A Review of the 2004 Season
Dave Wright (Saturday 1st XI Captain)
Sadly the 1st XI’s return to the Premier League was all too brief this time around, as we bowed out tamely on the last weekend of the season to leave us 8 points adrift of safety and condemn us to 1st Division cricket again in 2005. With an injury free season and a spot of luck things may have been different, but in all honesty the league table doesn’t lie and it was a frustrating lack of consistency with both bat and ball plus some schoolboy catching errors which were the chief factors in our relegation.
Dave Wright’s first team squad showed some changes in personnel to the team that won the 1st Division title the previous year. Run machine Queenslander Steve Paulsen didn’t make the trip over again and we were also denied the services of reliable wicketkeeper / batsman Matt Humphrey due to study commitments. Veteran all rounder Sean Balmford decided to hang his boots up in the close season and we also lost Paul Jones to the world of science. In to their places came Danny Hazle who made the short trip from Brentwood to beef up the middle order, 18 year old all rounder Matt Weaver who made a slightly longer trip from Tea Tree Gully in Adelaide and John Walter who came courtesy of the Shenfield High School PE department. We also welcomed back Dave Watts from a year out with a ruptured Achilles and Rob Tappin from a year out scouting the bars and clubs of Australia for talent. There was also a welcome return to action for Mickey Maynard behind the sticks, after a seven-year sabbatical enforced by dodgy knees and the vagaries of the handbag retailing game. Having spent the first four seasons since its inception in the Premier League we knew the task we faced and the need for a strong start to the campaign. However things didn’t really go right for us in the first half of the year.
After the opening weekend washout we received a sound beating at Wanstead where the home sides young talent compiled 267 – 8 and we never recovered from losing 4 wickets before tea. Rob Wickes’ excellent spell of 24–6–81–5 was the only real plus point for us. We suffered two close home defeats in our next 3 games with a draw at Ilford sandwiched between them. A strong position of 220 – 5 became 227 all out at home to South Woodford, the first of a string of batting collapses. The visitors sneaked home by 2 wickets thanks mainly to a fine unbeaten century from Khan. Saffron Walden came away from our encounter with a 2 wicket win as well, this time from the last ball of the day. We got our batting collapse out of the way early on this time, slumping to 91 – 6 only to be rescued by Jamie Walton’s excellent 60 and Rob Tappin’s not quite so elegant but equally effective 42 to enable us to gain maximum batting points. The game seemed to be gone from us when we spilled two very catchable chances, but a 3‑wicket burst from Simon Moore set up a tight finish that sadly went against us again.
A severely depleted side performed well with the ball but were unable to follow up with the bat as we lost to Westcliff and we were convincingly beaten at home by Hainault & Clayhall to leave us propping up the table still looking for our first win.
The opening win duly arrived at fellow strugglers Fives & Heronians but came at a price. Another promising position was wasted as we totalled 217 with John Walter making his maiden half-century for the club. However a masterful spell from Simon Moore (15–1–35–4) strangled the home side and we chipped away at the lower order resistance to win by a comfortable margin but with only a couple of overs to spare. Sadly Moore aggravated a back injury during the course of his spell and we only saw him in action twice in the rest of the season, robbing us of one of the leagues most respected operators.
Young Matt Weaver who had put in some solid performances on and off the field starred in the game at home to Loughton, but his 102 and 3 – 36 weren’t enough to stave off another defeat as we ended the first half of the year in a relegation spot with an uphill climb to survival ahead of us.
A horror trip to South Woodford kicked off the second half of the programme. Matt Weaver produced an immaculate performance with the ball, taking 5 – 36 from 20 overs and was for once aided by some excellent catching as the home side were dismissed for 204. In reply the new ball pairing of Janjua and Akbar blew our batting line-up away. We were shot out for just 74 and it was a disconsolate side who returned home to soak their wounds or in the case of Dickie Small have them tended to by the NHS (the result of a nasty blow to the face from a top edged pull shot).
A second draw against fellow relegation candidates Ilford followed before Saffron Walden mauled us in the midst of their title-winning run. In hindsight the decision to put Walden into bat on a perfect batting strip without Simon Moore and new injury casualty Rob Wickes (torn cartilage playing hockey), may have been a slight miscalculation as they racked up 314 – 3 from only 53 overs!
Survival hopes received a boost as we chased down 281 to beat Westcliff by 3 wickets, thanks mainly to a brilliant 136 from Matt Weaver and a vital cameo from John Walter as late wickets fell.
