The Club is in good hands
Although it might seem a little contrary to be upbeat in this end of season report, and it might be thought a little odd to be positive in the light of all four of our Club sides being relegated from their respective leagues this summer, but the fact remains your Chairman is very positive and is very upbeat about the Club’s prospects for the future. Despite winning only 11 of our 62 completed fixtures during the season just past, Halstead has refashioned itself and repositioned itself for the years ahead, from a playing point of view.
But before I discuss the Club’s playing performance on the field it is imperative that I give due precedence to the hard work carried out off the field, and make mention of the magnificent efforts throughout the summer from a small, select group of willing volunteers, without whom there would be no Halstead Cricket Club, whether winning or their losing games.
I have now been a playing member at Halstead for thirty years but it has only been in this past year, as Chairman of the Club, that I have seen just how much work is done, by a small band of dedicated folk behind the scenes, to ensure we have cricket played in the most enviable of settings every weekend at Star Stile. Players arrive on the ground to be met by beautifully prepared pitches, wickets painstakingly rolled, outfields mown and manicured with stripes emblazoned across them, and boundary ropes in place; a spotless clubhouse with changing rooms neat and tidy, hygienic and disinfected washrooms, and decent showers with boilers serviced and an endless supply of hot water; and delicious teas prepared by a group of dedicated ladies; and a well-stocked bar, where beer flows through pipes conscientiously cleaned on a weekly basis and served at prices well below other clubhouses. All the hard work has been done: all we’re asked to do is pay a small subscription and similarly small match fee to enjoy playing our cricket.
So it is time to put some names on this landscape. David Hume has been a willing caretaker anonymously going about his tasks in the clubhouse, and son Richard, has once again been a very efficient Bar Chairman and producing vital profit for the Club. Richard’s wife, Sandra, not only assists the Club Treasurer with banking duties, but helps Richard with tedious time consuming bureaucracy safeguarding our precious Clubmark status, but also finds us willing helpers for tea rotas. The Edwards Family, like the Humes, are generous in giving their time so willingly to the Club and Steve and Wendy, and their two boys, are always in evidence running Socials and Club Nights. Together these two families, with the Ropers, are assisted by Peter Wiltshire (‘Pyro’) in staging a variety of money-making activities during our vitally important Cricket Week.
The grounds have looked immaculate throughout this dismal rain drenched summer and for their unstinting work on the Squares we have to thank once again Brian Firmin and Trevor Cooper, and for the beautiful outfields and surrounds, Gary Smith and his henchmen, David Stock, Billy Rayner and Keith Dakin especially for their attention to the spinneys and long grasses just outside the boundaries. Making light of the most appalling and testing conditions their collective devotion has produced week and week out grounds that some county sides cannot match. We are indeed very fortunate to have their generous services at our disposal.
The loss of Matthew Spatcher, Paul Cooper and Amit Gupta before the season began, and then the disappointing lack of regular availability from our returning university graduates meant that the Club 1st X1 never fielded teams with sufficient players of the calibre required in the Premier League. Notwithstanding this Tom Philp martialled his depleted troops and led by example, showing his own versatility, and when unable to open the bowling, being side-lined by injury, he showed he is no mean batsman hitting 403 League runs. Daniel Sincuba, our Overseas Player from Cape Town, hit 418 runs, but thereafter our batsmen didn’t post the sort of totals required in this very tough competitive league.
In the Two Counties League Simon Steel’s appearances were limited by periods of injury and convalescence but when he returned to the fold , and the rain stopped and sun began to shine, results picked up ; the 2nd X1 winning four of their last seven games and miraculously surviving the drop. The most exciting game of the whole season came at the end, when on Saturday 8th September, the 2nd X1 enjoyed a thrilling victory at Star Stile, chasing down a target of 208 set by Bury St Edmunds, as Catherine Dalton, who grew in stature as the season progressed hitting three half centuries, drove the last ball of the game back over the bowler’s head for four, and in so doing fully justified her place in the top of the order with a season defining innings of 56*, and showed why she is part of the England Ladies Academy. In the same game a wonderful knock from Mark Johnson (77) and some excellent glove work by Darren Hutchinson (43), making his welcome return to the fold, showed that when the balance of the team was right (three colts aged 14-19, and eight established players) good results could be achieved. But, conversely, on the same day, the average age of the First team playing at Bury was just 19 and with such an imbalance of young and inexperienced players, bravely and loyally, stepping into the breach, Tom Philp’s side had little chance of avoiding the drop.
