Fifteen Under-15 cricketers made a pre-season tour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, culminating, for the first time, in the Arabian Challenge (ARCH) Trophy – a highly competitive tournament contested by eight teams from the UK and UAE.
On the first afternoon, the squad trained at the world-class facilities of the ICC Global Academy. This was followed the next day by a warm-up match at Dubai College. Despite posting a competitive total of 174, Eton saw the runs chased down with overs to spare and, in the process, learned a lot about playing in unfamiliar and consistently hot conditions. After a day off, Eton recorded three wins out of three, over consecutive days, in the group stages (against MPC Academy, KES Birmingham and rematch with Dubai College). This ensured qualification for the Final, played as a day/night game under floodlights at the Zayed International Stadium (a full test match venue) against Zayed Academy.
Eton won the toss and opted to field – a brave decision, since Zayed had scored 360 in their previous match. Beagles and Varma made the most of a swinging pink ball and some sharp close catching to reduce Zayed Academy to 11-4. A middle-order recovery, too many extras and some aggressive hitting propelled them to a total of 147. In the second innings, Zayed Academy bowled with amazing accuracy for their first 12 overs. Two quick wickets put the match in the balance and Eton under pressure. However, the middle-order, reliable throughout the tournament, scored quickly and timed the final acceleration well; Eton won by 4 wickets with 5 overs to spare, with Milo Russell, Oliver Stone and George Fountain all playing important roles. Milo Russell was nominated by coaches of other teams as the 'Most Valuable Player' of the tournament, having scored significant runs in all four of his innings, including two half-centuries. Ed Hilditch bowled economically and took valuable wickets in all of the four matches he bowled in.
The boys also enjoyed visits to the souks in Dubai Creek, Dubai Mall, the Louvre, Abu Dhabi and a cycle under floodlights around the Yas F1 circuit.
Thanks go to Dr Tim Beard and Archie Hammond for helping to make the trip an incredibly enjoyable one.