AFTER several years of hibernation, Empingham’s youth team returned in style against local rivals Oakham at Exton Road on Thursday.
Twenty-two players between the ages of 14-19 turned up at Exton Road for a fun game of cricket with an immense hint of competition throughout.
Oakham batted first and didn’t get off to the best start when captain Adam Whitehouse was bowled by the Empingham express Dillan Mistry.
This brought Charlie Baker to the crease and he looked in fine fettle, smashing the ball to all corners of the ground in uncompromising fashion. At the other end Albert Radford looked at his classical best with a number of fluent strokes, and the two formed a great partnership.
After Baker reached 50 he had to retire but this great innings had put Oakham in a strong position. Tight bowling from Harvey Stafford kept a lid on the run rate but the middle order of Thain, Sanders and Berarey-Smith played some attractive strokes until their scalps were picked off by Freddie Turner, Will Thraves and Mistry. Radford went through to a well-deserved 50 in the final over and Oakham ended up on an impressive total of 140.
In reply Empingham came out swinging from the hip in an attempt to keep up with the run rate. James Henley was removed early but Will Cropper looked at his boisterous best hitting a number of eye catching boundaries.
For Oakham Jake Sanders and young Nick Davies bowled with exciting pace and fluency. When Harry Robertson was removed cheaply, followed by Will Thraves, after a huge six, Oakham were on top.
However skipper Turner was able to steady the ship and support Will Cropper. After a few more cracking hits from Cropper, he was caught on the boundary for 40.
Once Turner departed a few overs later, the game appeared out of reach yet Olly Elson had different ideas, batting with fluency in what was becoming very dim light. Great scampering between the wickets and a handful of boundaries kept Empingham up with the rate, keeping the army of fans excited.
After a worthy contribution from Harvey Stafford, Empingham were left needing nine off the last over with one wicket remaining. Elson halved the deficit with a cracking shot and some more scampering took the scores level with one to play.
The non-playing vice-captain and key changing room figure of Frazer Mccombie was tasked with becoming a hero and a well-guided nudge, followed by a rapid run led to Empingham celebrations. Elson finished on 36 not out and Exton Road was bouncing. The underdogs had pulled off the shock victory their committed followers yearned for.
This puts them 1-0 up in the series with the sequel to be played at Oakham on Friday.
It was a brilliant game, played in the right manner and the tense finish made it even better. Thanks must go to Mal Smith for preparing a great batting track and all those who helped put the match on. Hopefully this has whet the appetite for more junior cricket to be played at Empingham in the future.