Review by Andy Malliff.
What a season it has been. If I think back to this time last year when I took on the captaincy, I never thought we would have been in the position that we found ourselves in. In fact, I remember too well at nets at the beginning of the season speaking with Sree who was saying we needed to be pushing for the top two this year and that he thought we would get there. I nodded along, thinking he didn’t have a clue what he was going on about… after all, last season we finished 3rd bottom, just one place above a relegation spot with an average of 14.5 points and only picking up 38 batting and 36 bowling points all season.
To further reaffirm my doubts, we then got off to a shaky start by losing to Ibis in pre-season. If you’re a betting man maybe go and speak to Sree about the football results this weekend!
But as we got into the season, it kicked off in fantastic fashion, recording three wins on the trot, with a rained game chucked in for good measure (because it wouldn’t be the English cricket season without a fair number of rained games), the 1XI found themselves top of the league. And whilst the team was performing well, there were some individual performances of note too as Siva, Chris W and Krishna managed to notch up 16 wickets between them and Ankush and Zee picking up their first 50s for the club.
From there we had our first of two challenging encounters against Shinfield, this time away. I will remember this day well for several reasons, personally seeing three 4s whistle through or over the slips in my first over and a further three 6s top edged in my second. Not a great day for me, but perhaps the overwhelming memory is that we somehow managed to put down 13 catches. All the same, we struggled to a losing draw thanks to a ground out batting performance by Chris Waghorn and Chris Sharpe, one of the most significant moments of the season on reflection.
After this the 1s managed a further two wins against Warfield and Earley, the latter playing out on possibly the worst pitch and outfield that any of us have ever seen. When you bowl a team out for 64, you back yourself to win comfortably, but as we know, we scratched our way to victory getting to 65 for the loss of 9 wickets and a heroic performance from Krishna top scoring with 19 runs. I am not sure that a batting performance where someone scored 19 is often described as heroic, but there you go.
Then came our first frustrating draw against Hawley who blocked out and an even more frustrating draw against Emmbrook and Bearwood where even Ankush downed the gloves to come on and try and get the breakthrough to no avail. By this time, our strong start that had seen us maintain first spot for so long had slipped slightly as we were a point on average behind Shinfield who now occupied first spot. One huge highlight of this match though was an amazing knock of 182 by Ankush whose slowish start to the season (by his very high standards) was well and truly behind him. And as we know, Ankush went on to total 430 runs across three matches.
With two more wins under our belt against Woodley and Crowthorne, and a couple more rained games for good measure, we came to the second Shinfield game, this time at home. This was always going to be a fiercely fought contest, but I do not think any of us realised quite how tense it would get in many ways. With their captain trying to call the game off before it had even started, the questionable umpiring when we were bowling by their players, the 50 odd appeals when they were bowling and it all coming down to the last ball. What a game. It was a shame about some of the scenes after the last ball, but we found ourselves back on the top of the table with 4 games to go.
We saw off Warfield next and then came to the second of the really frustrating draws against Hawley who we could seem to bowl out in the 48 overs, despite getting them down to their last man. There was another special moment for Ankush in this game though, where he hit his highest score of the season; 209 off just 127 balls. And kept Lee standing there waiting to bat in his pads the whole innings, not for the first time this season…
So, we were down to the last two games, Emmbrook away and then Earley at home. What could have been a potential banana skin at Emmbrook turned out to be a bit of a formality. With them batting first, Siva and I both took a 5-for, skittling the opposition for just 52, which we chased down by 3.20pm. This took Siva to his final standing of 26 wickets for the season and Ankush 947, falling just short of the 1000 milestone that has not been done too many times at any level in the league before.
And this was their final milestone as we came back to Oak Meadow for the final match of the season against a buoyant Earley, who were sure to put us through our paces. Fortunately for us (and them as they secured third spot and had no chance of promotion by this point), the rain did its thing again and WSLCC 1XI were crowned champions. And not only champions, but having gone a whole season unbeaten with an average point score of 30.43 and picking up 61 batting and 62 bowling points along the way.
Looking to next year, there has been a reshuffle of the league and it looks possible we could have a league that looks very similar to the one from this year if everything plays out as planned with exiters and joiners to the league. Maybe I will be the bold one now and follow in Sree’s footsteps – in 2018 we need to be pushing for the top two. I want us to be able to say that Waltham St Lawrence Cricket Club are a Premiership club.