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As the Middlesex First Eleven were securing an important four run victory against the Essex Eagles yesterday in a thrilling encounter at Lord’s Cricket Ground on the main square, there was no less excitement on the Nursery Ground, as four of Middlesex’s leading under eleven sides took part in the annual Gilbert Cup regional Middlesex finals.

The brainchild of the ECB and Royal London, the domestic One-Day Cup’s headline sponsor, The Gilbert Cup, named after the sponsor’s pelican mascot, is a nationwide soft-ball competition for under elevens, which allows the winning boys and girls sides from each of the eighteen first-class counties the opportunity to be County Ambassadors for the two first-class counties that get through to the competition’s Finals Day at Lord’s later this summer.

The two girls’ sides to compete in the Middlesex finals yesterday were Bushy Park, who earned their place as winners of the Seaxe League, and Ealing, who were invited to compete in the final in the absence of rightful qualifiers and reigning indoor champions, North Middlesex, who were sadly unable to compete on the day.

The boys’ finalists were from Richmond and Finchley, who both earned their places in the final as this year’s Middlesex Colts’ Association finalists.

Things got underway with the girl’s final at 11.30am and Ealing were first into bat. Some exceptional bowling from the Bushy Park youngsters, which included 27 dot balls within Ealing’s eight overs, restricted the batting side to a total of 237. In reply Bushy Park started with intent, hitting a six off the very first ball of their innings, before Ealing tightened things up as the innings progressed. It was left to Bushy Park’s third pairing to put on a 26 run partnership to get them back ahead of the required run-rate before a wicket in the penultimate over closed things up again. In a tense final over of the game Bushy Park’s final pairing did enough to see them over the line and were deservingly crowned girls’ champions.

In the boys’ final at 1.00pm, hopes were high of another closely fought contest, as the Richmond and Finchley boys took to the field. Richmond, batting first and on what was a decent batting surface, fell short of what was widely considered to be a competitive total, losing regular wickets, nine in total, on their way to a total of 237 in their eight overs. Again much credit must go to the bowling side however, who were rewarded for consistently bowling the right lines and lengths. In reply, chasing the under-par target, the Finchley chase couldn’t have got off to worse start, as they lost three wickets in the opening over. Thankfully for them the middle order pairing rallied to bring them back into the game. Some superb batting down the order took them to a comfortable position where some level headed batting from their final pairing saw them ease to a total of 267 to lift the title.

Should Middlesex defeat London rivals Surrey tomorrow and give themselves a chance of securing a quarter final spot, then go on to reach the One-Day Cup Final at Lord’s in mid-September, they’ll now be joined by the under elevens from both Bushy Park girls and Finchley boys at the Home of Cricket.

Congratulations to them and to all the sides who have competed in what has again proved to be an exciting competition throughout Middlesex.

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