Little Lever School from Bolton yesterday suffered a rude culture shock at the hands of Eton College, the aristocrats of English schools cricket, in the Under-15 Lord's Taverners' trophy final at Trent Bridge.
The Lancashire school – the first comprehensive to qualify for the final of a competition which has been dominated by public schools – showed plenty of determination and individual flair, but were defeated by their blue-blooded opponents by five wickets with six overs remaining.
Little Lever rallied late in the day with three wickets from the Lancashire Under-15 seamer Paul Tong but their opponents batted with more maturity and as a team appeared less fazed by the surroundings of a Test arena. Batting first, Lever were given a solid start by the openers Jake Gibbons and Lancashire Under-15 representative Adam Worrall, but their hopes of an historic win were dealt a blow when their big-hitting No 4 Richard Fearn was harshly adjudged lbw on 22.
After that setback, Lever committed the schoolboy error of throwing wickets away with a series of rash lofted shots and a run-out. They were eventually dismissed with 10 of their 40 overs remaining. "I have to admit that with a few players the occasion got to them," said James Whittaker, the school's head of physical education. "They know it and you can't be too hard on them.''
In pursuit of a second Under-15 trophy to add to their 1994 title, the Eton openers Will Dobson and wicketkeeper Ed Nissen – the only player to have won an Eton First XI cap – made a solid start and were just short of a half-century partnership when Dobson was run out for 21.
A solid technique and even temperament ran through Eton's top order and after the first three batsmen had each scored more than 20 runs, the favourites had done enough to ensure a comfortable victory with nine overs to spare.
Although the result provided testimony to the coaching and conditions at the £16,500 per year school, it left awkward questions unanswered about the equality of opportunity at youth level which has been a bedrock of sustained success in the Australian game.
UNDER-15 LORD'S TAVERNERS' TROPHY FINAL (Trent Bridge): Little Lever 149 (30 overs) A Worrall 36; A Willan 4-27. Eton 152 for 5 (31 overs) E Nissen 26. Eton won by five wickets.Reuse content