The 2014 season for Southgate’s 1st XI was very much a vintage one which shall long remain in the memories of all who were playing and watching at Harrow CC on that final day of the season . With premiership promotion up for grabs for five different teams going into the last day all sorts of outcomes were possible.
We lay in fourth place on seventy five points with both Shepards Bush and Brentham ahead of us by just two points on seventy seven tied and ten points adrift of league leaders Indian Gym who should have wrapped up the league by now having been top all year, but started to get the jitters at the back end ever since they lost to us. It meant we needed to win and then were relying on a couple of results to go our way.
The game at Harrow culminated in a nail biting and quite remarkable climax in itself with us just getting over the line in a superbly timed run chase, let alone the other results which we managed to received during and after the game. Joyous scenes and great jubilation occurred as we heard news that both Brentham and the Bush had lost which saw us gain promotion in dramatic fashion.
A truly memorable day for Southgate Cricket Club getting back in the Premier Division and one that shall be remembered for many a year to come. As mentioned in my last year’s report I felt the transition and rebuilding period in 2013 had been successful and the plan of getting into the premiership in the next year or two was the next target.
To have secured premiership status within a year has been a proud achievement with the team’s foundations underpinned by youth, the future of the club certainly bodes well for years to come.
And so to the season ……….
With a good pre season behind us our first league game kicked off with a visit to Harrow St Mary’s who had turned us over twice last year. It was going to be a good test to see where we were as a side and having won the toss we started off in real good fashion having them on the ropes for 50-5 only for the weather to intervene which meant no more play for the day. One point each and fair to say they were the happier of the two teams.
A home encounter against the returning Enfield who had been promoted from Division 3 saw us gain yet another point. After a good early bowling display we let ourselves down with the bat but unlike in previous years we did not capitulate having been 80-6. A good rear guard showed there was a bit of steel in the side and we were not going to hand them all ten points.
The following week was a washout against Brentham which meant going into our fourth league game we only had registered three points. Safe to say not the start we had wanted with Winchmore Hill as our next opponents but spirit in the camp was high. Having been inserted on a damp one we managed to get rolled out for 81 (not the first time against the hill ) we were well and truly staring down the barrel at tea.
However due to some over confidence by the senior Hill batsmen who thought they were going to stroll it ( 30-1 at one stage) and some really tight bowling which resulted in a flurry of wickets the dimensions of the game had changed. The tables had switched and the air of confidence from the Hill batsman had disappeared with doubt replacing it. The team could sniff a bit of blood and that’s all we needed to run (well hop ,skip and jump ) through them and the rest is history, all out for 74 and cue amazing scenes at the Walker.
This result against a side who had dominated us throughout the last 10 years I believe gave the team a real sense of self belief going forward that we could beat anyone, more importantly we had registered our first 10 points.
The most bizarre game of the year took place at eventual Division 2 winners Indian Gymkhana the following week. It what can only be described as a pitch resembling day 6 at Galle we managed to skittle the oppo out for 130 in 40 overs with again a fine bowling display. So 60 overs to get 130, simple bat the overs we win the game was the chat in the dressing room , with plenty of gamesmanship in play and two left arm spinners taking the old ball on a raging bunsen all was not quite what it seemed. After an epic effort we fell agonisingly short of the total by one run on 129 with 9 wickets down after 60 overs in what was an enthralling encounter and truth be told we were gutted at not getting over the line. However the players although disappointed at the time added another layer of steel to the team as we didn’t hand the oppo all ten points, to bat for 60 overs on that pitch was a hell of an effort and will certainly hold us in good stead for life in the premiership .
Week 5 saw us defeated for the first time in the season against Uxbridge who would be in the mix at the top of the table throughout the whole season. Again a really good effort by the bowlers restricting them to 184 of 55 overs but a lacklustre effort with the bat saw us get blown away for 96. A honest and healthy chat by the players in the changing room at Uxbridge took place after the game and it was a good sign as it showed we were all in it together and not shirking the issue.
Week 6 saw us come against a strong Shepards Bush side who outplayed us in all departments inflicting our second defeat on the trot. It was a good sign to see the batting click for the first time in the season only for an even better batting display by the oppo.
So going into week 7 at Eastcote we had only accumulated fourteen points and were at the wrong end of the table but the feeling within the camp was strong and it was only a matter of time before we clicked. Training sessions had be very productive but we had to do it on the pitch and quickly.
The game at Eastcote was another last over thriller with the weather being heavily involved not just with our game but throughout the whole league. We were the only side in the division ( actually entire Middlesex league in fact ) to pick up a win that week which helped us to get up that table, a real shot in the arm .
I believe this was the turning point for us as a unit in the season as we would go on to win our next two games on the bounce in clinical fashion (Harrow , chased down 219 at the Walker and the turnaround fixture with Harrow St Marys at home also who we blew away 105 ao ), the team on a real high playing some good cricket and gathering momentum.
The return fixture at Enfield who were proving to hold their own in the division saw us drop back down to reality as we just didn’t turn up on the day and were quite comfortably beaten. This was followed up by another poor batting effort against Brentham which resulted in another loss.
Two defeats in two again and back to the drawing board.
Our saving grace at this point of the season was that everyone was beating each other and there was no one really pulling away which kept the table tightly compressed and a glimmer of a chance stood provided we could string a few results together to see us at the business end come the end of the campaign.
