2017 was yet another interesting season in the 4th XI, my 5th at the helm of the side. It all started on a bright, early-May day with yours truly winning the toss and electing to bowl first (no surprise there!) against Midsomer Norton. First ball of the league season, up the hill at Fortress Failand, yours truly hits a good length, gets the ball to swing into the left hander and nicks the top of off stump. MSN 0-1 off 0.1 overs.
I’d love to leave this season review there because, frankly, that’s about as good as it gets. Sure, there were wins and there were losses, there were some good performances and some howlers, and there were plenty of beers/ciders/cans of fanta (for those under 18) drunk, but at that moment it all felt as though this could be our season.
Sure enough, we went on to beat MSN by 9 wickets in that game, Auden Barnes taking 2-22 on his senior debut and Pops making 87* as we comfortably chased down 172. The following week we restricted United Banks to 170-6 away at Coronation Park, with under-13’s Guy Fearon and George Houlden contributing 5 of those wickets. However a top order collapse, and then Jay Mullett getting himself out immediately after getting to his half century, meant that we came up 18 runs short.
A narrow rain-affected defeat to Whitchurch followed (Freddie Vaughan 61), before our trip to play 7-man Bristol West Indies resulted in a comfortable 9-wicket win (Mad Dog 3-23, Nathan 70*, Bevo 57*).
Carsons & Mangotsfield were the next visitors to Failand and set us a challenging target of 230 to win in 40 overs. Nathan Williams, Mad Dog Steve Williams, and Pete Brown in only his second appearance for the club all made scores in excess of 30, but none could quite push on enough to get us over the line.
Back to back victories soon followed however, with an incredible 7 wicket win over Civil Service being the highlight of the season. Andy Bevan, on his 30th birthday, took 3-fer with his part time slow bowling that definitely doesn’t spin and just looks a bit weird, but nonetheless a target of 236-5 felt a long way off at tea. A certain Ewen MacGregor, promoted to the top of the order, wasn’t having any of it however. He carried his bat for 97*, only being denied his ton by Saikumar who with 3 to win off 8 overs, promptly smashed his first ball for 4. I can only assume he was told by Ewen to make sure he scored the winning runs in a blatant attempt at jug avoidance.
The 9-man debacle at home to Timsbury soon followed, though fair play to Ash Davis for getting his troops to stay and play a much more closely fought beer match after beating us in time for tea. An away trip down to MSN followed (Ollie Harris 3-26, James Lemon 3-29) and with grass coming up as high as your knees it is safe to say that our trip to Morts Meadow will not be the first thing I circle on the 2018 cricketing calendar. At least I’ll know to take the pest spray this time.
United Banks at home saw the best of 13 year old Joe Durie who battled the persistent drizzle to accumulate a match-winning 58, helpfully supported by Il Presidente Phil Thorn with 55 as we set 218 to win. Auden Barnes’ 3-22 led the attack as we bowled them out for 190. That was to be our final win of the season, as the following 7 weeks resulted in 5 defeats, 1 rained off, and 1 walkover win.
Those in the side away at Carsons & Mangotsfield will tell you we should have chased 157 in 40 overs, after the bowlers led by some bloke named Strachan (3-29) restricted their batters nicely on a difficult pitch. Not even Nathan Williams’ 96 vs Civil Service at their place, nor Ewan Yates’ 51 on the final day at Timsbury could help us to salvage anything from a difficult second half of the season.
As ever, the youth players coming into the side did an excellent job and whilst there are too many to list individually, each and every one of them showed that they belong in senior cricket and came in and scored runs and/or took wickets. They all integrated well into the side and, having coached many of them for the first time at under-13s this year, I look forward to seeing them continue to develop as players and progress towards the first team.
Indeed, it was a proud moment for me personally to see Finlay Yates and Ollie Meadows go on to play in the first team this year. Having given both of them their senior debuts (Fin 0 & 1 catch, Ollie 2* and 2-49), to see the way in which they have both developed and really kicked on shows that there is a pathway for all the youngsters through to first team cricket and potentially beyond, and is a hugely positive sign for the club.
I’d like once again to thank everyone who has supported me during the season, helping to rope players in, ferrying children around, Nick and Lisa for their excellent teas (still the best in the league by far – and yet people still wonder why I want to bowl first!), and in particular my vice-captain Mr Bevan for his constant Mitchell-ing out in the middle.
But I need to save the last word for a man who claims he is now retiring from Saturday cricket – Mad Dog, Steve Williams. Steve will be remembered by many around the club as an interesting character, but over the last 5 years he has been nothing short of brilliant in and around the 4th team. Need an umpire? Steve’s there. Scorer? Don’t worry, Mad Dog’s on it.
Steve has been a great guy to have around the team, always willing to lend a word or two of his experience, and most of all he has been an excellent servant to the club – playing whenever available and in whatever team he was asked to turn out for. I had the pleasure of opening the bowling, and bowling a number of other spells in tandem, with him and it is a real shame that he has chosen to hang up his boots.
My personal Mad Dog highlight will forever be Twyford House away in June 2014. Having restricted the home side to 136 all out, we looked dead set against chasing that down in our 45 overs. Mad Dog, ably supported by some low scoring members of the tail who stuck around for a long time, took it all the way to the last ball of the game. Needing 3 to win, Mad Dog spent some time “doing some gardening” and pretending to take strike half way down the wicket. In the end he retreated to his crease, and promptly smashing the final delivery wide of long off for a boundary to secure a 1-wicket win.
I look forward to seeing you for a beer or two during 2018 Mad Dog, and I look forward to the new season with real interest and hope for some good results. Bring it on!