A Review of the Wisborough Green First XI League Season
Saturday 6th May – East Preston (home)
Having been inserted by the side who were to become champions, under leaden skies we made a calamitous start to the season, 1 for 3 after 5 balls. New skipper Jim Sadler led a recovery, overcoming a shaky start to make a controlled and increasingly authoritative 59, sharing a fifth wicket stand of 78 with Byron Napper (39). The innings ended in a second gush of wickets, mainly to Ben Stokes look-alike, Jack Sunderland, 150 for 6 becoming 154 all out. Following our first experience of a wondrous Lena tea, the visitors rarely looked troubled in reply, strolling home by 6 wickets, with more than 16 overs to spare. Technically correct 15 year-old Louis Storey impressed in scoring the first 41 of what would become 680 league runs in the season. The highlight of a tidy fielding display was a nonchalant one-handed catch by ‘keeper Jack Carter, from the bowling of James Rainford. A fine start to what would become a title-winning season for East Preston, many of whom sported beards; they could almost have passed for an over-sized Bee Gees tribute act. For Wizzy G, hardly a tragedy, thoughts of a good season staying alive.
Saturday 13th May – Selsey (away)
Very different opposition for game 2. Inserted, the home side struggled to make any headway on a slow, drying pitch of low bounce against consistently accurate bowling from Jonny Farmer (5 for 44) and Ben Thatcher (5 for 37), who bowled throughout the 29.5 overs. Both took two wickets in the last of their permitted 15 overs. Only two men reached double figures in a total of 84, the swashbuckling Farhan Bhutta left stranded, 24 not out. We made short work of the reply, Tim Dodd striking some sweet blows, including three 6s, in his 59 not out, as we raced home for the loss of Steve Calder-Smith (17). The season was now truly up and running. By contrast, as Selsey skipper Jim Amis pointed out at a somewhat savage fining ceremony after the match, on the day of Eurovision the home side scored nil points.
Saturday 20th May – Barns Green (home)
We built upon this victory with another the following week. After Jim Sadler had again won the toss and elected to field first, the highlight of the visitors’ innings was a skilfully crafted 113 not out from experienced campaigner Jay Dumbrill. After a slow beginning, the momentum of the Barns Green innings increased significantly in the latter stages, and 199 for 5 looked to be quite an imposing total. Three batsmen were caught-and-bowled on a slightly two-paced track, including a spectacular effort (which became even more spectacular in subsequent descriptions), clutched very low in the right-hand of Jonny Farmer, to dismiss skipper Chris Bailey. Jonny was the pick of the home attack, returning the eye-catching figures of 15-9-23-2. Byron Napper, in the unaccustomed role of opener, began our reply fluently and looked set for a sizeable contribution, but was surprisingly bowled by the otherwise profligate Dumbrill for 26. Third-wicket pairing Ben Thatcher and Jamie Self started cautiously, and the latter benefitted from four dropped chances, but both gradually increased in confidence and tempo, until runs began to flow at a rapid rate. A match that had looked destined to be drawn had swung inexorably in our favour by the time that Ben was caught at mid-wicket for 78, after a match-winning partnership of 127. Jamie (67 not out) and Tim Dodd (18 not out) saw us home without further loss, with two overs remaining.
Saturday 27th May – Burgess Hill St. Andrews (away)
Our closest match of the season was the fourth. After being inserted, the highlight of our total of 167 all out was a fourth-wicket stand of 56 between Ricky Etheridge (30) and in-form Ben Thatcher, who was stumped one short of a second consecutive half-century. Jonny Farmer was last out for a useful 26. The home reply featured several less than savoury moments, one of them especially bizarre. Despite three more wickets for Jonny, for most of their chase the home side looked to be heading for a reasonably comfortable victory. However, the jitters appeared to set in against some testing bowling from Jamie Self (3 for 67) and Tim Dodd (2 for 22) and, when opener Ethan Ansell was finally out for a painstaking 49, they were 154 for 8. It seemed that we might snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat, but the attacking pairing of Noble and Lewis saw St. Andrews home without further loss. In the F.A. Cup Final Victor Moses was sent off as Chelsea lost 2-1 to Arsenal. There were those who thought there might have been another ‘sending off’ closer to home. Whilst the sensible option prevailed, it is hard to argue that they didn’t at least have a point. The closest match of the season, but certainly not the most enjoyable.
