A History of Warwick University Staff Cricket Clubby Nick Boucher, Alan Lovell
Chairman's Pages:Forty Years a Don - Lincoln Allison
The Early YearsThe club was started in 1966, a few years after the first University employees came to work at the new campus between Coventry and Kenilworth and in the summer of the year of the first student intake. The original impetus to start a staff cricket club came from Hugh Clegg, who had previously worked at Oxford and started a college cricket club there with another of the early pioneers, Graham Pyatt. Pyatt became captain, presumably after arbitration.
There were just two games in the first season. The games were organised by Hugh Clegg, and the first game of the new club was played at Stoneleigh. Pyatt and Clegg were joined by David Hutchinson, George Rowlands, and opening bowlers Dick Sargent and Edward (E.P.) Thompson, who famously chronicled the English working class.
The early years at the new University were marked by a great spirit of adventure and the staff wished to do everything they could to prolong the pioneering atmosphere. In particular there was a strong inclination not to lay down rules and procedures that might limit unnecessarily the freedom of new members to do things their own way. One consequence of this was that the club was formed again practically from scratch in the following year, with many of the new members initially in ignorance of the existence of the embryo club in the previous year. George Rowlands and David Hutchinson, who became captain in 1967, continued to play but many of the original 1966 team bowed out in the face of the much larger pool of players.
It was considered in the first years of the club that matches should not be played during the examination period, and further that the difficulties of raising teams during August effectively precluded the arrangement of games in that month. The season was consequently largely confined to the months of May and July. Weekend games were the exception in the early years but a fair number of mid-week evening games were played and single wicket competitions between the home players were frequent. After a few years weekend fixtures became more common and by 1970 there was one game every weekend. As the University grew, more players came forward and the season expanded such that by 1971 there were fixtures throughout the normal cricket season, late April to mid September.
The new sports fields on the north side of the main campus settled down surprisingly quickly and the pitches were soon better than those of many of the clubs played in those years. The new pavilion was much more comfortable than that of any of the club's early opponents, but sadly it suffered from heavy student use and was showing its age by the time the cricket fields were moved to the other side of Gibbet Hill Road in the late 1990s.
Amongst the pioneers from the 1960s not already mentioned were John Halliday, David Holdcroft, Graham Kerr, Zig Layton-Henry, Michael Mallett, Roger McGraw, Peter Moore, Mike Ralph, Roy Schutz, David Miller and Paddy Stephenson. Andrew Barker started to play in 1968, Lincoln Allison - the longest serving club member still playing in 2002 - and David Holmes in 1969, and David Hughes in 1971. Nick Boucher started to play in 1972. Steve Lamb had a single game in 1973 before joining in 1974.
Many other players have represented the club then and later, and henceforward only those who have had a major impact on the club can be featured. Just over 500 players turned out for the Staff side between the inception of the club and the end of the millennium year 2000. From the start, it has been a feature that players were drawn from all parts of the University.
Early FixturesThe fixture list has been ever changing and bears little resemblance to the list of the 1960s. Only Stoneleigh, Leek Wootton, Warwickshire County Council and Kenilworth remain on the list. Other early fixtures included Barclays Bank, Blenheim Park, Coventry Colliery, Coventry and Leicester Clergy (played on Bank Holiday Monday and the source of constant bad jokes about umpiring), Central Hospital (based at Hatton), Leamington College, Leamington Leopards (based on the Leopard Inn at Bishops Tachbrook), Lillywhites (from Lillington), Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company (for whom Patrick Stewart played: later Des Wilson of Shelter fame, then publicity manager, proved a formidable left-handed opening batsman), Students 1st XI (usually a mismatch), and Warwick School Staff.
Other University Staff ClubsOf other university staff clubs, the first to appear on the weekend fixture list was Leicester. The staff have at other times played Manchester and Lanchester/Coventry, Swansea and Aberystywth on the Welsh tour which started in 1976, and others including Keele and Sheffield in an annual tournament for university staff clubs timed to follow the exam season. Warwick joined this tournament in 1970 and withdrew in 1975. There was always considerable rivalry with Sheffield.
