s with Jim and that legacy has been a key part of their development both as cricketers and as people. For so many of our players I believe there is a real sense of pride and belonging to our club on Wilmslow Road stemming from the fact most have been here so long and get so much more than just cricket from their time here. Perhaps I’m jumping ahead in the story but it’s this idea of community that resulted in a great host of Didsbury faithful making the journey down to support the team in their game on Saturday, of which I am eternally grateful. The reason for this article is to hopefully share some of the highlights, stories, and memories from what is one of our club’s proudest moments. Our U13 boys had qualified for a club T20 National Final, the venue making it even more special, the home of cricket, Lord’s itself. Whilst a few expected us to get here, I felt that there were so many trials and tribulations along the way that could trip us up that any expectation to get there might come back to bite us later. It’s a very talented group, with six county players and the rest being district/interleague players who are also very close and friendly with each other. However, cricket is a fickle sport that is cruel to even its most loyal players and supporters. Not until we had completely secured our place in the final, through the nervy but ferocious performance in the semi-final had I expected us to get there. Surely we’d bump into a team that would be too strong for us, or we’d slip up and have a catastrophic day at the office, or worse, that the tempestuous weather would rob us. An Unexpected Party at Lord’s for sure.

A Warm Welcome

Nerves or excitement. Probably a combination of the two. However, the result was the same and little to no sleep was had on Thursday night. In the morning we’d be going on our long awaited journey down to London. Despite the fact I had checked, double-checked, and triple-checked every single item I was taking down with me, it was never too late for another count. I had successfully produced the heaviest bag to ever exist by piling all my coaching stuff into my own cricket bag, which was very neat and organised but required herculean strength to manoeuvre further than 20 steps before a short rest was needed. Did I need most of it? Certainly not. In the gathering at Didsbury the anticipation was palpable, the giddy chatter amongst both players and parents highlighting how excited everyone was. The sight of the coach, soon to have “Didsbury CC U13: On the road to Lord’s” on the digital display, pulled up and we boarded. The boys obviously piled on to the back seats, which the parents and supporters sitting at the front had zero complaints about. My Dad had made the journey down to wish us good luck and wave us off which was very kind of him and served as another reminder that it was a big deal to my friends and family too, not just those of the players! With the Grimbaldeston’s banner firmly affixed to the rear window, proudly announcing who was on board and where we were going, it was time to head off.

Cheers and applause. No, we weren’t at Lord’s yet. It was the sight of the McDonald’s at Watford services that had created such jubilance. When the sheeny gates of the North Gate and the Nursery Pavilion, both dwarfed by the massive J.P Morgan Media Centre, finally came to view, it was awe-inspiring. The Home of Cricket. It didn’t quite get the same level of veneration as the golden arches of the McDonald’s M but I put that down to them being speechless, or more likely tired from a four and a half hour coach journey. We were warmly greeted at the gates by several stewards and Aaron Campbell, the Cricket Operations Manager from the ECB, who would be our guide for a short whistle stop tour of the group to familiarise both players and coaches with the ground. The Nursery ground looked immaculate, with several groundsmen working on the practice wickets and what would be our pitch for the day after. It was a small ground, smaller than we expected, but I think it was a good size for an U13 game. Big boundary sizes are no fun. It was also swelteringly hot. Our Northern boys wilting under a hot Southern sun, London’s massive maze of pavement and concrete absorbing the heat (Urban heat islands, those of you still doing geography in school might remember!). Like any empty stadium, it seemed eternally vast. The stands seemed to stretch for miles and it was quite hard to understand just how many people cram into this ground for that first ball of a Test match. It is unmistakably beautiful though and does have an air of majesty about it. I think the sight of the old pavilion, across the perfectly still sea of grass, still standing tall and proud (unlike the butchering of Old Trafford’s pavilion) was the moment the boys finally appreciated where they were. A quick drop off of bags, and some quick stops into the stands, the pavilion (where the boys were quickly told to put their phones away!), and the indoor school closed off our first day at Lord’s. The boys managed to get in a couple of balls of one hand one bounce cricket in behind our guide’s back in the indoor school before we had to move on. I’m surprised they didn’t try to do so in the middle of the Long Room!

