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News from Downside

Lower Sixth Form Sport Scholar confirmed as an England Academy Player with Bath U18 rugby academy.

It was with immense pride that, before Half Term, Downside learned that Lower Sixth Form Sport Scholar Abdul-Khalik Akenzua Al-Kareem had been confirmed as an England Academy Player with Bath U18 rugby academy.

This has been a major focus for Khalik this year and the whole School is thrilled for him, especially given the major disruption to school sport over the last 12 months

Abdul-Khalik was also invited to train with England U18s last weekend, but was unable to due to injury. With the imminent return of pupils to school and the much anticipated return to school sport, this is another great piece of news for the sporting community at Downside.

Richard Jones, Director of Sport at Downside said of Abdul-Khalik’s achievements to date: ‘This is very well deserved recognition, undoubtedly the culmination of many hours of personal dedication and practice. Abdul-Khalik has thrived since joining Downside in the Fourth Form and has been a great role model for all aspiring young rugby players in the school. His success recognises the value and significance of the support our talented sports performers receive through our Athlete Development Programme. I am certain that Abdul-Khalik will make the most of every learning opportunity and chance to show his abilities with both Bath and England. We wish him every success and we look forward to supporting him on his continuing sporting journey.

From Abdul-Khalik: ‘Being selected to attend an England U18 camp when I am 16 is a massive achievement for me. I would just like to thank the whole of the Downside sports department for their continued support, and a special thank you to the sports graduates Mr Jones and Mr O’Rourke for giving up their time to drive me to training every week. I am also grateful to have Mr Burns work closely with me; he has helped develop me as a rugby player since I arrived at Downside in the Fourth Form.

Although it is great to have been selected for this opportunity this is just one of the milestones in my sporting journey and more hard work is required for me to, hopefully, one day do what I love for a living.’

Downside sports scholar wins Somerset CCC Writing Competition

A Fifth Form sports scholar (also a Somerset Pathway player) from Downside School has won Somerset CCC’s writing competition. 

The competition was held to celebrate the return of Test Cricket on free to air TV (Channel 4), in conjunction with Somerset County Sports. 

To be in with a chance of winning the coveted prize of an England Replica shirt, pathway players had to watch as much of the recent Test cricket as they could, and study which players were successful in the game and what they were doing well. Competition hopefuls then had to describe how the most successful batters (on either side) had played during this Test, what movements they made and what were their main methods of scoring. 

Our Fifth Former is currently in the County Age Group U18 Girls Winter Training Squad, and is just one of the many Downside pupils who enjoy competitive sport at county level.  

Cricket has been a major feature at Downside for over 150 years. The first boys’ cricket match was played at the School in 1867, and the first girls’ matches took place in 2018. The sport is one of over 30 sports and games options available at Downside including rugby, tennis, kayaking, wall climbing and archery.  

George Setterfield, Head of Cricket Development commented: ‘This is fantastic news for Florence, and everyone at Downside School is extremely pleased for her. Taking an interest in cricket as a spectator, and being able to analyse the game is such a vital skill for any young cricketer. I’m delighted that Florence was given the opportunity by the Somerset Cricket Board to voice her thoughts on the first test match between England and India, writing a superb match report and including some high level analysis. Downside School pride themselves on offering a well-rounded education, and it’s really pleasing to see Florence bringing that to life and demonstrating her passion for cricket with her academic ability. I’m sure she will treasure the Jack Leach England shirt for a long time!’ 

Somerset CCC Writing Competition

By Fifth Form Sports Scholar Florence

England stamped their ground in India emphatically during the first Test Match. Joe Root was in sparkling form, scoring close to 300 runs over to innings, once again proving why he is a major part of the ‘fabulous four’ (Smith, Kohli, Williamson and Root). This, coupled with Root’s team putting in a genuine ‘team performance,’ meant England were too strong for the world no. 2 ranked side. 

In my opinion, Root and Sibley stood out for England, as the most successful batters. For India, Pant shone, albeit not bright enough. 

Dominic Sibley is a relatively new addition to Root’s England side. He opens the batting, and England batted first, so we will start with him. Sibley’s patience, his stubborn style of batting and mature attitude were the most important factors in his first innings score of 87, from 286 balls. 

