SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR....
September is a wicked month, as TS Eliot almost said but if the first team’s spirited bid to go straight through Whitings Division Two at the first time of asking ultimately fell narrowly short, it was not for the want of trying.
After the comprehensive defeat of “Granta” on August Bank Holiday Monday, an under-strength team came back down to earth on 1 September, with what by now has become an almost standard defeat at St.Ives, who in recent seasons have become something of a bogey side. At least Thriplow came out of the match with a reasonable haul of points, in contrast to the home fixture in June which yielded precisely none but in truth the team were never really in the game. St.Ives scored heavily all the way down the order, aided by an incredible 54 extras (including 47 wides) and a final total of 287 for 8 looked to be way too many for a team with only three first-choice batters. Richie Turner bowled with his usual control to return figures of 2 for 30 in his ten overs but all the other bowlers suffered on what traditionally has been a pretty flat pitch and OU Authentics player Kazi Elias in particular had problems in maintaining his line.
Skipper John Howe, who has struggled to replicate his outstanding form of 2017 and Andrew Woolley tried manfully to get the innings off to the rapid start it required but St. Ives were efficient and maintained pressure throughout, such that only Robert Craze (53 in 91 balls) made any real headway. Australian opening bowler Jack Quartermain, whose batting form in the second half of the season has been a revelation, fell to a second-ball duck and despite stout resistance from the lower order, a challenging target receded further and further into the distance. The final all-out total of 176 at least generated a haul of eleven points from the match but with “Granta” winning, the race for the one promotion spot looked to be all but run.
… or so we thought. Heavy rain in the days leading up to the home game against Saffron Walden II the following week meant that the fixture always looked to be in doubt and with Walden ensconced in mid-table and Thriplow fearing that their promotion bid was all but over, enthusiasm was initially in short supply, despite the home team including U17 county player George Weston and 14-year-old debutant Theo “Hogg-Meister” Collins. Protracted negotiations finally arrived at an agreed 35-over match and initial signs for Thriplow were promising, with Jack Quartermain striking with his second ball and Walden slumping to 96 for 6. However, first-team wicket-keeper Michael Turner then held the innings together with a composed 69 and late-order hitting from skipper Ray Mordini and Cameron Taylor meant that the final all-out total of 190 was a challenging one.
With much of the first-choice batting nowhere to be seen, skipper Howe graciously demoted himself to number three to allow the old alliance of Theo Giasemidis and Paul Staley to be reinstated and he was duly rewarded, as the pair triggered a sense of déjà vu all over again with a rapid partnership of 114 in only 20 overs. At that stage Thriplow were well ahead of the asking rate but the tables were well and truly turned when both openers and the captain all departed within the next five overs. Classy middle-order bat Chris Viner then held the innings together with 36 but no-one else made a significant contribution and the run-rate continued to escalate. With 15 runs were required off the last two overs albeit with wickets in hand, Viner, having taken the team to the brink of victory with two boundaries off the first two balls of the 34th over, then seriously blotted his copybook in seeing his stumps re-arranged. Cometh the hour, however and Jeeva “Las Vegas” Subramaniam brought his ‘A Game’ to the party by taking a boundary off his second ball and seeing the fourth disappear for four byes, to spark restrained celebrations, which quickly became much less restrained when news came through that “Granta” had, most improbably, been hammered by St. Giles and promotion was very much back on.
So to the final match of what has seemed a very long season, originally to be played back in April but which fell victim to the monsoon weather. The promotion equation was simple – a defeat of any description for “Granta” at home to Castor and a win for Thriplow at Blunham would either guarantee a share of the title or, with thirty points, an outright promotion. Having hit by football calls, Blunham were largely unrecognizable from the side which had lost narrowly by one wicket in late-June and Giasemidis and Staley made steady progress. Staley moved to his second successive well-constructed half-century but having set up a strong position, the rest of the order then really failed to capitalise and the final total of 205 felt to be about 50 runs short of par. Over tea, news came through that “Granta” had been bowled out for 173, so Thriplow had won the first round on a technical knock-out and now needed to win the second by bowling Blunham out. After captain Sameer Hussain had smashed his first ball to the boundary and was then dismissed by his third (a fine swirling catch by Dan Tinkler at mid-off), Alex Grimes (5 in 30 balls) and Max Hurst tried to get the innings back on track. Hurst dealt mainly in boundaries in his 47 but his partners all fell in single figures and by time Blunham had tumbled to 117 for 6 off fully 30 overs, the match was as good as done. However, news had filtered through at drinks that Castor had collapsed in the “Granta” game and the mood thereafter became understandably subdued. The team needed to summon up one last supreme effort to avoid finishing the season on something of a low and thankfully managed to do so - although some late order resistance prolonged the inevitable, Blunham finished on 175 off just over 40 overs and another 30-point win was in the bag, with the highlight being a superb one-handed boundary catch at mid-wicket by the irrepressible Richie Turner, who leapt three feet into the air like a pony-tailed blond salmon to burgle a wicket for former skipper Alastair Cliffe, who had unaccountably managed to wheedle his way into his successor’s plans.
So what have we learned:
· It has been a superb season, probably exceeding all initial expectations;
· The standard of opposition has been good and probably better than CCA Senior but not massively so.
· Most teams have two or three pretty top-class players but if they fail, then their team tends to struggle.
· There is a need not to lose wickets ‘in clumps’!
· That said, on several occasions the team ‘found a way to win’.
· The overseas player has been a complete star, on and off the field.
· Availability has been “mixed” and needs to improve – 33 different first-team players is faintly ridiculous.
· Again, having said that, having a 13-year-old opening bat and a 15-year-old lady middle-order bat has been pretty cool.
I want to thank all the players for agreeing to take me on in the first place and I hope I have been of some help. More than that, I hope they have all enjoyed their season, that they winter well and then come back refreshed to Fenners in February, ready for another crack at the title.
With best wishes.
First team coach/manager