Northamptonshire Under 18’s became National Champions last month after a superb all-round performance saw them win the County Cup Final at Kibworth.

The lads took on Wales in a one-day match and ended up comfortable winners by 8 wickets, with a standout performance from James Cronie.

The U18’s didn’t have an easy run to the final as they needed a run of four wins against strong sides from Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and Lancashire and it took some outstanding performances from the entire squad to find the victories.

Academy Head Coach, Kevin Innes, reflected on the run in: “We have beaten a lot of teams along the way and the talent that’s come through and the performances they’ve put in have been brilliant.”

“It’s been a whole team performance, no one really got a 50 up until the final, so everyone chipped in. It did feel very much like a team effort to get us towards the final.”

“What I would say about this team is that they’ve known each other for two, three or four years and I think that carries a lot of weight for a team when they go through difficult situations on the field, and it feels like a family or a big team effort.”

Innes credited the Club’s outreach into Bedfordshire, Huntingdon, Buckinghamshire and London Schools for creating a high-quality squad over the last few years, as well as the hard work the lads put in over the winter and during the season. 

“The lads would have around about 15 hours a week with our coaches, S&Cs, psychologists, as well as stuff in the indoor school, some stuff at Loughborough and so it’s very full on, especially trying to balance school, club cricket.”

“They may do 25 hours of cricket a week in the winter, but it makes them better and better, just battling against each other all the way through the winter and improving their skills.”

It’s not just the players that pulled together for the victory, it was the staff who had the biggest impact as the squad were motivated by the potential to shave U18s Strength and Conditioning Coach Oisin’s beard off if they win.

“In the semifinals Oisin mentioned to the players that he would be leaving, and then he blurted out – If we win in the final, anybody want to shave my beard?”

“What more motivation do you need to win a game? We didn’t even need to put anything on our white board apart from a picture of Oisin with a razor!”

With the staff, players and coaches all pulling together for victory, it is hopefully the start of plenty of success for Northamptonshire academy teams in the coming years.

“It’s a fantastic win for the players, coaches, family, for all the work they’ve put in. From 2019 in May, we haven’t lost a game of 50 over cricket – so let’s say there’s something going on at Northampton.”

“We’ve increased our staff, adding a batting coach, bowling coach, an SNC, a psychologist and great people in the admin side. We’re set up to have more success and so hopefully we’ll get that in the future.”