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Another season of 'near misses' and 'what ifs' which saw us finish in the lower half of the league yet again. I think it is fair to say that our league position did not do justice to our overall playing ability. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we let slip some of the winning positions especially early in the season.
We started well enough in the friendlies before the league season began. We drew at Penn & Tylers Green where it snowed and Aubrey Bryan bowled - neither were seen again during the season. We won well at Ascot with Richard Lane turning in the first of his many fine performances, 5-21. A boring draw with Burnham followed and then a comprehensive 8 wicket win over White Waltham. Nick Heaton then got injured in the Julian Cup Match at Braywood and unfortunately took no further part in the season.
So on to the first league game at Wooburn with high hopes. Batting second we were 31-7 before Chris Lowe and Ian Perry saved the day as we finished on 100-9 and got our draw. Next came I.C.I. where we scored 224-8 and their last pair survived the final 12 balls to save the game. The Stoke Green game clearly was one that got away as chasing a modest 164 we slumped from 73-1 to 124-7 and settled for another draw.
At Amersham Hill, the resident wooden-spoonists, Chris Goodrham and Graeme Paskins scored the runs but with the opposition intent on a draw the game petered out. White Waltham were played the day after the tour had ended. Ross Dunlop achieved what he couldn't do in the New Forest, bowled line and length and took 4 wickets, Richard Lane also took 4 and they finished on 124-9. Rain intervened, the captains couldn't agree on playing conditions and the umpires ruled no play as the sun set over Taplow. A superb opening stand of 112 between Graeme Paskins and Eric Lark saw us well on the way to Winchmore Hill's 207 but the Taplow nerves took over and we finished on 187-8 - another draw.
Then came the first 'result' against Wendover - we lost by 6 runs despite needing 15 runs to win with 5 wickets in hand. Chris Lowe earlier had produced a fine spell of 5-27 to help dismiss Wendover for 162. Next carne North Maidenhead and a famous victory over our arch rivals by 29 runs in a low scoring match with a fine all round team effort. We blew it again at Bledlow where we lost by 43 runs but then had the better of the draw with eventual champions Chalfont St. Giles. In this game Eric Lark and Greg Jervis made 50's, Simon Wigmore took 6-41 and Chris Swallow held three fine catches. Inconsistency followed with wins over Denham, Marlow Park and Farnham Cornmon, but defeats at Kimble and Cookham Dean. The remaining friendly games were a disappointment and we ended the season with a comprehensive four wicket defeat at Dinton.
There were however a number of individual highlights such as:
Once again, I must thank all of the players for their loyalty and support, from the ever presents, Simon Wigmore and Richard Lane, to those who only played in the odd game. Without doubt this has been one of the best seasons for availability with very few enforced changes having to be made.
The future of league cricket within the Thames Valley is uncertain with a number of changes likely as a result of the proposed structure. We must ensure that no window of opportunity is lost to maintain and improve our standards.
Looking ahead, I see no reason why we should not be successful especially if we build on the cricket talent and experience that is available to us.
Finally my thanks once again to Nick and Doug for scoring and umpiring, and of course the Tea Ladies for their superb offerings.
Twenty-eight club members represented the Sunday first XI during the 1991 season, with ten cricketers each playing ten or more games:- Ian Kinrade and Simon Wigmore (20), Richard Lane and Ross Dunlop (17), John Clark (16), Mike Bradley and Paul Newman (15), Graeme Paskins (14), Steve Roach (11) and Tony Hutchings (10).
The season fell into two distinct halves. We lost six of our first ten games but were unbeaten, winning seven, in our last ten. Why? Well it would be nice to claim that the skipper eventually got the hang of the job and successfully motivated his troops with his new found tactical genius, but such a claim would be a load of "Ratners". So what did happen?
The season started at Ten Acres where a powerful Tring Park XI gave a not so powerful Taplow XI a sound thrashing. Tring Park declared at 187 and Taplow lurched to 99 all out without any individual batsman passing twenty. A good win followed against Chalfont St. Peter, Dave Holland making 65 out of 155 for 7 and the opposition subsiding to 119 all out. Simon Wigmore - the Captain's personal appointee as team optimist and morale officer - took 4 for 23.
On to Chertsey for a stuffing. Steve Roach (48) and Chris Swallow (78) made the bulk of our 176 all out but an undistinguished bowling performance allowed Chertsey to knock off the runs for only four wickets. The Caversham and Sonning game is best forgotten. Taplow 98 all out in 48 overs, a total passed with consummate ease. Then a trip to Wallingford only to play on one of the worst pitches I have ever encountered. Ask our unfortunate openers, both out on nought, one caught off a throat high length ball and the other bowled via the Bakerloo Line. The Wallingford captain, suitably embarrassed by the state of the home pitch and desirous of avoiding serious injury, permanently rested his quick bowler and then Dave Holland (29), Greg Jervis (46), John Clark (33 no) and Mike Bradley (29) assisted Taplow to amass, on that pitch, the monumental total of 193 for 9. The morale officer took 5 for 50 to bowl out the home side for 143. The Stage XI at home - no real contest. Graeme Paskins (66) and Chris Lowe (54) put on 117 for the first wicket and we sailed on to 211 for 8. Simon Wigmore and I then conned eight batsmen out and Tony Hutchings surgically removed the tail - 152 all out.
