Adult Season Review
In mid September, a number of parents and supporters went to Preston Nomads to watch the 1st XI take on a mixed Nomads' side. Some had been there for the 2nd XI August Cup Final the weekend previously. It was a lovely late summer's day and of course, it wasn't a bad place for the 1st XI to hang up their boots in 2020. It was also a reflection of the huge progress we'd made in this short season of cricket.
Emerging from the lockdown: An extraordinary summer for the club in an extraordinary year. West Chilt & Thakeham CC never sits still anyway. What the pandemic has done is to reinforce the fact that for so many, sport and leisure are invaluable for both our fitness and our mental health - whether you play or watch. For a while during lockdown, it appeared there would be no cricket at all. Then as Premiership football restarted and the ECB persuaded four nations to come and play the national side, Sussex started bargaining over a return to the summer game prior to our lockdown release in July. Nets were put up and colts (primarily) started booking them as soon as we were able to ensure they were ready when we could restart.
New coach. As soon as we could play a competitive match, we did. 11th July it was when the 1st XI went to the Long Furlong and two Findon sides came to the Rec and the Meadow. So many wanted to play that we sent a 4th XI to Hove to play the intriguingly named Goldstone Caners. And amidst the COVID chaos, some of us had forgotten that we had secured the services of a new Head Coach. A Scottish international no less who had played for Sussex and last season extremely successfully for Brighton and Hove alongside Jarvis and Gillespie in the Sussex Premier League. In his short time at the club, Matt Machan has brought more confidence to our already excellent crop of kids, he has helped increase our standing amongst other clubs in Sussex and was the next piece in a complex jigsaw that COVID permitting, may see us further climb the league ladder next season. New players such as Josh Taylor and TvN's two lads joined primarily because of Matt whilst Hugo returned and key players were convinced to stay on.
Club Strategy: Several members met last winter and agreed that the club had progressed as far as it could simply from generating a conveyor belt of strong colts. Many had the technique but many needed greater game awareness and frankly self confidence that they were good enough at a higher level.. We needed a new coaching supremo to manage the 1st XI but also to identify young 2nd and 3rd XI players with potential. Matt brought all that with targeted coaching sessions focusing on players' weak areas meaning all that participated in matches went into games believing they could take on all opposition bowlers and batsmen. And if you're more confident, you take more catches which we (generally) did. Running between the wickets? Well you can't have it all immediately!
The August Cup: Our three league sides all qualified for the new August Cup knockouts (which the Sussex League committee had hastily arranged to great relief and reviews) whilst a 4th XI played friendlies virtually every week. En route to the semis, the 1s and 2s went unbeaten whilst the 3s only lost one match. In the semis, the 1sts threw away a strong position at St Peter's whilst the 3rds lost narrowly to Slinfold 2s who were much higher in the pyramid. Callum's 2nds overcame Eastergate 1s away comfortably before losing an exciting final against St Matthias 1sts. In fact, our 2020 3rds were occasionally almost our 2nds from last year. And our 2s benefitted from some stronger kids to aid the oldies. The Sussex League could see we were stronger and had placed us in groups with teams in higher divisions than we faced last year. And yet we still won virtually all of the games we played.
Friendlies: For weekend friendlies, we played our usual mix of stronger and friendly opposition as new fixture secretary Dan Barnes plus able assistant Raylene went to work on the local community. Both were rightly given the "Davies Award" of Club People of the Year after performing expertly in the pavilion, with the fixtures and in many other areas behind the scenes. The 1st XI ended the season playing Cuckfield and the aforementioned Nomads. We played Burgess Hill for the first time in "the Warmisham derby" in July and would have played Brighton in "the Jarvis derby" a week later too had the rains not intervened. Acton returned on Sunday even if Fleet Street Strollers and Nazeing were thwarted by the virus and we also faced Brighton College, East Grinstead, Cuckfield (again) and good old Nuthurst for the first time in many years.
The Slam and some new(ish) players. Our new T20 Slam side played a shortened campaign under the watchful eye of captain Oli Holden. We had some mixed results but it was good to see old players Craig Pulling and Ryan Ashley make a few appearances in the Slam (and on Sunday too). Matt Powell who played his one previous game many years ago as a colts' (assistant?) coach reappeared on Sundays before picking up an injury whilst some of the current coaches enjoyed some games - messrs Mayne, Crisp, Johnston and St Clair all featured with Simon Capel. And Matt Goring played in one of Denton's two Vets games at the end of the year too! George Bryans who played with Mick Armstrong in London proved a more than useful addition too. Finally Ed "The Wall" White, who joined from Aldwick, not only scored a ton of runs for the 2s but also captained us a couple of times on Sundays. Real assets.
Adult player of the season: Malcolm Fitzgerald. The evergreen Fitz defied his age to take 17 August Cup wickets which was second behind Nick Toomey of Herstmonceux. For all the stick that he and Walt receive, the old boy's 26 wickets in total put him top of our bowlers at an average of 13.73 which was his best since 2012. And in a game where batsmen often take the plaudits, Fitz often set up a win or got us over the line.
Adult team of the year: All of the men's league sides. The 1s beat two Division Two sides and tied with a third. The 2nds performed admirably with new boy Ed White a rock at the top of the order and Jackson, Saunders and Woodage reducing the ageing side's average age significantly. The 3s were transformed, having Oli Holden to back up Capel and his very capable kids. And at one stage last year's opening 1st XI bowlers, Warmisham and Jake Hodgson, were playing 3s much to their poor opponents' displeasure. Both Hugh and Jake had difficult seasons this term due to differing body ailments and we hope they both come back stronger in 2021.
Champagne Moment: Ray Manders picking up a sixfer against Sussex Martlets no less in a Sunday game at Chichester Priory Park. Like many of our kids, Ray plays with a huge smile on his face and it was a further reward too for the efforts of Dan and Raylene