For a few years the Staff Club played no other University Staff side, before a fixture with Nottingham University Staff was started in 2002. Aberystwyth Commoners were played again in 2004 on the annual Welsh tour.
Local Club Cricketers Working at WarwickIn addition to the regular players already mentioned, a number of strong players who were attached to local clubs also worked at Warwick. These included Bob Hurrion , Robert Dyson, Doug Darby, Jim Rushton and later Andrew Oldroyd from Leamington Spa C.C. and Malcolm Melrose from Rugby C.C. These players joined the staff side for the inter-university staff tournament, and also for the Coventry midweek 20-over knockout cup competition, which the club entered for the first time in 1972. When they played the staff side was able to compete at an altogether higher level, won the inter-university tournament and on one occasion reached the semi-final of the 20-over cup. The cup was usually won by Tommy Venn's XI, an invitation side of highly experienced players.
A Stronger Fixture ListRob Burns joined the club in 1974 and Steve Lamb also in 1974, after Leamington had claimed Steve for one season. Rob took over the captaincy in 1975 with the ambition of strengthening the fixture list. There was now a large enough group of players to consider stronger fixtures. The list in the mid 1970s contained two fixtures every weekend for the first time. The opening bowling was particularly strong: Steve Lamb and Mike Johnston constituted a fearsome attack. Mike Johnston's girlfriend Rosemary was a faithful scorer for a few years. Tom Manson was a correct opening batsman in the mid 1970s.
Fixtures with Leicester University Staff, Coventry Barbarians, Offchurch, Claverdon, West Indian Wanderers, Warwickshire Police, Warwick Ramblers and a weekend fixture with the County Council were added in 1975-76. Robert Pettifer joined the club in 1976 after a season with Leamington. Alan Lovell also joined in 1976, and his son Hywel made the first of many appearances against Pychlie in 1977 as a 9-year-old; he later became a leading batsman and bowler and has played for many years. Ken Foster first appeared in that 1977 Pychlie game. Alan himself was a major influence in many games until his retirement in 2000, with his correct batting and spin bowling. Phil Dixon appeared first in 1978 as a fit and awesome quick bowler, converting himself increasingly to a batsman as his back troubled him in later years. Peter Gardner, Keith Grasby, Malcolm Wallbridge and Paul Walker also became regular players in the mid 1970s. Mike Smith joined the club in 1977.
The Welsh TourAt this time also the staff club decided to embark upon a social tour, and the original fixtures were organised in 1976 using contacts on the Welsh Border. Originally just two games, this quickly expanded into a regular five-match tour of Wales, though only Llanidloes of the original fixtures survives. The history of the Welsh tour, which takes place in the third week of July, can be found here.
The Welsh tour replaced the inter-university staff tournament.
The Mid-week Evening LeagueA second strengthening of the fixture list took place in 1978 when the club joined the Coventry mid-week over-21 league, which it still contests. This league is a 20-over competition played on Wednesday evenings. The club nearly won the league in the first year, finding only one strong team - Dunlop - in residence as semi-permanent champions. The club lost only once, to Dunlop, but were able to complete fewer games because of the weather. The league has since become much stronger with - at the latest participitation - Matrix/Highway, Massey-Ferguson, Bablake Old Boys, Bharat Sports, Marconi (formerly GEC), Coventry Colliery after an absence of some years, Newdigate, Corley, Pak-Shaheen, Jaguar-Daimler, AJK, Sphinx and Coventry University all providing very strong opposition at times. Massey-Ferguson and Coventry University have latterly combined to form a single team in a macabre and counter-intuitive combination of town and gown.