And so to Richings Park and oh dear me! After a virtuoso batting display from Graeme Paskins (102 no) Taplow declared at 196 for 8. Tony Hutchings then bowled like the BHQ (Big Hairy Quick) that he can be, and reduced the Park to 25 for 4, with Richard Lane snapping up three short leg catches. Just a matter of wrapping things up you might think? Not a bit of it. We proceeded to field like big girl's blouses decking eight of nine straight forward chances. Taking advantage of our woeful inadequacy the opposition romped home with five overs to spare. The match versus GWR ended in a very boring draw. Set 154 (Dave Holland 57) GWR made no serious attempt to win the match. With luck we will not play there again. Hanwell away and atrocious Taplow batting, 118 all out, ensured an easy nine wicket victory for the home side. Frimchett at home and the sad tale continues. The morale officer batted well for 69, as did Greg Jervis for 40, but we were bowled out for 169 - a total quickly passed by Frimchett. The story does not improve much with the visit of Chenies & Latimer who scored 180 for 9. We replied with a dreadful 88 for 9 and just hung on for a draw. At about this time the skipper was thinking that even tiling the bathroom might be preferable to this regular Sunday afternoon purgatory.
Next we were hosts to Kings Langley and wonder of wonders, we won. The morale officer was the undoubted "man of the match" with 4 for 36, two catches and 38 n.o. - a tour de force what? They were dismissed for 159 and we headed them with three wickets standing. Then we were away at Littlewick Green. Taplow 196 for 6 plays 192 for 7 - an exciting draw. Question: why should this, or any other game for that matter, start at the ridiculous time of 2.30pm? Tradition? Balderdash! Let us rid ourselves of these anachronisms on our fixture cards. Harrow-on-the-Hill at home - a very, very boring draw. One wonders why they came. Ewell Ruxley at Ten Acres appeared, on the day, to be a trifle over matched - some joke if you have been paying attention to the story. Taplow 222 for 7 with both Martin Fisher and Greg Jervis scoring 86. Ewell Ruxley 107 all out with, modesty taking a back seat, yours truly getting 8 for 40. Oh happy day, Windsor Victoria at home. Graeme Paskins is gutted with only 95 - Taplow 209 for 7. Windsor Vic's 156 all out with Richard Lane producing his best Sunday bowling figures of 3 for 44. There was some great fielding in this match with Simon Wigmore and Paul Newman both completing splendid run outs. Two wins on the trot.
And so to Datchet and our finest hour. A superb TCC bowling effort, the skipper paramount with 10.3 overs 3 wickets for 114 runs, reduced a strong Datchet line up to a paltry 305 for 6. Thus tea saw eleven Taplow stalwarts competing to pen the most apologetic suicide note and the Datchet squad composing the next installment of the "Datchet Young Guns" saga for the local press. But nothing ventured etc., I changed the batting order and, with tongue in cheek, instructed them to go for it. Enter the gladiators and the rest, as they say, is history - Martin Fisher (90), Paul Newman (31), Graeme Paskins (130 no) and Ross Dunlop (36 no) and Taplow reached 309 for 2 off the last ball of the match. Wow! Needless to say a very good night was had by all, except of course the "Datchet Young Guns". At the rugby ground Redingensians declared at 210 for 5. No problem. Taplow 213 for 1, Martin Fisher (100) and Simon Wigmore and Graeme Paskins a fifty each. We were on a roll.
Next! Poor Braywood must have thought that they had stumbled into a mincer. Taplow 199 for 6 with forties for Dave Holland, John Clark and Ross Dunlop. Braywood routed for 83; four wickets for Simon Wigmore and three for Mike Bradley. And so to the finale - a demolition job at Pinkneys Green. On a far from easy pitch, the troops raised 167 for 7 (Greg Jervis 84) and then Tony Hutchings (6 for 68) and Nick Reynolds (4 for 29) dispatched the home side for 97 in the 21st over. Six wins in a row.
Well, what went right? It is self evident that some stronger players, both potentially and in actual performance, became available later in the season. The Sunday averages of Martin Fisher (59) and Greg Jervis (48), along with that of the regularly available Graeme Paskins (64), had an enormous influence on results; their collective average, discounting not outs, was 150 runs per game. Need one say more? Our team bowling is still the cause for some concern; 62.5% (85 out of 136) of all the wickets to fall to bowlers were taken by just two bowlers - the two spinners(?) Simon Wigmore (36) and Ian Kinrade (49). Tony Hutchings (17) proved a few times that he is capable of very destructive and hostile spells and Nick Reynolds looks very promising. Of course, the seamers were not helped by the skipper's luck with the toss and his predilection for batting first but, nevertheless, both Richard Lane and Ross Dunlop in terms of wickets taken, had disappointing Sunday seasons with the ball. Our fielding, the odd occasion notwithstanding, was on the whole pretty good with everyone pulling his weight. Here I must mention Paul Newman who by the end of the season was pouching some remarkable catches.
But, the real reason for our sustained success was that latterly I was leading a side that was used to winning; the side expected to win, in fact defeat was not even considered - and long may it continue. With good availability next year the Taplow Sunday first XI is set fair to be a major force in local cricket.
Finally I must express my gratitude to my vice-captain, John Clark, for all his help and support both on and off the field; to our excellent tea ladies, and to my wife, Jo, whose magnanimity in letting me "come out to play" is only exceeded by her selfless duties as toper's chauffeuse.