Top schools cricket teams square off

The prestigious Gillette Cup national secondary school tournament next week sees Palmerston North Boys’ High School making a record 11th appearance, while Christchurch’s St Bede’s College qualify for the first time.

The eight top school sides from around New Zealand will meet in the 19th national championship, being held at Fitzherbert and Manawaroa Parks in Palmerston North from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 December.

This year 186 schools entered the Gillette Cup, which is synonymous with secondary school cricket. Winners of the preliminary rounds in each of the six major cricket associations advanced to the finals, along with the runner-up teams from the two associations with the most entries which this year were Northern Districts and Central Districts.

Finalists for 2008 are: Westlake Boys’ High School, Hamilton Boys’ High School, Tauranga Boys’ College, Wanganui Collegiate, Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Wellington College, St Bede’s College and Otago Boys’ High School.

The only change from last year’s finalists are the two South Island schools – St Bede’s College, who are making their debut appearance at the Gillette Cup finals after beating St Andrew’s College in a bowl off after a tied match, and Otago Boys’ High School who have previous finals experience. Otago Boys’ High School and Wanganui Collegiate both make their ninth appearance at the tournament.

Palmerston North Boys’ High School have won the coveted Gillette Cup title three times, Otago Boys’ High School and Hamilton Boys’ High School have each held the title twice, while Wanganui Collegiate and Tauranga Boys’ College have won it once each.

The Gillette Cup competition is an integral part of the player development pathway for secondary schools. As well as providing an incentive for schools to enter their first elevens into the competition each year with a chance to make it to the national finals, it is also a springboard to launch young players into the top ranks of New Zealand cricket.

Some 68 players have gone on from Gillette Cup into first class cricket, with 12 graduating into the ranks of the BLACKCAPS.

The most recent players to join the ranks of first class cricket are Kane Williamson [Tauranga Boys’ College], the 2007 Gillette Cup Young Cricketer of the Year, and Harry Boam [Wellington College] who as Year 13 students both played a major role in their schools reaching this year’s finals.

Tim Southee, who helped King’s College jointly win the Gillette Cup in 2006, is the most recent player to make the BLACKCAPS.

The tournament will be played over four days, with the eight finalists playing round-robin matches in two pools of four schools over the first three days. On the basis of the rankings for each pool the fourth day is devoted to crossover matches to determine the final placings in the tournament, including the winner.

At the end of the tournament New Zealand Cricket will name a Gillette Cup Elite Squad of 12 players, based on their performances in the national finals matches. The squad will assemble later in the season for specialist coaching, play against an ambassador’s side, and to attend one day of the BLACKCAPS test against India in Wellington.

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