Saturday 3rd June – West Wittering (home)
June began with sunshine and the debut of new overseas player, Benjamin Steyn. We fielded one of our strongest line-ups of the season. The veteran opening pairing of Jim Sadler and Tim Dodd began the match with an opening stand of 130 in only 22 overs. After they had initially scored at a similar rate, Jim was content to play second fiddle as Tim unfurled a succession of blistering off-driven boundaries in racing to 86. After he was dismissed, Jim proceeded to his second half-century of the season, before falling without further addition. Benjamin, whose opening words at the crease, “Good afternoon Sir, please could I have leg stump”, were certainly more polite than some of his utterances on the field later in the season, made an impressive start, scoring a fluent 52, and Byron Napper and Ben Thatcher each scored 31, the latter not out, as we totalled 271 for 8. West Wittering had enjoyed the rather messy latter stages of our innings, and began their reply brightly. However, once Gareth Lendrum, the second hard-hitting South African of the afternoon, skied a caught-and-bowled to Ben Thatcher, they lost wickets at regular intervals, his 27 the highest score in their total of 153. Jack Sizzey-Carter, who was to be the side’s joint leading wicket-taker over the season, claimed the final three West Wittering wickets.
Saturday 10th June – Crawley Eagles III (home)
With Jim Sadler absent due to an injury sustained in the field the previous week, Jonny Farmer captained the side. After he had won the toss and elected to bat, Tim Dodd picked up where he had left off the week before, moving swiftly to 29, including a ferocious leg-side blow onto the bonnet of a car, its owner delaying the game for several minutes as she expressed her views strongly and took a series of photographs. After Tim drove to cover, with the total on 34, the remainder of the innings was to be a frustrating series of fits and starts. Seven more batsmen scored at least 13 but, remarkably, none exceeded 17. Seamer Zeeshan Khan returned the striking figures of 7 for 32, but was certainly aided by off-spinner Asif Shad, whose figures of 1 for 45 off 15 overs certainly did not fully do him justice. In reply, Crawley Eagles were reduced to 52 for 3, all three wickets to Ben Thatcher, but they lost only one more wicket en route to a convincing victory, Asif Shad completing a fine all-round performance with a composed 45 not out.
Saturday 17th June – Balcombe (away)
This was unquestionably the warmest day of the season, when we visited a ground aptly described on the following week’s “Wizzy News” as reminiscent of an upside-down saucer. After electing to bat first, Balcombe made a rapid start to their innings, were pegged back, but then accelerated again, to reach a formidable 245 for 7, declaring in the penultimate of their 49 overs. Languid left-handed opener Andy Stillwell made 77 of the highly impressive total of 803 runs he was to accumulate during the season. Ben Thatcher returned figures of 2 for 38 from 15 overs, delivered in one spell, a notable feat in the stifling heat. The first two wickets in our reply fell to astonishing catches, at second slip and gully, the victims Tim Dodd and Benjamin Steyn. Others were less unfortunate, a series of poor strokes seeing the innings subside to 75 for 8. A defeat by an embarrassing margin was prevented by a determined, and increasingly confident, partnership of 78 between Jamie Self and James Rainford. With the number of runs required reduced to double figures, any thoughts of an incredible victory were dispelled when James was plumb l.b.w. to off-spinner Charlie Dowdall for 22. Jamie was caught at extra-cover for 68 (featuring 13 4s, including a number of his trademark cover drives) in the following over, and Balcombe were victorious by 88 runs.
Saturday 24th June – Brighton and Hove III (home)
In our third home match of the month Jim Sadler won the toss and elected to field first, but the visitors began well, skipper Dave Marks and Duncan Jenkinson piecing together a steady, if not always convincing, partnership of 58 on a pitch of lively, but consistent bounce. The latter eventually made a battling 52 and young Bashir Popolzai a highly unorthodox 35, before pulling a Tommy Colbran long hop to Byron Napper on the mid-wicket boundary, but the innings subsided dramatically from 162 for 4 to 166 all out. Jack Sizzey-Carter claimed 4 for 51 from a 15-over spell, Benjamin Steyn 3 for 12. The momentum certainly appeared to be with us, but our reply was not always comfortable, as we were reduced to 44 for 3 and then 80 for 4. Opener Jim Sadler was still at the crease and now found a sensible ally in Jamie Self. Whilst the latter was slightly more subdued than usual, Jim raced us towards victory with a rapid succession of boundaries in the latter stages, finishing with 90 not out, his highest innings for the First XI and the third of four half-centuries he made at home during the season. Jamie finished on 23 not out, victory attained by 6 wickets with more than 17 overs to spare.
