Old Tauntonians caught out for fielding ineligible player
A whiff of scandal has erupted on the playing fields of England's public schools, after the Old Tauntonians, the six-times winners of the prestigious Brewers Cup, were forced to withdraw from the competition after fielding an ineligible player.
The Brewers Cup is a minor version of the more famous Cricketer Cup, and was established in 1973 to promote former pupils' cricket among the "smaller public schools" of England, a definition that the competition website sums up as "fee-paying schools comprising of less than 600 pupils over the age of 13."
In a compelling first-round match at Taunton School in Somerset, the Old Tauntonians racked up a formidable total of 335 for 5 in their 50 overs against their opponents, Old Leightonians, thanks almost entirely to a breathtaking 171 from 111 balls from a certain Chris Gange. Despite a valiant 131 from the in-form opener, John Acland-Hood, the OLs fell 40 runs short of their target, and that might have been the end of the matter.
However, it soon transpired from conversations taking place on the boundary's edge, that all was not as it seemed. Gange, a former Under-19 captain of Somerset, had never actually attended the school, as he himself later admitted when asked directly by a member of the playing committee. Up until that point, he had kept quiet on the subject, both out of embarrassment and, he said, because he had been asked to do so by his team-mates.
The competition rules are very clear on the subject. "Only bona fide former pupils of those schools participating in the competition ... shall be permitted to play for their respective side, save that in the event of real necessity, pupils still at school may be included in the respective side. The last provision shall only be invoked in a genuine emergency."
The only emergency was the speed with which the Old Tauntonian players had to cover their tracks. One team-mate of Gange's claimed he had attended the school for a brief stint in the sixth form, but an enquiry to the school registrar showed that only one person of that surname had ever attended the school in its 158-year history - and she had left in 1924. The school itself was never made aware of Gange's selection, and so cannot be blamed for the incident.
"I am very disappointed at the behaviour of some members of the Old Tauntonians," said Acland-Hood after the verdict. "I hope this will be a lesson to any other teams who are thinking of behaving in a similar manner. I wouldn't have minded them playing a ringer, but when he scores 171 off 111 balls, you really have to take offence!"
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo