Warwickshire's brilliant young bears won a historic first ever team title in the 53 years of the U18 Inter County Tournament at University of Nottingham today - and ended six years of Buckinghamshire reign in the process.
The top seeds had been runners up five times since the ICT became such a much loved and well celebrated event on the junior county calendar in 1966 but proved themselves worthy 2019 champions with a string of emphatic results in Nottingham.
They dropped just five matches from 55 played en route to the title shootout with Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Hampshire and maintained that dominant form, winning a further 27 from 30, as the playoffs for places 1-4 played out.
A pair of 9-1 wins over Yorkshire and Leicestershire put the young bears on the brink of a first title before a 6-1 advantage en route to another 9-1 win this time over Hampshire, confirmed the title was Warwickshire bound.
Warwickshire’s win, after a sixth place finish last year, is even more significant given the ICT’s recent roll of honour.
The ICT – powered by official equipment suppliers Babolat – has seen Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire dominant for the past 20 years with only Surrey’s 2006 win taking the title away from the two hotbets of badminton.
Six time returning champions Buckinghamshire were absent this time around but Yorkshire, seeded 5/8, once again raised their game, finishing a credible third – one place ahead of their fourth place in 2018.
In fact, like Warwickshire’s history making title win, it was Leicestershire who took ICT silver – the county’s best ever result in ICT competition following a 2018 campaign that saw them finish 11th. Only Norfolk and Berkshire - both up 13 places in the county standings - enjoyed a more marked rise in the pecking order compared to their 2018 placing.
The 2019 edition saw over 330 players representing 32 counties compete over four days on county competition amidst one of badminton’s best atmospheres filled with drum beats and airhorns.
All 32 counties came with differing ambitions and only Essex, seeded two, remained constant from 2018; static in 8th 12 months on.
18 counties enjoyed improvements in their standings compared to 12 months with Avon and Hampshire the notable climbers, both lifting nine places to return to ICT top 10. 2018 silver medallists Kent fell eight places to 10th . Cheshire, last year’s fifth place county, endured the unwanted record of being the ICT’s biggest faller; dropping 14 places to 19th.
Photo credit: Alan Spink, ActionPhotography