The Playing Fields of England

An A-Z guide to the summer game's top 100 schools 2018

Girls are the emerging force in schools cricket

It has been a very rewarding and uplifting experience judging this supplement. There were so many excellent entries it was really tough keeping it to 100. There were many other establishments that deserved to be included. It is reassuring to see so many schools, and their staff, putting this much effort into producing the next generation of players. 

Particularly noticeable was the growth of the women’s game. Where, a year ago, there were girls’ teams here and there, now many schools are running them at all age groups. My own daughter’s (mixed) school – Emanuel, in south-west London – is a good case study in this respect. When she joined the school in 2012 there was no girls’ cricket at all. She was the only one who played. Three years later there was one under-14 team (captained by her) and she was in the boys’ XI. Now there is a team at every level, and rounders – previously the summer option for girls despite being, in my view, a glorified beach game – has been abolished! 

There are nine state schools in this mix, up from eight last year. Small progress but the message is slowly filtering through. Given that half of English first-class cricketers come from private schools and England still can’t seem to find a consistent No.3 batsman it is vital as many schools as possible – of all types – play regular cricket. It is the best way to keep kids away from their devices apart from anything else. All parents would welcome that. 

You sense from working on this list that the game, after a decade of decline, is starting to pick up. Although it is true that more and more 12-year-olds want to play the reverse ramp before they learn a forward defence, at least they are having a go, and having fun. As the successful All Stars Cricket initiative really starts to kick in, there will be a host of reverse-sweepers emerging. A redraft of field settings may be required shortly. 

The great thing about cricket is it is always evolving. From the early 1700s when the Laws were properly drafted and then a third stump was added, batsmen have always found new ways to make runs and bowlers discovered different methods to dismiss them. The tone is set at school. And those who thought that the highest ever individual score – AEJ Collins’ 628 not out made over four afternoons at Clifton College in 1899 – would never be challenged were finally proved wrong. Mumbai schoolboy Pranav Dhanawade made 1,009 in a match last year. Beat that!

Simon Hughes 


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