Saturday 1st July – Broadbridge Heath (away)
The first half of the season was completed with our only draw. This was a long match on a warm day, the over-rates of both sides hampered by a series of protracted searches for the ball. Remarkably, 399 runs were scored in the match without an individual half-century. The most memorable innings was played right at the start, Benjamin Steyn, promoted to open for us for the first time, playing a series of sumptuous strokes, including a gloriously timed straight six, in racing to 44, before being bowled, playing an extravagant drive to a decent ball, in only the 8th over. There were four more notable contributions to our innings, Tim Dodd making 33, Byron Napper following a run of low scores with an introspective 44, and Jim Sadler and Joel Colbran scoring 37 apiece, the former scoring all but a single in boundaries, the latter striking two huge sixes over mid-wicket from consecutive balls in the latter stages. We declared on 248 for 8 from 48 overs. The Broadbridge Heath innings also began with an entertaining cameo. Jordan Ruff, who had earlier reeled off 15 overs in a row, recovering from the early Steyn mauling to return very respectable figures of 1 for 44, scored a bold 43, before driving Ben Thatcher to the safe hands of Benjamin. Any hope of an unlikely home victory disappeared with him, but we were also unable to force a victory, thanks to several defiant innings, including a sedate 31 from the other opener, Matt Tyson. The Wizzy bowling was not as accurate as it might have been for much of the latter part of the innings and ‘Heath closed on 151 for 8, Saha Goyal (11 not out) losing his composure on a couple of occasions, but seeing his side to safety.
At the halfway stage of the season, we had recorded four victories and suffered four defeats, with the solitary draw, at Broadbridge Heath. We moved into the second half of the season with the general feeling that we should be more successful in the 40/40 matches and, overall, this proved to be the case.
Saturday 8th July – Broadbridge Heath (home)
With the second set of fixtures strangely organised as a reversal of the first, there was a second consecutive match with Broadbridge Heath. The match almost began in the most dramatic fashion, Benjamin Steyn perilously close to offering a catch to backward point from the first ball. He survived and, although not always striking the ball as convincingly as he would in some of the subsequent matches, made 73, before being second out at 114. He had shared an opening stand of 67 with Tim Dodd (28), which significantly gained in tempo after a very cautious start, against a pacey, accurate opening attack. Jim Sadler was the mainstay of the second half of the innings, scoring 58 before being bowled by Gangaprasad Gopakumarakurup (I am pleased the visitors had a scorer, so we didn’t have to shout the bowler’s name) in the final over. He shared a stand of 80 with D.J. Dominique (15). We finished with an impressive 220 for 7. I received comments in some quarters for accepting a mint from Broadbridge Heath skipper Matt Atkins, as he came onto bowl, then giving out George Magnus l.b.w. two balls later. For the second week in succession, Jordan Ruff began the ‘Heath reply assertively, but he was smartly caught-behind by Tim McMath off Jonny Farmer for 21, before he had time to create much damage, the bowler celebrating in exuberant fashion. Atkins made a highly unorthodox 41, much of it with a smile on his face, but support was scant, and the visitors were dismissed for 116 from only 23.3 overs. Jamie Self claimed 3 for 16, Hugo March, Jonny Farmer and Tim Dodd a brace apiece.
Saturday 15th July – Brighton and Hove III (away)
The following Saturday saw what I imagine must be one of the highest individual scores in the club’s long history. The location was the bleak Nevill Sports Ground. The club had been shocked by the terrible news of the death of former club captain Tim Monday the previous Saturday and both teams observed a minute’s silence on the square, as was the case across the county, before the match began. After we had elected to bat first, Benjamin Steyn dominated proceedings. It was clear from early in his innings that he was timing the ball well, a straight six within the first few overs a particularly memorable stroke. Soon he was in complete control, striking boundaries all around the wicket, and making every effort to take as much strike as possible, to make the most of being in such good nick. He raced to an astonishing 146, before being caught at long-on in only the 30th over. The total was now 214 for 2, Benjamin having shared a second-wicket partnership of 208 with Byron Napper. The latter accumulated runs in his customary calm, efficient manner and eventually made 51, surprisingly his only league half-century of the season, in what was his final appearance. The rest of the batting made little impression, as we finished with 249 for 7. There looked to be little danger of defeat and so it proved, the home side all out for 145 in the 33rd over. Jamie Self was the star with the ball, returning figures of 5 for 31, a sharp caught-and-bowled one of several fine catches in one of our best fielding displays of the season. Kieran Buck, who had dropped down from the First XI due to injury, scored an entertaining 52 to follow his figures of 5 for 29. I am sorry to say that I didn’t know ‘The Vicar’, which I believe was one of his nicknames, but he would certainly have been proud of his former club in this match.