Riddles In The Dark

The hotel awaited, and after a confusing and head scratching check in process dealt with well by our team manager Chris, we were in. Not for long, as a short hop to Kensington Palace Gardens was next. One of my favourite memories of the trip was playing an overly competitive game of one hand one bounce in the middle of the park. Using one of the trees as a stump, and within six hitting distance of Kensington Palace itself, there is something very funny about our team of 12 and 13 year old boys screaming their heads off when a wicket was taken. I’m not sure what the locals made of us, but we were having too much fun to care. I don’t remember who won or lost, but it seemed to matter more than the National Final itself at the time! With what would be a naturally very stressful and emotional day the day after, it was good to just have some time where they could just relax and enjoy being on a trip with their mates. It was an enjoyable evening. A non-nonsense all-you-can-eat buffet for our evening meal whilst watching the England vs New Zealand IT20. The boys gleefully pilled their plates up and took full advantage of the free food on offer, however were decidedly unimpressed with the price of a bottle of diet coke in London. If anyone has ever run or assisted a school trip, tour, or an overnight stay like this one with a large group of boys then you know that Joe and I had our greatest challenge ahead… getting them to go to sleep. We gave them clear instructions on what they could do and what time they could do it until, but we knew that they cared deeply about playing, and winning, the national final and wouldn’t jeopardise that for a couple more hours messing around in each other’s rooms. Only once did we have to knock on and remind them to get to bed, a knock which was greeted by a panicked uttering of “s**t” under their breaths and a flurry of movement heard through the door. We could help but find it funny as they scrambled around as if there was something to do or somewhere to hide. They weren’t in trouble, just needed reminding that it was getting late. A quick check later on, after they were due to have light’s out, discovered that they were all in their rooms but were nearly all still up nervously chatting away about the game tomorrow. Joe and I overheard a pearl of wisdom from Kush who said he was “just going to go out and bat” during the game tomorrow. Glad to hear it, Kush! Personally, I didn’t mind despite them needing to sleep. Credit goes to all of them as they were clearly trying to get some rest but with such a big day tomorrow it can’t have been easy to get to sleep. I certainly didn’t find it easy either.

On The Doorstep

A big breakfast for most signified that the nerves were still under control. I was completely the opposite, struggling for appetite as the thought of the day ahead swirled around in my head. What was happening, when was it happening, who needed to be there? Thankfully we had so many brilliant parents around to sort it all out for me. Especially to Chris and Fiona, but to all the parents that weekend that made it so much easier for us, and meant the players (and Joe and I!) could focus on the cricket and the occasion itself. A short hop back to Lord’s and the arrival at the Grace Gate made us feel like an international team. A busy itinerary ahead but a relaxed start to the morning where the lads playing some one hand one bounce (yes.. again.) in the Nursery Pavilion. The day was kicking off properly for the Girls U13 and Boys U15 finals, with the Girls final being played on our pitch for later. It was an exciting indication of what was to come and gave the boys some idea of what it would be like for them, their game only a matter of hours away. We watched for a few overs and then headed round to the main ground itself to watch some of the U15 final. We nervously approached the stewards at the pavilion, looking out of place in our training kit amongst the finely dressed MCC members and equally smart collection of Didsbury parents and supporters that had begun to flock in. The coach on Saturday had brought a second wave of supporters down from Manchester, along with a special guest in the form of New Zealand international Kane Williamson! Yes, really! However, we had no reason to be nervous as they treated the boys like Test Match players and escorted them inside. There was certainly something special about being sat on the benches in front of the most famous cricket pavilion in the world, watching junior cricket being played on the hallowed turf in front of us. Carlton CC and Banstead CC were the teams playing. Carlton qualified for Lord’s the same day as us, at Elsecar CC, and as one of the few teams from the North they were clearly our favourites. We went on our tour of the ground next, guided by a very entertaining curator from the museum whose passion for the ground and sport were evident. A look around the famous Media Centre, looking at the commentary boxes of Sky Sports and TMS was a highlight. The view is absolutely unbelievable as it feels like you are floating above the ground with the floor to ceiling glass windows. The museum was next and to see some of the relics of the past in person was special, in particular the actual Ashes urn itself. The 1983 India world cup shirt was another popular destination. It was now time for the main event… no, not the national final… It was time for our Lord’s lunch! In the famous Player’s Dining Room within the pavilion itself the players and coaches enjoyed a two course lunch. Whilst perhaps not as expansive or exotic as some of the lunches there during a Test Match due to the age of the squads, it was still fantastic. Grilled chicken and pasta with a tomato, green and red pepper sauce, with a side of freshly baked bread. An “open fridge” where the players could help themselves to whatever they wanted. Followed by an ice cream and/or fruit salad pudding. The comments of “Do you think Joe Root used this fork?” and “Can I take this spoon home?” and many more summed up the excitement and were well managed by the staff. After wolfing down our lunch we had to race back to the other side of the ground and back, with a quick stop to watch Carlton win their U15 final in the last over, to get changed and get ready for our official photographs. We’d been provided with brilliantly made specialised Woodstock tops and caps, which noticeably have “ECB Vitality U13 Club T20 National Final Lord’s 2/9/23” embroidered on them (A bit of a mouthful…) so a massive thank you to Johnno and our sponsors Woodstock for that. Also to our shirt sponsor Kunal and Manchester Hand Surgeons for sponsoring them and to Duncan for reaching into the club’s coffers for the caps… a rare occasion! The sun was out for our official photos in front of the main pavilion. Another memorable moment. Both a team photo and an individual photo each, which hopefully should be made available to us soon. I can’t thank the ECB/MCC enough for their hospitality all day. They were so helpful and appreciated the fact it was a team of young lads and not a bunch of adults. The pavilion stewards and coaching staff at the indoor school were particularly great as they chatted to the lads and asked them questions about their cricket and journey to get to the final. They weren’t overly officious and helped create a relaxed atmosphere but enough to give the occasion gravitas and that air of importance. I hope the boys enjoyed their morning at Lord’s as much as I did. With all the day's activities done it was time for the actual reason we had travelled all the way down to London… It was time for our National Final!