With the addition of 18 or 20 Wednesday evening games, the fixture list consisted in the late 1970s of 60-70 games each season. The number of games has increased gradually and reached around 80 in the early 2000s, before the introduction of a second Saturday XI in 2004 brought the total to almost 100. At this level the Staff Club has become substantial. Had the Wednesday league continued to consist of 18 games per season the total would have exceeded 100 but with eleven teams in the league, since increased to thirteen, the format was changed to a shorter season in which each team played all the others once, followed by a cup competition.
Further Strengthening of the ClubMembership of the midweek league in 1978 produced further contacts for weekend games, with Dunlop, Sphinx and Lanchester Polytechnic (later Coventry University) being added to the fixture list. By 1980 there were very few casual fixtures remaining other than some midweek friendlies on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fortunately the playing strength matched the fixture list, with new batsmen Andy Rogers, Graham Semple, Ken Faisey, John Hogan, Mark Smith and Clive Marjoram regularly putting up good scores and new bowlers Jim Swailes, Gerry Frizzelle and David Winchester proving a real test for opposing batsmen. Rob Burns, Steve Lamb, Lincoln Allison, Ken Foster, Mike Smith, Phil Dixon, Robert Pettifer, Peter Gardner, Alan and Hywel Lovell and Nick Boucher remained in the side from the 1970s. Chris Cooper joined in 1983 as a batsman, later becoming the club's leading wicket keeper.
Withdrawal from the Midweek Cup CompetitionMeanwhile, continued participation in the Coventry midweek cup was becoming a chore. With regular Wednesday fixtures it proved difficult to raise good sides on a second weekday evening. Bad weather caused postponement, not abandonment, of cup games and further disrupted members' already busy lives. On one occasion Ken Foster, who had become captain in 1983, had to pick and cajole a team nine times just to complete a single match in one particularly wet May. Unfortunately, participation in the cup competition was not optional until 1987 for clubs that played in any of the Coventry leagues. The penalty for lack of compliance in this or any other matter where the league was concerned was and remains a compulsory and illiberal fine: a throwback to municipal socialism in a much changed world.
Deliberately weak teams were eventually entered so as to lose in the first round and participate in the plate competition for early losers, but this too proved burdensome and the club withdrew from the cup competition as soon as it was permitted.
Victory in the Midweek LeagueThe club's strength in the 1980s led to two victories in the midweek league. Bob Hurrion, Robert Dyson and Malcolm Melrose now joined the midweek team on a regular basis. The team that emerged was very strong, with Hurrion and Melrose joined by Phil Dixon, Graham Semple, Ken Foster, Rob Burns and Steve Lamb to score the runs and Dyson backed up by Lamb, Jim Swailes, Gerry Frizzelle, Nick Boucher and David Winchester to restrict the opposition batsmen. The first league championship in 1985 depended on victory in the last match, inevitably against Dunlop. The win was gained in darkness and drizzle on a late August night after 9.00 p.m. when a ball hit by Phil Dixon could not be seen in the deep field and three runs were completed. Play had been allowed by the umpires to continue only because of the opposition's dilatoriness in taking the field in the first place.
The second championship was secured more comfortably in 1988 with a game to spare. Shortly afterwards Dyson stopped playing altogether and Dixon, Semple, Swailes and Frizzelle moved away and joined other clubs. League success has not come again, though individual victories over strong opposition have regularly been achieved.
One match in those years - yet again against Dunlop - will long remain in the memories of those who played. The staff batted first and one of the fielders ran into Rob Burns, breaking his collarbone, as he was trying to complete a run. Despite this setback the staff reached 101. Dunlop batted into the increasing gloom and in the last over a ball was guided into the third man area, where it could not be seen. A call of "dead ball" would have yielded six runs and effectively conceded the match. Luckily Jay Brine found the ball over the boundary, for a score of four runs, as the batsmen were about to set out on their seventh run. Staff won the match by one run.
