Season Review – Saturday 1st XI
Having stepped up from captaining the 2nd XI in 2016, the season began with a sense of hope and optimism, myself, Dave Anson and Mark Wood all stepping up from 2nd XI duties to hopefully bolster the 1st XI and give us a better chance at being successful in the league rather than just “also rans”.
I think when we had our best team on the pitch and played to our abilities we were able to flex our muscles against some of the stronger teams in the league. Notable examples, at Himbleton where a truly amazing spell of bowling from Paul Athey (14-3-40-5) and Jon Hunter (16-2-54-3) put us in a position to roll one of the favourites in the league. Dan Elliott 10-0-52-4 against Kempsey and in the same game Paul Athey 90* and sharing 104 run partnership with myself. I will never forget the stunning catch taken by Dave Anson that game aswell to remove the Kempsey skipper. Craig Hughes and Tom Murray’s stand of 177 against FWOE was an example of balancing the needs for attack with staying at the crease, Craig (109) and Tom (67) got the balance exactly right that day.
With best XI available (probably excluding me!) we should be pushing for top 4 in Div 3 – the problem as ever remains the consistency in selection. I hope that my successor Jon will succeed where I failed in that last season.
Craig Hughes top scored with the runs this year 547 @ 45.6, followed by myself 426 @ 30.4, Matt Hare 404 @ 26.9 and Will Sach 395 @32.9. In the bowling Paul Athey and Jon Hunter shared the top wickets with 31, Jon pipping Paul to the winning post on an average of 18.23 compared to 19.0 for Paul. Dan Elliot took his highest wickets in a season of 1st XI league cricket – 26 – 6-66 in the season opener against Alvechurch but probably his spells against Kempsey 4-52 and FWOE 4-39 where his best in the season.
Despite the challenges of availability we managed to pick up more points than 2016 and won more games. Winning 7 off the 22, 2 abandoned and losing 11. We also repeated the team’s achievement of 2015 when we reached the final of the Carter Cup and played Netherton in the final where we narrowly lost out. Of the 11 we lost there were a number which were really close games and could have gone either way – Himbleton away where we bowled them out for 158 and were knocked over for 125, chasing 311 against Alvechurch and falling just short at 303ao and the week after chasing 258 against Astwood Bank and looking comfortable in the chase until falling short for 243. A change in circumstance in these games could have seen us finishing in the top 5.
I’d like to thank a number of people for their support on and off the field. Chris and Dave for the preparation of tracks which generally played well through the season, Stella for what I think are the best teas in the league by a long way, the support on the field from Craig, Paul, Jon and Sam as some of the more experienced players, and finally Martyn who tirelessly helped to sort players in the event of us not having sufficient numbers for the 2 teams on a Saturday. Thank you also to Rod, Len and my dad for their encouragement and support through the season and words of wisdom from the boundary.
Overall, I enjoyed the season despite the continual availability issues we experienced. I think people probably enjoyed their cricket more in the first half of the season and we all became a little weary after the August holiday period and beyond.
As people know I will not be continuing in the role in the 2018 season but will be happy to support Jon and Mark in whichever team I am selected for. I am looking forward to taking more of a back seat for a while but will provide any support and wisdom I can offer to them both in the coming season.
Mark Whitehead, 01/02/2018