The Saturday second XI enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in recent years, finishing with the highly respectable record of: P23 W12 D5 L6
Our final league placing was fifth and it says a lot for our season in general that I think most of us were disappointed with this after all that had gone before.
Following satisfactory performances in our opening three friendly games, we started the league season with three successive victories. Stoke Green's batting was demolished by a highly impressive bowling performance, Amersham Hill were swept aside and White Waltham were beaten by a very competent Taplow batting display when we lost only three wickets chasing 172. In this latter game Scott Bradley scored 80 and shortly after this was deservedly promoted to the first XI.
A combination of poor catching and batting brought us firmly back down to earth in our following game at Marlow Park although we remained at the top of the league when we visited Wendover the following week. Batting first against what proved to be the league winners, we made a modest total of 143-8 from our allotted 48 overs. Wendover, with their very strong batting line up, appeared to be coasting to victory at 70 odd for 3 but every Taplow player gave his all that day and we ended up winning by 7 runs with Geoff Reynolds taking two wickets in the final over of the match. It was a very pleasing result especially when recalling that only a couple of years earlier, Wendover had inflicted a humiliating 200 runs plus defeat upon us. This victory was particularly satisfying for the lads who had participated in that earlier game and I think the result finally brought home to us that we could compete with the best. In fact we were the only team to beat Wendover last season.
The next match also had a tight finish when we lost very narrowly at home to North Maidenhead but I think the visitors certainly acknowledged that they had been given a very close game. Chris Swallow scored a highly impressive 80 in this game emphasising what a good prospect he is. We then went on to win three of the next five games with Eric Lark scoring a typically belligerent hundred against Denham and Steve Roach scoring his first half century for the club against Cookham Dean, a game in which we managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
When Farnham Common visited us at the end of July they were second in the league and we were top. I think this hitherto unknown "pressure" probably got the better of us that day as we produced probably our worst out-field performance of the season, going down by five wickets and this after scoring 220 plus ourselves! The following week we suffered our only heavy defeat of the season at the hands of Winchmore Hill despite an incredible bowling performance by Geoff Reynolds who took eight wickets in his allotted twelve overs. Geoff was a model of consistency throughout the season and was I think one of the main reasons behind our overall improvement.
These defeats, together with a draw against Wooburn Narkovians saw us lose any realistic hope of winning the league. I think it was however fitting that we should go on to win our final two league games of the season.
In one of these, Gerry Bowyer scored his first ever ton at Taplow to cap what was yet another outstanding season for him. Long may he continue!
After some of the tense games we had, it was somewhat difficult re- adjusting to the slower pace of friendly matches but I was pleased that we managed to maintain our form and were unbeaten in the remaining games.
Overall then, a satisfying season and I would like to extend my thanks to all the players for their efforts. It was nice to be part of a Taplow team that often went on to the pitch actually expecting to win! My thanks also to Dave Thornley for his support as vice-captain, David Wigmore for his umpiring in our league games and last but not least the tea ladies for their marvellous efforts.
As for next year, I see no reason why we should not continue our improvement and make an even stronger challenge to win the league.
My first season as captain of the Sunday second XI was way back in 1979. Any thoughts of us emulating the 1979 team's undefeated performance disappeared at about 4.45pm on April 29th against Tring. We were all out for 106 on a reasonable track in warm, sunny weather. Undaunted we took 4 wickets but we were always second best.
We had four changes for the Chalfont St. Peter game. This was to become a feature of the season. Despite being accused of becoming a "clique" we were represented by 37 club members throughout the season. After the previous week's debacle with the bat, I won the toss and in a fit of madness decided to bat. At tea we were 180 for 4! The match stands out for several reasons: Clive Kellett played his first game for ages (it didn't look as if he had been away); Steve Adams took 5-21; Clive and Geoff provided a great comedy act when going for a catch "mine-no mine-it's mine" and there was the ball nestling comfortably on the grass; Keith Hawthorn's lethal throw to the non-striker's end which hit the umpire (Wiggy). The game ended in a draw but the team's improved performance was a bonus.
We had another draw at Chertsey when we might have won. Steve Adams and Tim Gibbs bowled an excellent opening spell with no luck. However, Jeremy Spring weighed in with 5 for 41, the fielding was improving but the batting slumped again.