A Settled Weekend TeamThroughout the later 1980s and 1990s the club's weekend teams performed strongly, almost always winning more matches than they lost. There was a well established group of players including Rob Burns, Steve Lamb, Lincoln Allison, Nick Boucher, Chris Cooper, Ken Foster, Mike Smith, John Halliday, Alan and Hywel Lovell, and Robert Pettifer who played for twenty years or more and generally formed the core of the side. Jay Brine opened the bowling for a few years in the mid 1980s. David Storey joined the club in 1987 and was immediately a regular batsman and bowler. Dave Chaplin played from 1988-1991 as a leading batsman and superb fielder, James Daniel likewise from 1990-1992. Daniel's impatience while waiting to bat, and his genius for obscure statistics, caused much amusement. John Cartwright played as a batsman, largely for the Wednesday evening side, from 1990-1993.
Two Staff line-ups from the mid-80's
Outstanding Wednesday BatsmenTwo outstanding players joined the Wednesday side in the early 1990s. First Andrew Ridley played one season in 1992 and averaged 66 with the bat, showing his Australian Sheffield Shield experience. Then Jim Forbes came in 1993 and replaced Ridley as opening partner for Bob Hurrion. The opening batting for the Wednesday side was truly exciting for a few years. Forbes left after the 2000 season but played a few games for the Saturday side before then, being instrumental in winning several matches in the club's Willoughby Salver league championship in 1999 - the club had by then bowed to the irresistible pressure to play weekend league cricket.
Pressures of CaptaincyThe club's emergence as a consistent cricketing force coincided with the captaincies of Rob Burns and Ken Foster, covering the period 1975-1987. These two captains had a very wide role. They were responsible for picking the teams and for ensuring that eleven players turned up, for liaison with the ground staff, for ensuring that the club kit and the scorebook were taken to matches, for persuading somebody to make the tea before that job was made a specialist function, and for unlocking and locking up the pavilion when playing at home. In return for this devotion to duty all other players were prepared to defer to the captains' occasionally idiosyncratic methods.
The sheer investment of time eventually proved too much for any one individual. Nobody was prepared to undertake the total captaincy in 1988. Lincoln Allison became club chairman with the responsibility of finding a captain on a match by match basis. In practice the captaincy was shared on a more informal basis between Lincoln Allison and Alan Lovell. Generally Allison took more Saturday games and Lovell more Sunday games, with others taking occasional games by request. This arrangement worked well for ten years, until both stepped down after the 1997 season. The Saturday captaincy has since continued to be separate from the Sunday job. Steve Lamb became Saturday captain, playing league cricket, and Robert Pettifer accepted the Sunday captaincy. Lincoln Allison continued to undertake the organisation of midweek friendly games.
The continued growth of the club led to the introduction of a second Saturday XI on Saturdays in 2004. The second XI captain was Steven Cammiss, supported when necessary by Lincoln Allison as vice-captain. Robert Pettifer stepped down from the Sunday captaincy during the 2004 season and was not replaced by a single individual in the season.
New Players in the 1990sClive Gregory eased his way into the team during the 1992 season as a leading batsman. 1993 was a good year for recruitment of leading players, with Chris Stride as an accurate slow-medium bowler, Alan Marchant as a batsman who was second only to Rob Burns in the weight of his scoring until he left after the 1998 season, and Steve Curram who had a huge appetite for bowling and took what was then the most weekend wickets in the club's history in 1997, his last season. Three more leading players joined in 1995 - Tim Rogers as batsman and bowler, a key player until his departure after the 1997 season; Richard Dobedoe as orthodox left arm spinner, and Andy Wootton as batsman and spin bowler almost exclusively for the Wednesday side. Neil Carter joined in 1997 as a batsman and played for the Wednesday and Sunday sides before becoming fully available in 2001, since when he has also developed his bowling.
Rob Wood joined as a batsman and athletic fielder in 1999 and added some much-needed aggression to the team's batting, and to the fielding side which had been memorably described by Richard Dobedoe as "The Terracotta Army". Steven Cammiss also joined in the 1999 season, bringing a dose of North-Eastern commitment to both the seam-bowling department and off-the-field organisation.
