Creating an indoor cricket dynasty

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Durham Men’s indoor cricket team successfully defended their national crown in Birmingham to claim a third successive national title, beating Worcester thanks to a wide on the final ball. Captain Seb Allison sat down with Palatinate to reminisce on the journey and discuss the sport within Durham.

‘Outdoor cricket is played with eleven players, compared to the six that make up an indoor cricket team. The indoor game is played in a cage and the run-scoring is different. Fours and sixes are scored by hitting the net at the back of the arena, and a run between the wickets counts as two runs. All six wickets must be taken unlike in normal cricket where only ten of eleven must be taken.’

Whilst not having the national player base of its outdoor counterpart, indoor cricket is still a very competitive sport, especially at Durham.

‘We’ve won the cup three times in a row the last three years. Pre-Covid we won the plate, which is the tournament below and the competition our 2s are competing in this Saturday’.

Despite establishing a clear dominance in BUCS in the 2020s, the path to the trophy is by no means easy. To win, you must navigate three rounds, and one loss in any seriously jeopardises a team’s possibility of progression, such are the fine margins in small qualifying groups.

We’ve won the cup three times in a row the last three years

‘We had two very difficult games this year. One of these was when we played Cardiff Metropolitan in the group stages, who we played in the finals last year and they also knocked us out in the outdoor competition last year. A few calls potentially didn’t go our way there this season and we looked in quite a bad state. Then Oliver Metcalfe, playing his first game of the campaign, ended up hitting 48 not out to drag us over the line, which was a really impressive knock considering the circumstances. Also, you retire at 35 runs, so he came back in and scored another 23 runs.’

The other difficult game was the final against Worcester, which was sealed in exceptionally dramatic fashion.

‘Then in the final against Worcester, they scored 131 against us, the most we had conceded in our entire campaign. We had to basically score three runs off each of the last twelve balls, and we ended up getting over the line thanks to a wide on the final ball. Worcester had a large crowd there, with it being close to Birmingham, so they were chanting. The silence when they lost was defeaning.’

Durham are in a very strong cricketing position. With a famous county cricket club and funding from the England Cricket Board for the university, investment is being made in the area. Naturally, Durham will perform at a higher level than many counterparts. Allison explained why Durham provide such consistently dominant performances.

Players who have a better touch game perform much better in indoor

‘We do play against universities who, outdoors, play against our 3s and 4s. Obviously Durham take funding from the ECB and so we do have a high level of players who play here, but we also take the game very seriously and we prepare ourselves professionally as if we were playing an outdoor game, and we focus on it being indoor rather than outdoor cricket. This year we have a very senior team – most of the guys have been playing for three or four years, so we’re very well prepared.’

Despite being the elite indoor cricket university in the country, the talent pool is still one that builds directly upon the outdoor game.

‘We don’t select teams for indoor cricket. We only select squads for outdoor and within that we take players to represent indoor. So yeah, all six of our players represent the men’s 1s outdoor team. Players who have a better touch game perform much better in indoor. We’ve had a couple of players be really dominant over the last few years – Joshua Lawrenson scored a mountain of runs for us and has been a staple in our team over the last few years. Just being a good outdoor player doesn’t guarantee being a good indoor player.’

Looking to the future, Allison insists there is no reason to stop dreaming big, despite significant player departures on the horizon.

‘The last three years have been categorised by a block of six to ten players who have been particularly dominant. Next year, we lose three of our best batsmen in Josh Lawrenson, Oliver Metcalfe, and Ross Richardson. However, myself, Travis Norris, and Freddie Fallows, the other three members of the final team are staying. It will be interesting to see how the 2s develop. It will be my fourth year playing next year so hopefully I can transfer knowledge across. Last year we had Ollie Price as the captain and now he’s on an England Lions tour representing the second team with a potential selection for the test side.’

So, who’s to say Durham can’t build an indoor cricket dynasty? The hard work and talent of those involved is a testament to the sustainable progress of the team.

Image: Durham University Cricket Club

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