SNCL first-team captain’s 2006 season report

 

A most enjoyable, albeit rarely relaxing season! Five of our ten wins went right down to the wire. If we’d lost those close encounters we could have been fourth from bottom. As it was, we ended up third, and three points off second, a position we’d like to think was a fair reflection of the club’s performance and our standing in the 2006 SNCL.

 

All of which makes the season sound rather pedestrian, whereas in truth it was a great summer to be involved in the great game. Yes, the standard at Premier level is clearly higher than in division one: teams bat deeper, and have at least four good bowlers, which means there are few easy runs on offer, and the fielding is sharper. And it’s definitely a batters’ division, the bowling stats (I think) will bear that out, not least the fact that the three bowlers who got over 30 wickets last season, Keating, Stride & Lamb S, all failed to reach 20 this season. Batting match-winners abound, especially at Evenley, Charlton (Mohammad chose us for his two biggest and fastest knocks of the season) Priors and Byfield, who have two of the best stroke-makers in the division.

 

So why did we do so well in our debut at top level? A host of reasons: a varied and both penetrative and parsimonious bowling attack; a decent batting line-up that included a number of match winners and which failed on only three or four occasions; and good team spirit. The new-recruit regulars made a big difference: the unflagging persistence and amazing willingness-to-learn of Ajay and Ajit Nair, the highly talented but mercurial all-rounder Srinavas Gowda and cavalier opening bat Sahil Kulkarni, and the enthusiasm and commitment of  Sameer Pawar and Zahid Rumani. Stalwarts were crucial too of course: Kevin played two match-winning knocks (a Caribbean 70 in the first 20 overs v Afros away, and a far more sedate 51 in the most sledging of circumstances at Priors Marston), Rob Wood and Rich Lamb contributed a goodly number of key middle-order knocks when it mattered, (with Rich also deputising to good effect behind the sticks twice), Neil won the game carrying his bat at Marston, and debutant Mike Jennings, whom we hope to see on more Saturdays next season, made a stylish and decisive half-ton at Thornborough. Chris Cooper maintained his usual unfussy high keeping standards and was at the wicket bat-in-hand on at least two crucial occasions. Throughout it all bowlers Keating and Stride continued their successful opening partnership, at the very least stifling batters anxious to get on with it, and often removing them when it mattered. Richard Dobedoe took the only Michelle, apart from the skipper’s on the first Saturday, and the latter enjoyed not having to bowl twelve overs flat out every game, but was gratified that he could still do it when necessary (which was more often than he expected!), even when global warming was at its strongest.

 

But of course a major feature of our season was Chris Lamb’s batting. I don’t have the stats to hand, but he must have scored nearly 600 in ten (?) league games, with an average of 60, give or take a few. His knocks against Priors (121* out of 190 off 99 balls) Croughton (94 off 104 balls), 86* v Byfield, and 68 & 44 v Willoughby, all devastated the oppo attack and determined the result. Add to that 57 out of the first 64 against Charlton when Sven’s boys were exiting the Weltmeisterschaft at AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen and you get the league picture.

 

From a skipper’s perspective, in only one game did decisions taken probably affect the outcome negatively, that being the home game against Marston, which we really should have won. The other four defeats were to Evenley, clearly the best team in the SNCL by a distance, and Charlton, thanks to two crushing, and apparently rare knocks from a hitter we dropped early on both occasions.

 

Prospects for 2007? Good news: courtesy of Jaguar Srini is now residing in Earlsdon, and will be available. Bad news: Not even Mike Keating’s enthusiasm will bring him this far north too often, and the inimitable twins are back in Bangalore. Good news: if we recruit at winter nets as we did last year, we’ll be fine, as the core is still strong. Other good news: surely we won’t lose so many to stag weekends and weddings as we did in 2006, and surely some irregulars will be more available next season?

 

Neil Carter’s thoughts on fielding in his midweek report are spot on. Whilst some catches will live long in the memory (Kevin’s stunners at slip at Willoughby and at short mid-wicket at Milton Keynes, as well as a good number in the deep), our ground fielding is often pedestrian, and rarely as good as the oppo. It ill behoves me of all people to say so, but those fleeter of foot and reaction should take note. Practice at outdoor nets should help.

 

Finally thanks to one and all for a great team effort, especially to Chris Cooper, Neil Carter and Rob Wood for their excellent off-as-well-as-on-the-field work. Weiter so!

 

SNCL Bankier Sloan Premier Division Table 2006

                                                P          W        D         L          Pts

Evenley                        18       12         4          2          303  (Champions)

Charlton                       18       10         5          3          263

Warwick Univ Staff      18       10         3          5          260

Willoughby                   18        7          4          7          220

Marston St Lawrence   18        5          5          8          210

Byfield                          18        6          5          7          200

Priors                           18        5          5          8          200

Afro Caribbean MK     18        5          4          9          193

Thornborough               18        4          6          8          185  (Relegated)

Croughton                    18        3          5          10        154  (Relegated)

 

Features:

  • Double losses to both first and second-placed teams
  • The same number of wins as second-placed Charlton
  • Two defeats of Willoughby, Priors and Croughton
  • The lowest number of games lost to the weather, only one of which we would have been favourites to win.