2017 Season Review – Junior Section
2017 was one of the most successful junior cricket seasons in Avoncroft’s history, with success on the field coupled with enjoyment and development from our growing membership, which almost doubled as the season progressed.
We ended the year with 75 junior members, with plans to increase to 100 in 2018 and 150 by 2021. This can only be made possible by the commitment of our coaches and helpers, and I’d like to note special thanks to my 3 fellow coaches (Jason Huxley, Chris Morris and Andy Pittam), an array of parent, junior and club helpers who enabled us to cope with the ever growing numbers at training, our groundsmen for coping with the increasing number of junior fixtures and especially to Jenny Pittam for collecting the subs and manning the bar on Friday evenings, a role that was much appreciated by parents and friends alike.
On the field, our Under 8s and Under 9s had a season that was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. The Under 9s, having been drawn in a tough group with Barnt Green, Belbroughton and Bromsgrove, entered the season hoping for a year of steady improvement with hopefully the odd win along the way. With a team including just one actual Under 9, supported by a few Under 8s, Under 7s and even the odd Under 6, the team started well but then got better and better as the season progressed. In the early games, a few excellent individual performances helped Croft over the line, but by the end of the season, the whole squad was regularly contributing and match-winning performances were being shared across the team. As a parent rather than a coach, I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit back and watch the team develop and see player after player come out of their shell and stand up to be counted. Technically, every player improved immensely, but what really stood the team apart from most other sides was their match awareness. The Under 9s, and the Under 8s in their games, nearly always gave away less wickets, bowled less wides and contributed fewer misfields and overthrows. Over the course of a game, a festival and a season, this added up to a clear recipe for success. Having won their festival group, the Under 9s went on to win the South-Central District tournament with a 100% record, then proceeded to reach the final of the County tournament, winning 5 games along the way only to lose out to a very strong Worcester side.
Not to be outdone, the Under 8s went one better. Having sneaked past an excellent Ombersley side in the group stages, Avoncroft qualified for the County finals and in front of a “home” crowd proceeded to storm to victory to claim the first County title in the club’s junior history! The majority of team will looking to maintain their standards in soft-ball cricket in 2018, but a number will also be starting to transition into the hard-ball game where the skills and attitude they showed this year with stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
The Under 11s and Under 12s found things tougher on the pitch, but again demonstrated an attitude and a desire to learn that the club can be proud of. Competing at the highest level in the County Premier League, the Under 11s regularly battled against teams from some of the biggest and best junior sections in the region and, whilst they finished with a record of 2 wins and 6 defeats, the majority of games went to the wire. The two wins against Ombersley and Rushwick were both tense run chases, with the former seeing Croft winning by scrambling a bye off the last ball of the game. Despite these successes, the best and most memorable performance of the season came in defeat at Himley where we narrowly lost off the last ball of the game against a side that would eventually win the Premier league with a 100% record. Overall, the team’s achilles heel was their inability to put enough runs on the board. Croft displayed great depth in their bowling resources, but struggled to cope with some of the high quality opening bowling against the better teams. This is something that the team will need to continue to work on as we head into 2018.
In addition to the county league matches, Croft also entered an Under 11s pairs side in the midweek league. This development side showed great promise over the season, winning 3 out of their 6 league games and 5 out of 6 friendlies. The Under 12 team (comprising mostly Under 11 players) finished 6th in the County Division 1, with a record of 3 wins and 5 defeats.
Individually, in the Under 11s and Under 12s, Matthew Athey lead the way with 251 runs at an average of 25 which included two scores of 29 not out in each of the two Under 11 league wins. Sam Taylor (123) and Fin Morris (120) were the only other batsmen to reach 3 figures for the season, with Harvey Shaw also deserving a mention for joining Matthew as the only batsmen to reach the retirement score of 30 for an individual innings.
From a bowling point of view, Oscar Jinks stood out as the pick of the bowlers in the county league, taking 14 wickets across the season at an average of 9.8. Ben Athey led the way in the pairs league, taking 16 wickets at an average of 5.6, to go along with the 3 wickets he took against Barnards Green in an Under 12s game when he was still just 7 years of age. Fin Morris finished a successful all-round season by also reaching double figures in wickets taken, whilst Matthew Athey supplemented his runs with 15 wickets at an average of 10. Kyle Shaw produced the best figures of the season with 4-20 against Kidderminster.
In summary, the Under 11/12 award winners were:
- Coaches player of the year – Henry Jinks
- Parents award for most improved player – Oscar Jinks
- County league batsman of the year – Matthew Athey
- County league bowler of the year – Oscar Jinks
- Pairs league batsman of the year – Sam Taylor
- Pairs league bowler of the year – Ben Athey
The Under 8/9 award winners were:
- Coaches player of the year – Callum Hooper
- Parents award for most improved player – Jack Sears
- Batsman of the year – Ben Huxley
- Bowler of the year – Ben Athey
Paul Athey, 22/02/2018