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It was a long hot summer but for the Saturday first XI there was little dazzle as for the first time in the club's history, we failed to win a single Chilterns League game. Our record of drawn 5 lost 9 inevitably meant we finished bottom of the league, also for the first and (hopefully) the last time.
Of course this decline has been with us gradually over the past few seasons and the loss of Martin Fisher, Greg Jervis and Tony Hutchings finally proved too much to bear. Until our aspiring group of colts make it through and/or relevant new blood is recruited we will continue to feature in the lower reaches of the league.
Once again, which only seems to be an issue at Taplow, we did not always field the strongest side for various reasons which naturally is not helping the progress of the club itself. The abortive application to the Thames Valley League however shows that the playing strength of the first XI will be an important factor in any future advancement of the club and unless this is addressed seriously we will not make any significant improvements.
Now for the playing part of the season. As far as the league is concerned the games fell into 3 distinct categories:
On two occasions we had the opposition chasing 200+ and 9 wickets down but both times failed to clinch victory. Against Denham we reached 200-9 with Richard Thorogood's 59 proving decisive. Ross Dunlop's 3-24 and Simon Wigmore's 3-63 nearly took us to victory with Denham holding on at 173-9. Thorogood again with 71 led us to 231-7 against Coleshill. Tony Hutchings (now back in the fold) 3-43 nearly bowled us to victory and Coleshill finished on 196-9, the last pair surviving 4 overs together.
The first league game of the season saw us rattle up 223-3 against Chalfont St. Giles with Richard "Wiji" Wijieyesekera in fine form with 86*. Our bowling resources however were exposed as the opposition edged home by 5 wickets with an over to spare. A tremendous game with Farnham Common finished with us losing by 2 wickets. Once again we made 200-7 with yours truly making 76 and a titanic battle followed as Dave Thomley 3-52 made inroads into the Commons' batting. However the Common sneaked in with their ninth wicket pair surviving a number of close decisions with an unbeaten stand of 24. Stoke Green is best forgotten as I spent most of the game in Wexham Park Hospital courtesy of the bat pad movement. Ross Dunlop's admirable 5-40 reduced the powerful Green batting to 71-5. However steady batting by their tail saw them to a 4 wicket victory.
We shall draw a veil over the other games as they ranged from thrashings with Penn & Tylers Green knocking off our 123 in just 21 overs to draws such as Amersham Hill 286-5 plays our 192-7. One game stands out for a quite magnificent effort by Simon Wigmore and Dave Thornley who put on 102 for the 10th wicket stand, a club record and took us from 71-9 to 173 all out and only two overs from safety.
In the non league games we defeated Teddington, Waltham St. Lawrence and Stoke Green. Whilst we also played a dramatic tie with GWR when Paul Tarn took a hat-trick.
Despite the poor results we did mainly have the nucleus of a settled side with good morale and not until late into September did we run into availability problems. As a team we generally make our runs too slowly thus we are never able to give our bowlers the chance to get on top. Wiji made 2 league fifties, fielded superbly but would probably be disappointed with his seasons aggregate of 393 runs at an average of 22. Richard Thorogood once again had a good go with 3 fifties and proved he is our most explosive batsman and the one most likely to demolish bowling attacks.
Lewis Fisher and Chris Paskins failed to live up to their grand efforts in 1994 although both battled on and were loyal members of the side. Ross Dunlop showed steady improvement with bat and ball, turning in a number of very useful performances in the league and emerging at the end of the season as a more than useful opening batsman as his 66 against Northwood showed. Paul Tarn turned in good performances with bat and ball, also showing that he should bat in the first 6 regularly.
The bowlers generally struggled especially on some of the dry wickets and with the way almost all of our opponents scored quickly against us. Chris Lowe, Tim Isaac and Dave Thomley all toiled away willingly despite the lack of wickets.
Simon Wigmore with 20 wickets during the season was not as effective as usual although bearing in mind his record, a number of opposing batsmen were keen to get after his bowling as early as possible. Ian Kinrade suffered as a result of not scoring enough runs and the need to bowl tightly, even so he still managed 2 five wicket hauls for the season. Tony Hutchings returned late in the season to add some pace to our attack and even though he took 18 wickets he could not quite turn the season for us.
Chris Dean kept wicket admirably, took some spectacular catches and improved slowly to the slow bowling of Simon and Ian.