Not At Home

“Welcome to Lord’s, the home of cricket, and we’re going out to the middle where our match officials are with the Didsbury and Ealing captains for the toss”

Just that alone was enough to give me goosebumps. We had an announcer, a livestream, music, and a packed house. Everything you would want, and expect, of a National Final. The announcer was fantastic, on the constant border between being funny and cringeworthy. His butchering of many of our players' names (which I appreciate can’t be easy to get right if you’ve never heard them outloud before!) provided some early laughs as he read through the playing squads. The announcer asked for both groups of supporters to give a cheer and it was self-evident that we were the minority and certainly the away side. For those that don’t know London, there is a road sign outside Lord’s that has Ealing on it. Whilst we were very much not at home. The noise coming from our supporters, which numbered far more than I ever could have hoped, was absolutely fantastic and from ball one it was clear we had brought a strong Didsbury faithful down. I didn’t get to see or talk to everyone that had travelled down so please accept my apology for not saying thank you on the day, but please accept my eternal gratitude for making the journey down and supporting your club, you made such a difference to the boys and i’ll never be able to repay that support you have shown. Back to the cricket and the toss. It was inevitable, wasn’t it? Aarron had won every single toss since the start of the competition. Surely in this game of all games his luck would change? No bloody chance. We won, and we’d have a bat.

“Walking out to the middle to open the batting for Didsbury.. Kush Patel and Adam Siddique!”

