A clean sweep for thriving cricket club

Stephen Lowe of Wirksworth and Middleton CC
Stephen Lowe of Wirksworth and Middleton CC

IT’S been an absolutely unforgettable season for Wirksworth and Middleton CC.

How else could you describe a campaign where all three Saturday sides won their leagues and the Sunday team also gained promotion?

The club is no stranger to achieving promotions. The 2010 and 2011 seasons saw at least one of the sides going up each year but a clean sweep is something else entirely.

But for club chair Sue Marshall, it’s no more than she expected after her early-season prediction came true in spectacular fashion.

She explained: ”I said at the beginning of the season that we were going for promotion for all senior teams. Call it what you will – a woman’s intuition, an optimistic ambition, a trust and belief in our teams to deliver – or a mix of all three. Whatever you call it, we did it.

“In an unbelievably successful season, we have three champions. The 1sts move up to to Division Two of the Derbyshire County League, the 2nds to Division 6N, and the 3rds to Division 8N. And the Sunday team, playing in the Mansfield and District League, gained promotion for the second year running.

“The 2nds deserve a special mention as this is their third consecutive year of being champions, under the captaincy of David Hopkinson, going from Division 9N to Div 6N, which is a fantastic achievement for them.

“It is also very encouraging that the u12s’ team were champions of their league and the u13s runnners-up, so we have plenty of young talent coming through.”

Focusing on the first team in particular, Sue was reluctant to pick out any individual star performers, as she feels it was a real team effort, but when pushed she mentioned Stephen Lowe, Dinesh De Silva and Paul Hindmarch.

She explained: “Of the ‘homegrown’ players, Stephen Lowe had another fantastic season, and that’s something like his third brilliant campaign in a row.

“He has always played his cricket here, he’s come through the ranks and continues to do really well. He takes a lot of wickets for us and does so very cheaply too.

“Due to visa issues we didn’t get Dinesh back from Sri Lanka until quite a few weeks into the season but when he arrived he did well again. Paul Hindmarsh, from the Unicorns, came in and did really well, initially as the stand-in for Dinesh.

“He enjoyed it so much that he stayed on when Dinesh arrived, which was a real bonus.”

Sue continued: “We felt confident all the way through that we could get promotion because we lost so few games. In total, all three Saturday sides lost just five games between then and won 39 of the completed games, which is an amazing statistic. To get them all up as champions as well was just the icing on the cake.

“Why did it happen? Well, we attracted quite a few players back to the club, we have got a good overseas player and there’s plenty of homegrown talent here - young talent too. We have a good blend of youth and experience. Youngsters are coming through the ranks and making their mark and that is good, and there is never a problem putting teams out because we have a big pool of players to choose from.

“Now we are aiming for Division One and then will review the situation from there. We have already had two strategy meetings for next season and will take our ideas to the AGM in November. We are looking at things like player development, coaching, training, to help us get better as a club and we look to next season with the hope that we can get at least one of our teams promoted again.”

She concluded: “Congratulations to all players, captains and vice-captains, managers, players and coaches for a magnificant achievement and a huge thank you to our groundsmen, scorers, umpires, to all supporters and parents and to everyone who helps behind the scenes week in, week out.

“A cricket club can only succeed with everyone working together as a team and we are all very proud of what we achieved this season.”

Here are some facts and figures from the club’s incredible season, kindly supplied by W & M’s Maurice Ingham.

The points margin between the sides and those in second place was comfortable, to say the least. Even the 2nd XI, who went into the final double-header weekend not certain of promotion (never mind finishing top) ended up 54 points clear of second-placed Marehay.

The 3rd XI won more games and accumulated more points than any other side in the 18 divisions (214 teams). Over the past three seasons, W&M’s three senior sides have gained seven promotions – all of them as champions - this being the 2nd XI’s third in succession. Add to this the Sunday side’s two promotions in the two seasons of their formation.

The 3rd XI, breaking with tradition, did not elect a player of the season. They were presumably spoiled for choice Among the standout performances, Joe Bradbury took 9-48 in one game (and ran-out the other batsman!); Matt Daldorph took 37 wickets including two seven-wicket hauls – one of them 7-3.

Mike Whittall also had a seven-for (a rather more expensive 7-9). The evergreen Keith Williams and the somewhat younger Peter Ashurst both scored centuries while a further four batsmen made 50s. There were, though, many other contributions throughout the squad which, in the context of the games situations, were equally valuable.

James Thompson was voted player of the season for the 2nd XI. In 12 appearances (he was drafted into the 1st XI for several games) he scored over 500 runs, averaging 63, with five half-centuries – including two not-out 90s.

Among other contenders were Michael Jefferiss (runs and wicket-keeping duties), Max Marshall (useful runs and 30 wickets), James Brierley and Jack Currell. A word as well for Andrew Redfern who has announced his retirement as a player.

His contribution to the club on (and off) the field has been immense and his runs, and sound advice to other players, will be sorely missed.

This season, he scored 400 runs with three half-centuries (all of them 80s in fact).

The 1st XI chose Stephen Lowe as player of the season and there can be no argument with that, taking 40 wickets at just over ten runs apiece and, as ever, an economy rate well under three an over.

He doesn’t expect to bat too often but when he has had to this season there have been a couple of crucial contributions.

Other contenders would include Alex Park with nearly 500 runs opening the batting and 25 dismissals behind the stumps, and Andy Malia-Barlow with over 400 runs and 14 wickets.

Dinesh de Silva, missing the first third of the season, scored 450 runs and took 41 wickets. Paul Hindmarch made over 400 runs, taking 30 wickets, while Aafan Janjua was the leading run scorer with over 550 runs. Captain David Greatorex was especially pleased, however, that so many players made vital contributions throughout what was a much more settled side.