Saturday 22nd July – Balcombe (home)
Saturday 29th July – Crawley Eagles III (away)
There had not been a single interruption for rain in any of the first ten matches, but the forecast for 22nd July was grim, and it proved to be accurate. Only 6.3 overs of our home match with Balcombe had been completed, in a Stygian gloom, when a torrential downpour brought an end to proceedings, with our innings standing at 20 for 2. It was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show for Benjamin Steyn, following a century by being caught at mid off for 0 from the fifth ball. Tim Dodd struck two boundaries just before the deluge. Sadly, it was a similar story the following Saturday, away to Crawley Eagles. This time 11 overs of play were possible, during which we scored 41 for 2. All but four of the 33 runs off the bat were scored by Benjamin, who was certainly one of the keenest on either side to continue. Steady rain brought play to a halt and, for the second week running, the match was abandoned. Shivering and sheltering under an umbrella whilst undertaking the scoring on her birthday, Sandra Napper was relieved at this outcome.
Saturday 5th August – West Wittering (away)
Onto August and an away match with probably the most unpredictable side in the league, our opponents beating the two promoted sides during the season, but losing twice to Selsey and once to Brighton and Hove III. On this particular Saturday their side was decimated by a wedding and they did not provide a stiff challenge. After a slightly delayed start for yet more rain, thankfully the only interruption of the afternoon, the home side were soon in trouble, Benjamin Steyn hitting the stumps in each of his first two overs, the first an especially good inswinger. They never really threatened to post a decent score and only two batsmen made double figures, although 35 extras in a somewhat untidy display of outcricket bolstered the total to 128. Acting skipper Harry Staight was last out for 42, stumped by Tim McMath, giving Chris Marshall his third wicket. There were two apiece for Hugo March, Benjamin Steyn and Jamie Self. We made very short work of our target after tea, sprinting home, for the loss of Tim Dodd, in 15.3 overs. Although he was fortunate in offering a relatively straightforward early chance to mid-on to a man playing his first game of cricket, remarkably Benjamin scored 102 of our 132 for 1, striking the ball with such ferocity that several balls could not be found. Appropriately he completed victory, and his century, with a six over mid-wicket. James Newman, in his only appearance of the season, finished with a selfless 16 not out.
Saturday 12th August – Burgess Hill St. Andrews (home)
With Jim Sadler on holiday, Jonny Farmer was captain for the next two matches, although he was unable to bowl in either due to an alcohol-induced injury sustained at Goodwood Racecourse. Thankfully, generally there was a much calmer air to proceedings in the first of these two matches than there had been in the previous encounter between the two sides. After Jonny had elected to bat first, we were reduced to 47 for 5, Ben Thatcher and the skipper l.b.w. to shooters, on what was an uncharacteristically awkward Wisborough pitch, in consecutive overs. Benjamin Steyn, playing a responsible innings with just one or two rushes of blood, was still there and now received valuable support from Jacob Ball, making his first team league debut. However, when both were dismissed in quick succession, Benjamin for 60, the innings was tottering at 95 for 7. Any thoughts of a quick end the visitors might have had were dispelled by a determined effort from the tail, led by Jimmy Francis (25 not out) and we reached 139. The St. Andrews innings was reduced to 33 for 5, Hugo March claiming three victims, including the sought-after wicket of Ethan Ansell, caught by the skipper, in the third over. The latter’s celebration was vociferous but understandable. Despite our modest total, there looked to be only one winner now and, although young skipper Ollie Brookes played some stylish strokes in his 25, St. Andrews were dismissed for 101. Jack Sizzey-Carter ripping through the tail with 5 for 10 from 6.2 overs, maintaining excellent control of length. A fine victory.
Saturday 19th August – Barns Green (away)
A tough assignment next. Both teams were undefeated since June and there was certainly the potential for a very interesting, exciting contest. However, this did not transpire, Barns Green’s crushing victory virtually ensuring their promotion, which they duly completed the week after. Jonny Farmer won the toss and elected to bat, but Barns Green immediately seized the initiative and did not relinquish it throughout. With just a leg bye on the board, New Zealander Ant Quinn had Tim Dodd caught at slip in the third over, and he was to claim three more victims in a miserly and consistently threatening spell, which yielded figures of 9-3-8-4. Yet again Benjamin Steyn was our chief contributor. Scoring freely against the other bowlers, he reached a flawless 50 out of 61 for 5 in the 20th over, only five other runs having been scored off the bat. Later in the over, though, he chopped a ball from medium-pacer Harry Swetman onto the stumps, prompting much jubilation from the home side. The only other Wisborough batsman to reach double figures was Jack Carter, who regained some confidence in making a composed 30. We were all out for 109 in 34 overs. Messrs Steyn and Thatcher made the Barns Green openers work hard for their runs, only 20 runs accruing from the first 10 overs. In truth, the match already looked over, but Jonny dropped a relatively straightforward chance in the gully, from the bat of Jay Dumbrill, in the third over, and the latter was not to be dismissed, later accelerating and finishing one shy of a half-century. Jack Sizzey-Carter claimed the only two wickets to fall.