Just brilliant. From the first two overs it was clear that Ealing’s bowlers were on another level to what we had faced. Both openers were quick, accurate and were finding purchase off the surface. Both our batters were up to the task and got behind the ball. Some early singles and a crunching four through extra cover from Adam got the Didsbury supporters roaring. Kush would find a boundary, guided down towards third man and the outfield was unbelievably quick that even the fielder positioned down there for that very shot had no chance of cutting it off. A positive start. Nerves perhaps showing for the first time from Ealing as an uncharacteristic wide brought about some overcompensation and some easy runs followed. Adam would get hit where no-one wants to get hit. He’d crumple and fall. Ouch. The umpires hilariously tried to wave the first aider on… not quite sure what they wanted them to do to be honest. A few deep breaths and some water later and Adam got back up and bravely continued. Kush would back his opening partner up by smashing the bowler to the fence. 23/0 off 5. Certainly not a bad start, especially considering the quality of the bowlers running in and the pure scale of the occasion. Kush and Adam had done well, but this was to be the end of their good start as both would fall within 3 balls. Far from ideal but they had done enough, Tanmay and James would have to pick up the mantle. James would get off to an explosive start, chipping the opener over midwicket for a four with what was perhaps a release of nervous energy. Tanmay looked his impliable self as he confidently blocked and looked for singles and found the boundary, an excellent pull off his hip. James would fall LBW, a decision that looked decidedly harsh on James. It’s a very hard job to umpire cricket so I try not to criticise them too quickly, but at U13 cricket, even at this stage of a national competition I think LBWs have to be given only when they unavoidably can’t. Throughout the whole competition, including rounds with neutral umpires, we have only seen three LBWs in total (for us and against us). It would be the hero of the semi final, Nikash, who would stride out. He’d have a steady start, looking to rotate the strike with Tanmay before he launched a mighty straight six. Unable to repeat the magic of Elsecar, he’d fall the very next ball. Zac would join Tanmay, who was continuing in his usual fashion. A couple of boundaries, including a very helpful five overthrows saw us have a healthy run rate. We just needed to keep wickets in hand and build partnerships. Sadly Zac would be given out LBW. Tanmay would have his fifth partner in Ash, and the pair batted well. Perhaps sensing he had to accelerate but I’d argue he didn’t and just needed to bat as long as he could, Tanmay would play a rash shot and would be dismissed for an excellent 20. Aarron would have a quickfire innings of cutting one beautifully to the fence before chipping one back to the bowler. Ash would continue to find runs, including a powerful drive through extra cover. He and Krishav would rotate brilliantly and didn’t let the pressure pile up, and we were still going at a healthy rate. Into the last two overs we found ourselves 95/8. Another 10 runs, 15 ideally, and we would have a total which would be higher than any team has scored against this group of players. Ever. It didn’t feel like 105 would be enough anyway, but it would be a milestone and it would add a small amount of mental pressure of chasing three figures and going at over 5 an over. In the end we’d capitulate and only score three runs off our last two overs and end up being bowled out for 98. Some suicidal running and some overswinging of the bat meant in the final 12 balls only 3 of them were scored off. It was a sorry end to be honest and it had a clear impact on the morale of the team. The boys certainly hadn’t given up, far from it, but they knew that would likely not be enough. They weren’t about to go down without a fight though, and after some typically emotional hyperbole from myself and some more straight-shooting chat from Joe the boys were fired up and charged out ready to field. For the final time in the competition.To become National Champions. At The Home of Cricket. It doesn’t get better than that.

Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire

If we thought Ealing’s bowling attack formidable and that they might possibly be a “bowling” team, boy were we in for a shock as their innings got underway. Saying that, Aarron crunched one into their opener’s pads that can only have been as close as the three given against us… Ash and Aarron started well, the opening overs only going for a few each but once the sluice gate opened a torrent of runs followed. Ash and Aarron’s bowling statistics for the cup team are quite ridiculous, and as two of our county players they have been far too good for every opposition. They bowled well at Ealing’s opening pair but they would score 37 off just 3 overs to find themselves in complete control of the run chase. I would say the Didsbury pair bowled one bad ball each in the opening five overs, the rest of the runs coming off unbelievable shots and some good fortune; a couple of dropped catches and some poor throws. 43-0 off 5. If we thought that the first innings was tough going then it had nothing on this. However, if there is one thing our team has then it's an indomitable team spirit. Over the cacophony of noise coming from the Ealing supporters, you could still hear the voices of our boys encouraging each other and pushing to fight back. Arguably you could’ve heard James and Zac over a fully packed stadium on the main ground as they were like a clarion call above the chaos around them. The Didsbury faithful too made themselves heard as there was a spark of magic just ahead… Milan, one of our youngest but one of most talented players, came to ruin the Ealing party. Bowling their dominant opening bat with his second ball, and whilst he was only one run away from retiring he was clearly planning on doing so with a six, and every single run mattered now. Excellent from Milan. He’d prove what a special talent he is, and how invaluable his left arm bowling is by taking two wickets in two balls in his next over, one an excellent catch by Tanmay. Shouts of vociferation from the team as the boys began to fight back. Nikash would jump on the opportunity in the panic that Milan was causing at the other end and would take a wicket. It didn’t stop there; Nikash would show just how dangerous he can be with two brilliant wickets in the over after, one another good catch by Tanmay as we continued to pile the pressure back on Ealing. One of the best memories of the day was the boys sprinting towards the wicket taker or catcher every single dismissal. The support they show each other is genuine and heartwarming to see. It’s the only bit I have rewatched, if you can believe that. I certainly haven’t watched the game back in full, only a couple of moments I’ve chosen to relive. Every single wicket is something special to rewatch. I got emotional when it happened live in front of me, and I still do now watching them back. Milan and Nikash had done what seemed so unlikely and had fought back, kicking and screaming, to the point where we were arguably on top. 4-0-14-3 for Milan and 4-0-11-3 for Nikash are incredible bowling figures, but on the biggest stage of their lives so far, under an incredible amount of pressure, and against an outstanding team, it is a Herculean effort. Ealing had capitulated from 43-0 to 67-6. Ash would back up his friends with two special overs, proving he is a cut above and being rewarded by a wicket, an outstanding high catch by Zac. However, Ealing would prove why they deserve to be in the final by fighting back themselves with scrambled runs and timely boundaries. With a monumental junior section numbering over 650, it makes us look small! Our greatest strength is our depth, but our depth couldn’t quite compete. Ealing’s lower order continued to come out and looked so calm and competent at the crease. They’d rebuilt to 88-7 they kept creeping onwards. After all the emotion and all the heroic efforts from the lads it seemed to all be in vain. We just didn’t have enough runs left on the board to keep them under pressure. With just three runs needed from two overs, it seemed inevitable. However, there was one final twist. One more meander in the journey that had started five months ago in Monton. Never count Didsbury out when Aarron has the ball in hand. He’s had some memorable spells and overs this year. Could he possibly have another one in him? A dot first ball. The second, an attempted drop and run.. An excellent pick up from Ash.. panic as both batters meet in the middle… the throw is good.. Freddie takes the bails off.. The batter is run out. A scrambled single next ball followed by a massive shout for LBW against the set batter who was winning Ealing the game. No luck. The boys, heads in hands, couldn’t believe it. Even worse, they stole a leg bye in the process to bring the scores level. A dot ball, followed by another hit on the pads. A thunderous appeal.. Out! I would implore you to watch the highlight of that ball. If there was any doubt how much this game meant to this group of boys, that ball is the one to watch. Aarron runs the length of the pitch to celebrate and shouts in celebration towards the stands. James roars in celebration. Tanmay hops about like a man possessed. Adam charges in, right into the path of Aarron to give him a high five. It was an unbelievable moment… But heartbreaking at the same time. It wasn’t enough. With scores level, even bowling Ealing out would mean we would lose due to us not batting our overs out meaning our run rate was below theirs. I watched as the lads celebrated, with them not knowing this whilst I did and it was truly devastating. They must have felt they had a glimmer of hope, scores tied, 9 down. A super over in the national final on the cards. In the end it would be a blessing in disguise, as Krishav would bowl a front foot no-ball which would result in Ealing surpassing our total. It was an anti-climatic end, and one I think no-one deserved. I’m not sure that the umpire had any choice, he had to call it. Certainly no blame should be aimed at Krishav. The game was lost already, the boys just didn’t know it yet. We had to bowl six dot balls in a row, or take a wicket on the fifth. Stupidly, a wicket on any of the first four balls of the over would’ve lost us the game. One for the rule makers to rethink. The result was that Ealing had won, by one wicket.

