Season 2008 Review

17/11/2008 22:05


In 2008, for the first time in the club’s history, we fielded four Saturday XIs in addition to the five existing junior sides, continuing the expansion of the club’s activities and giving an opportunity for even more members to participate in the sport each weekend.

The First Team had a disappointing season, finishing in mid-table after being well in contention for promotion at the half-way stage of the season when the side was in third place.  Indeed, after the victory at Nutbrook in the twelfth match, the side had won five matches, four of them batting first, and the omens looked positive. 

Unfortunately, the side did not win another match subsequently, and only twelve points were gained form the last four matches owing to two abandonments and two alarming batting collapses.  Although, as in 2007, we suffered more than most from abandonments, the disappointing final position cannot be attributed to the weather, bad luck or losing crucial tosses, but had more to do with inconsistency, especially in the batting, which had also been a feature of the previous season.

Nevertheless, there were some good individual innings.  The captain, Michael James, scored two centuries, helping him to finish second in the league batting averages, whilst Alex Britton and Paul Allen were both unfortunate not to achieve three figures also after being dismissed in the nineties at Stainsby and Marehay respectively.  The positive approach of the openers meant that more runs were scored and at a faster rate that in 2007, but it has to be said that over the course of the season, not enough batsmen scored runs consistently for the side to win enough matches.

The bowling was strengthened enormously by the overseas player, who finished as the second highest wicket-taker in the division.  He gave us the penetration with the new ball that we needed, producing several match-winning performances, and was unfortunate not to take more wickets. 

Rizwan’s endeavours helped to ensure that, apart from the matches at Marehay and Aston, the bowlers were better able to defend targets and four wins were achieved batting first, which we chose to do on good pitches.  Steve Scrimshaw was the most successful of the amateur bowlers in terms of both average and strike rate.

The inconsistency of performances over the season by the side was caused partly, but certainly not wholly, by the inability to field a settled side.  This topic will be addressed later.

The Second XI, captained by Ady Statham, was more successful, finishing in fourth place and losing only to the three teams who finished above them, but the aim of an immediate return to the higher division after last year’s relegation was, disappointingly, not achieved.   In 2009, because of the re-structuring of the league, there will be a gap of four divisions between the First and Second XIs, making transition from the seconds for players more difficult.  We need to try to narrow this gap (by promotion for the seconds, not relegation by the firsts!) as quickly as possible.

The batting was more consistent batting second than in the previous season, with new member Nigel West scoring almost 400 runs in eleven innings.  The highest individual score was by Keith Widdows who achieved an unbeaten ninety.

 One area which the captain has identified for improvement includes more penetration in the bowling as on several occasions the side were unable to take the tenth wicket needed to win the match.  On the other hand it has to be said that the two bowlers, Anton Williams and John Thompson, who were promoted to the First XI enjoyed success at the higher level and their loss clearly weakened the seconds.

The team’s season was somewhat soured by the unpleasantness which characterised the fixtures against Rosehill and Dunstall, but it was re-assuring to receive a letter from the league secretary which not only exonerated the club from all blame but also re-affirmed that its reputation had not been sullied by the unsavoury events for which our players were not responsible.

The Third XI, captained by Mick Clay, enjoyed limited success on the field, being relegated for the first time after two promotions since joining the DCCL.  Player availability was a factor in these performances, but it did give the opportunity for more of the Under 17 members to play senior cricket.  All performed creditably and gained valuable experience which will serve them well in the future.  Richard Wyatt was the most successful batsman, scoring over 300 runs in 12 knocks, whilst 23 opponents fell victim to the canny flight and guile of evergreen Mick Acton, ably supported by his young apprentice Tom Yates, who finished with 18 wickets in just 66 overs.

As mentioned before, the club fielded a Fourth XI for the first time in its history, competing in the last year of the Burton and District League.

It is to the credit of the captain, Simon Price, that although the team finished, perhaps predictably, at the bottom of their division, a full side always took the field, and unlike another well-established club, were able to fulfil all their fixtures.  The team was essentially composed of very young players, but was strengthened by the contribution of parents, who provided some much needed experience and guidance –and also runs and wickets.

The Marchington ground was therefore used every weekend, and received a lot of tender loving care from John Hodson and David Woodburn.  It is therefore pleasing to report that the club has come to an agreement with Marchington to give us security of tenure of the ground for the next five years.

The Sunday XI, captained by Anton Williams, and the friendly fixtures, again provided a valuable opportunity for members to play a rather more relaxed form of the game, but it was disappointing that four fixtures were scratched by the opponents and that the MCC match was abandoned because of the appalling weather.

