The Under 14 Boys headed into the season with high expectations after a successful 2022 season where this group had won 8 out of 13 matches. We knew we would be challenged all season as playing 'white ball' cricket for the first time in the ECB County Cup competition was a step into the unknown.
With the season split into two, it was important to start well in our two pre-season and first four County Cup games. Unfortunately, we just never got going and suffered six defeats in a row against Dorset (pre-season), Gloucestershire (twice - pre-season and cup), Berkshire, Wales and Wiltshire. I guess the lucky pants from 2022 had stopped working!
The mid-season break allowed the players to regroup and work on those skill levels at their clubs and come back firing. Second-half performances improved, against the backdrop of some inclement weather, and we managed to move off the foot of the table by defeating Dorset and running eventual South and South West Group Winners Hampshire close in a topsy-turvy match. The rain washed out matches against Cornwall and Somerset. Even though we finished 8 out of 9 counties we could reflect on how our consistent inconsistency had derailed our season goals and look to learn from them going forward.
The season concluded with a 2-day match against Cornwall, where the boys turned on the style to win by an incredible innings and 82 runs. We would have loved to have seen more of this ruthless streak earlier in the season.
Even though the season has been a frustrating one, there have still been a number of outstanding individual performances. Jacob Hardy with 66* (Dorset) and 70 (Cornwall), Rory Oram-Evennett with 50 (Cornwall) and Josh Paget with 56 (Gloucestershire), 55 (Cornwall) and 5-15 (Hampshire). Special mention must go to Jake Dunn, who has captained the side excellently in the face of the team's underperforming nature as well as taking 19 wickets over the season - top work.
The season would not be complete without a few thank you's - all our host Clubs in Devon (Exeter, Shobrooke Park, Thorverton, Ivybridge and Ipplepen), Nik Dunn and Jon Sparkes on scoring duties, all the parents for remaining supportive of the players and to Niall Leahy, in his first full season at County level, for bringing something new to the group with his coaching.