Fittingly the sun came out to crown off a magnificent season for the Sussex U17 Women's team. They were one of four teams in the finals, three of whom were unbeaten in the domestic season - themselves, Lancashire and Devon. Warwickshire finished second in the Northern League (only losing to Lancs) and therefore qualified in the best runner-up slot.
The first day saw Devon take on Warwickshire and Lancashire pitted against Sussex. The nerves showed in the batting on both pitches with Warwickshire skittled out for 71 on the main pitch and Sussex bowled out with a few balls to spare for 134 on the second square, having been 85/7 at one stage. Sussex had in fact made it to the 12th over without loss and had 42 on the board thanks to openers Izzy Collis (27) and Megan Janman (16), but then the wickets started to tumble with Lancs opening bowler Bhumika Doshi (4/36) claiming three in one over to really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Paige Scholfield (40) and Charlie Walder (23*) mixed caution and aggression and saw Sussex into three figures and beyond. Sussex at least felt they had something to bowl at.
On the main pitch Devon made short shrift of chasing down their target of 72 achieving it in the 21st over with just one wicket down. They now had to wait and see who they would play in the following day's final.
Sussex made the ideal start getting rid of Lancs' Emma Lamb in the fourth over and then running out her opening partner Ellie Threkeld in the same over. Doshi (11) and Hannah Till (22) seemed to be getting Lancs back on track, but Doshi spooned a long hop straight into square leg's hands and Lancs were 29/3. Ellen Burt then claimed Shachi Pai with a sharp legside catch by keeper Abbey Freeborn. The slow looping legspin of Izzy Collis (3/21) then accounted for Maddy White and Lancs had been reduced to 48/5 in the 17th over. Georgia Holmes (12) joined Till at this stage and they added 26 for the sixth wicket before Holmes was deceived by Collis and was caught at square leg. When Till was stumped in Collis's next over the writing was on the wall for Lancashire. Kezia Barrett (3/4) mopped up the tail without any undue fuss as Lancs were bowled out for 90 in the 32nd over, 45 runs short of their target.
And so on to the final the next day. Devon won the toss and inserted their south coast opponents on a bright morning, but with the outfield covered in a heavy early morning (10am start) dew. In fact Sussex skipper Freya Davies later confessed that, had she won the toss, she would have opted to bat anyway, backing her batsmen to score 150 and her bowlers to defend it. After a steady start Sussex lost both openers in quick succession and looked vulnerable at 35/2 with 12 overs gone. Davies (21) and Paige Scholfield (94) were happy to bide their time and took drinks at 61/2 after 23 overs, with Lydia Harris bowling a magnificently
|Paige Scholfield walks off with her job well done|
And so it proved. Davies herself nipped out the first wicket and then Megan Janman (2/12) and Ellen Burt (4/22) ripped the heart out of the Devon reply, leaving them floundering on 29/5 with 15 of their 45 overs already gone. There was really no way back for Devon despite a valiant knock from Gemma Lancaster (22*) and they were all out for 122 in the 33rd over as Sussex cruised to a well-deserved victory.
In the third/fourth play-off Lancs made 184/7 (Doshi 85) against Warwickshire, who finished just 17 runs short with 9 wickets down.
Unfortunately the season did not end quite so well for the U13s after all four teams turned up at the ground for their finals, only to find that it was already being prepped for next season. The tournament could not therefore take place.