MATLOCK CC’s captain Steve Pell has paid tribute to the team spirit and consistency that has seen the club’s first team gain promotion to the Derbyshire Premier League and win the Marston’s Smooth Trophy.
And the season isn’t quite over for Pell’s men as they will be competing for more silverware on Sunday, September 23, at the County Ground, Derby, in the County T20 Finals Day.
Most of the headlines this season have gone to South African all-rounder Devon Conway’s superb exploits – and with good reason – but Pell feels his side has shown it’s much more than just a one-man team over the past five months.
He explained: “We set ourselves a target before the season of getting promotion and winning either the T20 Cup or the Marston Smooth Trophy. We thought that would be pushing it a little but it was worth trying to stretch the lads to achieve that.
“So we are absolutely delighted to have got promotion, won the Marston’s Smooth Trophy and we are in the T20 finals day too. It was about challenging and stretching the lads and it is one heck of an achievement to do what we’ve done with a largely local set of lads.
“But for me, it’s not just about the firsts. The seconds did well and avoided the drop and while the thirds went down, they battled hard.
“That relegation is not the end of the world because firstly, it’s very heatlhy to have a thirds, and secondly, the main role of that team is in providing a bridge for 13-15 year-olds between junior and senior cricket and bringing them through eventually into the seconds. They can still do that in Division 10N and that is an important function that the team fulfils.”
Returning his focus to the first team, Steve Pell continued: “The team spirit and consistency has been excellent. We have had a particularly good second half of the season. The first half was very stop/start due to the weather but, in the second half, I think we only lost once and our bowling and fielding have been exceptional in their consistency.
“We only had two games cancelled and two abandoned and some teams have had quite a few more called off, so that has helped us.
“As captain, I would say generally they are easy to handle. There is a lot of experiece in that dressing room and some strong opinions are expressed at times, which can make it a little challenging, but we all got on very well, without exception. We are good mates and that really helps. There’s a lot of trust in each other.”
He went on: “The standout player has to be Devon Conway for his phenomenal all-round contribution. He has 1,300 league and cup runs, and, bearing in mind the bad weather and the effect that had on some of the wickets, that is a superb effort – and he missed the first two games as well. The league record is 1,450-ish and to get so close to it tells you all you need to know about him.
“He is without doubt the best batsman I’ve played with or against and it wouldn’t surprise me if, in the next three or four years, he becomes a name that everyone in the cricket world is talking about. That’s how good he is.
“Matt Cluer and Kev Leatherday have been the other two really consistent batting performers. Generally, they have opened together, they have 500 runs each and have provided a really strong foundation for us.
“Among the bowlers, Pete Camm has 60 wickets and has been vying for leading wicket taker with Alfreton’s overseas player from Pakistan, Bilawal Bhatti. For Pete to be up there with a guy who’s going off to the Champions League 20/20 in South Africa, playing against international players, shows you just how good Pete has been this season. He has done well in his three seasons with us and now has around 180 wickets for the club.
“For me, the biggest improvement has been Ed Lander. Pete Camm will be the first to admit Ed has helped him to get a lot of wickets by keeping it so tight at his end. In 200 overs, he has an economy rate of 2.5 and that has played a major part for us.”
“And Dev got 38 wckets too, which is a great achievement for someone who was playing first class cricket as a wicketkeeper prior to coming to us. He has worked really hard and it has paid off.”
Looking ahead, Steve Pell concluded: “We have had experience of the Premier League recently when we came straight back down so we don’t want that to happen again. The planning for next season starts now and there’s plenty to do but it’s an experience we are looking forward to as a club.”
n See next week’s paper for more on Wirksworth and Middleton’s phenomenal 2012 season.