Twelve months ago, in the wettest summer for 100 years, the final of the Yorkshire Post Schools Cricket Challenge had to be played indoors due to heavy rain.
Yesterday, the sun beat down on Headingley stadium and smiled on the pupils of Honley High School, who won the 22nd running of the Under-13 tournament with a performance as glorious as the summery weather.
In front of friends, family and fellow pupils, the Honley team beat St John Fisher of Harrogate by eight wickets with seven overs to spare.
It was an emphatic margin in 20-over cricket – and it was a day the Holmfirth-based school will never forget.
James Sunderland, who led Honley home with an unbeaten 23 as they surpassed St John’s total of 79 all out, summed up the feelings within the side.
“To win the cup at Headingley; it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.
“The great thing about this side is that it sticks together and gels really well, and it was a brilliant effort by all the players.
“It was a terrific experience to play at Headingley, what with all the history and tradition of the ground.
“I’ve watched Yorkshire a few times here in Twenty20, but to actually play here was pretty special.”
James’s sentiments were echoed by coach Matt Haigh, who confessed that winning the cup surpassed his own expectations.
“Our target this year was simply to get to Finals Day because we missed out last summer,” he said.
“To actually win the trophy was something else, and I’m absolutely delighted for all of the boys.
“Everyone contributed along the way, and it was a great experience for the lads to play at Headingley.
“The day could not have gone better in terms of the weather and overall experience.”
As ever, four schools contested Finals Day, including last year’s winners Ilkley Grammar, plus the King’s School, Pontefract.
The semi-finals took place simultaneously with the Headingley outfield divided into two halves.
It looked as though St John’s would take all the beating when they thumped champions Ilkley by 53 runs in their semi-final.
St John’s scored 142-4 after being sent into bat, Yorkshire Under-13 captain Luke Kilby leading the way with 61.
Lucas Piatka chipped in with 33, while Dominic Tear made 23.
Fraser Downes was Ilkley’s most successful bowler, returning 2-8 from two overs.
In reply, Ilkley’s innings never got going. Wickets fell at regular intervals, with only Herbie Willman standing firm.
Willman top-scored with an unbeaten 37 out of a total of 89-8, with only Ben Thompson also reaching double figures. Tear took 3-10 and Kilby 2-17 in an excellent effort by the St John’s bowlers.
The second semi-final was a closer affair, Honley making 96-5 after being sent into bat.
Sunderland top-scored with 40 and played a number of powerful strokes.
Sunderland looks an excellent prospect, his clean striking of the ball a feature of the day.
David Tomlinson and Luke Jaques each claimed two wickets, Jordan Williams and James Rawlinson also making double figures.
In reply, Tomlinson led the way with an unbeaten 25.
But the King’s School pulled up short on 75-7, Sunderland capping a fine all-round performance with 3-17, and Cameron McGrath returning 2-11.
St John’s would appear to rely heavily on their top three of Kilby, Tear and Piatka, who contributed 117 runs between them in the semi-final.
They managed 58 collectively in the final too, but St John’s made only 79 in total as they were dismissed in the 17th over after choosing to bat.
St John’s collapsed from 53-1 to 58-6 in a period of play that effectively determined the destiny of the cup.
Three of those wickets were taken by the excellent McGrath, who ripped the heart from his opponents’ top-order.
Tear top-scored with 36 and Kilby hit 17, but the St John’s score looked somewhat short.
So it proved as Honley made light work of their target, captain George Sykes-Kenworthy giving them the perfect start with a splendid innings of 33.
Sunderland’s unbeaten effort, allied to McGrath’s undefeated 10, settled the issue, Sunderland’s innings including a six over the net that divided the two pitches, the ball interrupting the third and fourth-placed play-off between Ilkley and King’s School.
That fixture was one-sided too, Ilkley putting on a fine performance to win by 88 runs.
Thompson was the hero, thumping the highest score of the day, an unbeaten 80 from 59 balls with 12 fours.
Thompson’s innings underpinned a total of 157-3, which also featured 30 from Ben Patchett and 26 from Conor McLeod.
Jaques was the most successful bowler with 2-28.
In reply, Tomlinson once more top-scored for King’s School, striking an unbeaten 23 out of a total of 79-7 to which James Lockett contributed 21.
Thompson capped a man-of-the-match effort with 3-5.