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2014 Playing Review

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2014 Adult League Season’s Review

1st XI: PLD 14, W7 D2, L5, CX/AB3; 2nd XI: PLD 13, W5, D3, L5, CX/AB 4
3rd XI: PLD 14, W7, L7, CX/AB 2 

So the fourteenth season as a merged club is over and the overwhelming feeling was one of struggle. It was certainly one of the most challenging in a long time on the pitch. No promotions and a real slog for the captains getting sides out both on Saturdays and Sundays. The colts’ conveyor belt into the adult sides spluttered into action belatedly in the school holidays but ultimately if we want to achieve the Chairman’s goal of County League cricket at our recreation ground, we need more players to commit to playing every week. 

April was largely wet meaning only one game was completed – our first game at Middleton in an age. At the end of the season, our opponents won promotion to the Sussex County Premier League but on that day in mid April, Tom Chambers with a typically aggressive ton and our new big money signing, Tim Jarvis on debut, blew away the home bowling to see us coast home by nine wickets. Fitzgerald and Monday each grabbed a brace and we started to dream. The league began more soberly in May because you then need to get three sides out, of course, not one! Tom Chambers and various others were back at Uni. The 1s beat Arundel and Clymping comfortably but the 2s only achieved two draws and contrived to lose a game chasing a very low total at eventual bottom club Arundel 2s. The latter debacle was Hodgson’s first defeat as captain after two years in the job and was an indication of the struggles ahead. The 3s were finding Division Eight equally tough – two cancelled games and two defeats followed an opening day win at Henfield. 

Only three games for the 1s and 3s in June. The 1s had a match rained off against St Andrews on pavilion opening day plus a winnable game was tossed away as the always tricky Ram bowlers ran through us. However at the end of the month with us needing a win, the boys duly delivered with their performance of the season at home to eventual champions Southwater. We made a competitive total with JE-M making a well-paced half century before Mick bowled like a man possessed and we had won by 97 runs. The 2s finally won at home early in June to Horsham 3s – Andy Cantrell took four wickets to restrict our opponents before Jack Carter and Alex Miller made unbeaten half centuries to see us home by 8 wickets. However three more games for the 2s yielded no more victories. The 3s started well in the month too with a win over favourite opponents Felbridge but that confidence was soon eroded with two more defeats with largely the batting becoming the issue for Liam and his merry men. At the halfway point, the 2s and 3s were in severe danger of relegation whilst the 1s still harboured hopes of promotion having beaten the league leaders. 

July saw the 2s shake out from their lethargy as stronger availability became apparent. They won three out of four games with only a Partridge Green hammering blotting our copybook. The 1s were still struggling for consistency with two wins and two defeats as quantity of players doesn’t always mean quality. This meant as we entered August, despite an improvement for the 2s, all three league sides were effectively fighting relegation rather than looking at going up. Remarkably the 3s, who were well adrift before Arundel conceded at the end of July, won every game in August and stayed up by a single point. The 2s also entered the last day needing a large number of points and secured them with a home win in the last over against Southwater 2s. The 1s had secured safety (as last season) in the penultimate game before finishing fourth in the table.

We may have found our level at last and certainly with the poor availability this year, we cannot hope to succeed in any of these divisions unless we can get regular sides out. In order that the 2s and 3s can achieve this, the 1s have to set the tone so they are not regularly stealing players from weaker sides. The club’s premier side played 14 out of their 16 games. Only Jarvis and Monday played all but one. JE-M, Jack Carter and Mick played 12 and Haggart 11. JC and Fitz played ten each. Callum & Howgate 9 and then we’re into the also-rans. We would need eight or nine to turn out virtually every week as the Tims did and score runs, take wickets and hold catches for us to emulate Southwater and Portslade. Jarvis and Howgate averaged over 50. TJ managing a ton and four fifties in his first season and delivered what we expected he would do. In addition, he fitted in very well with his calm amiable persona and has really added to the team. Relieved of captaincy duties, “Mowgli” too delivered on the field of play with a ton at Arundel and a fifty as well as three forties. Few others made scores regularly enough. Howgate also took 13 league wickets including a five-fer in the last home game against Ram but Chaloner by his own admission struggled for the first time ever. 16 league wickets was his lowest return for ten years compared to 42, 38, & 42 wickets in the previous three Invitation League seasons. Mick was the clear winner in wickets for the 1s but he’s not going to be here forever. So both bowling and batting look a little light as the 1st XI season ended. 

For the 2s, only the remarkable captain Mr Hodgson managed double figures in league games. Despite off the field distractions, the captain managed to find an amazing 44 players this term compared to just 26 two years ago and 39 in 2013. Four players averaged over 50 runs a game – Alex Miller secured the batting award with nearly 80 but only played 6 times. Andy Cantrell bowled twice as many overs as anyone else which isn’t bad for a lad in his mid-fifties but faded towards the end of the season whilst another fifty something Alan Reeeeeevers took the most wickets but again works more nights than plays cricket matches. Both won’t be bowling for the club much longer! Hardly anyone else bowled enough to make a lasting impact on the side this season. For Liam’s 3s, Dan Abbott, Reuben Taylor, Charlie Carter and Liam himself took most of the wickets which is looking good for the future but runs were generally the issue. Only seven fifties all season plus the memorable Matt Hennings’ innings of 139* where he demonstrated that he could hit a cow’s backside with a cricket ball. Only the captain made double figures in appearances as we used 45 players in this side. This hasn’t really changed from previous years. Once again, a huge thanks to Liam for finding more players this season.

