2019 season review
Written by Andy Wood
After the drought like weather of 2018, although somewhat ironically we actually won the league in torrential rain, it was always going to take some following this year. And so it proved as the season got underway in less than ideal conditions. Swallows returning from the warm African Winter suddenly realised how they got their name, when on entering UK airspace they collectively gulped at the freezing temperatures, affected a neat u-turn .... and high tailed it straight back to Morocco for a couple of months!
Yes April wasn’t the best, but with the first game washed away after just 10 overs, it was to be week 2 on a chilly Mayday weekend when Sherpa Tensing might have thought twice, that the boys got their season going .... a crushing victory against newly promoted Crompark being the result. Sadly it proved a bit of a false dawn as it all came crashing down the following week against a strong South Milford side and an equally crushing result.
Sicklinghall don’t have a reputation for getting going quickly, in fact we’re the Grand Prix equivalent of starting from the pit lane and with worse than usual player shortages in the early weeks, it seemed we may also have a puncture. Four defeats on the trot had taken their toll and an away trip to rock bottom Scholes in mid June couldn’t come soon enough. Sadly the rain came even quicker and with another defeat the following week, things were getting desperate as the month drew towards its end. Thankfully the mood in the camp had remained pretty strong. Rather than fall out players chose instead to laugh at each other’s inadequacies and just eat more tea to suppress the mental demons.
Finally on 29th June the tide finally turned. Just as well as many were now struggling to get in their trousers. On a balmy afternoon at Ledsham a barmy game took place as having set a useful total in the 190s, Sicklinghall had the home side 10 for 6 in response, on their way to what would be a season changing win. Drugs tests proved inconclusive with claims that subsequently discovered pills were purely for gout being initially dismissed. Years of evidence (and groaning) would surely support the claim however and a Changing Room reeking of Deep Heat finally gave the investigating panel the confirmation which they sought.
New signings were also coming in. Andy Tennant had returned to the club from Uni at the start of the season. However when June saw him pass his driving test that was the last that ANYONE saw of him. The lure of the open road. Hopefully he’ll be back when he gets hungry.
Dan Holmes was also back from Uni and this time he’d brought a friend as Charlie Whitehill-Sharkey made a welcome return as well. When Robbie Hardman also joined up in July the resources were starting to look much more plentiful and 60 something veteran Zai Ali was at last able to contemplate picking up his Racing Post again instead of his bowling boots.
Key man Adam Ryszkowski had also finally recovered from a broken hand and the victories were coming thick and fast. Disappearing thick and slow was Andy Challenger, now suffering from a recurrence of knackered knee syndrome, but his commitment to the cause and his humour had proved invaluable in the difficult first half of the season. He was also responsible for introducing his son Leo the previous year, who was now coming on leaps and bounds, whether as a keeper, a bowler or a useful lower order batsman. In August he achieved an amazing feat when despite being last off the field at half time, he was able to remove gloves and pads and STILL be first in the tea queue. A proper all rounder in the making.
So as the season drew to a close the preceding 2 months had seen Sicklinghall play title winning cricket once again. Sadly being 9th halfway through the season meant that even that was only good enough “to grab the last European place” as 4th position was secured.
It had still been a good year for some though ..... Dan Holmes averaged 10 with the ball and the club will miss he and Sharkey, now that they’ve determined that successful business careers in London are rather more alluring. The batting was all about 2 men this season. Rich Brooke averaged 40 and were it not for being relieved of his temporary leadership duties he may well have found himself on England’s Winter tours .... such was his form during those weeks. Head and shoulders above everyone though was Matt Hatherly, 600 runs to his name and probably the best batsman in the top division .... and that’s not even a joke!
The efforts of everyone were there to see in fact and the contributions of a couple of young lads not even in their teens yet, summed up what the club is about. Callum Wood and David Challenger were always on hand and ready to help the cause when needed .... as well as laugh at some of the older players .... which they happily did. The club will look forward to an exciting new format for 2020 with optimism .... and just hope that next season final qualifying might see us on the front row of the grid in April .... hopefully with petrol!