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2003 

A fantastic long summer with dry hot days, no games rained off, the fourth League title on the trot and a new pavilion. That was 2003.
After a lot of work from a dedicated band, the new sports facility was more or less ready for business at the start of the season. It was officially opened a couple of weeks earlier by the Mayor of Wellingborough, and Wollaston Vics FC staged a game to mark the occasion.

On the cricket pitch the First Eleven had a strange yet fairly successful season, drawing only three games, winning 13, losing 6 and finishing fourth. The Second Eleven, meanwhile, won Division Three with two games to spare and in 2004 will be placed just one division lower than the First Team.
Andy Luck resigned the First team captaincy half way through the season and was replaced by his vice captain, Marcus Shelton. Andy had worked hard before and during the season on many aspects within the Club including organising the stay of our overseas player Jeff Connon from Australia. Although Marcus picked up the pieces and did an admirable job, the day Andy resigned, was a low point of the season.
Kettering came from last year’s lowly position to finish third – due mainly to their outstanding overseas player who was as quick as anything around. This pushed us down one place from last year but with 5 games to go we were sitting 6 points behind the leaders, and at that point it could have gone either way.

The games against Desborough and Irthlingborough could, with a bit of luck, gone in our favour and the run chase at Isham was close. It could be that fourth place did not reflect the true potential of the team. The First Team player-of-the-season was undoubtedly John Pike. John took 64 First Team wickets (the Club’s 3rd best return at this level) with an average of just 10.60 with a best performance of 7 for 24 against OWs.
Matthew Jones, who missed the start of the season due to travelling, topped the batting with 416 runs at 37.80 and Chris Perry increased last year’s wicket total by nearly 40% - finishing with 32 at 11.25.

Jeff Connan made the trip from Sydney to join us and Mark Carter eventually saw the light and returned from Wellingborough to take up the gloves.
The First Eleven also had good run in the Cup, culminating in a semi-final game at Finedon and brought a lot credit to the Club – going out in style, eventually losing to the Premier League club who also won the final.

Rex must be congratulated for leading the Second Team to another League Championship. It was a remarkable season with the team only losing twice but finding themselves with their backs to the wall on several occasions. Things generally went in the Team’s favour but a number of resolute performances emphasised the prevailing team spirit. Liam Bates had an outstanding season scoring 602 runs at 46.31including 125 not out against Horton Seconds which set a new Wollaston Second Team record; Adrian Ward and John Lavin took 46 and 45 wickets respectively and Paul Jones piled up another 456 runs. Except for Liam there were no other centuries and both sides recorded 10 fifties each.

The change from the Northants County League to the Northamptonshire Cricket League was fairly seamless, and credit is due to the League Chairman (and our groundsman) John Hodges for the way he achieved this in such a small space of time and without too many hitches.
We were also fortunate to receive a grant during the summer, which enabled us – along with the kind support of our sponsors – to obtain a new powered gang-mower, pitch mower and roller.
This will hopefully make things a lot easier with ground maintenance, and I’m sure that all our players will be fighting over who can use it the most.

As for the new season? We as always, go into it full of expectation and optimism and hopefully we will have an overseas player in place to help give the First Eleven the extra push towards the title.
We are hoping to improve our practice facilities that should encourage a bigger turnout of players between games, and more commitment for Sunday cricket is a necessity to help keep, and play, players into form.
The Second Eleven will certainly have their work cut out. After four years of success it will be much harder this season. Several Teams in Division Two will have an overseas player and it is conceivable that one or two teams at the top end of Division Two will be as strong as a couple at the bottom end of Division One. It is quite a daunting and challenging proposition, but it might possibly help with selection knowing that, as long as the Two’s hold their own, the standard between the two levels is closer than it is ever been.
As you would expect with the raising standards, the cost of staging games is also rising. Better players expect better facilities and equipment, resulting in, for example, the cost of the cricket balls for the season rising to a staggering £637 – an increase of £285 !

Last season saw John Hodges complete 25 years unbroken service as our groundsman and your editor managed his 40th year on the General Committee.
Dave Ekins has decided to have a rest from umpiring this year but is still a valued Vice President. We appreciate all his commitment over the years and hope that perhaps one day he will “don the smock” again.

Many thanks to all our vice presidents, sponsors and supporters who, in their different ways, encourage us to play for the best village team around, in a setting that is second to none. Included is a special mention to Mr Ernie Bryan who was presented with an award at the final game of the season for supporting the Club for so many, many years.
On behalf of all the players, to all of you, ”Many thanks”.

 

FIRST ELEVEN

It is said “a week is a long time in politics”; it has also been said that “genius is pain”; it was also once noted that “the world was flat”; but nothing compares to the outrageous statements made by a multitude of the members of Wollaston 1st XI, when collectively we looked into the eyes of the County League and declared “smoke my pole!”

This once great Empire, this United Kingdom, united in a common goal of unity, prosperity and peace, could not wish a better symbol than ten hairy men declaring “come on keep it tight…Muff; lets see some quality…Muff;”

…Remember that in the corner of some foreign field that will be forever England, we will rejoice to the memory of Harmit Bahra’s stunning interpretation of the letter “r”. The nerve, the passion, the “total concentwation”.

Such was the gaiety of the lads in the First Team.

Yes, we dominated the “catch phrase” of the last season – but invention did not stop at mere catchphrases. For a point of example note Matthew Jones’ first draft script for  “Cousins In Love” (a six part steamy and passionate docu-soap, featuring the Jones family….connecting to the Pike family…..that somehow touched on the Shelton family……..which incredulously involves the Driver family……….)

