Cheshire's annual Chance2Compete finals day

THERE were sixes, switch-hits and smiles galore on Wednesday as some of Cheshire's most talented teenagers gathered for the annual Chance to Compete finals day.

On a sun-soaked July afternoon, 11 schools from across Cheshire descended on three superb venues at Chester Boughton Hall CC, Warrington CC and Brooklands CC, all vying for the crown of County Secondary School Champions.

Chester played host to the Boys U15s finals, with teams from Bishop Heber, Sandbach, Fallibroome and Cheadle Hulme all qualifying from their respective regions.

Playing the popular 'Chance to Compete' rules (teams of eight, 7 overs per side, last man stands), it was a fantastic day of competitive cricket, with all players showing great determination and skill.

The competition was organised on a round robin basis, with Bishop Heber the eventual winners, narrowly defeating Sandbach by one run in the third and deciding round of matches.

Batting first, Heber made 67/3 in their seven overs, with retirements (20 not out) from Earl and Clowes, the latter finishing unbeaten for the third game in succession.

The Sandbach reply was dominated by the retiring Forrester, and with one over remaining the South Cheshire champions required just 10 runs for victory.

Tidy bowling and some excellent fielding meant only two runs were possible from the first three deliveries, and when Stratton clean bowled Cain with the fourth ball of the over it was eight required from two balls.

Cuttle then came to the crease for Sandbach, flashing hard at his first delivery and a wicked bounce took the ball beyond the despairing third man fielder and to the boundary for four runs.

One ball left, 4 runs to win - Another wild swing from Cuttle and this time the ball spiralled high into the air, before a drop in the outfield gave the batting side hope. They scrambled back for a second run and turned for a third, but the fielder recovered his composure and Stratton was on hand to claim the run out at the bowler's end, giving Heber victory by a single run.

Earlier in the day, Heber had secured comfortable wins over Fallibroome and Cheadle Hulme, while Sandbach were also victorious against the same opposition to set up the third round decider.

In what amounted to a third and fourth play-off, Fallibroome ran out narrow seven-run winners over Cheadle Hulme, Potts and Cartwright retiring in a total of 64 as Cheadle Hulme could only muster 57 in reply.

Brooklands was the venue for the U13 Boys Finals, with representatives from Sanbach, Leftwich, Poynton and Wirral-based Woodchurch High School making up the final four.

Sandbach dominated the round robin stage of the tournament, recording three successive wins to secure their berth in the final. They were joined by Leftwich (pictured left), who themselves enjoyed comfortable wins over Woodchurch and Poynton to reach the championship decider.

The final was another exciting affair, with Sandbach taking first knock on an excellent Brooklands batting track. Openers Lewis and Sussex set the tone, hitting 14 from the first over, before both fell just short of the retirement mark. Allmond (1-3) produced a tidy over to halt the mid-innings momentum before a late flurry of boundaries took Sandbach to a competitive 67/3.

Looking to avenge their round robin defeat, Leftwich skipper Matthew Worsdale marshalled the reply, rotating the strike to good effect before successive boundaries forced him to retire. Phipps took a more aggressive approach, notching a quick-fire 20 to set the stage for a tense finish.

With 16 required from the last two overs, Leftwich looked slight favourites until the introduction of Ben Davies, who produced four consecutive dot balls, the last bringing a wicket, to keep the score to 56/2 with one over remaining.

Leftwich managed just three from the first two balls, leaving nine to win from the last four. Cue some heroics from Nathan Woodthorpe, who cracked two consecutive boundaries to tie the scores before sealing the win with a reverse sweep through the vacant third man area. A deserved victory for Leftwich which left Sandbach (pictured right) disappointed but gracious in defeat.

Over at Warrington CC, Women and Girls Development Officer Joanne Herbertson hosted the inaugural Chance to Shine County Girls Finals, with four schools competing across two age groups.

Adopting the Pairs Cricket format (8 a side, everyone bowls, lose runs for a wicket), pupils from Prenton High , St Nicks (Northwich), Wilmslow High and Stockport School all took part in the soft-ball event for U13 and U15 teams.

Wilmslow were crowned U15 champions, while St Nicks scooped the top prize in the U13 competition. Prenton High School (pictured right), who represented Cheshire in the regional Chance to Compete Finals at York the day before, finished runners-up in both events.

After the summer holidays, the attention will revert to Indoor Cricket, with more competitions for boys and girls planned throughout the county.