As usual my thanks to a host of people, Dave and Doug for umpiring, María for scoring, players for their support, the tea ladies for another superb effort and Lewis for carrying out his vice-captain role so responsibly.
Another enjoyable season and lets see if we can put Taplow back up the Chilterns League in 1996.
We started the season away to Gerrards Cross who duly got their season off to a winning start by 6.20pm - they didn't even have the courtesy of using any of their last twenty overs! And yet it had all started quite well. After an hour of that first match we had still to lose a wicket, Lewis Fisher and Dave Holland had reached the 50 partnership and the team were looking forward to some batting practice. Dave got out but Lewis continued to his fifty and with the score on 95-2 we were still in control. Then, Pop!, the Taplow bubble burst and in 45 minutes we lost 8 wickets for 52 runs with Les Andrew third highest scorer on 11*. Steve Adams and Tim Isaac bowled well but strong batting from their South African and indifferent support from our other bowlers saw us crushed after just 23 overs.
The next week we trotted off to Chalfont St. Peter expecting a more even test of our abilities. We batted first and were soon in big trouble. Gerry Bowyer laser guided his third ball straight from his fishing rod to gully, Andrew Mills and I were bowled and we were suddenly 10 for 3 after 6 overs. Fortunately, Lewis Fisher wasn't paying any attention to the twits at the other end, and put together one of the best Taplow innings seen all year. Ably supported by some strong knocks from the middle order big guns of Paul Newman (17), Mike Bradley (34), Les Andrew (29) and a remarkable innings from Ross Dunlop who scored 20 off his first 5 balls, Lewis reached 91* and we declared on 205-6. Good tight bowling early on from Tim Isaac and Les balanced with a few unusually expensive ones from Dave Thornley set the game up nicely with 120 needed off 20 overs.
Thorners, whose last over cost 14, was taken off and was replaced by Ross. His first over cost 14 as well and Chalfont had suddenly put themselves in the driving seat. It was Clive Kellett who came to our rescue. He bowled 16 overs and took 4 wickets, two of which were neatly effected stumpings from Andrew Mills who had an excellent year behind the stumps. With Ross looking far more dangerous, taking 3 wickets in 7 balls in the middle of his spell we had bounced back and now had a great chance of winning. Tim grabbed a late wicket and we had 16 balls at the final pair to steal the win - we didn't quite make it but it had been a great game.
Next came our third match, away at Thame. The pitch looked an absolute belter and it was no surprise that, when having won the toss, Thame's captain decided to put himself and his team in to bat. Consequently, it was a rather startled Thame captain who, when called for a suicidal single by his partner, was left cursing loudly when Ross had let fly with a direct hit from mid-on. In defence of the partner, Ross had tripped over his own feet to let a four through only 3 balls earlier and was already looking like a comatose bluebottle in the Arctic conditions so a single to him should have been a formality! Tim bowled well, taking a wicket, but the pitch really was exceptional and they cruised along to 140-2. Ross had been brought on to see if some of his luck would rub off on to his bowling and after 4 overs and 29 runs the answer was obvious - No it wouldn't. Clive was at the other end bowling another long spell but getting little back. Then the Dunlop magic struck again. Andrew Mills got a stumping then Clive bowled their talented number 3 for 75. The rest of Thame collapsed in the face of Ross's bowling and they crashed from 172-3 to 213-9. Ross finished with 5-44, a remarkable achievement on that pitch and after that start!
In reply, Gerry Bowyer and myself slowly put together a 68 partnership to set up a 138 run run-chase off the last 20 overs. Andrew Mills came to the crease and put on a run a ball 40 with me before I was out for 65. Paul Newman joined Andrew and some electric running between the wickets saw 67 added in 9 overs. Scott Bradley joined Andrew who passed his fifty in the penultimate over and with most of the fielders on the boundary we needed 12 off the last over to win. We managed only ten and ended on 212-4. Two runs short but this had again been a tremendous game. We then travelled to Bledlow for our fourth consecutive away match to try and force our first win.
