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English cricket’s most prestigious junior tournament has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bunbury Festival was founded by David English – who had previously managed the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton in his career as a music agent – in 1987, and brings the 56 best Under-15 players in the country together for a week-long tournament. It became a formalised part of the ECB’s player pathway in 2018, and more than 90 of its graduates have gone on to play international cricket.
In an interview in the Sunday Telegraph last year, English revealed that he had taken a late-night phone call from the England squad after the World Cup final to thank him for his role in their development. Ten of the 11 players picked for the final had played at the festival.
But the festival has been cancelled for 2020, with Alun Powell, the ECB’s National Talent Manager, telling those involved it was “not feasible to run the programme” in an email this week. It had been due to take place between August 2-7 at Eastbourne College.
Powell said that the ECB retains the ambition of staging cricket for young players on the pathway this summer, the nature of which will be dictated by the wider landscape of the game. An ECB spokesperson said: “There will be a wider update next week around national competitions and more information will be available then”.
The news follows the cancellation of two of cricket’s longest-standing fixtures for this year, with the MCC confirming that Lord’s would not stage the annual encounters between either Oxford and Cambridge or Eton and Harrow.
A fixture between the two universities has been played at Lord’s every year in peacetime since 1851, but has fallen by the wayside due to the pandemic. In 2001, the Lord’s fixture became a one-day match, with the first-class fixture moving to a home/away system.
This year’s four-day match was due to be the final one between the universities before the fixture lost first-class status. Graham Charlesworth, Oxford’s head coach, said: “We are not ruling out the possibility of getting the two historic clubs together for some form of cricket this summer, but this will depend on a number of factors and decisions made around the wider game.”
Eton v Harrow lays claim to being one of the longest-running fixtures in cricket, dating back to 1805, and has been staged at Lord’s every year in peacetime since 1856. This year’s was due to be Mark Ramprakash’s first as Harrow’s head coach since his appointment in December, but has also been shelved.
Johny Marsden, Harrow’s master-in-charge of cricket, said that the fixture would not be played elsewhere this year, but “will be back to normal in 2021” assuming the public health situation allows.