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1999

Usually it is advisable to wait several weeks before attempting a review of the season. The time lapse normally helps things to fall into perspective and achieve a more balanced opinion based on many contributing factors. It is too easy to fall in to the trap of  making a judgement too soon after the final game.

It was surprising therefore to find myself starting a summary before the season had even finished! On the 12th of June to be exact. The day that both the First and Second Eleven’s’ games were cancelled because of the constant rain that seems to fall at weekends.   This was the 10th game to be affected ( 5 x !st & 5 x 2nd XI ) out of the first sixteen

By looking back at this time of the year though, it does allow a moment to think back to last winter and what was a rather depressing period for the Club and a sad time for members and families. During the close season we lost two stalwart members. Alan Brealey died suddenly on February 2nd and Ray Wright lost his battle against illness later in the same month.

Alan joined the Club in 1971 after Bozeat Cricket Club had been struggling for a number of years to survive. He had managed to keep it going virtually single-handed for some time, before he was persuaded to change allegiance and switch from the Kettering & District League to the County League.

In his earlier playing days with Bozeat he was a quick and aggressive opening bowler and hard hitting middle order batsman, but at Wollaston his playing involvement was normally with the Second Team and during the mid 1980s’ he took over as captain for a couple of seasons. He occasionally turned out for the First Eleven when required, and during this period helped run the Under Eighteen side where budding players such as Nick Shelton, Andy Luck and Brett Hanson were developing into the County League stars we know so well today.

In 1991 he officiated as our regular First Team umpire and when independent umpires were introduced he took up his coloured pens and slotted in to the role of scorer.          From this position he was ideally suited to be the “neutral” selector on the selection committee.( That usually meant he didn’t agree with either the First or Second Team captain.!)      He fulfilled this role enthusiastically and would always listen and give advice when asked (and sometimes when not.)   His contribution off the pitch seemed to increase year by year as he got older, and he was fully involved with grass cutting, new sight screens, meetings and a multitude of other tasks, and it was always Alan we turned to get us out of a tight spot  (including the best routes to away games).

 He worked hard for the Club up until the day he died and we will all miss him in a variety of ways.

Ray joined the Club earlier than Alan, in the late ‘60s in fact and his first appearance was in the Single Wicket Competition, kitted out in a pair of smart grey flannels. He reached  the final and  illustrated  what a difficult bowler he was to bat against.   Bowling from left arm over, his greatest attribute was his nagging accuracy and I’m sure I benefited from this when we were whirling together in tandem. He was a lot quicker off the wicket than his action suggested and this, allied to his different line of attack, made playing off the back foot a risky business. For Wollaston in the Premier he took 518 wickets at 14.2 each, held 25 catches and scored 331 runs. His best First team season with the ball yielded 63 wickets at 9.98 and his best match figures were 8 for 24 v Bletchley in 1990 and 8 for 35 v Irchester in 1983.  In addition, he took several hundred wickets for the Second Team and in 1989 finished with 64 wickets at 10.85   His distinctive batting technique (no box or gloves – even against Hodgeson and Dye!) usually drew comment from the opposition ranks but he had a “good eye” and made valuable contributions from down the bottom of the order.

Both Alan and Ray were regular members of our touring party to Norfolk in the late sixties and early seventies.  Indeed, who will ever forget the sight of Ray ever dapper and dressed in his red striped pyjamas and slippers, sitting up at the lounge bar of the King’s Head at Bungay. It turned a few heads of the locals but before long they had merrily engaged him in conversation, and finished the evening as drinking partners; and as Ray pointed out at the time, when he had had enough he only had to stagger up stairs to bed “ I’ve only got to take my slippers off ”.

Ray played his last game in 1998 and like Alan, left an indelible mark on the club.                

The winter also brought rumours of impending departures and stories of doom and gloom. Simon Driver joined Isham CC in order to be more competitive and conversely Paul Carter rejoined Isham to avoid competitive cricket! Incidentally Isham are now leading 3-2 in the “C.P.F.U.T.Y“ stakes (Carter’s playing for us this year.)

Marcus Shelton fell in love - bless him, and was based in London over the weekends and Rex Boddington announced his retirement.  Antony Barnes, who had been attending winter nets changed jobs and was unavailable on Saturdays’ and our Wizard from Oz, Steve Musgrave, was having difficulty obtaining the necessary leave. John Pike reiterated his wish not to be considered for selection and the “Darren Laughton transfer “ was a non-starter.