The team knew what needed to be done as there was still hope and belief amongst the ranks, so this proved as we won our next three games on the the bounce playing arguably our best cricket of the season . The first came with a demolition job at Winchmore Hill , followed by another thriller at home against high flying Indian Gymkhana who had been top of the table for most of the year. Uxbridge were dismantled in sensational fashion ( 55 ao ) and this victory meant for the first time in the season we were in second place ten points behind the leaders Indian Gymkhana with Shepards Bush in third one point behind us .
Our next game would see us in a crunch game against Shepards Bush with everything to play for . With only one point separating us it would turn out to be a cagey affair and although we played some very good cricket in parts they also played a hand and proved why we were both at the top end of the table . A rain break in our run chase scuppered us somewhat followed by a flurry of wickets which meant we had to bat out for a losing draw with only two wickets remaining.
So our penultimate game would see us play Eastcote who had hit a purple patch and had just beaten the league leaders Indian Gym in what was a must win match. With the Bush overtaking us by 2 points we needed to beat Eastcote in order to take it into the final day and try to keep our destiny in our own hands. However this was not meant to be as a resurgent Eastcote ( who had won their last five after losing their previous eight ) gained revenge on us from our first encounter after a poor batting display from us (113 ao).
The scenes in the dressing room after were very gloomy and our chance of taking it into the final day had slipped out of our hands. However then news had drifted in that both 2nd and 1st place had lost and we were going into the final week in fourth with a small chance of promotion.
From a state of utter depression and misery a tiny bit of hope spread throughout the dressing room , all to play for lads.
Placed in fourth on seventy five points with both Brentham and the Bush tied on seventy seven points and Indian Gym on eighty five it was a case of taking care of our game and hoping for the best knowing if it wasn’t meant to be we knew where we had come short nut now wasn’t the time to have those thoughts.
The final game at Harrow strangely enough saw us go in with an air of confidence ,training that week had been really good and the team knew that only a win would do and the rest we would have to leave in the hands of the cricketing gods. In what turned out to be a cracking finale to the season the team put in an outstanding performance with the ball bowling Harrow out for 176 in 46 overs after a somewhat shaky start. It meant we had 54 overs to get them in and it was in the 54th and final over that we did eventually get them after a roller coaster of events.
To say the match lay on a knife edge during our run chase is a bit of an understatement, all the team huddled together cheering every run, cursing every fallen wicket . Some standing, some sitting, some refusing to watch while others were fixated to their phones to check on twitter for results. To finally hear the news of other results going our way after we had celebrated a fantastic run chase and then realised we had gained promotion was truly a sweet moment for everyone .
We may have not been at the top of the table throughout the year , in fact we were only second once throughout the campaign and eventually finished as runners up ten points behind Indian Gym showed that we never gave up . We kept on the heels of our opponents and kept chipping away. When we were good we were really good and most teams throughout the league would acknowledge this but we did have our bad moments like you do but we kept fighting and scrapping believing things would happen .
This is something which suddenly hasn’t appeared in this squad it has been building throughout the last two seasons through close bonds and friendships amongst the players on and off the field. The art of winning as well as not losing games is something which this team now possesses and is a great quality .
Yes individuals stepped up when they needed to through certain games that is expected but the efforts and the contribution of the team as a whole far outweighed individual brilliance. The players acknowledged when someone had stepped up and they enjoyed each others success knowing the bigger picture was the team’s success.
Despite this success, now is not the time to rest on our laurels more improvement is required from this team and the bigger picture of holding our own and competing in the top league now presents itself.
As mentioned earlier to achieve premiership status in what is effectively the first year of a newly established team (and my first full year as captain ) is a great achievement , having initially set out a 4/5 year plan to achieve premier status. We are definitely ahead of the curve in terms of progress and where we need to be , it is what the top sides do put themselves always ahead of the game.We must now build on this opportunity and do everything we can to prepare for life in the top division, it’s where we want to be.
I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all who have been involved with the success of the 1st XI in the 2014 season, from the supporters who come and watch us each week,the committee , our scorer Andrew Parker who despite ill health continued scoring, the teas from Sue,the ground staff as well as the bar staff. Without these people our lives would be that little bit harder and we hope you continue to support the club .
Lastly I’d just like to say a big thank you to all the players that have been involved in the team this year , it genuinely has been an entire team effort to get to where we are now .Yes I can name individuals who have had brilliant moments but we know who they are, overall the stats will show wickets were shared as well as the runs .
And so to the excitement of the new 2015 season , plenty of planning and hard work now lays ahead . Behind the scenes the recruitment drive has been ongoing in the hope the right individuals can be sought, the key will be to try and get proven quality in to add to the young exciting squad that we already possess. Let’s not leave no stone unturned ,individually and as a club. We are here now and we must ensure we stay in the league and look to grow, this starts by planning and preparing for the season now.
Not for the first time I’ll mention my famous parting team talk comment that we win and we lose together however the most important part for me during the 2014 campaign was we stood united and fought till the very end ,literally in that final over of the final game which summed up our season perfectly.
This team has showed all the right qualities to get promoted into the top league now we must build and look forward to playing a different format ( with a 50 overs limited game and an all day game split being introduce for the 2015 season ) against much better opposition something I’m confident this team can do.
Here’s hoping to a successful 2015 season not just for the 1st XI who will look to try and consolidate their position but to the 2nd/3rd/4th and the Development XI who should all be aiming for the highest honours.
1st XI and Club Captain