Then came Caversham. Dave Shoemark hit a brisk 24 but we were struggling to set a total. Geoff Herbert in an "unusually" aggressive mood hit a good 47 and we reached 160. Caversham scored slowly losing wickets until their skipper came in and scythed 50 in quick time. The game went down to the wire - 3 to win off the last ball - everyone back on the boundary - we must be OK - the rest is history. Conversation heard in the changing room: "Good game wasn't it?" - "No it ....ing wasn't".
We drew at Wallingford. Keith scored an excellent 46. Messrs Ferns and Hardwicke lasted 5 balls between them - black trainers! What is Taplow turning out? Andrew Mills took 5 for 59.
The horrors of Caversham returned to haunt us at Richings Park. The first "sticky" of the season. At tea we were 163 for 7 and fancied our chances. Two quick wickets made us feel our first win wasn't far away. I could taste the victory pint already. Depression began to set in a la Caversham - another big hitter - it gave new meaning to the term "hitting the ball to all parts of the ground" - but with a horizontal bat! One off the last ball. Everyone round the bat. A peach of a ball from Tim. Top edge into the batsman's face. Where's the ball? All hell breaks loose. Non-striker runs, striker lays prostrate. Geoff finds ball and lobs to non-striker's end for a run out, or was it laid out? No victory pint. Never mind, the beer was nat's.
Sunday June 17th Fleet at home. A day for rejoicing. Our first win. A run riot. We scored 206 for 2 by 4.30pm Had I declared too early? Apparently a record 3rd wicket stand of 169 between yours truly and Simon Christy who ran like a hare between the wickets. Andrew took 3 for 21 and the last 4 went for one run - a heavy night in the bar.
We were brought down to earth by Aston Clinton but hung on for a draw. Keith again scored in the forties and Dave Shoemark his fourth 20 odd in 7 knocks.
West Drayton literally gave us our second win. We shot them out for 80. Tim Isaac 4 for 21 in 13 overs and Steve Adams 3 for 26 off 15. Why couldn't they do it more often?
We then hit our poorest form. Six matches, four lost - Hanwell, Beaconsfield, Pinner and Monks Risborough. Two drawn - Chenies and Littlewick. Notable performances were Steve Holland's 3 for 32 against Beaconsfield and 5 for 19 against Pinner; Dave Shoemark's highest score up to then, 38 against Chenies, Richard Lane's astounding catch at short leg in the same game and Derek Newman's 75 n.o. at Littlewick.
The team recorded a revenge win against Windsor Vics in my absence - is there a moral there? I was particularly annoyed as I missed Dave Shoemark's maiden half-century, well deserved and the first of many. The other hero of this game was Steve Adams bowling 18 overs and. taking 7 for 28.
Of the last four matches - three were drawn and one won.
The Datchet game is always a tough one and when we were denied two wickets due to no-balls, we thought lady luck was once more with the opposition. Steve Holland and Andrew bowled us back into the game 4 for 54 and 3 for 34 respectively, but the batting failed.
The least said about Henley the better. 216 for 4 giving us 45 minutes and 20 overs - a joke! Keith Hawthorn scored his fifty in this match.
Pinkneys Green in the rain - not a pretty sight. Jon Wrapson's 46 including a six which nearly demolished a passing car was the highlight. The temperature fell to less than what I considered comfortable, the rain came down and "with reluctance" we agreed to abandon the match.
I have saved the Redingensians game 'til last. They made a good declaration at 4.30pm setting us 161 to win. At 101 for 7 we were staring defeat in the face. Andrew and Brian May were batting - no chance. Brian hits 3 fours in 2 balls through extra cover. Andrew hooks a four and straight drives over the bowler's head and suddenly they had scored 55 in 13 overs off the middle. Andrew is run out! In comes Steve Adams at number ten, he survives the over. Brian strokes yet another four - one behind! A no-ball called and we're level - at least we can't lose. A beautiful cover drive for four by Brian wins us the game - no problem.
An indifferent season on the field. Dave Shoemark's batting came on a treat. Steve Holland had a good season with the ball. Andrew improved his batting tremendously towards the end of the season. Tim and Steve bowled tight with little luck. The senior pros offered numerous comments (some constructive) and Keith gave good support as Vice-Captain, especially in selection. The fielding left a lot to be desired.
Off the field we had marvellous support from Pat, Tina and Alison. Also from Diana whose scoring technique was the envy of all our opponents despite lack of communication from Beaconsfield on their bowling changes! As usual, excellent teas provided by "our ladies". We had an occasional delve into international cuisine from The Hong Kong kitchen washed down with several lagers for the boys and bitter for the men. This atmosphere more than made up for the numerous times things "weren't going our way" in the field. May it long continue.