A club record 4th wicket partnership of 195 between young aspiring Aussie, Weaver (97) and veteran, mostly washed up Swiss/Aussie John Weber (107) at Hainault was the precursor to an all too familiar collapse. This one was a real beauty as we went from 262 – 4 to 263 all out. It hardly mattered in the end as the home side could have probably chased 400 as Ravi Bopara battered us all round the park on his way to 172 as they reached their target in only 34 overs. We achieved the double over Fives with a gutsy 4 wicket win at home. The visitors were in command at lunch sitting on 190 – 3 with a possible 30 overs left to bat. However we reined them in after the break to dismiss them for 288 with Michael Hindley working hard for his 6 – 63. Our injury jinx struck again as John Weber’s shoulder couldn’t stand his weight landing on the point of it, leaving him only able to bat in an emergency. Danny Hazle made a smooth 55 before he was adjudged leg before and it was down to another mature knock of 83 from Matt Weaver as well as a delightful 79 from Dave Watts that enabled us to reach our target with 2 overs to spare.
A rain-affected loss at Loughton didn’t do us any favours. Only a half fit John Weber batted sensibly as we stumbled to 160 – 8 in 40 overs and although the captains 5 – 50 kept us in it we again were touched off from the last ball of the day by 2 wickets. This left us with a must win penultimate game at home to title chasing Wanstead. Heavy overnight rain left a sodden pitch, but after losing the toss we moved comfortably to 110 – 1 thanks to Hazle and Weaver (both scoring 48). Hazle’s contentious (Danny’s colourful language suggesting contention anyway) leg before decision triggered another collapse as we could only muster 207. Amazingly though the visitors from a comfortable looking 180 – 5, lost their last 5 wickets without adding a run, with an inspired Dave Wright leading from the front with 6 – 50. Other results meant we would have been consigned to the drop if we hadn’t won, but after a bit of maths we now knew that a win at Gidea Park & Romford on the final day would save us regardless of what happened elsewhere.
To say the finale was an anti-climax was an understatement. Losing the toss and being given first use of a blameless pitch we were bundled out for just 119 and lost before tea to send us back to Divison One.
A disappointing year made all the more frustrating by there clearly being the talent in the side, but a lack of application in a number of areas needs to be addressed if we are to climb back up from a strong looking division next year. New players Hazle and Walter showed glimpses of being able to make match-winning scores while John Weber had by far his least productive season since he arrived. Jamie Walton played some important knocks at the top of the order whilst Mickey Maynard behind the stumps certainly raised the volume on the field. Matt Weaver was a great addition to the club, showing great maturity with both bat and ball and hopefully he will be returning next season, although we hope with a slightly less stupid haircut and having shifted the poundage that comes with six months of team bonding sessions. On the bowling front injuries certainly didn’t help us with the loss of Moore and Wickes keenly felt. Dave Wright led from the front capturing 37 wickets while Michael Hindley bowled some excellent new ball spells without always having the figures to show for it. The chances afforded to youngsters Joe Hedden and Anthony Hill certainly showed they are capable of making a first team spot their own in the near future.
For the second team it was a season that never really threatened to contain a sustained promotion push or relegation struggle. The mixture of grizzled veterans and promising tyros led by John Wright (returning to the helm at the behest of no-one in particular) established a fortress at home, remaining unbeaten there throughout the campaign. However a winless away record mirrored this. Regular performers with the bat were thin on the ground with only Peter Rider consistently getting runs although there were contributions from the captain and Matt Keane, including a typically graceful 150 from the latter in the final game of the season. The bowling suffered from first team call-ups although the return to action of Luke Jarvis after two years away from the game for social reasons, gave the attack an experienced performer. Jarvis led the wicket taking charts and the ageless Andy Hayes provided sterling support despite the countless aches and pains he is continually afflicted by, while the ever-ebullient Paul Carter was a beacon of positive vibes behind the stumps. The more youthful players gained valuable experience, which bodes well for coming seasons. As mentioned Joe Hedden and Anthony Hill both played in the first team as did Ryan Lugg whose prodigious turning off breaks form part of a promising all-rounder. James Salisbury also showed he will be putting in big contributions with bat and ball in the future.
Sadly the third XI paid the price of the clubs small nucleus of senior players and the knock on effect of players missing in the other teams and was relegated from Division One. Dave Castell captained the side tirelessly, with the use of over 40 players illustrating the task he had to perform was a difficult one. Dave scored heavily throughout the season to top the league averages with over 700 runs, showing the effort of having to pick a team on a Tuesday and get something resembling the same line up on the pitch on a Saturday didn’t affect his batting. The clubs thriving colts section provided a large part of the team through the year and without these youngsters coming through the club will struggle in years to come.
2004 League Tables
1st XI Premier Division
|Hainault & Clayhall||18||8||8||0||2||0||238|
|Gidea Park & Romford||18||5||5||0||6||2||180|
|Fives & Heronians||18||2||6||0||9||1||133|
2nd XI Division Two
|Hainault & Clayhall||18||12||3||0||2||1||252|
3rd XI Division One
|Hainault & Clayhall||18||11||2||0||4||1||247|