The Clouds Burst

What followed is the only memory I wish I could wipe from that weekend. It was 10 minutes of pure agony. Eleven boys, most crying their hearts out on the floor, were scattered across the ground. I had no idea where to start. Too many fires to put out. I did what I thought was best and went from boy to boy, I told them how proud I was of them and that they had so much love and support around them. I suppose more than anything it was the hope that had caused them to be so upset. From where they were in the game, to have fought like lions to the point they were within touching distance of actually winning, and for it to feel like it had been snatched away must’ve been soul crushing. All I remember was scrambling around to find all of them, but thankfully finding most already being hugged by friends and family. I must give credit to the Ealing players, who very quickly after winning came over to talk to our boys and shake hands. I know in the grand scheme of things it seems like such a small thing, but that was a genuinely heart wrenching experience. The boys slowly but surely came together, putting on brave faces and just like they have done so many times before, turned a difficult situation to one that they could smile and laugh about. By the time we had walked from the Nursery ground to the Pavilion for the presentations, they were close to their usual smiley selves. Watching Ealing raise the trophy must’ve hurt but they were very quickly back amongst their friends and family and all was fine again. Zeffi, Ash’s mum, had brilliantly organised a function at Lord’s Tavern, which was sorely needed at this point. It was perhaps, in a strange way, better to have everyone gathered together celebrating the weekend having lost rather than having won. Importantly for the boys it meant they were together and could continue making each other laugh. For the parents and coaches (some of which were taking the loss harder than the players!) It was a time to quickly reflect but move on. A very enjoyable evening, for some it lasted a lot longer than others! Some special gifts were handed out, a cake with “#1 Tosser” on it for Aarron… on account of his unbelievable ability to win every toss… what else could it mean? A bottle of champagne for our team manager, Chris. I received a card, for which I cannot express how thankful I am for it. With messages in it from the players (most of which were kind and certainly didn’t mention my cricketing ability, or lack thereof) that were unbelievably moving. Ash read the card out, and I am lucky that I had spent all my tears on the outfield earlier, as I would’ve been blubbering like an emotional wreck in front of everyone listening to him. A massive thank you to Ash for doing so, which is an incredibly brave thing to do in front of your peers and a room full of adults, but also to do so right after a very emotional experience is amazing. A thank you to all the players who left messages, Zeffi for organising the card, and to all those that signed it afterwards. What an unbelievable memento to remember one of the best weekends of my life. It was a great evening that made the loss of the final seem so inconsequential as life very much carried on. The evening coach took some of our incredible Didsbury faithful back to Manchester, incredible dedication as that's an almost nine hour round trip. Thank you. A quiet, and very slow, morning would follow for most. Some went for a few sightseeing trips, most stayed in bed. The coach back was not very enjoyable with a sore head, but hopefully the 3rd XI enjoyed seeing the Didsbury coach return back to Wilmslow Road during their game. It was an unbelievable weekend. One that I will never forget and I’m sure that anyone involved will always remember it. To see the Didsbury badge worn by a playing side at Lord’s, in a National Final, is an incredible achievement and something we should all be proud of as a club. I will never be able to thank everyone, and I’m sure I will forget someone now (to whom I apologise profusely in advance!) but I will try my best.

Parents, friends, and family. The ultimate fans. You have been so supportive, so kind, and so unbelievably brilliant. I have never known such dedication. You only have to compare the number of supporters during our games to the opposition to know that we have the best parents, friends, and family out there. The love you have provided to the players has been one of the main reasons they kept going. When it got difficult, they could turn and look towards all of you and know they had so much support behind them. The messages of support and encouragement I have received this year have been so touching and have kept me powering forwards.

Didsbury - My club. For your widespread support for our boys, I cannot thank you all enough. From stories of the Saturday teams glued to the livestream during the final to those that bought cakes to help towards the weekend, it has been so heartwarming to see my club get fully behind the team. For those that travelled down, I will never be able to express the gratitude needed. It was sensational to look over and see so many familiar faces in the crowd when we walked onto the ground, and I can’t imagine how empowered it made the boys feel knowing they had so many people cheering them on. Those that coach the boys currently, and have done so in the past, this is as much your achievement as mine. Your wisdom and experience has been passed on to them which equipped them for this incredible journey. I’m sure you agree that not much has been needed, they are a great group of cricketers and an ever better group of friends. The hard work for next season is already beginning. Everyone at Didsbury, from Barbs and Andy for our brilliant ground who make their home games so exceptional, to Dunc for his unimpeachable leadership; a massive thank you. I can always rely on you for advice and for assistance. So many kind messages in the days leading up, over, and after the weekend were so heartwarming. Quite frankly, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be part of such a special club.

That’s it then. I apologise if I have missed anyone. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and I do apologise for its length. It was the weekend of a lifetime to end one of the best seasons of cricket I have ever been, and likely ever will be involved in. I’ve never known such an emotional rollercoaster, and whilst it was remarkable to be a part of, I am glad the ride is over! Whilst I get the sentiment that it's “only junior cricket” and this is probably blowing it way out of proportion, as someone who has been part of this club since I was the age of the players on this journey, I think it is a magical occasion and one that deserves remembering. Perhaps not very humble of me, but I hope this adds to the service of making sure it's celebrated and not forgotten. There is an album which you can find on Pitchero which contains photos from the weekend, and I think sums up both the incredible experience but also the fun we all had. The official photographs will be released soon! Lastly, if it isn't abundantly clear already, I have never been prouder, and it has been my absolute honour and privilege to coach these boys. My final note will be one of my favourite quotes, quite a few have made their way into my reports over the season, but this one sums up their final quite well. It speaks to the unbelievable efforts made by a group of exceptional boys, and those that would seek to find fault where there should only be celebration.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

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