We batted first with Lewis Fisher and Dave Holland putting on 105 in 36 overs for the first wicket. It's hard to explain what happened next. We lost 8 wickets in 12 overs, all, except for two comical run outs, were to Bledlow's third and fourth change bowlers. Willow had gone through us but not before Lewis had hit 70 leaving his Sunday average on 106.5. The only thing of note from our bowling display, which allowed Bledlow to score their 166 for 2 in 37 overs. was that Chris Lowe managed to get their opener out - before the game he had scored some 500 runs without being out once. Oh well, another defeat but at least our next game against Windsor was at home.
The wicket wasn't quite as good as the Thame one had been. Dave Holland's 32 off 96 balls made his Bledlow effort look like a lightning cameo but at least he didn't get out for less than 13 like all, except Chris Lowe, of his team mates. After Dave left, it was solely down to a good 26* from Chris that we managed to limp to 120 all out. Tim and Chris opened the bowling and kept the runs down but it was Clive (2 wickets) and Ross (3 wickets) who again made the best of the conditions. Young Michael Lavender showed his seniors how fielding should be done by taking 2 excellent catches but it was too little too late - Windsor won by 4 wickets. Another defeat and one which had little to offer by way of comfort.
The Richings Park match was held on a cold, rainy day and the rugby world cup and Brazil v England football was on the box. They were on 78-0, my feet were wet and I had no spare socks ... match abandoned and we all settled down to watch TV and eat their splendid tea.
The next game was Fleet, not the side you want to face with a losing team. Last year Fleet stuffed us by 9 wickets, but not this time. Although we didn't win, this game will be remembered for several reasons and will be seen as the turning point of our season. Lewis Fisher, who's lowest score thus far was 52 had decided to play on Saturday's only and a reliable replacement was needed to open the batting. The Fleet match saw the coming together of Dave Holland and John Clark for the first time and they set up the side with a patient 87 first wicket partnership. They went on to bat together 7 times on Sundays in 1995, averaging 70 each time and in all the Sunday matches, we didn't lose once if the two of them batted together.
Dave went on to reach 58 whilst the rest of the team were quickly undone by a left arm spinner, Mike Bradley being the only other one to cope with the conditions with a brisk 29. Tony Hutchings got bowled out for 1 but he wasn't there to bat. For Tony was the second reason why we performed so much better from the middle of June. He had spent the start of the year playing for Marlow and Bucks U25, poached by my reprobate brother, but at least they taught him to bowl properly while he was there! All I can say is, I was glad he was on our side that day because he was faaast! He clean bowled the opener after his first 6 rapid overs, then bowled number 3 the very next ball. He went off to have a rest while Fleet rattled up 82 for the next wicket. Fully rested he came back, clean bowled his third with his second ball then did the same with his third. Unfortunately, he had little help at the other end, no one else looked likely to get a wicket (our own left armer - Clive - had disappeared round the world again). Tiring slightly, Tony finally allowed a Fleet batsman to lay a bat on it. He edged it to the keeper and Tony had picked up his fifth wicket. A great game ended with Fleet 3 runs behind. We now had plenty to look forward to with a quick bowler to be proud of. Taplow were back!
Aston Rowant were next. Disaster struck, Tony wasn't available and our wicketkeeper's car had broken down en route to their ground. John and Dave put on 40 before our cultured middle order came in. James Brewer scored his highest Sunday score of 42, Ross clobbered 38 including 2 sixes then Mike Bradley chipped in with a quick 28. The textbook approach was completed by Tim Isaac with 18, who was clean bowled immediately after hitting a huge six himself. We had managed a reasonable score but the big problem was the lack of a stumper. But just as Mike had finished his third plate of sandwiches and offered to do the job, in walked Andrew Mills and our problems were solved. Ross and Tim bowled very good opening spells. James Brewer had a problem adjusting to the left/right hand batting combination but finally settled into a good rhythm. But with ten overs left we were defending a 50 run lead and still required 6 more wickets to win. Well, we didn't have a Hutchings to save the situation, but not far behind him, pace-wise, is that tall slim whirling dervish, Mike Bradley. He raced in and in his five final overs took four wickets for 19 runs. Ross took the wicket of the dangerous left hander at the other end and when Mike bowled number 10 with the penultimate ball of the match we suddenly had a chance to snatch a win with the last ball - it didn't happen - but it had been a great recovery.
