Words: Simon Travers
Photos: Ivor Thomas
Summer can’t be over yet if it’s Devon Under 19’s Finals Day at Cornwood. One more time before everything gets put away until 2024, Bradley and his award-winning grounds team prepared two fine tracks that rewarded good cricket, Helen and a young hospitality corps dealt with the lunchtime rush, and it was all hands on deck behind the bar. The weather delivered; Cornwood avoided the morning drenching Plymouth received. By mid-afternoon, 27 degree heat lent its own intensity to proceedings. The hot ticket for supporters watching the Oak Park final was at the far South end of the ground under the shade of the wood.
Teams travelled the full length and breadth of Devon with hopes and questions. Could anyone stop Heathcoat winning a third consecutive title? How would Bovey Tracey fare in their first finals day since 2016? Could Hatherleigh pull a surprise after qualifying from second in their group? How would our own boys, Cornwood’s Under 19s, go after battling through the most competitive group in the county? Could they take one or two steps further than the club’s last Finals Day appearance in 2019?
Cornwood were drawn against Heathcoat in the semi-final on Delamore Park. By reputation, this looked a daunting task, but there were clues that Heathcoat might be vulnerable. They had already lost their first game since 2019 against Exeter in the group stages. They did not break 50 in the powerplay throughout their group and were vulnerable to losing wickets in bunches. Availability issues meant that Heathcoat travelled without two players that had respectively claimed a Premier Division four-fer and a century earlier this summer. Last year’s champions were still tough, but beatable.
Heathcoat winning the toss and batting was no great surprise. In the past 3 seasons, they have won the toss in 12 out of 16 games and batted every time. No team has successfully chased a Heathcoat total since 23rd June 2019, when Sandford bowled them out for 81 before sneaking past with 2 wickets spare. Any doubt though about if Cornwood came ready to fight disappeared in 5 balls. Harrison Hodge took a catch at point from Ethan Carlisle’s bowling to remove Heathcoat’s Under 16 player of the year Harvey Cronkshaw. That wicket set the tone for the powerplay as Cornwood’s seamers contained Nathan White and Sammy Bromhead to under a run a ball at 34-1.
Things got a bit easier for the batters after the fielding restrictions lifted. Sammy Bromhead took advantage of a dropped chance, accelerating to 51* in 34 balls with 7 fours and a six. Bromhead retired one ball before drinks with the score on 79-1. With a target of around 160 likely and 180 imaginable, Cornwood huddled, regrouped, and immediately found their way back into the match.
In the second over of his spell, Joe Davies started the Heathcoat dominoes toppling, muscling Harrison Hodge out of the way to remove Heathcoat Captain Nathan White caught and bowled. Next over, saw a significant breach in the visitor’s wall as Daniel Pugsley was stumped off a wide by Noah Carlisle. Pugsley had come into the match as team top scorer with a strike rate of 162. Noah Carlisle’s quick hands struck again in the thirteenth over and eleven balls later, Max Daniels took a midwicket catch that meant Joe Davies finished his spell on 4 overs, 7 dots, 3 for 29.
Five overs remaining and Heathcoat were 114-5. That became 118-7 next over as Harrison Hodge took two in two balls. Finn Torley, away from his usual keeping role, caught a line drive at deep midwicket before Noah Carlisle took a tight third stumping as Thomas Holley lifted his foot from the crease. Hodge’s figures were 4 overs, 14 dots, 2 for 25. An eighth wicket partnership between Troy Dos Santos and Devon U14 player Artie Evans put on 32 before Dos Santos became Noah Carlisle’s fourth stumping victim. Arguably, the last was the pick of the crop as Noah was standing up to the pace of Sam Ford. Heathcoat finished on 150-8. Momentum had swung somewhat in Cornwood’s favour, but the game was set up for a close finish.
Heathcoat’s opening bowler made sure that an early dropped catch was not punished as he bowled Max Daniels in the third over. Cornwood survived the rest of the powerplay unscathed to be fractionally ahead of their opponents at 39-1 after 6 overs. Finn Torley was removed in the seventh over as he chipped to cover point, which may have felt like a breakthrough for Heathcoat except that it united the Carlisle brothers at the crease.
Noah and Ethan drew on their chemistry, experience and competitive determination to produce an unbeaten 87 run partnership that will bear the retelling over their family’s generations. Each batsman played to their strengths. Noah sustained the inning’s momentum by working the strike and finding gaps while Ethan targeted straight hitting with five of his seven boundaries scored within the V. Ethan offered one catchable chance in the thirteenth over that Heathcoat were not able to claim.
