Although the club had been running a Colts section since 1999 and were starting to reap the benefits in increased senior membership, we'd achieved little in the way of success outside of the Havering league, so the 2006 season was a watershed in terms of raising the profile of the club and starting to compete with the senior clubs in Essex.
The class of 2006 were comfortably the best team we'd taken into the Matchplay competition, with a squad stronger in depth than any before or since. Bowling and fielding (as with most Goresbrook sides) was the strength of the team, but a long batting lineup could usually be relied upon to make up for the lack of a dominant individual talent with the bat and a tight-knit squad of boys who were all at school within the borough of Barking & Dagenham made for an outstanding team spirit.
The Group Stages
Going into the season there was certainly optimism that the u16's could at least qualify for the knockout stages of the competition for the first time, a place in the top two of a nine team group not containing any of the county's traditional big-hitters being the requirement to make the quarter-finals. After that, much depended on the draw, however a group win would mean a home quarter-final, so that was the target.
In the event, the 16's achieved that with a lot to spare as they breezed unbeaten through a pool containing Kelvedon and Feering, Gidea Park & Romford, Cloghams, Hadleigh & Thundersley, Buckhurst Hill, Basildon & Pitsea, Havering Atte Bower and Hockerill, to set up a home quarter final against Bentley.
The Knockout Stages
On an overcast day at the Annex, a Bentley side somewhat depleted by holidays were shot out for little more than 100 after a promising start, with Israel Ochwo and then Kane Messenger running through the visitors on a day well suited to the seam bowlers.
In reply, Richard Williamson and Michael Rooke saw off a testing new ball spell before making hay against the support bowlers, Williamson in particular racing towards the target with a succession of shots down the ground as the 16's eased to a comfortable 9 wicket win to set up a semi-final at Billericay against Wanstead.
That day at Billericay will live long in the memory as we arrived as the unfancied club making up the numbers with Premier Division clubs Wanstead, Ilford and Colchester, but left having beaten Wanstead by 3 wickets to secure a trip to the County ground for the final.
The Herons were and remain the benchmark when it comes to junior cricket within Essex and their 2006 side contained Essex age-group players Andrew Joslin and Stephen Baldwin, who were both playing Premier League cricket in the Club's 1st XI at the time, plus Mahesh Velani, brother of current Essex player Kishen and current Peterborough United footballer Christian Burgess. Fresh from a 152 run quarter final win over Fives and on the back of a group stage where the highest score the Herons conceded was 93, it would be fair to say that Wanstead were the favourites heading into the semi-final.
However on a gloomy day at Billericay, nobody had told the Goresbrook bowlers as they ripped into Wanstead to reduced them to 30-5, before a fine 7th wicket partnership between Marlon Cox (50*) and Alexander Tosh (25) rescued their innings somewhat. With the bowlers starting to run out of ideas, five years of fielding drills paid dividends as a run-out accounted for Tosh and with Cox now being given a single to expose the tail, Brook blew away the remaining 3 wickets to shoot Wanstead out for 138.
That 138 was still well above the par score conceded by Wanstead in their campaign to date, but on a true track at the Toby Howe ground, the Goresbrook batsmen to a man applied themselves to the task in hand. Although wickets fell at regular intervals, the Brook batsmen saw off the dangerous Baldwin and kept the scoreboard ticking over to chase down the target. Absolutely key to the chase was the role played by the then 13 year old Jordan Calverley who in the absence of skipper Bryan Atkins on holiday, was selected to stick around at number 7, a role which he played for a good 10 overs, scoring exclusively through the gully area as the Wanstead bowlers became more and more frustrated. In retrospect it now seems clear that Calverley's performance was modelled on 1st team skipper Kurt Whisker's scoring areas against quality new ball bowling....
With wickets and overs starting to run short and manager Martin Rooke taking on the appearance of a man in the early stages of a heart-attack, seam bowler Andrew Mitcheson arrived at the crease and took the view that it was all well and good chasing down a small total in 1's and 2's, but the time had come to finish proceedings, an approach that he backed up with two stylish back foot punches for four, provoking scenes of wild celebration as the 16's sealed victory at 139-7 in the 38th over.
That set up a final against Colchester & East Essex (quite a lot of east Essex as it turned out) and a lost toss proved fatal for our boys, as their nerves and future Essex staffer Michael Coomber got the better of our batting lineup after they were inserted at the County Ground and skittled for just 50. Colchester had few problems chasing that and despite a sense of disappointment that such a talented side didn't do themselves justice on the big occasion, the run to Chelmsford was still a fabulous achievement. Also, with the vast majority of the side still playing cricket for the club, their contribution to driving Goresbrook cricket forward will I'm sure continue for many years to come.