by Simon Taylor
She’s a regal town Bendigo furnished with splendid buildings and wide avenues. It’s a perfect venue for the under 13 national cricket championships, blessed with a range of impressive sporting facilities from Eaglehawk through to Kangaroo Flat.
This is my third day here watching the young Vics. There are three players in the team who play with my son so it’s great to see him so excited by their success. I am their current coach and am taking as much vicarious credit as possible for their excellence. In reality it’s down to talented kids, supportive parents and a bucket load of hard work.
The standard is as expected high, but it is the level of cricket nous that these kids possess that impresses me most. As Jack Dyer would have said “90% of cricket is half mental” and playing 50 over cricket on turf wickets for week is a massive ask for twelve year olds.
Today’s game is played at the Queen Elizabeth oval, which is Bendigo’s MCG. On paper it’s almost a dead rubber. The ACT are the minnows of this competition and haven’t won a game to date. The Vics are undefeated and a win today will see them crowned outright national champions. The coaches are toey and warn the boys about complacency. They tell the tale of the same scenario three years ago when the ACT pulled off an upset.
The game starts at a pedestrian pace in perfect conditions. The ACT open with a lumbering left armer who dwarfs the umpire as he leaps into his delivery stride. He is bowling to Johnny Britton whose helmet doesn’t reach the umpires armpit. It looks to be a David and Goliath battle but it becomes quickly apparent that David is well equipped for the campaign. He’s in behind everything, balanced, plenty of time…geez I wish had that composure at 21 let alone 12.
At the cathedral end a young leggie opens proceedings. The legacy of Warnie is well and truly alive, I’ve seen four leggies for every offie this week and a young Queenslander was as close to carbon copy as you could wish to see. Johnny is opening with Dylan Brasher an assured left-hander who is quickly into stride unleashing a flurry of back foot shots. At the 17 over drinks break it’s 0/43. A good platform, time to push it along boys.
The spirit of the game debate has raged again this summer with the national side again failing to set the standard. At this tournament I have seen cricket played in great spirit, in the final overs of tightest contest of the week I watched the NSW captain glove punch the Victorian captain when he brought up a match winning half century. M. Clarke, take note.
A couple of tight overs after drinks and there is good energy from ACT. They are in their own David v Goliath battle and haven’t come to lie down. 0/50 off 22 and the young leggie is back on. Dylan unleashes three four’s in his first over, the energy flattens like the proverbial shit carters hat and it looks like the floodgates might be about to open. Another pint-sized leggie is introduced and immediately hits a length. It’s a tough craft and at this level the batsmen are ruthless with anything short. Brasher notches up 50 in the 28th over and the batsmen are finding plenty of short ones to dine out on. Goliath is beginning to flex his muscles.
The spinners are starting to take hiding and the local coach and school teacher in me starts to kick in. “What is this doing to the young kids’ confidence?” The skipper might have sensed it too because the medium pacers are quickly reintroduced. 0/116 off 29 and the feast is on. Dylan has moved onto 78. They are hitting it straight to fielders and running.
In the 36th over Dylan is on 99 and punches one straight to point and runs. Johnny rightly sends him back and the run out is on. The throw misses and then produces an overthrow. That’s one way to get it done son. It’s a terrific performance; he is only the 5th Victorian player in the history of the tournament to make a ton.
Dylan is retired for 106 at 0/187 and Will Thompson is in. He’s one of “my boys” and I’m sitting with his mum, she’s a trauma surgeon and this looks like trauma for her. This is Will’s first hit for the carnival and it’s a cricketer’s nightmare. Fail with the score at 0/187 and you look like a goose. Make a few and everyone expects it anyway.
But it’s a great time to bat and Will is quickly into stride. He’s able to sit on the back foot to the spinners and gets plenty to cut and pull. He’s a high energy player Will and great to watch, always in the game and making things happen. It great to see the way young cricketers who take the game on are encouraged nowadays. It never occurs to Will to bat for the red ink as he continues to take suicide singles in the final overs.
It feels like garden variety junior cricket now, 1-228 off 44 and the heat is kicking in, you are reminded that the ACT boys are indeed just little kids. Will the whippet has raced to 23 and mum is now off the critical list. The ACT continues to plug away rotating their bowlers, but finally the Vics finish with 2/261. Will is not out 30.
I take a welcomed lunch break at the Rifle Club Brewery where the honour board pays homage to those who have 1000 pints under their belt. Smart phones are interrogated for updates of other games and texts are flying to relatives and friends. The warm climate and scent of victory is making this support crew thirsty, but 50 overs remain to be bowled. When I suggest that the result is a forgone conclusion I am howled down by those who believe in the ACT curse.
It is quickly apparent that the ACT are not going to chase.
0-9 off 6 overs
0-20 off 12
0-27 off 17 at drinks
The Vics are well drilled and with one hand on the title and it’s hard to believe that the word clinical can be applied to a group of 12 year olds.
The game meanders. Eventually, in 37 degree heat the ACT posts 100 with three overs to go and 5 wickets down. It’s tough viewing.
With the final delivery come celebrations that any international team would be proud of. The boys are understandably jubilant and pose for photographs from all comers. Proud fathers smile warmly at one another and exchange the occasional handshake while mothers wear sun glasses to hide their tears.
The closing ceremony is hot and dry. The champion teams are presented and the Victorian captain provides another highlight with an eloquent impromptu thank you speech. It’s far more entertaining than any of his adult counterparts.
As a parent and teacher I am constantly surprised what young people are capable of. These young people have represented their states with great skill and more importantly played cricket the way it should be played. One day I hope to be sitting on my couch still living vicariously through one of “my boys”. If so I am sure that the spirit of Australian cricket will be in good hands.