North Maidenhead's game was played in constant drizzle but what kept everyone going was that, yet again, another Sunday match could have been won or lost in the last over. Graeme Paskins opened with John Clark and together they put on a magnificent 155, Graeme scoring 107 - the team's only century on Sundays. John's innings of 70 was absolutely vital since the rest of the side showed little sign of being able to give Graeme the support that he needed. The Taplow score went from 180-1 to 188-6 before Jon Wrapson hit a few fours at the end to allow us to declare on 209-6. The conditions were terrible but Maidenhead chased the runs all the way. Clive was back and took 3 wickets and with Les Andrew getting 4 for 85, we put up a great fight. In a nerve racking finale, 10 runs were needed off Clive's last over. Alert fielding, in the worst of the weather, kept them to 9 and the teams ended all square on 209.
One of our strongest sides was out to face a weakened Princes Risborough team. We bowled poorly and batted worse and lost the match. Tony's 7 overs cost 45 runs and the only Taplow bowler to go for less than 4 an over was Tim Isaac. Risborough declared on 213-6 and gave us 41 overs to chase it. Ha! No problem. With Graeme Paskins, Lewis Fisher (back for one game) and John Clark in the team, that should be easy. Lewis Fisher fell for 1 and Graeme was bowled for 8. Clarkie got another tremendous fifty but only Andrew Mills (24) and Ross (35) helped get near their score. Gus Gorman and Clive had 8 overs to bat out for the draw in the end, but with 8 balls left, Clive chipped up a surprise full toss, was caught at short cover and we had lost. All in all, this had been a very poor team performance.
Against Burnham I led another strong side. It had been raining in the morning and whoever won the toss would definitely field first. I won the toss, threw Tony the new ball and he was absolutely unplayable. In 7 overs he had 4 caught in the slips or gully. Mike Bradley had taken a wicket as well, leaving Burnham on 52-5. The tail stayed around for quite a while before James Brewer broke through and picked up three wickets. They finally declared (after tea) on 176-8, their opener batting through to get his century. Burnham have a good trio of quick bowlers and in hindsight I should have mixed the batting order a little to allow some of our risk takers a chance to score at the start. Instead, I opened myself and got a fairly quick 27 then John and Dave took us to the 20 overs. Our winning chances came and went really in two balls, Graeme Paskins hit a huge six then, while they looked for the ball, called for his helmet and was promptly caught off the very next ball. Dave was joined by Andrew Mills who worked hard to get his 42* but it wasn't enough. We ended up 23 runs behind with Mike Bradley and James Brewer still waiting to bat.
The Chenies & Latimer match was probably played on the hottest day of the year. I failed to find an eleventh player and then I lost the toss that condemned the rest of us to 3 hours in the field. A chap called Wlodarczyk scored 73 but I was pleased with our bowling. Tim bowled 12 overs during the hottest part of the day with no luck whatsoever and quickly turned an eye-catching shade of red! The sun obviously got to him. He took a catch off Tony Hutchings at mid- wicket but for the first 8 overs he had been fielding as Bowleg's backstop and I'm sure he had simply wandered off to his new position in a sun induced daze after completing his previous over. Ross got a couple of wickets and Ian Kinrade bowled with impressive control to take four, including a couple of gimme's from George The Umpire. This match marked Singing's return to the Sunday team and one I'm sure he won't forget in a hurry. Especially because of a piece of fielding from a rather sickly James Brewer who hurled the ball at the stumps as hard as he could with the batsman already comfortably home. Ian leapt out of the way, turned round, cleared his throat and released a fearsome explosion of expletives as he watched the ball hurtle into the car park for a five. The Chenies bowling was old, arthritic and couldn't possibly defend 202-8. Tony Hutchings opened the batting and smashed 23 runs. Five of us got well set and all threw our wickets away, but all was not lost as Mike Bradley put together a very intelligent fifty. He took the score from 99-6 to 185-8, shepherding the strike nicely before - tragedy - he was brilliantly caught leaving us 17 runs short.
Wooburn Narkovians was on another hot day where John and Dave again put on another lengthy partnership, 112 runs on a very strange looking Wooburn wicket. 221-7 was clearly far beyond Wooburn's sights. Ian Kinrade bowled 19 overs, much of it friendly fire but they weren't particularly interested and it petered out into a dull draw.