In the second half of the season the 3rd X1 began to flourish under Simon Rippingale’s captaincy and in particular the Rose brothers amassed runs, Andrew (519) and Justin (309) and captured wickets, and shared two opening partnerships of above 150 but all to no avail as the results went against us. The early season forfeit against East Bergholt cost us dear as those 20 uncontested points, donated to our rivals, destined us to relegation.
On a more encouraging note, however, our most promising Colts were fed into our various sides, showing a willingness to travel long distances at short notice, ensuring we fielded full teams and avoided fines. After threatening a big score early on in the season Matthew Webb hit a superb maiden century for the 2nd X1 against Kelvedon in August, and demonstrated his ample potential. In addition, other Colts repaid the faith placed in their emerging abilities: Adam Willis and Tristan Blackledge both hit maiden fifties in Sunday friendly matches, before Tristan hit further fifties for both 2nd & 3rd elevens; Adam Morris shared a partnership of 62 with Dan Sincuba at Wivenhoe; three young fast bowlers, Joe Morris (15), Tristan Blackledge (15) and Freddie Statham (14) justified selection for the second eleven on merit, and will now begin exhaustive winter coaching with Ian Pont, our internationally renowned Fast Bowling Coach.
Ian Pont had previously delivered a stunning one day Cricket Course at Star Stile during August, attended by 18 Junior Club members and Colts, assisted by fellow Halstead Coaches. The young players all saw themselves in video playback and had their bowling speeds measured against the speed gun. The day was an overwhelming success and will be repeated next Spring, hopefully if Ian’s diary permits, before the start of the new season so that Halstead cricketers might get in some worthwhile pre-season practice under watchful and expert eyes, and already this autumn eight of the Halstead Colts have begun intensive indoor cricket nets with Ian at Gosfield School.
With Josh Wells wintering in Australia and playing for Altona CC in Victoria, and Freddie Preston playing in India for Mayo School and the Jaipur Academy, and Digby Harding, a Western Province slow left armer joining us from Bishops School in Cape Town, we are looking forward to the start of next season where we will have three talented youngsters coming off the back of their own cricket seasons in the Southern Hemisphere back to Star Stile, and so hopefully come next April we will hit the ground running.
Finally a big thank you to Mrs Susan Paisley for providing convivial board and lodgings for the whole of Daniel Sincuba’s stay with us in Halstead through our rain drenched summer. Daniel was a popular member of our Club and an ever present at Training Nights, but sadly, the Colts Section suffered seven successive Tuesday evening cancellations, and such a flurry of postponements saw our Coaches redundant and our finances suffer.
Falling revenues saw us suffer an operating loss which the Committee is already tackling with fresh ideas to ensure that a healthier balance sheet is forthcoming next year. Meanwhile capital expenditure is in the offing: firstly for the purchase of a ‘framed tent’ (or ‘small marquee’) which will obviate the need for heavy outlay each year when we are hosting Essex 2ND X1 and our own popular Beer Festival; and secondly, a ‘new’ replacement Container will be needed for the storage of Ground Equipment and kit and playing items.
During the year two members of the Committee, Tim Rayner and David Shelton, stood down owing to pressures of work and I would like to thank them both for the support and continued interest in the Club. And whilst commending to you the work of the Committee over the past year, I would like to finish by a particular vote of thanks to Callum Hansey for his conscientious endeavours as Team Secretary and Club Press Officer, and for producing the end of season averages and statistics that accompany this report. And is so doing I would like to add my own personal appreciation of the enormous amount of dedicated hard work Callum has put into Halstead Cricket Club this summer.