HARROGATE Grammar School made it third time lucky against rivals Ilkley by winning The Yorkshire Post Under-13 Schools Cricket Challenge at Headingley.
They triumphed at the famous Test venue by defeating well-matched opponents who had twice previously denied them the crown.
Libby Fox struck the winning runs to seal a seven-wicket victory.
As is often the case on finals day, it was to prove an unforgettable occasion for the youngsters at the venue, as they found themselves competing on the same turf that has housed such famous names from Yorkshire CCC’s past as the likes of Hedley Verity, Wilfred Rhodes, Raymond Illingworth and Fred Trueman as well as, more recently, stars in the mould of Ryan Sidebottom, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root.
The fact the four matches staged on Monday took place in glorious sunshine just enhanced the occasion for the youngsters and their families.
After pegging Ilkley to 142-8 in their 20 overs, Harrogate enjoyed a comfortable march to victory when reaching their target for the loss of just three wickets with a little over two overs to spare.
Barnaby Horberry was the main reason the victors were able to reach 143-3, compiling an unbeaten 49 before allowing Fox her moment of glory at the other end when hitting the winning runs.
Harrogate’s victorious coach, Mark Roberts, was understandably delighted with his team’s efforts and hoped it would spur them on to achieve even greater things.
“It was a very special occasion for us coming to Headingley to play on the pitch and experience the fantastic facilities,” he said.
“It put a smile on all of the players’ faces.
“I think this will help prepare our players for what is to come. They know what is expected of them and, hopefully, this experience will spur them to achieve greater things and drive next year’s class to successfully defend the title.”
Despite being beaten at the final hurdle, Ilkley coach Saul Peltier was full of praise for his defeated youngsters.
“The boys have done fantastically well to get here,” he said. “Right since the start of the year, they have all visualised themselves playing here at Headingley.
“Although they have come runners-up, they are all winners and they enjoyed the experience of playing here.”
Elland’s Brooksbank school claimed third place after convincingly winning their play-off against Brigshaw, from Allerton Bywater, who were last year’s runners-up.
Brooksbank batsman Harry Finch’s stunning knock of 114 was the outstanding individual performance of the day.
“It was absolutely brilliant, a dream come true for us to play here,” said the youngster.
“I think every cricket player would love to play here, so we are delighted.
“To get a century for me topped it all off really. I was pleased with my performance from an individual perspective, but, most importantly, how it helped the team.
“First, when I got to 50 in five overs it gave me the confidence to go and get the century. Getting a 50 in the first game, too, was important for me and I kept the momentum going.”
Brigshaw would have been confident after racking up 167-4 from their 20 overs, thanks in the main to knocks from Freddie Knox (52) and Josh Gill (49). But they were left disappointed for a second time on the day thanks to Finch’s wonderful innings.
Brigshaw coach, Robert Barker, said: “They will get a lot from this and it’s a big experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“We were involved in the competition last year, too, so – fingers crossed – we will be back here next season.”
Earlier in the day, the semi-finals proved to be relatively straightforward affairs with Harrogate restricting Brigshaw to 98-9 before knocking off their target in a little over 10 overs.
In the other semi-final, Brooksbank coach Paul Quinn admitted his team’s total of 103-6 would probably not be enough and so it proved as Ilkley reached their target with plenty to spare.