We took a weak team to Hurst who seemed to present their colts team in opposition. Ian bowled a marathon 22 overs (and took 5 wickets) out of a remarkable 59 overs bowled at them. Our reply was spectacularly led by the captain, Les Andrew, who scored more than half of our runs, 60 including 12 fours and a six. Of the other ten batsmen, four got ducks and our last 7 wickets fell for just 29 in 8 overs. The boys had easily beaten the men!
Then Long Marston turned up near the end of August and were turned over by the small matter of 174 runs - A WIN! John and Dave again built the foundations of a good score with a partnership of 75, Dutchy getting a well deserved 58. Everyone else contributed, including James Brewer who smacked an entertaining 41. Long Marston had two Aussies, one bowled while the other had a terrific reputation for smashing huge scores and was clearly expected to do the same against us. Tony Hutchings charged in and promptly got his first ball belted over mid-wicket by the import. Tony charged in again, a little quicker, and sensationally split the Aussie's middle stump in two. The Long Marston side virtually raised the white flag at that second ball and no one cared to face Tony for more than a few balls before waving the bat in surrender and getting bowled. Tony took the first 6 wickets but once Ross Dunlop took a wicket, the ten wicket haul was no longer possible and it was time to let someone else have a bowl. Clive finished them off in just 9 balls and it was as easy as that... we had them all out for 41. We played 17 matches this year and, amazingly, this was the only time we managed to get a side all out.
Old Latymerians were in all sorts of trouble as well at 49-7 but staged quite a recovery to reach 138-9. Tony was in the thick of it again taking 5-26 and Tim Isaac got some reward for his efforts with 3-34. We didn't exactly cruise to victory. John and Dave opened the batting and put on a mere 27 this time. Les Andrew got a quick 22 then a collapse in the middle saw us fall to 111-7. John Clark was still there though and guided us superbly with an unbeaten 46, but it took an unlikely hat-trick of boundaries from Singing to get our second win, this time by 2 wickets. We were on a roll but this turned out to be our last match for nearly a month.
The final game, an October meeting with Datchet saw another great partnership between my two most consistent performers. Both Dave and John got their highest scores of the season on their way to putting on 122 for the second wicket. By the time Dave was out for 77, no one really cared that Graeme Paskins only managed to get a lowly score. out stumped by umpire Hutchings for 9. Clarkie continued to a faultless 84* and we declared at 223-5. Even though Datchet were helped by some wayward bowling from Tony, they were always behind the clock. 140 off 20 overs was certainly possible but Les took 3 wickets in 6 overs and with Clive taking one as well. the target was quickly out of reach and the match drifted toward an honourable draw.
I must point out now that Les Andrew and I job-shared the captaincy this year. We shared the wins evenly (one each!) but from a playing point of view there was no comparison. He averaged 50% higher than me with the bat and also had a reasonable year with the ball - I guess that he can handle the demands of the job much better than I can!
Congratulations go to Tony Hutchings who took 24 wickets at a remarkable rate of one every three overs. Well done to Singing who was my most economical bowler, the only one to go for less than 3.5 an over. Finally on bowling, a special acknowledgement of Tim Isaac and Clive Kellett's efforts - they were the Sunday team's most tireless bowlers, both sending down more than 100 overs each.
Well done to John Clark whose 10 innings netted him 428 runs at a healthy average of 53.5 and Dave Holland (11 innings, 431 runs) who with John, formed such a formidable partnership. It was good to see Les Andrew's batting coming on and I hope to see a lot more of Lewis Fisher and even my brother next year. Andrew Mills is proving to be an exceptional wicketkeeper. He had a wonderful year behind the stumps but in front of them, his batting mirrored my own and he could not find any consistency, scoring freely one week then looking like someone with other things on his mind the next. Ross Dunlop had a great year and was my best all rounder with 17 wickets and a batting average of 22.6. One last mention goes to our newest superstar James Brewer and his mentor, Mike Bradley, who both made many useful contributions on and (more usually) off the field, throughout the year.
I must thank my Spanish scorer, María (my future Mrs. P.), whose coloured pens are now famous throughout the area. The works of art that she creates with the scorebook are only matched by the superb teas laid on by our tea ladies. They consistently produced the best teas and the compliments they receive from all sides during the summer are always thoroughly deserved. Finally, thanks must go to George Taylor who umpired so often for us on Sunday. This allowed our batsmen to concentrate on their batting to such obvious good effect!