It seemed likely at one stage that we would struggle to field two teams on a regular basis and competing in the new Sunday Challenge seemed a formidable prospect. (Not to mention compiling a tea rota!)

But cricket and cricket clubs are unpredictable phenomena.        

At the half way point in the season the Firsts were joint second in the Premier with the Seconds just below halfway in Division 2. The Sunday team was holding its own with one or two “big scalps” under their belts. The First Xl had acquired Nick Dawson from Wootton Hall in the Northampton Town League, (Nick and his family moved into Neal Perry’s previous house  -  about time you moved again Neal!)  Tony Cox joined us from Rushden Town, and both Marcus and Muzzy both managed to get some games in. In addition Rex put his retirement on ice, Charlie Wilcox and Graeme Cooke had bowled for the Stiffs and Haydn James played between stints on the tractor. 

Nick D. took a wicket with his second ball for Wollaston and by     the half way stage had already  had  5 for 39 against Rushton. Tony Cox hit 83 * in the win against Rothwell 2nds and Charlie took 3 wickets  against Rushden  Town ll. By mid season we had also had some encouraging  efforts from our established players including two 100 run opening stands in successive weeks in the First Team and a “sevenfer” in the Seconds.

So, at the half way stage of the season things were certainly better than expected when viewed from late February/early March ‘99 and we were already hearing of people who wanted to join us next year!                                                                         

The Six-a-Side was postponed for a month due to heavy rain (which incidentally caved the changing room roof in!) but when it did take place it was a huge success. Hot weather ensured high bar takings although a shortage of help on the day made a lot of work for a few people.

Following the successful (!) tour to Torquay last year our intrepid heroes went up t’north   to County Durham in July and met up with former First Team captain Scott Hanson. Although early nights and an abstinence of alcohol were the order of the day, a win could not be engineered but no doubt our cricket knowledge was increased.   

In July the First Team kept to the script at Rothwell and lost by the record margin of 194 - Rothwell 231 for7 - Wollaston 37all out! This we put down to Rothwell’s audacity to bat first on winning the toss. A wheeze incidentally, we had been employing quite successfully through the season - chasing totals not being our strong point. But, cricket being what it is, two records were set just two games later to redress the balance - our First Xl setting a Club record, with a total of 280 for 1 at Overstone containing two stands of over a hundred.

The second half of the season proved more difficult for the Second Team. Non-availability of players, for a variety of reasons, made a full team a luxury and the last game of the season against S&L Corby was a case in point when our nine men faced a total of 282 to win. In the event they held out for a draw, but it is a situation that everyone must make an effort to overcome.

Congratulations are in order for all our award winners with a special mention for Matthew Jones who was voted Northants County League Young Player of the Year and along with  Darren King, set a new Club record for any wicket. (196 for the second wicket v Rushton away). 

Neal Perry and Nick Dawson worked hard with the juniors and their summaries  can be found later.

Another point of encouragement was the gradual improvement of the recently laid pitches and thanks are due to John for his continual time and commitment on the square on our behalf.

Thanks are also due to Les and Dick for their umpiring, scoring and statistical duties and to all the ladies’ who helped provide teas and continually encouraged us to play this wonderful game when really we just wanted to go shopping.   

 

 FIRST ELEVEN

A season that started off with such a disappointing defeat against Rothwell, produced many fine team and individual performances, with the team developing a "never say die" attitude, again cleverly led by Andy Luck.

The Rothwell opening match defeat was all the more annoying as we managed, skilfully, to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory. We bowled our visitors out for a meagre 118. Dave Ward’s 3-37 was the pick of an accurate attack along with debutante Nick Dawson’s seven overs  for just 8 runs, including a wicket with his second ball, and Darren King’s 10 overs for 14. We batted in true early season form, quickly collapsing to 18 for 4. Khan and King added 62, before a late deluge of wickets, meant that we subsided to 100 all out.

One narrow defeat was followed by another as a crucial dropped catch, lost any chance we had of victory as the bowlers put us back into  the match  at Rushden, eventually losing by 4 wickets, only Khan with 40, offering any resistance on a difficult track.

Our first victory of the season came at home to Overstone. Nick Shelton’s 39 helped us to 99 all out and the confident mood at tea was fully justified as the spinners, Ward and Luck ran through the away team for just 88.

At this stage the lack of runs from the batsmen was giving cause for concern, with only Khan coming to terms with the unpredictable early season wet pitches. The fielding and bowling was keeping us in the games so far however, with all three matches being so close we could easily have been won 3 lost 0 , instead of 1 and 2 , despite the low scores.

