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Overall, 2001 turned out to be another good one for the Club, albeit slow to start for the First Eleven, but very consistent for the Seconds, who won Division Two for the second year running. A winning margin of forty-nine points with only one defeat speaks for itself, and our average of 24.78 runs per wicket against the oppositions’14. 24 just shows the present all-round strength of the side.

The First Team struggled early on, but as the skipper points out in his report, the summer was, in soccer parlance, “a season of two halves” with the first win belatedly arriving at the end June. From this point however, things improved, and a creditable fourth place was achieved. An improvement of one place over the previous season.

Sunday cricket was also on the up. With more players making themselves available for the championship games, the results    exceeded last year and a final position of half way in the division was a fair reflection of the season.

The Junior section found it hard going during 2001, but as Neal Perry, manager of the Under Fifteens points out in his report later, hopefully the prospects look better for this coming season.

The Six-a-Side was one by… on another glorious summer’s day in…when they beat …in the final.

As far as individual highlights were concerned, Rex Boddington’s 634 runs for the season quite deservedly won him the Second Xl “Batsman of the Year Award” as well as the coveted “Players’, Player of the Year” – it just shows what happens when someone who has flirted with retirement, gets selected to play for his county and gets to wear the maroon cap!

Chris Perry was the talk of the first half of the season. By the half way mark he had already taken 41 wickets for the Second Team and forced himself into the First Eleven for the remainder of the campaign. He acquitted himself very well at the higher level and collected the Partridge Young Player of the Year and the Second Eleven Bowling awards. Harmit Bahra’s 43 wickets in his first full season for the club was quite an achievement as was Paul Jones’s Second Team batting average of 56.50. Adrian Ward did the Hat-trick at Rushton, John Pike was left on 49 not out in his record tenth wicket stand of 76 with Darren King against Burton, and Marcus Shelton recorded his first Premier Division century. Nick Shelton and Steve Musgrave both reached three figures in their record third wicket partnership of 194 against Desborough.

Darren Laughton at last joined the Club (what took him so long?) and immediately made vital contributions to the First Eleven with the bat. (and thankfully he has eliminated the bouncer from his bowling repertoire!)

Personally, my highlights include the game at Earls Barton when we won by 4 runs after being bowled out for 53, and beating Rushton ll in the last game.

However, Paul must get the “Verbal” Prize for accusing the Stony Stratford team of “ all looking the same”. One bloke (we couldn’t tell which one!) walked off in a huff!  How’s that for public school sledging?

Steve Musgrave has returned to Australia after topping the averages with 492 runs at 37.84 He is a great bloke and it won’t be quite the same without him (ask Nick) but at this stage there is only a slight possibility that he could return and play another season. (I’ll just have bacon, eggs, beans, sausage, peas and bread mate – nothing fancy. Oh! Is there a cup of tea going?)

If Muz doesn’t’ return we really ought to try and get a replacement as soon as possible, although with overseas players now stretching down below the Premier Division, this could prove a difficult task. On the plus side however, Matthew Jones is back with us after his trans-Atlantic sojourn to the cricket wilderness, where no doubt cricket bats were as rare as charm schools in Rothwell.

Hopefully Matthew will make up for the loss of Muzzie (492 runs) and then get 508 of his own! No pressure Matt! 

Looking forward to the coming season it is probable that it will be the last year of the league in its present format. We all remember the acrimonious and bitter split when the then, Premier division, spat out their dummy and threw away their cuddly, County League teddy bear. Now, by all accounts they have re-inserted the dummy and want Teddy back again!

I’m sure their reason for the re-amalgamation is purely  “what’s best for Northamptonshire cricket” and is nothing to do with their chaotic and inept administration or the failure of their Reserve Division to provide a decent game for the majority of teams.

However, in principle the move can only be an improvement for cricket in the County, with all teams finding their own level in a more competitive environment. This will mean some second teams playing against first teams but in the past this has worked ok.

There are a number of things to discuss and finalise. For example, the County League, the Championship and the Alliance (and possibly the Combination) all play to different rules. I’m sure there won’t be total uniformity but perhaps it may be possible to bring the leagues more in line. Discussions will take place over the summer with firm proposals to be voted on by clubs next October.

So it will be important that both our teams finish as high as possible in their respective divisions in order that we are “slotted in” to the re-structured format at the best possible level.

There is a definite change to the County League rules, which will apply to Division Two and below.  A bowler will only allowed to bowl a maximum of fifteen overs. I am still of the opinion that if this rule is adopted it should apply to all divisions and the Premier should not be exempt. There are more examples of bowlers’ bowling all through a match in the higher leagues than in the lower. . Anybody who regularly bowls twenty-five overs for a second team (and I can’t think of anyone) should be playing for their first team. But perhaps they can’t get selected because there is no restriction in the Premier!!  Perhaps the games should be longer with more overs. This could possibly force a captain to look at other bowling options. Games could start earlier to accommodate the extra overs – most teams now arrive about an hour before the start anyway. Or what about the possibility of just having the longer game from the middle of May until the end of July when there is more daylight? Perhaps worth consideration in the future?

Relegated Irthlingborough have replaced Stony Stratford in the Premier and Wellingborough Indians have been promoted into Division Two – both will be difficult fixtures. One of last season’s lowly clubs’, Desborough has apparently signed several quality players and by all accounts will be formidable opposition. As our first game is against the said “Ar Tarn” it is important that both teams get off to a good start for a change.  Remember, the season starts before 1pm on the 27th of April!  Preparation is the key.

 Off the pitch, things continued in much the same way as the previous season. We had great support from our sponsors and vice presidents, and the tote worked very well resulting in another two re-laid pitches on the square. The difference is already noticeable when we play on the earlier re-laid one, so hopefully the improvement will continue.

  We were made very welcome by our main sponsor, The Boot and for any “silverware anoraks”, the Division Two trophy can be viewed behind the bar.

Andy Luck was deservedly presented with the Clubman of the Year award for his contribution off the pitch, including his work with sponsors and other fund raising projects.

The tote will be running from the middle of April again, and I would urge all members to attempt to increase the number of participants on their list. Don’t be afraid to ask – they can only say no!

Finally, in November we enjoyed a great Annual Dinner at Club Diana. Let’s make sure we have got something to celebrate again at the end of this season – remember the season starts before Saturday April 28th! Let’s be ready, and give 100% - for one hundred per cent of the time!  Best of luck, Wollaston!


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