Hitting Out

Strong Foundation

Foundation must have every reason to celebrate in a big way after lifting the Sir Garfield Sobers International Schools’ title for the first time with an emphatic seven-wicket triumph over fellow local rivals and last year’s champions Combermere at Kensington Oval on Wednesday.

It was not only a matter of winning the tournament, which was in its 26th year but also the fact that it was the second time in four weeks that the Church Hill, Christ Church team had beaten Combermere in a major schools’ final, and comprehensively, too.

On June 29, Foundation captured the BCA Schools’ Under-19 championship with an eight-wicket victory, also at Kensington Oval. So they have every reason to beat their chests.

With the knowledge that the Combermerians have dominated schools’ cricket generally in the past decade, this was indeed a major triumph for Foundation. And Combermere also boast of five titles in the Sir Garfield Sobers competition including the very first in 1987 and a hat-trick, which started in 2004.

Other local schools which have won the Sir Garfield Sobers tournament are Coleridge & Parry (1988), Lodge (1989), Harrison College (1990) and Ellerslie (1997).

On reflection, it would seem that major battles between Combermere and Foundation were always on the cards this season. Apart from the two finals, they both topped their zones in the BCA Sagicor General Shield championship and were set for a semi-final showdown, which was badly affected by rain at Desmond Haynes Oval, leading to a no-decision. As a result, Combermere advanced to the final on a superior net run rate from the preliminaries and duly took the title for the third time last Sunday with a hard-fought ten-run win over Melrose in the final at Kensington Oval.

While Foundation were cruising to victory on Wednesday, one fan suggested it would be poetic justice if they won, based on the outcome of the Sagicor Shield semi-final match. Whether or not you care to view it that way, the bottom line was that Foundation again played with confidence and proved that they are a solid all-round team.

In the BCA Schools’ final, Combermere were bowled out for 158 in 36.3 overs after winning the toss and Foundation responded with 159 for two in 33.2 overs.

On that occasion, opener Shomari Davis made 68 not out and all-rounder Aaron Jones hit an unbeaten 57.

This time, Combermere struggled to 130 all out in 39.5 overs after they were sent in on a hard, true pitch, and Foundation replied with 133 for three in 38 overs.

Jones, in two excellent spells of leg-spin bowling from the Joel Garner end, took four for 20 off 7.5 overs.

Foundation were then put on course by an opening partnership of 83 in 27.4 overs between Davis and Micah Howard. Davis made 43 while Howard topscored with 50.

Jones completed a fine, all-round match with a classy, unbeaten 21. He certainly looks like a player with a bright future.

In the semi-finals against Powergen of Trinidad & Tobago at Bank Hall on Monday, Howard and Davis also batted solidly to add 71 in 12.5 overs for the first wicket as Foundation totalled 207 for nine off 40 overs and then restricted Powergen to 84 for five off 17 overs to win on a faster scoring rate after rain ended play.

Combermere beat Sedbergh of England by two wickets at Bank Hall on Tuesday in a semi-final replay after rain had affected the match at Desmond Haynes Oval the previous day.

There were a number of aspects of Foundation’s play on Wednesday that stood out. Skipper Dayne Doughty handled the bowlers intelligently and the combination of spin and pace kept the Combermere batsmen in check.

In contrast, Combermere placed their emphasis on spin and as Davis and Howard dug in, they appeared to be just waiting for things to happen. The Foundation batsmen also sustained the pressure by picking up singles and rotating the strike.

One could see the glee on the faces of the Foundation team and its management and supporters after the match and at the presentation ceremony. Apart from the players themselves, credit must be given in a big way to the coaching staff of veteran Dennis “Parker” Osbourne and Nhamo Winn, who have worked extremely hard. And you can guarantee that Seibert Straughn, the head of the Physical Education department at Foundation will be planning a special function to reward the team.

Such a function must include Bruce Cosens, whose service to the school as a cricket coach since the 1970s was tremendous before he retired from the teaching service there a couple years ago as head of the Industrial Arts department. Cosens continues to follow the fortunes of Foundation teams religiously and was among those present at Kensington on Wednesday to share in the glory.

Rivalry among school teams in cricket has become much bigger in the last two decades or so since there are now more competitions. And with the sort of success which has gone the way of Combermere, other schools are keen to show that they also have what it takes to reach the top.

There is now much more youth cricket to look forward to over the next month with the regional Under-19 three-day championship here starting tomorrow, to be followed by the one-day competition of which Barbados are the defending champions.

Five of the players who featured in the Sir Garfield Sobers final are members of the Barbados team. They are Foundation’s Aaron Jones, the Combermere captain Shayne Moseley and his school-mates Jonathan Drakes, Chaim Holder and Chad Williams.

They would have been all very busy on the field over the last few days but there is nothing like having action in the middle ahead of what for them is a big competition.

Spectator interest could face a challenge in the first couple of weeks with the Olympics on in London but the regional Under-19 championship has traditionally gained relatively solid support.

For the moment, however, kudos to a sure, strong and solid Foundation.

Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association Division 1 championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).

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