Colts and students only provide part of the solution. Reuben and Dan’s bowling were key to Liam’s side and surely provide Stephen with some bowling options next year. Charlie Davies played for the 1s but found the 2s more to his liking and won’t be the last colt to find this; JE-M played 1s hitting two half centuries and bowling a little. Uni boys appeared and then disappeared as they holidayed and partied. Injuries deprived us of Will Chambers for the season but he had holidays planned anyway. Al Miller scored well for the 2s but struggled to reproduce that for the 1s. Despite 45 against East Preston, brother Eddie also didn’t make a 1st XI spot his own. Chas Reeves made big runs on Sundays and for the 2s but not too many for the 1s. Callum again hasn’t quite made a 1st XI spot his own. All this proves that the jump between Division 1 and 4 is large and the fact that St Andrews and Ram both struggled this year, shows that actually the gap between Division 1 and 2 is the biggest jump

Despite distractions, fair play to the Reeves twins who appeared 45 times this summer between them. Josh’s 26 games were the most by any Uni student and brother Alfie played 35 times this term which was the most by any player. Out of our colts, how many will still be in the area when they’ve found jobs? Too early to say till our class of 2005 have settled down but the likelihood is not many. The section appears to be a community service rather than a production line for us. The colts' committee has also identified a need to improve the mental strength of the section. However the main strategies to improve league selection are 1) hunt for more regular adults and 2) get more games out of our current players like James Howgate.

 

u11sjcf final 2014 (1)The U11s reached the SJCF Shield Final at Hailsham

 

And now the Colts. Two major headlines:. 1) We entered a Girls’ League for the very first time at U13 and 2) most of the colts’ coaching was centred on a Friday with new stations. Both of these were groundbreaking for us and hopefully next season we will be entering two Girls’ leagues and playing some Ladies’ matches too. 

 

We’ll deal with Fridays first. We moved all coaching bar the U16s and the Academy to one day. Well actually the Minis started on the tennis courts on Tuesdays but after one month, they too moved to Fridays. This was a huge logistical challenge and not one that many thought would work! In the winter months, many of the coaching set up met regularly and both privately and publically were sceptical that it could work at all; however the Chairman, ably supported by his Vice Chair, ploughed on through the winter months exploring how it would work. Academy Director Matt Parsons said it had worked well at other clubs like Preston Nomads and Hurstpierpoint – he is involved at both clubs – but many were concenrned that there wouldn't be enough room at the Rec. 

 

We then had to put up with a chilly damp May with no pavilion but we had one of the Oratis’ tents to huddle under and throughout the season, not one Friday session was ever cancelled. The 9s, 10s, 11s and Girls all moved around batting, bowling, fielding and game stations in a clockwise fashion from 5:30pm every Friday night. Was it perfect? No but generally the kids loved it and so therefore did the majority of parents with several getting dragged in to help. The Minis arrived in June and stood on the edge of the football pitch doing their own thing under the guidance of Craig and his merry men. So a huge thanks to all the parents that helped coach and work both in the kitchen and behind the bar. Thanks again to the coaches for "following orders" like good army officers and once again to Mandy Davies Vice Chairman who rang the bell and fielded all sorts of questions both in the tent and in the new pavilion. 

 

When it came to the competitions, the Colts’ Chairman encouraged all coaches and parents to be competitive in the league but go out to win their Sussex Festival groups. This will continue next year. In the event, the U11s were the only ones that judged it perfectly. Everyone bowled and many batted. They started slowly in the league and peaked in the SJCF Shield Final against Arundel where they lost a high scoring game at Hailsham. Alex Tatchell became the first U11 to hit a ton that week and led well. They also fielded extremely well which was another focus of the colts’ committee. The 12s grew from a team of one or two stars to one or four or five. They should have won IDentilam League Division Two and had a competitive festival. The 13s looked good on paper but despite an unprecedented run in the ECB Cup (we beat County Premier League sides East Grinstead and Roffey before losing at Lindfield), we failed to shine in the league as so many private school kids were unavailable. However we entered the much harder Bowl SJCF and although we lost at Nomads and at home to ten man Cuckfield, we then wallopped Horley and East Grinstead and secured a draw at group winners, Steyning. Third out of six was our best ever Bowl division result and we will be entering more of these next season. The U14s managed well again by Mr Abbott finished runners up in the league and again had a competitive SJCF whilst the 15s should have won their WACA division and the 16s failed to reach their Shield final because their key players couldn’t sustain performances throughout the week. Over a week or a season, you need more than one or two good players and Friday coaching will slowly bring everyone on, not just the better kids.

 

There were some fantastic scenes as we played our first home Girls' match at home to local rivals Steyning (both teams pictured above) and the girls never stopped trying or smiling which is a great base to progress from next season. As coach Sarah says, we’ll try for a win next season and hopefully enter two leagues.

 

Finally, we had several kids go for Area and Sussex trials. Although some were undoubtedly disappointed not to be nominated or accepted at trials, we should congratulate our two Western Warriorrs - Johnny and Tom Murtagh - and our four Northern Knights - Toby Barton, Adam Trees, TJ Bethell and Reuben Taylor. And the last word to Francesca Sweet who will become the first West Chilt & Thakeham girl to play for Sussex when she steps out next season for the Sussex Under 11s.

 

Whether you were nominated or accepted for a trial, this club is for all and many great players never played area or county cricket at colts' level.

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