May 22nd saw the batsmen finally get some serious runs on the board. As Burton watched we amassed  for 221-6 with Shelton’s 50 paving the way for an unbelievable innings from Khan, who scored 75 in just 44 minutes, from 46 balls, including six sixes. It should be mentioned that much of the 44 minutes was spent looking for these sixes somewhere the other side of the A6!! The home team got off to a flying start , with the score being 71 before the first wicket fell, the second at 118-2. Game on! With all the captain’s thoughts on "how are we going to bowl them out" rather than "how can we contain them", Darren King came on to have a couple of overs to see “if anything happens”. 118-2 became 118-8 as King took 5-0 in 7 balls!, it must be said thanks to some obliging batting . The final pair could not be removed however in spite of the skippers three wickets, but a comprehensive draw was achieved,- another step forward in the right direction; the momentum of the team was growing.

The next game at home to Towcester was rain affected, with a contrived 6 points being our reward for standing in the rain for an hour. Aussie Steve Musgrave’s 68 being the cornerstone of our 181-7. An abandoned match at Stony (Khan 72) was followed by an annihilation of Rushton. Wollaston 203 all out – the visitors’ 91-8. An opening stand of 117 laid the foundations with Shelton 84 and Matt Jones' 52 . It was a real surprise when Nick was stumped as it looked odds on a big hundred. Nick Dawson’s 5-39 was not quite enough to eke out the tail although his left arm over was proving a more than useful variation to what looked a more than adequate bowling attack.                                                           The game of the season was undoubtedly at Isham on June 26th. Batting first we scored 216-5 in our 50 overs, with the opening stand of 115, being of almost County standard. The impressive array of shots from Matthew Jones's bat, resulting in 64, provoked comments of "we've got the best openers in the league" . (This comment did come from Matt ! and his dad nodded). But the way they played the pace of John Hughes with relative ease, was comforting to the later batsmen, although the ex-County player had lost interest by the 30th over anyhow , and was picking his nails in the out field as Musgrave and Brett Hanson added useful late contributions. The game could have gone either way until the very last over, when a run out meant that the shutters were put up. Our concentration and fielding were exceptional on a hot day, and the support to the spinners Musgrave and Luck, who took 7 wickets between them, was first class. The tactic of batting first when winning the toss was now reaping dividends, as the haul of 6 pointers grew. The positive attitude of the captain was running right through the team, with us scoring enough runs to put pressure on the opponents.

Corby were " morally beaten" 6-1, and 10th July brought our dear friends from Oakley to the field, with our guests occupying last place in the league. Oakley’s 166-8 was a competitive score, with Luck and Dave Ward equally sharing 6 wickets. We , frankly, made a hash of it , 69-4 , became 118-5  with only Nicks 54, holding us together. The skipper’s patient 22 not out nudged us to within touching distance before the Champagne moment of the season Andy "Muscles" Silsby strode to wicket, hit a four, then proceeded to end the game in our favour with a six onto (or possibly over ) the bypass -it is probably still going ! A week’s sabbatical at Rothwell (!) was followed by a comprehensive draw against Rushden, our 198-4 (Matt Jones 75 , Shelton 39 , Doggie Maddock 29) being far too much for 125-8. The spinners again equally sharing 6 wickets. This game was proof that we could compete with the better teams’ in the league.  

On a flat track at Overstone the 1st  Team record was broken. We rattled up 280-1, with the consistent Matt Jones's 60, being eclipsed by Nick Shelton’s 122 not out and Darren King’s 85 not out, sharing an unbroken stand of 156. Two x 100 run stands in the same innings. The weather was hot and the outfield large and fast. The home team were shattered after three hours of leather chasing, Nick Dawson took his customary early wicket, but despite Dave Ward’s 3 wickets, some attacking Wollaston field placings enabled Overstone to get a flattering 187-7. Another 6 points.

A tight game against Burton, another 6 points, another big opening stand by Jones and Shelton  was followed by a defeat on a wet wicket at Towcester and second best to a good Stony team who were challenging for the league.  

The next weeks loss to Brixworth was comprehensive -only Tim Hudson (36) got to grips with a good all round bowling performance, and proved a prelude to another first team record at Rushton. The home team’s 215-5 looked a good , but not great score in the conditions. The odds were stacked against us when we lost a wicket on nought,- Shelton back in the hutch already?  but a second wicket partnership of 196 between the impressive Matt Jones (93) and Darren King (84) , took us home. This was a particularly impressive win as we have not chased well in recent years.

