As I sit here and reflect on the 2021 season a couple of things really stand out to me.
Firstly and most simply, being able to play a full uninterrupted league season after the COVID-shortened 2020 season was a great feeling. To be back amongst friends, teammates and opponents for a full season is something I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted again and I was certainly determined to make the most of it.
Secondly I can’t help but be reminded of the 2018 season when I look back on 2021 – a real struggle to start, some key performances from youth players to help get us going in mid-season, and a final day victory over the league champions to ensure we stayed clear of relegation.
Back then it was the likes of Ollie Harris and Archie Joslin who came in and made the difference for us, while this year it was the brilliant Greer Barnes and the ever-smiling Kayossh Ratheeskumar who helped to turn our season around.
After finishing May with a total of 4 points from 5 games we travelled to Barrow Gurney on the first Saturday in June with both Kayossh and Caspian Rugg making their debuts – the former bowling two superb spells to finish with figures of 8-1-16-0 to help restrict the home side to 132, a total our batters were able to chase down with just over 10 overs to spare.
Victory at Patchway two weeks later was to be the only other success of the first half of the season however with Mike Stapley’s 5-32 the highlight of that game, though both Dave Yates and Archie Lock deserve a brief mention for falling just short of half centuries as we scored 215-8, a total the home side never looked like being able to chase.
Indeed it was after defeat at home to Hanham in early July, with just 50 points on the board, that I famously declared to the committee that it would take a miracle for us to stay up and that I was convinced that sadly we were going to end the season by being relegated.
Speaking of miracles however, the following weekend saw us head to the scene of one of the Bristol and District League’s greatest ever comebacks – our 2018 win over Winterbourne with the famous 292 run unbeaten partnership between Rob Simpson and Murray Bishop. This time it was our young bowlers who did all the hard work – Kayossh headlining with 3-22 from 7 overs as we restricted our hosts to 162 before Ollie Lock’s 58* anchored our run chase.
From that point on we went unbeaten through the rest of the season, beating 4 of the top 5 teams in the division along the way. Wins at Pucklechurch (Archie Lock 73, Greer 3-18), Midsomer Norton (Adam Stenlake 4-16, Jack Harvey 3-12) and Carsons & Mangotsfield (Craig Strachan 3-29) helped us to finish the season with 163 points and end up 21 points clear of the bottom two.
Alex Carr finished the season as leading run scorer with 222 at an average of 32, while Nathan Williams was as consistent as ever in averaging 27 and picking up his customary half century.
With the ball I led Mike Stapley as leading wicket taker by just one, though I’m sure Mike will tell you that he was consistently underused with the ball!
As ever I owe my thanks to a number of people for their support throughout the season.
Firstly Mr Stapley for technically standing in as captain twice, though making the call that it was raining on the day after my wedding was probably a fairly straightforward one, especially with his hangover! Nevertheless, thank you Mike for picking up that first win at Barrow Gurney and for your consistent advice and support throughout the season.
Secondly to our new Mr Motivator Dave Yates – the man who never gave up and whose motivational whatsapp message surely had something to do with our turnaround in the second half of the season.
Thirdly to those I haven’t mentioned but who played big parts in this season on the field – Ian and Charlie Vaughan, JJ Dixon, and of course our President Phil Thorn – the man who bailed us out on a number of occasions when we were short early in the year and toward the end of the season looked back to something like his previous best.
And finally a big thank you as ever to Nick and Lisa Merrick without whom our club simply wouldn’t be as great a place to play as it is.
After that 2018 season I wrote that we needed better availability across the club to help us compete and the same is true now. We have a number of youth players ready to progress into senior cricket and we can only do that by having a thriving 4th team. We need to be able to compete week in week out with the sides around us in order to be able to create the right opportunities for those youngsters to come in and contribute to the side.
I’m incredibly proud of the number of players who have debuted in the 4th XI over the last decade and have gone on to make their 1st team debuts in the last couple of seasons. For the future of this club it is vital that pipeline remains strong.
Here’s to a great 2022!
Craig Strachan, Captain