League Cricket on SaturdaysIt had become increasingly difficult to find weekend fixtures in the later 1980s and 1990s as more and more clubs joined leagues. With some trepidation and regret from the older members, the decision was taken in the winter of 1994 to jump onto the near universal bandwagon and join a league. Starting in 1995, the club played in the W.I.C.C. League (the "Willoughby Salver") on Saturdays. The format was 45 overs with the draw. The side batting first gained winning draws, if they were unable to force the win: the side batting second could obtain losing draws, if they held out for the draw. The league brought some excellent new fixtures and much easing of work for the fixture secretary, and confounded the doubts of the elders. It was evident right from the start that the standard of cricket played in the W.I.C.C. league was well suited to the standard of the staff club and many excellent and hard fought games were enjoyed, almost always in a good spirit despite the additional pressures of league cricket. The clubs playing in 2001, the league's last season, were Horley, Ashorne and Moreton Morrell, West Haddon, Stoneleigh, Long Itchington, Hunningham, Willoughby, Flecknoe and Woodbourne. Warwickshire County Council had left after the 2000 season to be replaced by Woodbourne. Of these clubs, only Horley, Flecknoe and West Haddon were new fixtures.
Playing each other team home and away, the league effectively occupied Saturdays throughout the season.
Selection PressuresThe league brought with it a new type of selection problem, exacerbated by the separation of the Saturday and Sunday captaincies. There was pressure to field the best possible league team on Saturdays, balanced by a desire to avoid a de facto split into two XIs with the Sunday side occasionally not competitive. This proved to be a constant problem that needed continual management, needing tolerance and understanding from all players. It was thought necessary to play league cricket more seriously than the club had previously played weekend fixtures, but the village cricket ethos has been maintained and enough players were playing both weekend days to prevent a complete split in team selection.
Breeding A New GenerationPlaying strength has been considerably strengthened by the maturing efforts of the sons of the older players. Hywel Lovell has played for many years and been a key member of the team. Christopher and Richard Lamb have become good club cricketers, playing for the club through their university years and since. Jim, Michael and Stevie Allison have all played many games for the club and been influential on many occasions. William Beynon has played on a number of occasions. Tristram Hughes and Miles Storey have also played for the club. Malcolm Wallbridge's sons played, briefly, in the 1970s. George and Ralph Hardwick played in the 2000s. The son of one other player turned out once, was out first ball and has since given up the game.
The sadder consequence of the advent of sons is that the fathers' generation approach the ends of their careers. Amongst high profile retirements Malcolm Melrose stopped playing in 1992, followed by Bob Hurrion in 1998. John Halliday played his last game in 1993 and was given a tankard in honour of his long contribution to the club. The presentation was made in the bar of the "Green Man" in Long Itchington, following the abandonment of the match there and an extended lunch. Ken Foster and Alan Lovell stated firmly that they had played their last games in 2000, though Alan Lovell remains in constant contact with the club as coach, archivist and highly valued umpire. Andrew Hardwick announced his retirement after the 2003 season. Robert Pettifer retired after the 2004 season. At least one other player has tried to retire but proven unable to maintain his fully justified resolution.
Many others had of course retired earlier, apart from those who left to play elsewhere.
Saturday League Champions in 1999A different team won the Willoughby Salver in each of the first six years of the Saturday league. Hunningham, Long Itchington, Willoughby, Warwickshire County Council, the staff club and finally West Haddon - a much improved team from the mid 1990s - were successively champions.
