Ongar Cricket Club
Season 2008 Review
With the struggles of last season where victories were elusive and the club spirit severely tested, 2008 was a very important season for the club, especially after the special dispensation granted by the SNEL committee allowing the club to field only two sides. After last years inability to regularly field a 3rd XI, the club now needed to pull together and try to encourage other people to get involved, and show that we can compete in the league.
With no 3rd XI, it was hoped that the competition for places would be fierce leading to increased quality. The club also carried out extensive maintenance work on the square and secured the services of an ‘A grade’ overseas player. Blake Hall, who as well as sharing his name with one of Ongar's most historic venues, follows a long line of experienced Australian cricketers brought over to play for the club. As an opening seam bowler standing at 6ft 5ins, he tended to get a lot bounce, and his stock ball was the one that moved away from the left hander, as former Australian opener Justin Langer found out when Blake cleaned him out for a third ball duck just before Christmas.
With the square looking better than ever, and the services of an ‘A grade’ player secured, it was left to the playing members to make the headlines.
1st XI Report:
It is often said that league tables do not lie and I suppose after 18 games, facts are facts but I’m sure that those who played the majority of their cricket in the 1st XI this season will agree that whilst we did finish second from bottom, we were not the second worst team in the division.
Looking back at the results, the season can be broken down into three sections of six games each. I’m not going to give you chapter and verse on each game but it is an interesting pattern of play.
The start of the season saw some new faces with Blake Hall taking on the mantle of overseas player and Jamie Abbott, a familiar face to a lot of the 1st XI, joining from Old Parkonians. After the woes of the previous season where we had to wait until the final game of the season to record a victory, it was ironic that for the first time in a few years, we not only won our opening day fixture but we absolutely trounced Buckhurst Hill by 121 runs, skipper Dave Hetherington leading the way with 67. The good start continued and after the first six games, we had won two games, drawn 3 and lost just one – very respectable I’m sure you will agree. Unfortunately, the win against Woodford Green was the last game played by our then captain, Dave Hetherington. Due to personal reasons, Big Dave felt that he was no longer enjoying his cricket and so decided to call it a day. This was a big blow to the club as not only did we lose a skipper, we lost a good cricketer capable of scoring valuable runs and we also lost a character.
For the rest of the season, the captaincy was shared between Andrew Love who was the Vice-captain, David Coles, Jamie Abbott, Blake Hall and towards the end of the season Neal Clark, our wicket keeper and club secretary – hardly an ideal situation.
The next six games saw six straight defeats, most of which were heavy losses whereby little or no bonus points were accumulated which in turn contributed to us finishing second bottom. The stand out game in those six losses was without a doubt the home game against Old Brentwoods where, thanks to Hall and his incredible figures of 9-35, we bowled our local rivals out for just 84 only for us to then collapse for a paltry 69. I very much doubt in the history of Ongar Cricket Club or maybe even Shepherd Neame cricket that anybody finishing with bowling figures like Hall’s have finished on the losing side. Another notable performance was Rakesh Bagga’s 82 against West Essex at the Lane. The top individual score for the 1st eleven in 2008.
Moving onto the final third of the season and the main target was to ensure that we didn’t finish bottom of the league. The footballing equivalent of the six-pointer came away at Woodford Green where a great team performance saw us come away with a vital 43 run victory. Jamie Abbott with 76 sharing the seasons first 100 opening partnership. The following week we were beaten by the weather which was frustrating as we had an under strength Stanford Le Hope on the rack only for the rain to curtail any hope of another win. After another one of those bad days at the office at Benfleet, we registered our fourth win of the season at home to Epping. This was something that we all enjoyed, as certain comments had been made about this club in the previous match so it was particularly satisfying to skittle them out for 70 and despite a wobble, go on and record a four-wicket victory. The most frustrating game was the penultimate match at home to Old Parkonians who stood just one place above us in the table but despite having them nine down, we just couldn’t claim the last wicket despite some great efforts from the bowlers. The season came to an end at Billericay whereby after several interruptions, the rain finally saw the game abandoned.
