In a recent game, Millfield School scored 258-4 against Eton School's 107-7. Sounds like a one-sided game of limited overs cricket doesn't it? But this was far from the truth. This was declaration cricket. This was drama right up to the last ball.
Both coaches met before the game to discuss the format for the day. The pitch was a used one from a game earlier in the week. It was a good pitch, very dry and with patches of rough developing at both ends. We decided that there was potential for a declaration format to be played where bowlers, particularly the spinners, could have extended spells with no restrictions on field placement.
I was hoping that we won the toss as our spinners may have the opportunity to bowl with men around the bat; something that the limited overs a game rarely provides.
The game was on.
Let's examine why it was so good.
We won the toss, the batters went off to do their preparation. Three of the Millfield players asked if they could do some practice in short leg and silly point. It was lovely to hear that people actually wanted to go in there, rather than being asked to go under the lid.
The Eton seamers were the most accurate that we had faced all year. They hit fantastic lengths, kept 3 slips for all of the first 12 overs and most of our runs came through the vacant 3rd man area. In the 14th over, Millfield lost their 1st wicket to a full length diving catch at 1st slip. The score was 68.
Would Eton have had a slip in if it had been a limited overs match?
The reward for this positive thinking was a wicket.
Millfield lost their 3rd wicket on 101 and the game was in the balance.
Tom Bevan and Ned Dunning then put on a fantastic 157 run partnership over 30 overs. Full of excellent running between the wickets and classical shots.
Declaration is a skill
Captain Tom Bevan declared after 51 overs. He wanted as much time as possible to try and bowl Eton out. This is something that many Test captains could learn from! How many captains look to ensure they don't lose before they look to win?
Our seamers were told that they had "3 or 4 over spells only, so make the most of each delivery".
Matt Jones did exactly that in a fiery opening burst of 3-17. He bowled swinging length balls and aggressive bouncers to 3 slips, 2 gullys and a short leg; Test match stuff.
At this point, the spinners came on and the close fielders were placed to pick up on the slightest error in technique or decision making.
The mere presence of the fielders seemed to have an effect as one batter charged and was stumped and 2 others defended from the crease and were taken brilliantly at slip.
Toby Dennis was in inspired form at short leg making stop after stop to keep the scoreboard static.
A time to dig in
Then best part of the day came when Eton's 8th wicket partnership dug in. 5 men were placed around the bat, the pressure mounting. They defended brilliantly, not offering a chance for an unbeaten 58 runs in 166 balls.
It was compelling viewing.
The result was a draw. Millfield batted for 51 overs and Eton for 49.
Every player came off that pitch knowing that they had given everything to try and bowl out the opposition. They were shattered yet proud of their efforts.
The Eton 8th wicket partnership were rightly clapped off by the sizeable crowd and Millfield players. It was a brilliant game of cricket to watch.
Ned Dunning bowled 13 overs with men around the bat to record 3-14.
Questions from the game
- Do we rely on to heavier diet of T20 and limited overs cricket?
- Can we provide a different challenge, stimulus and format to facilitate different experiences and learning from the game?
- Is there a place for just a few games per season to use timed cricket as a way of developing strategic thinkers and tactical captains of the future?