We were now in a comfortable fifth position; the visit of Isham shouldn't and didn’t prove many problems,  our 222-7, Shelton a model of consistency (he's in the Cuckoo every night) made an attractive 82, with Khan’s late flourish of 52 not out, putting the game out of Isham’s reach. 149-8 was their reply, due to keen fielding and bowling on our part.

The last game at Corby was a game that we looked to be losing, until our new steel nearly ended with us winning. Our 146 on a pudding of a track, was largely due to Nick Dawson 24, who showed Matt Jones how to accumulate under difficult circumstances. Corby were well placed on 115-4,until Darren King came on in the gathering gloom, to take 4-13, with the home side closing on 142-9. Another 6 points. The sight of "Doggie" Maddock fielding in front of, and occasionally in, rather a lively Rugby match, on the deep square leg boundary was the  last abiding memory of season 1999. 

The 1999 campaign  will  also be remembered for the first season without two of our members, Ray Wright and Alan Brealey. Both Gentlemen would have been proud of the way we played our cricket and our league position of fifth is tribute to  teamwork and our club camaraderie. Our team spirit was notable and as we travelled around the clubs this was a feature that our opponents could not  match.

The performances of Matt Jones and Nick Shelton at the top of the order, Khany in the middle ( 20 league sixes),Dave Ward and Andy Luck spinning us to victory more than once, all contributed to our success, as did our keen fielding - Hudson, James and Maddock particularly shining.

The new arrival, Nick Dawson, took regular wickets early on in the opponents innings, causing immediate pressure.

The good team spirit was evident right through the Club – clearly apparent by the way that all the players promoted from the Second team or those helping out at the last minute, gave 100% at all times. All in all, a fine team and Club effort, led by a very capable and enthusiastic Captain.                                                                                                                  Darren King   Vice Captain

 

A Voyage With The Second Eleven

With the new tendency for the Second Eleven captain to change annually, there being no one willing to take on the role from the AGM, those present at the post– AGM committee meeting, decided to elect Andrew Silsby to the position in his absence.

This ploy failed miserably as he was unilaterally selected for the First Team  with great success ; a strategy which was recognised when his deeds were incorporated into an

Evening Telegraph headline, following our annual dinner at the Cuckoo.

The resulting void was filled by your chairman, who decided to act as “facilitator” in an attempt to make a task that had become unbearable for the two previous captains more pleasant for him.

So what is a facilitator? The dictionary says it is ‘someone who makes easy’ (?) – (my question mark) ‘promotes or helps forward’. I am sure you can see why therefore, many decisions on the pitch were of the ‘committee type’ and this is how it must be when there is no captain.

What is it like facilitating the 2nd Xl ?   Well, it’s fine when there are plenty of players available for selection, as was the case in the middle of the season when we had an excellent run following a wet start, when no points were awarded to us  four out of eight starts. During this mid-season period we won half our games and the team spirit was first class, we took some memorable catches and the younger members of the side achieved a high standard of fielding.  I think it was this balance of youth and experience which made us competitive during this time.

When there are not enough players available, which happened on five or six occasions, the game is effectively ruined because of the tremendous difficulty of setting a field with only 7 or 8 men. In addition, I personally believe that our selection policy is very short term with our understandable desire to produce satisfactory  First Team results.

Young cricketers are not allowed to develop and learn to perform in the 2nd Xl before put into the First Team, when their opportunities are limited, - however this will not change until we revert to the balanced discussion that only a selection committee will bring. But of course, all these problems would melt away if we had another four players who  were actually available on a regular basis.

What was our finest performance of the season? For me it was undoubtedly the game against Rothwell, who generally provide a standard against which we can measure ourselves without too much delusion. A steady tight bowling performance (and I deliberately don’t mention the bowlers because the fielders were superb too, on that day and without good fielding there are no good bowling analyses) was followed by an unbroken partnership of 124 between Tony Cox and Brian Summers, giving us an eight wicket victory.  Closely behind this was our victory away at S & L Corby when after a slow start on a difficult day for batting, 83 runs were added in the last nineteen overs- giving us a ‘just defendable’ total of 147.

I would like to comment on one or two things that the averages fail to reveal. I have already mentioned times when the fielding and catching of our younger members was outstanding and Richard Galloway played some excellent cameo innings, while both Andy Burgess and Charlie Wilcox showed considerable promise with the ball. Finally I would just like to report how well Chris Perry bowled at the end of the season when our numbers were depleted and consequently his efforts were not  rewarded with points for his team, or a deserved analysis for himself.                             

                                                                                                            Paul Jones                              

 

 

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