Whilst it was pleasing to record four victories, this could have in fact read as seven as draws against Stanford, Old Parks and the defeat against Old Brentwoods could and should have been victories. If we had turned those matches into victories then we could have been looking back at a highly respectable mid table finish but ‘if’ is indeed a big word.
The positives to be drawn from the season and we look no further than Hall and his 49 wickets. Jamie Abbott has been a great addition to the team scoring runs, taking wickets and he has also brought some much needed additional resource in Matt Jarvis, Joe Curtis and Paul Stolworthy to the club and I believe there could be another couple of old boys joining us too in readiness for next season. Rakesh Bagga batted well, and also bought Pinal Patel to the club. David Coles and Micky Ayres showed their experience with the bat with 50’s when needed. Matt Adcock proved at times what a good bowler he can be and also chipped in with some important runs. Adcock’s performances, especially towards the end of the season, became more consistent and this bodes well for 2009.
Not surprisingly, Blake Hall was named player of the year at our AGM.
I suppose the big positives are that we didn’t finish bottom, we won more games than last year, increased our point’s tally and most importantly, proved to ourselves that we can compete in this division.
2nd XI Report:
After a pre season of changes to playing members it was another season at the foot of the table for the 2nd XI albeit one in which three games were won and a late season surge of resilience, as indicated by the 5 game unbeaten streak, was only interrupted by the second placed team and promotion winners Billericay.
The season started badly with a long trip to Old Southend for a loss of which the only highlight was Jack Groves’ stylish maiden 2nd XI fifty which proved how useful winter nets can be. After a draw in the rain against Southend at home the first win of the season came against Old Brentwoods as Chris Sims’ 72 finished off the job after a 6 wicket haul from Peter Ellis had set up a low victory target.
After a crushing loss at Woodford Green, Ongar picked up a second win as Ellis took 7 wickets against Stanford Le Hope and Sims, Rakesh Bagga and new boy Pinal Patel saw Ongar over the line.
Losses against Old Parks and Billericay were followed by another at Orsett, but this was different as Ongar showed some tenacity and recovered from 13 for 4 to take it to just two balls to go of the 20th over. Promising youngsters Billy Ayres and Jamie Watson were the stars with 43 & 40 respectively.
Losses against Old Brentwood, Epping and Old and regular Southend followed. Ongar’s batting improved over time though and with new players such as Rob Fisher, Paul Gill, Rupert Reed and Tom Hartington increasingly getting involved Ongar gained useful experience.
The improvement was there for all to see at home against Woodford Green. Away Ongar had lost by 180 runs and only taken 4 wickets, at home Ellis and Ongar’s left arm spin sensation Ian Groves both took 4 each and Sims shepherded the reply to score 72 and see us home for a draw.
At SLH away Ongar raced to 178 for 4 off 33 overs and with a lot of rain about were able to set an attacking declaration and took 8 SLH wickets to almost force a deserved away win.
Next week the boys went one better and dismissed Orsett for 94 with Ellis taking 5 and Rob Fisher 3 for his best display in Ongar colours. Mark Suker led the charge for victory with 47.
Away at Epping Peter took 8 wickets and Mick Ayres scored a 50 as Ongar drew with ease. At Old Parks, Rupert Reed and Paul Gill shared 5 wickets to signal their contributions to the team, while Ellis scored a 50 and Sam Sweeting a nice 30 to lead Ongar to a drew that was sealed by Neil Hartington’s resolute last man stand.
So with the exception of the last game capitulation against Billericay it was a season of improvement and one of which Ongar can be proud.
The 2nd XI player of the year award went to Vice-captain Peter Ellis.
There were many positives in 2008. More games won and more points achieved for both XI’s and the influx of quality new players. With the appointment of Rakesh Bagga as 1st eleven skipper in 2009 and the promising displays from many new Ongar players, the aim for next season is to build on this season successes and move up the table. We showed this year that we can compete and the aims for 2009 are to improve on the number of wins and move up the table. Whatever happens, we as a club will continue to play our cricket in the right spirit.
Onwards and upwards