Last week the MCC sent a side over to play a number of matches against school
sides in the province. It was pleasing to note that a player as recently in
the first class arena as Alan Fordham, formerly the Northants opener, deemed
it worth his time to take part, and the boys he played against will have learned
much from his composed and well organised approach at the wicket. It was interesting
to note that he did not bat with a helmet, though he was a member of "that committee"
which issued the edict! However the pace of the attacks he faced, and the serene
nature of the wicket at Campbell College, where two of the matches took place,
will have had much to do with it.
There were other luminaries on the MCC side. Hamish More, the self-styled King of Scotland is a regular visitor, though on this occasion he did not catch up with his old sparring partner JD Monteith. Tony Good, once of Lancashire has done much to encourage the local schools' game when travelling on behalf of Peak Sports, and now WillowSticks. Stephen Warke (left) showed why he ought not to have been discarded from the Irish playing set up just as quickly as he (and some others) was. Ulster Schools faced the tourists on Tuesday, an ominous threatening morning which turned into a very pleasant day. A good game saw the Schools hold on for a draw 20 runs short with 8 wickets down.
Unfortunately the North West Schools match at Brigade fell foul of some torrential showers, though the tourists enjoyed their stay in the Maiden City. The combined RBAI-Campbell XI also secured an honourable draw in Thursday's game at Osborne Park, but the piece de resistance was kept for Friday's joust with an Irish Schools XI, also played at Campbell. Off the last ball of the game BRA's Nigel Palmer struck a 6, which he claims to be the first of his career. This not only brought up a fine century, scored under the pressure of the chase, but secured a win for his side who needed five off this delivery. There is no doubt that at times the bowling facilitated the continuation of the run chase, bit it was nonetheless a heartening performance, and will have further enabled those involved to comprehend the value and excitement of the time game.
Very few of those playing have been selected for the Irish U 18 squad, which would seem to indicate that we must be very strong at that level. Those of us interested in cricket for Schools and Youths will watch the efforts of that Irish team in the Northampton Festival with interest. In the meantime there will be 2 very competitive fixtures between Ulster and the Southern Schools at Armagh (Tuesday 4th July) and the Hills (Thursday 6th July) to look forward to and the selection of a "proper" Irish Schools XI to play the Leprechauns at Ormeau on Monday 10th July. Perhaps a contest against the Under 18 Squad would have served as a siutable warm up for both teams. In the meantime it is thanks to the MCC for their continued interest, and perhaps the possibility that they will be able to help re-instate more meaningful Representative fixtures at Schools level. There already seems to be clear remorse that the demolition of ESCA was a hasty error.