Saturday 26th August – Selsey (home)
An in-form opposition arrived at The Green for the penultimate match; after a dismal start to the season, they had won their last three completed matches. It looked a potentially awkward fixture and the start did not bode well. Having been inserted, we were reduced to 10 for 3, Benjamin Steyn (who had scored 57% of our runs in the previous four matches) l.b.w. for 6 in the first over. Debutant Nick Wadlow, who later suffered a nasty facial injury, tripping over a dog lead in forlorn pursuit of the ball over the boundary, made a useful 18 to help begin a recovery, which was mainly completed by Jim Sadler and Tim Dodd. The former was out 10 runs short of completing a fifth half-century in five home innings during the season. The latter overcame a slow and uncertain start, after a recent run of low scores, unfurling several familiar booming drives in his 76 not out. He was aided in the later stages by George Nicholls (22 not out), as we finished with 184 for 5. Although the early Wizzy bowling was consistently accurate, the visitors began their reply as if they didn’t really believe they could win and we didn’t release our early grip. I did, however, manage to release Jim Sadler’s wedding ring from my pocket, having been handed it to look after. Thankfully, after anxious search, it was soon spotted. Chris Marshall claimed the first four wickets, including an astounding one-handed catch at wide mid-on by George Nicholls, so good that it even displaced Jonny Farmer’s effort against Barns Green as the catch of the season. Three wickets for Jack Sizzey-Carter brought his season’s haul to 20, at an average of only 11. When Tim Dodd caught-and-bowled Number 11 Martin, Selsey were all out for 119. A ninth Wisborough win of the season.
Saturday 2nd September – East Preston (away)
The season ended at East Preston, already promoted and now seeking a victory that would secure the title of Division 2 champions. As often seems to be the case, the final match of the season was played in warm sunshine. Jim Sadler won the toss and elected to bat, but our start was almost as grim as in the first encounter back in May. This time we lost wickets in each of the first three overs, the last of these Benjamin Steyn, unusually beaten for pace by Jack Sunderland, tentatively inside edging a ball that knocked his off stump out of the ground. Sunderland enjoyed bowling on a track which gave him some assistance and was consistently challenging, returning figures of 4 for 33 from his 9 overs. Fellow opening bowler, pony-tailed Joe Carter, claimed 3 for 25. Tim Dodd and Jamie Self briefly threatened a recovery, but the former was run out after a bad call by the latter, who soon drove tamely to cover the ball after hitting a full toss over point for 6. D.J. Dominque top-scored with an unbeaten 22 from Number 10, which featured several stylish on-drives and much good sense, as he dragged the total up from 58 for 8 to 87 all out. East Preston made very short shrift of their meagre target, hastening home in a mere 12.3 overs. The end was particularly swift, McCafferty striking two of Chair Marshall’s first three balls for 6 to complete victory. Benjamin, swinging the ball extravagantly at times, without finding a consistent line, claimed the only two wickets to fall, trapping both openers l.b.w. So, a disappointing ending for us, but certainly an enjoyable and generally successful season.
Looking forward to the 2018 season already. Hope everyone winters well.
(Top batsmen, by runs scored)
Benjamin Steyn 611 @ 50.92
Tim Dodd 381 @ 31.75
Jim Sadler 370 @ 41.11
Jamie Self 224 @ 20.36
Ben Thatcher 219 @ 27.38
Byron Napper 199 @ 24.88
(Top bowlers, by wickets taken)
Jack Sizzey-Carter 20 @11.10
Jamie Self 20 @19.65
Ben Thatcher 19 @ 23.26
Jonny Farmer 14 @ 14.79
(top fielders, by catches taken)
Jamie Self 8
Tim McMath 7*
Byron Napper 7
Benjamin Steyn 7
Ben Thatcher 7
Jonny Farmer 6
(* wicket-keeper catches)