A run-rate of 30 seems low. However, this was exactly what the doctor ordered Sibley to do. He batted very slowly, at first leaving the vast majority of balls outside the off stump and only playing in his comfort zone, which is straighter and favours the leg side. This patience frustrated the likes on Bumrah as well as tiring them out. This meant that when the loose balls came, patient Sibley was ready to pounce. His innings was slow, but very steady, giving England the platform to score more readily later on in the innings. He enjoys a ball on his pads, and often plays straight drives, with his head still, over the ball, angling the bat at the last minute to score leg side runs. This stillness in the way he plays the ball definitely helped him to bat successfully in the first innings, giving Root a solid partner for the start of his innings. 

Sibley’s confidence rose as his patience paid off, when the Indian inexperienced spin bowlers came on (not Ashwin). He made sure that when he was moving forward, he fully committed, moving his feet as close to the pitch of the ball as possible, whereas when we moved back, he made sure he had as much time as possible to play the ball under his line of sight, late. This meant he could score runs behind square on the offside freely, as well as happily pushing the ball to deep midwicket for leisurely singles. Overall, Sibley’s innings was not characterised with big boundaries and fast scoring, but his patience enabled him to tick along, sticking to his own skillset as a batsman, doing a fine job for the side.  For me, the best thing to take from Sibley’s innings was the cricketing partnership which he offered his captain, Mr Root. He gave him a firm base with which to build an innings. Secondly, Joe Root. A serial-run-scorer. 

Root’s first innings score, in his 100th test, was 218 from 377 balls. A faster run-rate to his friend Mr Sibley. Root came into this test brimming with confidence after back-to-back centuries in Sri Lanka. This confidence, his fine technique and once again his commitment to the shot, whether that was moving forward or moving backwards, explains how he scored this many. 

Unlike Sibley, no disrespect intended, Joe Root does not have a specified comfort zone in his style of cricket. He scores runs everywhere. He came out with a very positive approach. Now that the ball was not swinging, he was very happy reasonably early on the get his feet moving and drive outside his off stump, scoring many runs through the covers. 

He, much like Sibley, respected the good balls and knew when to attach – mainly ‘picking on’ the new spinners, Nadeem and Sundar – whose bowling run-rates show their inexperience – being higher than the other bowlers. 

Root has a very conventional technique, so it is hard to pin down why he does so well. In my opinion, it is because of his high regards for the basics of cricket; he moves his feet towards the pitch of the ball, he hits the ball late under his eyes, he attacks when we need him to attack. This is how he got to his 200+ score, because he stuck to what he knows, chose wisely the bowlers to take on and did so brilliantly. 

Rishabh Pant is the one Indian batter who I think stood out. He scored 91 from 88 balls, in a situation where India were in a lot of pressure. 

Usually, in such a situation, the conventional reaction would be to defend, dig in, and try to slowly rebuild your team’s progress. 

However, of the back of a wonderful match winning innings in Australia, he, like Root was bubbling over with confidence. 

Pant came out and played as if it were ODI cricket. This shook the England bowling attack, which certainly allowed for his success. Making the bowler feel uncomfortable helps batsman a lot, as it can put them off kilter. He chose Jack Leach as a target, and hit him for many boundaries. 

This was very impressive as by this stage in the game, with England having batted for two days, there were cracks in the pitch, which makes it more dangerous to attack spinners, as the ball turns and bounces more. Pant’s movements whilst facing Leach were big. He either moved so far forward, trotting down the pitch, that he met the ball on the half volley, taking the cracks out of the game and whacking him over his head. Or, he moved right back in his crease when Leach tried to put the ball shorter to catch him out. This taught me how important it is to commit to your shot, not to play half heated cricket – even if you’re in a pressurised circumstance in the match. Pant’s innings links with the ‘challenge and threat’ psychology used in Physical Education. He was challenged by an innings where the necessary aim outweighed his resources, but he chose to attack and be positive, believing in himself. Sadly, for India, his efforts were not enough. 

Concluding, Root showed the best display of all. With all three batters having a clear game-plan, showing great game awareness. Their most linked styles in their batting was committing to the shot, wisely selecting their cricketing prey, and playing the ball late, timing it to perfection. 

For more information visit https://www.downside.co.uk/

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