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Northern and Blackheath set for final

From 11am today at the County Ground, Beckenham, Northern and Blackheath cricket clubs will each be looking to create their own piece of history as they go head-to-head in the Royal London Club Championship final.

Kent Premier Division club Blackheath were victorious once before in this competition, against Ealing in 1971, and last reached the final in 1981.

Liverpool and District Competition side Northern will make their first-ever appearance in the national knockout decider, in the process becoming the first club from their league to do so.

Following similarly impressive displays in their respective semi-final wins against Bath CC and Chester Le Street, both Blackheath and Northern will be confident coming into the final.

For Northern captain James Cole, who first played cricket at the club aged seven, getting to this stage is testament to the hard work put in by the players and others at the club and, also, the close bond that exists within the team. 

“Northern has a really young team and a great team spirit – everyone trains together in the week and socialises together. We really enjoy each other’s company and that closeness shows on a cricket pitch when it gets tough at times.

“We’ve played some really good cricket in this competition for probably eight or nine years now. We’ve been to the quarters four or five times in the past six years and it’s a competition we obviously want to do well in.

“We’ve met Chester Le Street a couple of times before in the knockouts and lost to them about five or six years ago by a wicket so we’ve had good games against them over the years. They’re obviously one of the best teams around so to set a total like that [of 209] and then field and bowl the way we did – that was probably the best performance I’ve been a part of since I’ve been at this club.

“To play like that when the pressure’s on was testament to the young lads and how they’ve been progressing over the last couple of years.”

Blackheath captain Chris Willetts highlighted the strengths within his side, saying: “We have a really great set of cricketers at Blackheath, full of enterprise. 

“I can’t believe there are many better all-round bowling attacks in club cricket and I’m pleased that such an able bunch of players are getting their just rewards in reaching the final.

“Bath are a good side – highly prepared, young and enthusiastic – but in general terms I think we approached the game better.”

“We’ve had a good side with good depth for a number of years but I guess everyone is just that little bit more experienced now. We have had the odd bit of fortune that you need and Tanweer Sikandar [formerly of Essex] and [former Sussex and Leicestershire batsman] Michael Thornely have certainly added quality to our batting.”

Willetts also understands the long reach of the competition, adding: “Personally, I grew up playing at Old Hill CC in the Birmingham League, who have won it four times, and some of my earliest cricketing memories are of intense National games with big crowds. I guess the bigger stage that the National KO can offer has stuck with me since then.”

For Cole, the occasion is also a source of great pride. He said: “It’s a really fantastic achievement, it’s obviously my proudest day as a captain and from the club’s point of view it’s the biggest day in our history. It’s a proud moment and all the lads are really excited.”

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