THE DEFINITIVE TESTING GROUND FOR CRICKET EQUIPMENT
How did our testing day work?
Merchant Taylors’ School allowed us access to their world-class facilities to test these bats. Each of the 33 bats were first given a series of throw downs from the school’s 1st XI ranging from short-pitch deliveries to half-volleys and full tosses. Premium quality Grade A balls were used, with ball ages ranging from 10 to 80 overs old. Our journalists then recorded the testers’ pithy and informed observations. They were also put on the spot to be asked, “if the bat was a celebrity, who would it be?” Sometimes the explanation is obvious, sometimes it isn’t; sometimes the testers had a long think, sometimes it was the first thing that came into their heads. It was just a bit of fun, though, so if you are a Belieber, do not get offended! A couple of thank yous. Firstly to Owzat-Cricket. One of the leading cricket retailers in the UK, the bats were handpicked off the shelf, with £10,000 of equipment handed to us. Gavin Young and your team – brilliant stuff! Likewise to Merchant Taylors’ School.
Who were our testers?
Played 10 Tests for England, and enjoyed a long first-class career with Surrey and Essex. His high spots for England were taking 4 for 89 on debut at Perth on the 1998/99 Ashes tour, and 5 for 44, also against Australia, at Trent Bridge in 2001; and scoring 99 not out as nightwatchman against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1999. He is cricket professional at Kimbolton School, and runs Alex Tudor Coaching. He always has a smile on his face and provided some great coaching tips and advice to the pupils, as well as relaying tales of being floored horribly by Brett Lee at Perth (2002/03 Ashes tour), and being stranded by Graham Thorpe a run short at Edgbaston against New Zealand in 1999.
Is managing director of CricketArchive, which is owned by The Cricketer. He had a professional career with Nottinghamshire for six seasons, taking 93 first-class wickets at 32.74 with his slow left-arm. He also played in New Zealand, and now plays in the Nottinghamshire Premier League.
Is chief executive of The Cricketer. He was an attacking middle-order batsman and shrewd captain of his own wandering side, The Philistines, a few years back.
Is 1st XI captain of Merchant Taylors’ School on the Middlesex/Herts border. He opens the batting. He also plays for Herts Under-17s.
Plays for Emanuel School in Clapham, Middlesex Under-19s and also represented England Under-15s. She is an opening batsman and outswing bowler. She made 107 not out for Middlesex Under-15s against Sussex and 93 not out in a T20 women’s match last season.
Captained Emanuel Under-15s and opened the batting with Nancy. He is an elegant left-handed batsman who also bowls leg spin, and has played for Surrey District. He made a stylish 71 for his club, Old Rutlishians.
Terrific testing day at Merchant Taylors’
It sure beat lessons any day. Pupils at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood, asked the right questions as former England star Alex Tudor and The Cricketer team tested out kit for the 2017 Good Gear Guide.
Tudor, who won 10 Test caps and also played for Surrey and Essex, was one of six bat testers, along with the school’s first-team captain, Joe Regan. Other members of the school’s cricket sides threw balls and another – Middlesex Under-12s skipper Rishi Thapar – was also on hand to fling himself at anything that came his way.
The school in Hertfordshire is making a real name for itself in cricket.
Middlesex CCC have hosted games there since 2014, including Championship matches against Sussex and Hampshire (Dawid Malan, Adam Voges and John Simpson all enjoying themselves there with centuries last summer), and T20 Blast games versus Hampshire and Gloucestershire. The scheduled 2015 Championship game against Sussex was washed out.
The school is also officially ‘the home of Middlesex youth cricket’, with a large number of Middlesex home fixtures being played on one of the 12 squares.
Amid 250 acres of splendid grounds, the school also played host to the Australian cricket team in 2013 and 2015 for pre-Ashes training camps. Australia’s captain, Michael Clarke, called the school’s cricketing facilities “world class”, and they were quick to book their training in before the next Ashes series in England in 2019.
It is only 30 minutes from Baker Street on the Metropolitan Line, nearest stop Moor Park. It is hard to believe that you reach the countryside (or Metroland, as John Betjeman called it) so quickly.
Gear testing took place indoors, of course, on an early January day. The facilities were excellent. Three bowling lanes, with true, good bounce, and immaculate netting.
Tudor found the surfaces to his liking as he and the team tested out 33 bats.
He then took a question-and-answer session with pupils, talking about his successful debut at Perth on the 1998/99 Ashes tour; his famous 99 not out as England nightwatchman against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1999 (appropriately); and being hit by Australia’s Brett Lee at Perth on the 2002/03 tour.
The school was founded by the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1561. “The grammar school, founded in the Parish of St. Lawrence Pountney in London in the yere of our Lord God one thousand fyve hundred, sixty-one by this worshipfull company of the Merchant-Taylors of the Cytty of London, in the honor of Christ Jesu”.
In 1933, it moved from central London to its present site. The school has 12 grass cricket squares, indoor and outdoor (all-weather) nets, grass nets, and three bowling machines. There are 872 students attending between the ages of three and 18, and 17 competitive cricket sides are run.
The school competes in the under-14 County Cup, the National Schools T20 Competition and the Lord’s Taverners and T20 under-15 competitions. In 2015, the school’s under-15s were regional champions and national finalists. There have been recent tours to Sri Lanka, South Africa, Grenada and Barbados.
On hand to supervise his charges was Tom Webley, the school’s director of cricket.
He was with Somerset from 1997–2005, and also played for British Universities, and captained Cambridge UCCE. He scored his maiden first-class century against Northants in 2003 at Fenner’s, making 104, before being dismissed by Monty Panesar.
He played in the County Championship for Somerset in 2003, with some handy scores against Hampshire – 59, his best – and Northamptonshire (41 not out and 32).
He faced Shoaib Akhtar on debut (then at Durham), Yorkshire’s Darren Gough and Matthew Hoggard, and Hampshire’s Dominic Cork. Webley recalls his debut against Shoaib as “a baptism of fire”, and as “the fastest spell of bowling” he has seen.
He is now passing his knowledge on to the next generation, and with 31 county cricketers on the roll at Merchant Taylors’, the future is certainly bright.