Invention on and off the pitch. And it is to the pitch, nay, field of play we must go, to celebrate a year of ups and downs, of trail and retribution, of winners and losers, of quality and something that is the complete opposite, of glory and shame, of tears and laughter, of men and boys, of unremittingly boring clichés.

We finished 4th this year!

A handful of points from 3rd, tantalisingly close to 2nd, and basically 2 wins away from top. Those two wins however, needed to be the two defeats incurred by Irthlingborough and Desborough, but a mere fortnight apart.

The conclusions we drew as a team were that we didn’t win because our record against the top three was played 6, won 1, lost 5.

Outside of the top three, we were far too strong for the rest of the league, having proved that we could defeat (nay) thrash any other of the respective teams. But it was close. We practically destroyed Kettering’s title hopes by beating them at home, in mid season, when they were top of the division, leading to them gaining a mere 3 points in their next three matches, while we took 36 to end up over twenty points ahead at that stage. We could have settled for four points against Irthlingborough and kept 2nd place, but went for the win to challenge Desborough and came up short. And we sent shockwaves through the “all-star” Desborough camp leaving them two wickets away from defeat at Wollaston, with a stirring all round team performance.

In effect, although we finished 4th, we were more in the title race (for the first division) than we have been in years – at one point being 2nd by 2 points!!!

The reasons were: We bowled well. In fact, we bowled brilliantly.

The “Pike and Connan” package was in fact a dream ticket! John’s bowling has always been good, and many believe that he hasn’t been the luckiest of bowlers in the past, but alongside Jeff he had the perfect foil. With Jeff steaming in (only 70% fit) and giving no rest bite to the batsmen, John was able to benefit from more aggressive batting against him than in previous years.                                Also the mere combination force of the two 6 foot somethings’ was a joy to behold. Immediately looking for each other’s congratulations after each wicket, you got the sense they were bowling with and for each other!! Result: Pike 64 wickets, Connan 25 wickets.

Mr Bahra did exactly what it says on the tin! By week five he had already got into the county handbook with 21 wickets. Still the steadiest and most reliable of first change bowlers in the league, the only times he didn’t contribute with the ball were when Pike and Connon bowled through.

Chris Perry got his best First Team figures at Overstone with 7 for 46, and proved all year what a fine figure he cuts. It was encouraging to find that when he was asked to bowl just one over to change the openers around,  he still adopted a professional approach to the over. Such intensity will see him become a record breaking wicket taker in years to come. Other notable: Andy Luck took a couple of fifers.

Batting…..um, well………..notables included Matt Jones who returned from ‘Stralia, to score 74, 36, 62 and 48 in his first four innings of the season. Matt’s form suffered as the seasoned progressed, but he still won the averages. Nick Shelton nearly sneaked them with two 50 not outs in the last two games…clever boy! Simon Driver made his virgin 50…eventually, after scoring a couple of mid-30’s and 48 at other times, but outside of this one only recalls the last wicket heroics of Connan and Perry at home to Desborough, and similarly of Luck and Connon at Irthlingborough.

Nick Shelton summed the batting performance up this year at that very game. “Wollaston will always be a batting club” he pronounced at 66 for 2, a few overs later we were 99 for 8.

Heroics in the field: Fewer dropped catches than usual!! Smart fielding in general, a standard that has to be met. Positions became permanent! Hudson in the covers, Bahra at gully, Luck at slip, Jones at short leg (for devastating vocal effect).

Catch of the year Harmit Bahra v Kettering, who plucked a full fronted square cut out of the air to see off the 8th Kettering wicket.

Ah, that was a day. Bowled out for 89, the captain “elect” Marcus Shelton had to plead with coach Neal Perry not to lambaste the team at tea. His fury was matched only by the faces of pure resignation in the dressing room, as we imagined a classic “early bath”. However a team emerged that mid-afternoon with defiance and eagerness to just do something spectacular. It was there…it really was, from the moment we took the field. Pike took a wicket early doors, then two deliveries from Connan turned 32 for 2 to 32 for 4, and made our season. The second wicket in two balls was the dismissal of Gareth Berg (Kettering’s oversees star and week-in week-out match winner). Bowled with a pace not seen all season, and stumps that rolled like Catherine wheels, spinning and sparking across the square. Nick Shelton invited Berg back to check out the devastation, blood pressures burst, Austin (Father) Shelton threw sausage rolls in the air, while eleven men drew closer in embrace, and closer in spirit. 33 for 5, 45 for 6, 45 for 7, 52 for 8, 53 for 9……When the final wicket fell, bowled Pike, caught Luck, voices were lost, foolish behaviour ensued and a real challenging team was born.                      

Our dressing room rang to the sound of the “elephants dance” from Razzle’s phone, every time we won, and that cheekiness and irreverence was carried from bar to bar afterwards, as we celebrated wins and commiserated losses with equal gusto. Team spirit has never known such heights!

In conclusion, a year to be very proud. A club that is marching forward, and one that has it’s pride based in mostly home grown talent, and also in the knowledge that the atmosphere is one of loyalty, camaraderie, and permanence, something that most other clubs now don’t have. And there is every chance that the players that took the field for the First Xl this year will do so for many to come. Watch this space!                                                                    

Marcus Shelton.

 

 

 

 

 

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