Don Topley: Minor Counties Under 12 Competition is an event to be proud of

Cambridgeshire under 12's won the festival last year. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Cambridgeshire under 12's won the festival last year. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Don Topley previews the annual Minor Counties Under 12 competition at Royal Hospital School in his latest column...

This Sunday will see 150 of the very best young cricketers from the Minor Counties descend on East Anglia for the annual Minor Counties Under 12 Competition, sponsored by the Ipswich Building Society.

The ten representative teams competing at U12 are the Netherlands, Northumberland, Cumbria, Cleveland, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and an academy side from Sussex, ‘Skillz Cricket Academy’.

Cambridgeshire U12s won the Trophy last year and no county has ever won it in successive years.

For the 18th year, I will be delighted to, once again, welcome the young cricketers, staff, and their parents to the Royal Hospital School on the Shotley Peninsula.

The Minor Counties Cricket Festivals really have become the best county cricket festivals around and is very much etched into the age-group cricketing calendar.

The cricket played is of a very high standard and a few of these youthful players will go on to enter the professional arena and even represent England. 16 players from the MCCF have now played professional cricket.

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Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone is the second ‘old boy’ of the festivals to rclaim full England honours at international white ball cricket, following in the footsteps of Reece Topley, who played for England in 2015.

It proves that at this younger age-group level the Minor Counties possess talented young cricketers with tremendous potential especially when you consider Topley, Livingstone, James Vince, Liam Dawson, Tymal Mills, Alex Hales, and this week’s new England Test Match Cap, Tom Westley, all came through Minor Counties youth cricket.

Starting on Monday, each team will play five, 45 over win/lose/draw matches culminating in a league table where points determine the winner. Winning teams get 30pts, but draws (5pts) and defeats pick up additional bonus points for every 20 runs and every wicket. Outright and deserving wins will propel a team up the ladder.

Our cricket festival philosophy over the past 17 years is not to bat for too long - the overs may be needed to bowl the opposition out. It is vastly different to the negative mindset of limited overs league cricket today.

When the Ipswich Building Society Trophy is presented next Friday, the festivals will start all over again with another twelve representative sides arriving for the Under 11s Cricket Festival over four days, with games starting on Sunday 6th through to Wednesday 9th August.

Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Cleveland, Northumberland, Cumbria, Oxfordshire, London Schools’, Skillz Academy and North Essex District are the participating U11 sides.

Former England and Gloucestershire Legend, Jack Russell, will be on hand to congratulate the U11s players on the final festival day.

Many of the cricketers are touring for the first time and that team bonding opportunity is hugely important to their development. Naturally, the U11s and U12s are accompanied by their parents, and perhaps other members of their extended family.

Often, it is the family’s summer holiday and over 350 sets of parents will spend money in hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and other elements of local tourism which brings an enormous amount of money to the local economy.

Groundsman Tim Parker of Woolpit CC has all the experience and expertise in producing the remarkable 54 cricket pitches required over the two weeks and the boys and girls all reside within the school’s splendid boarding houses on campus.

The highest aggregate run scorers for both age-groups festivals are awarded a Piri-Piri Cricket Bat, courtesy of Ben Stephens. Smile Group Travel award two ‘Fair-Play’ awards, whilst ColourplanPrint produce a professional commemorative programme to go with a delightful embroidered commemorative polo shirt, courtesy of Willow Sportswear of Bradford.

Often, I come across cricketers and parents of cricketers all over the UK who reminisce about their wonderful family cricket tour to East Anglia at the MCCF, when their children were madly in love with the game at that tender age of 11 and 12. It’s become something we are all really proud of!

Spectators are welcome to attend – postcode is IP9 2RX. To receive news, updates, images of the 2017 MCCF register with and state MCCF.

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