The staff club's 1999 team was particularly well balanced. Rob Burns, Jim Forbes, Clive Gregory, Robert Pettifer, Steve, Christopher and Richard Lamb, David Storey, Chris Cooper and Jim Allison formed a consistent and deep batting line-up. Chris Cooper was the best keeper in the league. Richard Dobedoe, Nick Boucher and Chris Stride were successful slower bowlers, contrasting with the speed of the Lambs and the medium pace of David Storey. A particularly good win was achieved against Warwickshire County Council, when the staff club successfully chased 184 to win on a very hot afternoon despite Clive Gregory taking a blow on the head that caused him to retire when batting, resuming his innings when a couple of wickets had fallen.
The decisive win was achieved at home against Ashorne and Moreton Morrell, who had come with a strengthened side to deny the victory the staff needed. The bowlers did their stuff and bowled Ashorne out for 121, but Ashorne hit back and had the staff innings in trouble at 55-6. At this point David Storey joined Christopher Lamb and the pair gradually took control, were not separated and walked out with a win by four wickets. The nearest challengers Hunningham had one match remaining, but the result of that match could no longer affect the championship: in the event that match was rained off anyway.
By happy coincidence Robert Pettifer threw a party on the evening of the Ashorne match. It was a fancy dress party with the theme of the 1960s, an appropriate era for some of the team, and it led to one of the more unusual team photographs.
Willing Wicket-keepersThe club has been well served by its keepers, despite a lack of ready-made specialists. Only Tony Rich in the mid 1980s and more recently Roddy Vann had been regular keepers before joining the club. Indeed before Rob Burns took the gloves in the mid 1970s the gloves had been in many hands, most of them clumsy by comparison with what came later. Ken Foster and then Chris Cooper also became keepers and proved highly proficient. Chris Cooper actually claimed more than 50 victims in all matches in 2000 and 2001 and took the W.I.C.C. wicket-keeping trophy on several occasions. Rob Burns, Bob Hurrion and Chris Cooper did most of the Wednesday league keeping until Roddy Vann took over in 2000 when Cooper was unable to play. Vann fielded out when Cooper kept wicket. After Vann left in 2005 Mike Allison added Wednesday wicketkeeping duties to his glovesmanship for the Saturday 2nd XI.
UmpiringUmpiring has for many been an unwelcome chore, to be undertaken as a duty in the certain knowledge that adverse decisions would rankle in the hearts of those dismissed, even if not disputed openly. No batsman was ever willing to be out. However, Alan Lovell made a speciality out of umpiring and achieved a degree of excellence that countered the usual scepticism. His regular standing won the sincere thanks of the whole club.
Strong Competition on WednesdaysThe increasing strength of the Wednesday league and the increasing maturity of the longer established players led to the club's team being uncompetitive in some matches in 1998, and an increasing number of games in 1999. There was some consideration of resigning from the league before the long view was taken and membership of the league was continued. Mark Smith, who had played for the club in the 1980s before moving away, had returned and took over the captaincy from Rob Burns in 2000. Mark's work proved more time-consuming than expected in 2002 and the de facto captaincy passed to Neil Carter.
Starting in 1978, Rob Burns had captained the Wednesday side for much of the succeeding 22 years.
There were again enough recent, younger players to ensure that the side was again competitive. In 2005 the team could call on Rob Wood, Roddy Vann, Neil Carter, Mike Keating, Nick Goold, Reginald Darius, Chris Stride, Tughral Turab Ali, Richard Lamb, Bob Speight, Keith Bradbury, Paul David, Rob Evans and James Perkins, with just Steve Lamb from the longer established players. A number of other players had a game or two.
Collapse of the W.I.C.C. LeagueThe departure of Warwickshire County Council from the W.I.C.C. league after the 2000 season proved to have been an augury. Whilst Woodbourne joined in 2001 to maintain the ten-team league, the departure of other clubs at the end of the 2001 season produced too great a gap to fill. First Ashorne and Moreton Morrell announced their decision to go without any prior consultation, to be followed soon afterwards by Long Itchington who had at least had the courtesy to tell the remaining clubs of their deliberations. Both joined the Cotswold League.
