Annual Report 2002

The full story, as is the modern way, is now to be found on the web and all you need from me by way of an annual report is an "overview" as we academics like to call it and a few opinions, mercifully not all of them mine.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Champions of our Saturday League.
  • A record 48 victories.
  • Third place in the Wednesday League.
  • Numerous club records smashed, including 7 centuries.

This was certainly one of the finest seasons in the club’s history and in many statistical respects it was the finest. The opportunity arose because we were in a weaker league on Saturdays than ever before, but it was an opportunity we took in style as we were able to turn out competitive sides in virtually every fixture. My absolutely minimal ambition for the season was a 20th successive winning record, which was never in doubt when we won eight games before we lost one without a trace of our traditional slow start. Only slightly higher up the order of our ambition was winning our Saturday division, more of a requirement than an ambition, though it was an issue for most of the season after an early season defeat at King’s Sutton who were therefore ahead of us for most of the season. Things can go completely out of your own control in cricket leagues, but actually we were fairly lucky with the weather and also with the toss in gaining our revenge over KS in a rain-affected return. One of the great aspects of this season was that everybody was able to play a part in most aspects of our cricket.

THE SEMPLE TROPHY:
At an AGM in the 1980s, after we had decided unanimously that we did not want to join a Saturday League, Graham Semple suggested that we define a successful season as one in which we won at least 10 matches more than we lost. This was taken to include all games except the Wednesday league and a few other 20-over games. It is a measure of our strength and achievement this season that we achieved this by a distance without counting either tour (which is what often clinched it in the past) or the Saturday League with a record of W18 D5 L4. This +14 becomes +16 if you include tour and +28 if you include league games. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I doubt if we’ll ever get close again to the figure of 4 dozen victories (including the "beer" match against Ashorne).

PLAYING FOR A DRAW:
It does depend slightly on what you mean, but our record this season only includes 6 draws and one of those was purely a consequence of the weather. The main reason is obviously that we play a higher proportion of limited over cricket and reason number two is that we were putting out stronger sides in the matches that could be drawn. But the proportion is still very low and I think that is because we are a more attacking side than we used to be and opponents are less inclined to fight for the draw once victory is off the agenda. Traditionalists will take heart, however, from the observation that two of the draws - against Worcester Fossils and the Fireflies - were regarded as two of the best games of the season and several people also thought our stubbornness in holding the Students to a draw was among our more admirable performances.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER…
In the end it was OK. The first half of the season was bad including 10 cancellations and four on the trot in early June. But the second half was excellent: in the whole of August and September there was one abandonment and not a single cancellation. We would surely have settled for a season in which we never left the field either on tour (despite a shower at Llandovery) or during the September "mini-tour" and we lost only two Saturday league games to the weather. It was a pity not to play in Oxford, though.

ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE…
Tour divides the club in some ways. To some people it is the core of our existence as a club while to others it must seem to be a set of bizarre rituals in faraway places of which they know nothing except that they have funny names. I admit to a considerable change of mind during this year’s tour. When I drew up at a campus rendez-vous to pick up the younger element and saw the Keating guitar my heart - the heart of a fogey - sank. Now I wouldn’t go anywhere without a balladeer from choice. How could we have toured without songs? When will we release "Tour - The Album"? Do read the Balladeer’s stuff on the website; there’s even some "School of Balladeer" stuff if you look for it.

It was a very good tour not at all spoiled by losing the last game to a not-desperately-strong Llanidloes side. That was a result of one outstanding performance and our shortage of bowling, Stride being absent and Dobedoe and Boucher injured from the original party.

AWARDS:
I consulted club opinion and came up with the following...

MATCH OF THE YEAR: FIREFLIES
A convincing winner in which 4 different results were possible on the last ball. Note that three tour games got multiple mentions in this category, but no league games were ever mentioned.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: ANDREW HARDWICK’S MATCH WINNING 6 AT LONG ITCHINGTON
Classic heroism from the Sunday skipper. Cometh the hour and all that so no more whingeing about being past it. The context is all-important as they say: after an excellent start to the season we had just lost our first Wednesday League game and our first Saturday league game and we were losing this one until John Wayne turned up ("I’m not going to hit this ball out of the ground - the hell I’m not".) A clear runner up in this category was the Keating hat-trick at Llanidloes. Some people interpreted this category very personally so incidents got only one vote. Nearly everybody saw "worst moment" in personal terms: my bowling at Long Itchington would be a case in point.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN OPPONENT: ADRIAN FOULKES of Llanidloes
…with ten overs of mean leg-spin and 86* to win the game. A real innings of judgement sometimes while nursing fairly weak batsmen at the other end. Honourable mentions for John Shepherd’s 96 at the age of 66 for Worcester Fossils, though he blew it when in a winning position and Mark Connor’s hundred in a 20-over semi-final for Stoneleigh. Mark’s hitting was awesome, but it didn’t require the judgement of Adrian’s innings. Interestingly, there were no nominations for performances primarily with the ball.

BEST TEA: LLANIDLOES
…cornucopian. Special commendation for Stoneleigh for putting on a tea notwithstanding it being an evening match. No award for worst tea, but note that the concept of the “utility tea” has entered our vocabulary.

BEST PUB: No award
We have yet to find the pub we can love collectively. Several nominations for The Varsity as the worst pub.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
There is an actual award for this so it is traditional not to mention the actual name. This chap scored centuries, took five wickets when that was what was needed, skippered and fielded with concentrated athleticism…

CHAIRMAN’S AWARD TO EVERYBODY:
Just read those emails and that website: they are full of wit and commitment and the capacity to disagree without rancour. I find myself compared to a rhinoceros ( Warks CC), a crocodile ( Woodbourne) and a rock ( J.Rushton’s XI). This is all mind-expanding. Better than that the whole thing is written with mutual affection and shared enthusiasm. I am proud to be the titular head of this club not because we are jolly good at cricket (all right, then, a bit) but because we are a focus for tremendous friendships which do not see age or ability as a barrier. Exit chairman with lump in throat…

Lincoln Allison, October 2002

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