|European Under 15 (Division 1) Championship: Jersey, August 2008|
Scotland crowned U-15 champions of Europe
Scotland today ended Irelandís monopoly of the European Under-15 Championships, defeating the returning champions by 16 runs at Grainville and so bringing to a close their eight-year-long domination of this tournament.
Having posted 163 for 6 in a match reduced to 39 overs, the Scots had to fight all the way, but theirs was ultimately a successful defence and one which owed much to a terrific opening burst from paceman James Hearn.
Exploiting the lateral movement available to seam bowlers throughout the day, Hearn pitched it up and moved it late, reducing the Irish to 6 for 3 within six overs. All this was done without an assist: Ben Wylie and Barry McCarthy were both clean bowled, while Irish captain Hugh MacDonnell was trapped in front without scoring.
It was these early wickets which were ultimately to scupper the Irish run chase, for talented batsman though they may have further down the order, it was unlikely that Ireland could rely upon a third rescue act in four days, especially when key man Ryan Hunter was snared down the leg side with the score on 44.
Hunter, who before today had scored nearly half of his teamís runs, was the first of four batsmen to fall to Peter Ross (4 for 29), who ensured that Hearnís good work at the top of the innings would not go to waste.
That things might have turned awry for Scots was indeed a possible conclusion when Graeme McCarter and Sean Campbell were adding 49 for the eighth wicket, having come together in dire straits at 74 for 7.
The former smashed four boundaries and a huge six over mid-wicket on his way to a run-a-ball 35, while Campbell was his ideal foil, rotating the strike where possible and otherwise holding up an end, thus stopping the haemorrhaging of wickets which had periodically stifled any momentum the Irish were building.
When a wicket was needed to break this dangerous partnership, Ross duly delivered it for his team, having McCarter caught behind by Matthew Cross while hooking. This, in the end, was the killer blow. Try valiantly as the rest of the Irish line-up did, they could not find either the gaps or the boundaries which were needed to stay on course.
Scott Docherty would return to claim the last two wickets in the same over: Callum Atkinson was firstly caught behind cutting, while Campbellís 60-ball effort finally came to an end with the Irish innings itself, holing out to mid-off where Ė appropriately Ė Scottish captain Peter Legget held the catch to pull down the curtain.
But if one considers the spells of Ross and Hearn to be the most decisive, they were still not the best, for that honour belongs to Graeme McCarter, whose five-over stint in the morning was about as good as one could hope to see at this level. Conceding runs only through third man, he swung the ball both ways at speed, and can count himself very unlucky to have picked up just the one wicket.
With Jordan Coghlan bouncing out Matthew Cross at the other end (by no means the last short ball to meet with success today), Scotland too had been in trouble early on: 9 for 2 within six overs, in fact.
From here, though, they rebuilt cautiously and would not lose another wicket until well past the thirtieth over, with Ross McLean (41) and Patrick Baker (46) both batting sensibly, keeping the scoreboard ticking over at a deceptively steady rate.
Both would go softly, the former chipping a Jon Andrews full toss gently to square leg and the latter needlessly run out, but they had done an admirable job and had wrought for Scotland an enviable platform from which to attack in the last few overs.
Peter Ross (21* off 20) and Andrew Lewis (17 off 23) would take up their mantle, and though the returning McCarter hit the stumps twice in the last over, they had allowed their side to post a target which left Ireland needing to go at more than four an over: this was a rate which no team batting second had managed so far this week.
And with Hearne ripping out the top order that was not something which would change. Perhaps if a senior Irish batsman had managed to survive into the latter reaches of the innings things might have been different, and perhaps if Irelandís opening bowlers had been better rewarded for their tremendous first spells then the target would have been much less. But, as it was, the Irish were dismissed for 147, only sixteen runs short with two overs remaining, and Scotland emerged deservedly victorious.