At that moment, on 81-2, the winning equation was 70 runs in 46 balls. Both Carlisle’s then combined to hit the 8 boundaries needed to reduce that equation to a run a ball by the time both retired in the seventeenth over. Ethan reached his milestone first, 52 from 33 with 5 fours and 2 sixes, while Noah followed 3 balls later with 50 from 41 with 5 fours and a six. Clubbing blows from Jack Lane and Anunth Dhulkotia and a deft late cut from Josh Whiting meant Cornwood hit their target with seven balls spare.
Noah and Ethan deserve full plaudits for their performance but to beat a champion team in confident, clinical style required a deeply committed full team performance in the field. It was as solid a team performance as any side has produced in the Cornwood colours this season.
Across the track at Oak Park, Bovey Tracey dominated Hatherleigh in the other semi-final. Hatherleigh won the toss and batted, but were skittled for 80 in 19.3 overs. Harry Mount and Jack Ansley both took 3 wickets as the South representatives set the tone that it was a day for pace. Jake Pascoe scored 48* in 36 as Bovey Tracey chased their target in 12 overs.
The forty minutes between the first ball of the final and drinks were enough to confirm that it was Bovey Tracey’s day. Ethan Carlisle won the toss and put his opponents in. Cornwood contained the Bovey openers for the first 5 overs without being able to make a breakthrough. After 5 overs, Bovey Tracey were 32-0, by 10 over drinks, they were 93-2 and over the horizon.
The final was reminiscent of an episode of Ninja Warrior for Cornwood. The boys were a bit like a contestant who, having surmounted a testing range of obstacles, faces the final wall, powers up it, reaches and slides back again. The semi-finals had clearly taken more out of the home side physically and emotionally. Full credit must be given to Bovey Tracey though. Every breakthrough that Cornwood made that could generate momentum was swiftly buried. That was most evident when Jake Pascoe was removed on 39 as Noah Carlisle’s 5th stumping victim of the day. Bovey Tracey’s captain Sam Harvey smoked the first four balls of the next over for boundaries.
The only time Sam Harvey hasn’t reached 50 this Under 19s season was because the chase finished with him on 49*. In the final, Harvey found his finest form for a blistering match-winning half-century. With retirements in effect, strike rate for the best batters matters because that provides more opportunities for other players. Sam Harvey reached his 50 in an unstoppable 21 balls with 6 fours and 3 sixes. That innings opened the door for Ryan Jones to hit 32* from 22. Bovey Tracey finished on 192-6. There were positives in the field for our team. Two wickets in the last over gave Sam Ford figures of 4 overs, 16 dots, 3 for 15. Anunth Dhulkotia took a quality running catch at backward point and Ollie Mitchell made a grab at square leg too.
A target of 192 was too high. Even if Noah and Ethan had fired in exactly the same way as they had against Heathcoat, the rest of the team would still have had to hit at 12 runs an over. As it was, despite Cornwood resistance to play out their 20 overs, Bovey Tracey took 10 wickets for 81 runs for a win by nelson, 111 runs. T20 cricket can be a complex, reflexive, tactical chess match of a sport with detail paid to match ups and strategic fineries. Bovey Tracey’s plan was to send it down as fast and straight as they could. Sam Harvey cemented his player award status with figures of 2 for 23, but his opening partner Ben Kay looked sharper with 2 for 8. Harry Pitman also impressed with figures of 2 for 12. Bovey Tracey were clearly a step ahead of every team on the day. However, silver medals are a fitting reward for a strong campaign from the whole Cornwood Under 19s squad. Maybe the boys will get them next year.
However, while the value of Under 19s cricket is clear in West Devon, across the country there is a different story. Only 8 counties ran ECB T20 Under 19s tournaments in 2023. That is down from 15 in 2022, 17 in 2021, and 34 counties back in 2019. Obviously, Covid continues to impact club cricket but other factors play in too. Part of the culture of the Under 19s tournament is to add some ‘just like tv’ razzmatazz, but in cricket’s current landscape, finals days aren’t quite what they were. There’s also the long-term outworking of why cricket needed All Stars and Dynamos, and three or four more years before the generation who have grabbed hold of the game make Under 19s their own. In the meantime, as ever, the future will belong to those who show up.
That’s it for the blog this year. Thank you for reading. Winter well and come back next season swinging, spinning, driving, and of course, sweeping.