A period of frantic negotiation followed as recruits were sought to fill the gaps, while some clubs simultaneously looked for a future elsewhere. West Haddon left to join the Northamptonshire League, a geographically sensible decision for them. Eventually Hunningham joined the Warwickshire league and Willoughby announced that they would join the South Northamptonshire League, leaving only four Saturday clubs and Horley of the original ten and no option but to disband. The Staff club at that point joined the South Northamptonshire League (SNCL) too, initially in Division 4. This proved not to be arduous and the club came top, earning promotion and asking for accelerated promotion if possible.
The South Northamptonshire Cricket League (SNCL)The club's first season in the new league proved to have been an unfortunate combination of a lowly league placing and the strongest and deepest playing strength in the club's history. Kings Sutton were worthy opponents and Marston St. Lawrence fielded and bowled well - both second XI's - but no other league game stretched the Staff. On the positive side it proved to be a very friendly league with some beautiful and bucolic grounds. Accelerated promotion was given to the Staff Club, and to Willoughby and Stoneleigh from the former Willoughby League.
The format in the SNCL is 40 overs without the draw. The Premier Division, to which the Staff club was promoted at the end of the 2005 season, plays 45 overs.
The all-conquering teams of 2002
The 2003 season in Division 2 of the SNCL, against mostly first XIs with only one second team, was distinctly more competitive. Staff lost five games, two of them to the Divisional winners Afro-Caribbean and three early in the season. This led to a lowly early season placing and a long struggle to claim second place, which was eventually achieved by a good margin. All of the three clubs to have been given accelerated promotion after the 2002 season were again promoted.
The 2004 season was more competitive again. Staff ended up in mid-table, having again lost twice to Afro-Caribbean who with Croughton gained promotion to the Premier Division. The bowlers were generally competitive but the batting was not sufficiently consistent to merit promotion. Division 1 teams proved to have enough bowling to maintain line and length for 40 overs, which had not been the case in Division 2.
The team was stronger in 2005, with Kevin Morrell and Tughral Turab Ali playing full seasons as opening batsman and opening bowler. An injury to Nick Boucher led to his absence from the team for the first time since the early 1970s. Bob Speight, Keith Bradbury, Paul David and Sethu Menon played some games. The team won promotion despite being docked 20 points for an inadvertent failure to register a player due to a failure of communication itself caused by a change in the email address of the league secretary. The bowling attack of Keating, Lamb, Stride and Turab Ali was virtually unchanged and often unplayable throughout the season, and took over 100 wickets between them.
The first season of Premier Division cricket saw Staff perform admirably, finishing in a deserved 3rd place, due to solid bowling and inspired batting from Christopher Lamb. Inconsistent form saw a slip to 5th in a rain-ruined 2007 season, though the team proved worthy opponents for all but perennial champions Evenley. This season was most notable for the talent of the new recruits. The spin bowling of Sandeep Sandhu amasssed more than 40 league wickets and sheer range of attacking batting at this team's disposal was remarakable; alongside the Lamb brothers and Rob Wood, subcontinental stars Adita Jainarayan and Fuwad Sayed brought poise, power and a couple of classy centuries that befitted their cricketing upbringing at the Vengsarkar academy in India!
New Players in the 2000sRoddy Vann started to play for the Wednesday XI in 2000 as batsman and wicket keeper, and Andrew Hardwick joined the weekend team as a batsman before becoming Sunday captain in 2001/2. In 2002 Mike Keating's sharp left-arm bowling and tail-end big-hitting emerged and became an integral part of the Staff XI for the next few years. Warren Finlay also joined the club as a medium pacer in 2002, and Ken Faisey returned after many years, as batsman for week-end games. 2003 was a particularly good year for recruitment, with John Jackson (for one season only) and Reginald Darius as attacking opening batsmen. Ph.D students who made a big impact in varying ways during this period included Nick Goold as an all-rounder, James Perkins as a fast bowler, the off-spin of Tom Day, the mystery spin of Hari Singh, and the slow left-arm of Sandeep Sandhu, who had a sensational debut season in 2007. There was also the occasional bolstering of the ranks from bona-fide members of staff, including stalwart left-hander Dan Hall, hard-hitting opening bat Kevin Morrell, the middle-order bludgeoning of Martin Lees plus the all-round skills of Rob Evans and Paul Wilson, both of whom rapidly became integral members of the club on and off the field.
