Season Review – Sunday XI
2016 started again in the hope of a successful season with the emphasis still firmly on developing the younger members of the squad with some more game time and exposure to competitive cricket. The end result was, after the usual difficult start to the season, one that surpassed my expectations greatly.
The season began with the annual knockout competition against Bredon, this ended in us being comprehensively beaten by 8 wickets after being bowled out for 98.
Following this we suffered consecutive 1 wicket defeats to Droitwich in the first league fixture and Poppyfields in a friendly match. The loss against Droitwich was particularly difficult to take when we dropped the final wicket with them still ten runs short of victory, this turned out to cost us the runners up position in the final league table.
Liam Kehoe stared for us in that match with four wickets with the new ball. The match against Poppyfields was significant for Max Jukes who top scored with 43 and Ollie Brookes who scored with 40 and for Ed Pugh who upon his return to the Croft took five wickets in six overs.
From there a further 7 wicket defeat to Old Georgians occurred with no one making an impression on the game, Croft bowled out for 92.
The turning point of the season came with a massive 109 run victory over Redditch in the second league fixture. Fifties for Dan Elliott and Al Brunt and 40 from Ben Warwick helped Croft to 259. Three wickets for Al Brunt and two from Ed Pugh and Will Sach in reply gave us a comfortable victory. This was the first game where I could field Dan, Al, Ben, Will, Ed, Joe Ingle and Sam Hughes in the same team and it showed.
The next league fixture against Worcester Nomads was frustratingly abandoned halfway through after Croft had posted 285 for 9 from 40 overs thanks to 65 from Al Brunt, 43 from James Downing and contributions of over 20 from Jonty Heslop, Will Sach, Ed Pugh, Patrick Harrington and Jon Raxter.
From there Croft went on to lose by nine wickets in a friendly fixture and then by 84 runs against Bromsgrove in the away league fixture despite 53 from Sam Hughes and 40 from Dan Elliott.
A five wicket victory over Blackwood in a home friendly followed, Croft restricted Blackwood to 210 all out thanks to three wickets for James Downing and two each for Ben Warwick and Sam Hughes. Croft chased it down in 31 overs thanks to 66 from Al Brunt, 56 from Ben Warwick and 38 and 33 not out from Chris Pitt and Sam Hughes respectively.
Croft then went on to be comfortably beaten by the eventual league winners Ombersley by 139 runs. They were by far and away the best team we played and boasted a complete team of under 20’s. Croft battled hard with three wickets each for Ed Pugh and Tim Davis but came up short. This would however turn out to be Crofts last defeat of the season.
Croft then recorded a comfortable 190 run victory over Harvington thanks to hundreds form Al Brunt (112) and a maiden ton from Chris Pitt (108). Max Jukes, Ed Pugh, Dan Elliott and Al Brunt each took two wickets in reply.
Croft continued with an 8 wicket league victory over Barnards Green away from home, three wickets for Ed Pugh and two each for Josh Cound, Tim Davis and Ben Warwick restricted Barnards Green to 174. In reply Dan Elliott scored his maiden Croft ton and shared in an opening partnership of 126 with Jonty Heslop (54) which saw Croft home.
Croft followed this up with a highly impressive 5 wicket league victory over Astwood Bank at home. In what was the best single display of ground fielding and catching during the season Astwood Bank were dismissed for 79 thanks to five wickets for Josh Cound. In reply Croft were making their customary meal of a run chase and at 41 for 5 looked in trouble however a 39 run stand between Chris Pitt (23) and Tim Davis (10) took us home.
From there Croft defeated Massey Ferguson by four wickets at the Croft with Tim Davis taking six wickets including those of David James, Jon Bird and Jayden Levitt. Will Sach top scored with 74.
A further 31 run victory over Harvington in the return friendly fixture followed. Tim Davis taking four wickets and also top scoring with 38.
Croft then won the next friendly fixture against Old Georgians by 88 runs, Chris Pitt top scoring with 90 and Ed Pugh taking four wickets.
We finished the season with a 64 run victory over Poppyfields at home, Ed Pugh scored 54 before taking three wickets.
Chris Pitt ended the season as leading run scorer with 434 runs at 31. Significantly both Al Brunt (350 runs at 50) and Dan Elliott (315 runs at 39) scored heavily as did Ben Warwick (223 runs at 37) from only six appearances.
Ed Pugh ended the season as leading wicket taker with 28 and has been a complete revelation back at the club, he surely needs to make himself available for Saturday cricket next season on a regular basis.
The season also saw the continuing development of Max Jukes, Jonty Heslop, Liam Kehoe and Cam Wilkes. All contributed to the cause throughout the season and I will be looking to them again next season.
Croft finished the season having played 16, winning 9, losing 7, two abandoned (Worcester Nomads and Coombs Wood) and two conceded by the opposition (Tibberton and Pershore).
In the league we finished tied for third place on 25 points, one point behind second placed Bromsgrove. Had we defeated Droitwich we would have finished a clear second. This is a testament to the hard work and development of the clubs younger players and the incredible team spirit that exists both on and off the pitch.
My thanks to all involved, particularly Bob Wilkes for compiling a full set of fixtures in the face of uncertainty and of course my wife who produces an excellent tea on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t do it without her.