After what seemed like five minutes rather than five months, the final day of the 2017 season saw a round of league fixtures on Saturday. All eyes had been on the forecast all week – which hadn’t looked promising – but in the end all three games that took place on Saturday were played to a conclusion.
The first team travelled to C&R Hawks, and looked well placed to finish the season with a win after dismissing their hosts for 199. Valeed Butt top scored for C&R with 71, whilst Attiq Chishti (2-38), Laeq Chishti (3-30) and Mahroof Azam (4-43) were amongst the wickets for us. Mohammed Ishtiaq (58) and Laeq Chishti (42) got the innings off to a good start, and at 161-3 victory seemed almost certain. However, not for the first time this season, a disastrous collapse saw us lose seven wickets for just 11 runs as we were bowled out for 174, and a defeat by 25 runs.
The third team played host to league champions Rugeley, and were comprehensively defeated by nine wickets after being bowled out for just 65. Jack Pryor (5-33) and Ross Matthews (3-17) did the majority of the damage with the ball for Rugeley as only Liam Kettle (16) and Josh Baker (10 not out) reached double figures for us. Joe Hinder then took the only wicket to fall as Rugeley reached their target in the 13th over.
As the fourth team game was cancelled, the second team game at home to C&R Hawks was the remaining fixture, and the only one that had any importance at either end of the table, with just six points needed to secure promotion.
A strong side was available, and all seemed to be determined to get the right result as the warm ups began. The football began with a quite spectacular one touch goal before descending into the usual mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. After few fielding exercises (undertaken with varying degrees of success) and a bit of a bowl for the bowlers in the team, we were ready to take the field after Richard James eventually won a toss – or at least managed not to lose one – and we elected to bowl first. After a couple of early breakthroughs, with a wicket apiece for Joe Oakley and Chris Green against their old club, our visitors C&R Hawks raced to 60-3 off just nine overs.
However, the introduction of Richard James (3-29) and Jon Price (4-17, with more runs conceded in wides than off the bat) into the attack saw a collapse to 92 all out, Ian Brown taking a wicket with the solitary delivery he bowled to wrap up an innings in which the loudest cheer was reserved for the arrival of the brewery lorry bringing supplies for the evening…..
An emphatic victory was secured in just the 9th over of our reply. Simon Parnaby (47) got the innings off to a flying start and secured the leading run scorer award for the season after his nearest rival and opening partner Atta Chishti was dismissed cheaply, before Paul Szewczyk finished the game in somewhat flashy style with two consecutive straight sixes to round off a comfortable victory and seal promotion at the rather early finishing time of 2:35pm…..
With such an early finish, the celebrations promised to be lengthy – and so it proved. A brutal fines committee with double fines to top up the drinks fund saw Simon Parnaby heavily fined for celebrating the wicket of his opening partner (the moment he secured the leading run scorer award), and myself unbelievably fined £3 for a dropped catch (hit my elbow whilst standing up to the stumps), and apparently missing a stumping as I just about laid a glove on a legside wide! The fancy dress worn by some of us made for even more entertainment as we watched the football scores come in together (the subject of much banter), as a good afternoon developed into a very good evening and night.
As the season closes, we look back on the successes – second team promotion on a Saturday, the Sunday second team winning their league with a largely young team, the under 9s winning their tournament with a 100% record and the under 15s narrowly beaten in their cup final. The junior section goes from strength to strength, as a number of our homegrown players make their way into the senior teams, and for the first time this year we have fielded two ladies teams in the local softball festivals.
First team scorer Dave Jones won a Staffordshire Cricket OSCA in the “Heartbeat of the Club” category whilst President Pete Price was highly commended in the “Lifetime Achievement” section. With plenty of social events arranged for the close season including a sponsored bike ride / walk, a golf day, a bonfire and club presentation night it promises to be a good winter as we plan for and work towards next season.
And, for me – it’s been another enjoyable season. With more runs and dismissals than last year, and a return to first team action for a reasonable part of the season I’ve achieved a number of the targets I’d set myself during last winter. I got to play a number of Sunday games with son Josh, as well as a couple of Saturday Birmingham League games with him which was a nice moment for me. In addition, I’ve enjoyed my time with the Shropshire D40 squad, and hopefully we can reach – and win - the National Final next season. Time for a few weeks off to recharge the batteries, watch Wolves play and do all the jobs round the house that have been put off for the duration of the summer!!