This week, we held an inter-club practice match before the season gets underway for real on the 22nd April, when the 3rd and 4th teams start their league campaigns.
Those of us that had played in the previous week's game at Rugeley were greeted this weekend with temperatures which felt about half as warm as the ones we'd experienced in that game! A pre-match warm up, which included some football was undertaken - the football proving that Sunderland fan Simon Parnaby is more Jermain Jackson than Jermain Defoe in front of goal, Newcastle fan Richard James has "a good touch for a big man", new signing Michael Hartwell is one to have on your side in the games as he appears to have some idea what he's doing, Steve Jones (despite scoring the winning goal) is unlikely to locate a cow's backside with a banjo, and that I really should know better than trying to play football at my age - however minor technicalities like that won't stop me!
The sides were divided up with a good mix of players from all teams across the club, and with good contributions from Mo Ishtiaq (81) and Michael Hartwell (74) in a stand of 114 saw that the first team to bat make 214 from their 40 overs. Second team captain Matt Jenkinson took three wickets, Joe Marson unbelievably took two wickets in one over of questionable left arm "spin", and there was one wicket apiece for Rizwan Gulzar, Attiq Chishti and Josh Baker. From a personal point of view it was nice to get 40 overs wicket keeping under my belt, which felt comfortable - a good sign ahead of the season, and nice to keep wicket to son Josh who bowled well (and removed 1st team captain Laeq Chishti) in his five over spell - proud Dad!
After a brief tea, the second side got off to a quick start with Simon Parnaby (24) scoring at his usual rate, and a stand of 142 between Matt Jenkinson (60) and Joe Marson (79) took us to the brink of victory. However, four wickets from Michael Hartwell (completing a good all round game) and a fine last over from Joe Oakley saw us finish on 211. I managed to get a few overs in the middle before falling to an unsightly heave across the line whilst trying to increase the scoring rate! All in all, a good competitive game and run out for everyone ahead of the season.
For the new season, Laeq Chishti will continue to captain the 1st team with former captain Paul Szewczyk assisting him. Matt Jenkinson takes over the second team captaincy with Richard James as his vice captain, whilst Liam Kettle takes over the reins in the 3rd team with last year's vice-captain continuing in that role. Rob Baker will continue to take charge of the 4th team, this year having Tom Porter as his assistant. Matt Jenkinson and Richard James will captain the Sunday teams.
Recruitment has gone well during the winter - bowlers Arslan Shahid and Mahroof Azam have joined from Aston Manor and Dorridge respectively; Chris Green and Joe Oakley (again both bowlers) join from C&R Hawks; father and son Ant and Michael Hartwell re-join from Beacon, all of which will strengthen the depth within the club - we welcome them all and wish them well for the season.
Hopefully all teams will challenge for promotion / the titles in their respective divisions, whilst we will continue to look to develop our junior players throughout the club. We will be running teams at under 19, under 15, under 13, under 11 and under 9 age groups this season, as well as taking part in the ECB All Stars Cricket initiative.
This Saturday the 1st team entertain Lichfield in a friendly (unfortunately the 2nd team game has been cancelled by the same opponents), the 3rd team travel to Highcroft and Great Barr for their first league game and the 4th team host Bloxwich, also in a league game, whilst on Sunday the 1st team make the short trip to Brewood in the League T20 competition.
My aims this season are pretty simple - play a part in the 2nd team, hopefully pushing for promotion or the league title, contributing with both bat and gloves; play some more games with son Josh, whilst continuing to enjoy my cricket and the social side that goes with it. Also, I will be playing in the BADC D40 disability hardball competition for Shropshire this season, a new adventure and experience that I'm very much looking forward to.