Alfie's match-winning innings illustrates a change of ethos at Cookham Dean

Alfie Agar, 14, scored 74 in Cookham Dean’s Village Cup win over Binfield on Sunday

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If ever a player, or performance, illustrated the change of ethos at Cookham Dean in recent years it's 14-year-old Alfie Agar’s match winning display against Binfield on Sunday.

Promoted to the first team this season, Agar wasn't available for Dean's 66-run loss to Henley 2nds in TVL Division 1 on Saturday as he was playing for his school, however, he showed off his talent with a remarkable performance in Sunday's National Village Cup win over a strong Binfield side.

Chasing 200 for victory, Dean were 120-4 with the game was very much in the balance, however, Dean had an ace up their sleeve in the form of young Agar who smashed an unbeaten and fearless 74 to guide the club to victory.

Watching from the side lines, club captain Ben Millar was clearly impressed by the confidence of Agar and the power he was able to generate on his shots.

“It was brilliant,” he said. “He hits the ball cleanly, and this will be great for his confidence.

“Almost from ball one he took the game to Binfield, and this was a proper opposition. Sometimes in the Village Cup you get some weak sides in the opening rounds, but Binfield weren't like that, they had a decent number of their first team out there.

“Alfie is 5ft6ins and it was great to watch. He generates nice power and we needed 80 to win when he came in at 120-4 and he scored 74 of those. The game was very much in the balance when he came to the crease, but he gave a brilliant performance.”

The culture at Dean has shifted in recent seasons since they were battling to win the title in 2018. Back then Millar admits it would have been very difficult for a player of Alfie's age to be thrust into the first team, however, the club now has many young players pressing their claim. Another 14-year-old James Isobel is also in the first team squad this summer and there are three or four other u15s players hoping to be involved at some stage.

With young comes inexperience and inconsistency and Millar accepts the club will likely lose a few league games because of this, however, he also knows they'll play without fear and expects the club to win plenty of matches in league and cup this season. An exciting, roller-coaster campaign could be in store.

“We're trying to build a young side at Cookham,” he said. “We want these lads to come in and feel comfortable.

“Alfie and James are going to be playing for our first team and there are three or four other u15s players who will be pushing. It's something we're very proud of as we've invested in those youngsters over the years and it's now starting to bear fruit.

“Hopefully the future is bright.”

He added: “The long-term potential of these players is great, and we still have some quality older players like Wasim Ahmed and Yasir Qureshi to play alongside them. Hopefully we're going to win a lot of games, but we know we'll also lose some.

“James and Alfie were playing for their school on Saturday, but we still had three u18s in the side for the game against Henley.

“Henley came out very strong at the beginning and there was no shame in losing that match.

“Around the club things are bright. The 3rd team got promoted and their team on Saturday had one u12s player, two u13s players and a u15s girl and they played a very competitive game against Fleet's 2nd team.

“We're giving opportunities to our young players, and we have the chance to because a few players have left or moved away over a few seasons. It's good timing and these young players can go and play, they're not having that opportunity blocked.

“In the past, in 2018, when we won the league, it would have been hard to blood the youngsters but it’s perfect for us now. They can grow into those positions.

“We want to win games and we think we can with these young players. It’s nice to see guys come through the system and you wonder about what they can do in the future, it’s exciting, I think.

“Hopefully we can also string a few wins together in the Village Cup. I feel we're a similar strength to last year (when they lost to eventual winners Calmore Sports) so we'll see where we end up.”

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