Before passing on to junior cricket, there is one issue which has to be addressed.  That is player availability.  As mentioned before, this season we needed to select forty-four players on most Saturdays.  This we achieved, but not easily.  The situation this year was not helped by the sudden departure of two members of the first team squad, one forty-eight hours before the first match and the other in mid-season, and the departure of four players from last year’s third team.  To run four teams each week , I estimate that you need not forty-four members but  at least fifty-five and more probably sixty, because allowance has to be made for the inevitable and wholly legitimate demands of work, holidays, examinations and injuries  - and other valid reasons.   In view of the restricted number of members, may I therefore appeal to all playing members to make themselves available for selection as often as possible within these constraints next season.

That said, it is clear that because of selection problems this year, some sweeping generalisations about team commitment have been made which are misleading, have caused offence and do a grave disservice to those individual members whose dedication has been above and beyond what might reasonably be expected.  The record needs to be set straight. 

As an example, amongst last year’s first team, two players played against medical advice after receiving hospital treatment within the preceding  twenty-four hours (in one case within six hours) because they were aware of the shortage of players, two others arranged shift work throughout the summer to fit in with cricket –at considerable inconvenience to themselves  and their families – , another went to the expense and trouble of making a round trip of 250 miles to play on at least ten weekends and another player was available for all twenty-four league and cup fixtures.  Hardly a lack of commitment!  Examples could be quoted from other sides.

 All these players set a fine example which I hope will inspire others to make themselves available as often as reasonably possible.

The Youth Section again had a full programme of practices and matches.  At the start of the season, we made an effort to recruit more members from local junior schools to the Kwik cricket section through a poster campaign, and we have now entered in to a club/school link with the De Ferrers pyramid of schools under the auspices of the Sport across Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire scheme.  By offering coaching and the use of our facilities, we hope that this will enable us to attract more youngsters into the club.

Numbers attending practices at the lower age groups held up well throughout the year, and we are grateful to the all the managers and coaches for the considerable time which they put into their squads.  Young cricketers do not develop through some miraculous process.  They develop because volunteers offer their time to run teams, umpire, coach or provide other support.  We desperately need more such volunteers.  Last year we had only two club-based qualified coaches working with five teams, and need to increase this number as a matter of urgency.

Although none of the teams won any competitions, the players showed clearly that they had reaped the benefit, in terms of their individual development, from the time that was spent with them, and we thank Matt Baxter, Matt Parker, Nick Goode, Gareth Marshall and Graham Milnes for their hard work.  Mention should also be made of Ady Statham, who started a girls’ cricket group which we hope will continue to develop.

At the beginning of the year, we registered for ECB Clubmark, which is a quality accreditation for clubs with junior sections.  It has not yet been possible to complete this process, which though somewhat bureaucratic and certainly time-consuming, is essential if we are to gain access to enhanced funding and also attract young players.  Child Protection issues have now been addressed and the main obstacle at the moment revolves around coaching provision ratios and first aid training.  The former is something which cannot be ignored, though I am pleased to say that one of our members, Scott Cobley, is currently qualifying as a coach and that another, Gareth Marshall , has done excellent work this summer after qualifying last year.

At the end of the season Michael James informed the club that as he will be continue to be based in London, he would not be standing for re-election.    At the end of the season also, Ady Statham, having done a long stint as second team captain also decided to stand down.  Simon Price, who played the major role in starting the 4th team, also decided to hand over the reins now that the side is up and running.

In the junior section, pressure of work has forced Matt Baxter to retire as Kwik Cricket co-ordinator after eight seasons in this vital role

Thanks are due to all these gentlemen who have carried out their duties with distinction, enthusiasm and dedication, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances.

It is also appropriate to express the club’s gratitude  to all team captains, vice-captains, managers, coaches for their efforts this year.  Theirs has been a trying task. Sincere thanks are also owed to the officers of the club for their unwavering support and hard work which makes cricket possible.  The fund-raising committee has been very active over the last year, and we have already seen the benefits in terms of the sight-screens and junior equipment.  It is vital to give the committee your full support.

It is often said that the most important people to keep happy in any cricket club are the tea ladies and the groundsman.  The players are delighted to offer thanks to both, and of course to John Hodson who keeps both the outfield and machinery in such excellent condition.

At the end of the season two pitches were completely re-laid to try to produce more bounce, and as far as refreshments are concerned, we can say without fear of contradiction that we offer “the best teas on the circuit”.  And while we are on the subject of refreshments  a big thank you needs to be said to Mick Acton yet again for running the bar and providing both individual sustenance and much needed club income.

To conclude then, it has been another busy year on the playing side.  Neither the lack of trophies nor the difficulties which we have encountered should blind us to the fact that Rolleston Cricket Club continues to play an important role in the promotion of the sport in the area and in providing opportunities for all to play and develop their skills.

It is vital that we continue to set ourselves high standards.  To achieve and maintain them we need to make sure that all contribute their efforts to this common cause on and off the field.