In the mid to late 2000's the number of students recruited increased dramatically, with a particular bonus being a host of players from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, most of whom were on one-year post-graduate courses. These players have made a big contribution to the club and enabled it to field two teams every Saturday in the League. As well as the aforementioned Turab-Ali, Jainarayan and Fuwad, the Dons have benefitted from the swing bowling skills of Harish Putti, the allround talents of Srinivas Gowda and Saurabh Malhotra, and the metronomic fast bowling twins Ajit and Ajay Nair amongst many others.
Weekend Playing StrengthBy 2007 the club had over 70 registered players 'on its books'; despite a fixture list of over 100 matches there was seldom any difficulty in finding a team, though the holiday season produced several weekends when there was a serious search for players. It was very different from just 5 years earlier when Staff was putting out only one Saturday side, when there were too many players to give games to everyone who wanted to play and seldom any possibility of two games for those who would have preferred to play twice every week-end.
The club has continued to draw on players from all parts of the University, and probably represents one of the few places where the University comes together as a whole rather than as a collection of departments.
A Staff Second Eleven
The increasing playing strength of the club in 2002 and 2003 led to proposals to put out two Saturday teams starting in 2004. The club applied to the SNCL for a place for a second XI, but initially there had been no room.
Owing to an extraordinary situation in the SNCL during 2003, a place became available at their AGM when a club was thrown out of the league by overwhelming popular vote. The club in question had actually taken out an injunction against the league to prevent the publication of what they regarded as an incorrect league table! The matter, which revolved around the issue of unregistered players and league rules governing the definition of registration, was close to being heard in the Milton Keynes County Court before common sense prevailed.
The upshot of the whole imbroglio was that a vacancy became available for a second XI, and so the club for the first time put out two XIs on a regular basis in 2004, the new 2nd XI captained and organised by Steven Cammiss. This development prevented almost entirely the problem of previous years of insufficient cricket for some members. This had been a calculated risk - it had not been at all certain that the club would be able to field two XIs every Saturday - but in the event players have been found to fill the places that had been created and the club was stronger as a result.
The second XI, which immediately became known as the "Killer Bees", was put up from Division 5 to Division 4 before the season had even started and won promotion to Division 3 in its first season. The team appeared in 2005 to have found its level, but after a couple of seasons of lower-midtable struggle in Division 3, an influx of batting strength to complement an already consistent bowling side saw new skipper Mike Allison lead the team to a surprise Championship win achieved in 2007. Perhaps the biggest success of this season though was the fact that, stalwarts such as the Allisons, Cammiss and Martin Lees aside, the team used (and hence gave the opportunity of a game of cricket to) an extraordinary 33 players.
Looking ForwardThe staff club remained in good heart in 2007. May the future members of the club derive as much enjoyment from their cricket as those who have played since 1966, who would like as a body to thank their opponents on the field for many enjoyable games. They would also like to thank the University and the ground staff for providing pitches and the opportunity to play cricket. Greater demands have been placed on the ground staff since 2004 with the need for a league pitch every Saturday including term-time and pitches were found on every occasion except when the weather was poor.
Players of all standards are welcome members of the club. There are no qualifications, but greater pleasure attends those who enjoy convivial but meticulous dissection of cricketing performance - that of colleagues as well as of opponents - and like to enter the conversational fray on all subjects, irrespective of prior knowledge. A sense of humour is sometimes of assistance.
Club Captains - weekends
Club Captains - midweek