Max Hill’s 2nd XI Captain’s Review – Season 2007

 

The season started with optimism that a young Second XI could build on the excellent fifth place finish attained in the 2006 season. Skipper Steve Delve stepped aside at the end of the season to be replaced by Max Hill. The squad was largely unchanged from the previous year although arguably strengthened by the return of Peter Kelly after a season at Liverpool and the arrival of Mike Jackson.

 

First up was a trip to Chester Cup holders Southport & Birkdale on a surprisingly sunny April afternoon. Having lost the toss and been asked to bowl, we made an excellent start dismissing our hosts for 151 – Peter Kelly returning with figures of 6-50. Despite an early wobble the target was never going to be enough and a fine stand of 81 between Mike Jackson (41) and John Davies (42) provided the platform for a comfortable five-wicket win.

 

The good start continued with a comprehensive 62 run win over Ormskirk where having been put in to bat, we were dismissed for 161 with a fifth wicket partnership of 86 between Phil Calrow (41) and Matt Pownall (56*) helping us to a reasonable total after another unimpressive start. The twin seam attack of Dave Kirby (4-44) and Dave Finch (3-30) proved to be too much for the visitors and they were dismissed for just 99. Two out of two, so far so good and a naïve new skipper thinking this new captaincy lark was a doddle!

 

If the relative ease with which we despatched our first two opponents with were anything to go by then our third game at Huyton would be a walk in the park. Or so we thought. A poor batting performance, albeit on an awful pitch, saw us dismissed for 95 and despite having our opponents seven wickets down we couldn’t dislodge their skipper Lee Gallagher who followed up his three wickets with a battling 56* to see them home.

 

Another defeat followed in our next game, at home to a strong Colwyn Bay side who having won the toss and batted, declared on 217-4. There was some resistance from John Davies (31), Steve Delve (28) and Peter Jones (28) but we were dismissed for 145, some 75 runs short. We bounced back in our next outing with a fine bank holiday win at Fleetwood Hesketh where an excellent third wicket stand of 161 between Phil Calrow (75*) and Nick Cockrell (86) was the highlight of a total of 200-2 dec. Phil followed up his excellent knock with a superb spell of bowling taking 4-26 as the home side were bowled out for 110. Dave Finch’s 4-28 also played a major part in the victory.

 

New Brighton were next up and posted 157-6 in an innings disrupted by two lengthy rain breaks, Peter Kelly’s 3-43 the pick of the bowling. In reply only Nick Cockrell’s 57 offered any real resistance as we were bowled out for 128. The game at Wigan was abandoned without a ball being bowled following some horrendous downpours in the morning – I was three-quarters of the way along the M58 when I got the call to say it was off!

 

The much anticipated derby game against newly promoted Liverpool turned out to be a bit of a damp squib with the season’s first draw - the highlight being a record-breaking partnership. Following a middle-order collapse that left us 86-8, Ted Williams (37*) and a magnificent 58 from Peter Kelly against his former club gave us a respectable total of 183-9. Their partnership of 97 broke the previous league record of 73 for the ninth wicket and Peter’s 58 was the highest score ever in the 2nd XI Premier Division by a number ten batsman. Liverpool were reeling at 132-7 thanks to 3-37 from Peter but eventually held on for the draw. The second bank holiday game of the season saw a trip to Highfield where a victory looked well on the cards until some stubborn resistance from their tail denied us the win. Nick Cockrell’s 66 was the highlight of our 164 all out, and despite having them nine wickets down their final pair hung on for ten overs to deny us full points.

 

The next two Saturdays brought convincing home wins against Northern and Newton-Le-Willows – the latter proving vitally important come the end of the season. We posted a challenging total of 235-7 against Northern, built around a magnificent third wicket partnership of 157 between Paul Squires (55) and Nick Cockrell (89). In response, Northern got off to a flyer and were 123 without loss when they inexplicably started running each other out – the first two wickets falling this way. They never recovered and some fine bowling from Peter Kelly (5-63) saw them rolled for 209. Newton-Le-Willows proved a sterner test with the bat posting 223-3 in 49 overs. In reply, a thrilling run chase saw vital contributions from Rhys Jowett (42), Ian Seabury (59) and John Davies (39) before an incredible final over where Peter Kelly smashed the last ball of the game to the mid-off boundary to win the match.

 

The Chester Cup began that Sunday with a comfortable away win at First Division Ainsdale. The home side’s total of 159 all out was easily chased down with overs and wickets to spare – Ian Seabury (46) and John Davies (31) putting on 80 for the fourth wicket. A league trip to defending champions Bootle followed and against a side decimated by the captains wedding we really should have won this one. More excellent bowling from Peter Kelly (4-64) and Dave Kirby (3-24) saw Bootle all out for 161. In reply despite a gutsy 43* from Neil Disley we fell well short of what should have been an attainable target.

 

The rest of June proved to be a washout with home league games abandoned against Wallasey and Southport. July opened with a trip to Southport in the Chester Cup and following yet more bad weather this game went to the spectacle of a bowl-out. With five bowlers from each side delivering two balls apiece we came away 4-1 winners and booked a quarterfinal spot away at Maghull. Back to the League and after a three-week break we looked decidedly rusty away at Ormskirk. Having been put into bat we had a disastrous start losing both openers without troubling the scorers. A late flurry from Ted Williams (24) meant we limped from 49-9 to 83 all out. Such a total was never going to be enough and despite a couple of early breakthroughs Ormskirk cruised to victory by seven wickets.

 

An excellent bowling display by the, dare I say, veteran partnership of Ted Williams (4-16) and Stuart Wade (12 overs, 0-13) saw bottom side Huyton routed for 106. Stuart’s figures don’t tell the whole story – it was a joy to see him slam the ball into Keith ‘Mad Dog’ Jones’ gloves off a length on about ten separate occasions. The innings was also notable for the dismissal of opener Billy Conlan for 23 – a wicket that had a combined age of 165! Billy, 59 years young, was caught at first slip by 44-year-old Stuart Wade off the bowling of 62-year-old Ted Williams – surely a record. Dave Kirby’s 2-12 off thirteen overs and Pete Kelly’s seventeen overs 3-46 also made a vital contribution. In reply we made hard work of it but eventually won by five wickets with three overs to spare. We didn’t know it at the time but that was to be our final league win of the season, recorded on the fourteenth of July. Another weekend of abandonment followed with away games at Colwyn Bay in the League and Maghull in the cup falling foul of yet more rain.

 

Fleetwood Hesketh were the next visitors to the Shack and Peter Kelly (5-78) and Matt Pownall (3-23) combined to dismiss the visitors for 183. We were simply blown away in reply with two ‘resting’ first-teamers opening the bowling for Fleetwood and leaving us in tatters at 17-7 before eventually being dismissed for a paltry 44. Another early collapse in our next game away at New Brighton led to fears of another embarrassingly low total with us 32-5. A Herculean effort from Nick Cockrell (103*) and Ian Seabury (64*) in an unbroken partnership of 165 saw us to a total of 197-5. Nick’s determined ton came off 165 balls in just over three hours and included fifteen fours and two sixes. We battled hard in the field and restricted New Brighton to 184-5 in reply, securing a draw. The following day saw us go to Maghull for the re-arranged Chester Cup quarterfinal and despite losing the skipper to the first ball of the game when he brilliantly shouldered arms to a straight one to complete a weekend ‘pair’ we set a challenging target of 192. Peter Jones (49) and Nick Cockrell (78*) put on 96 for the third wicket to set up a total that Maghull never looked like coming close to and they were dismissed for 99. Two wickets apiece for Brian Viner, Matt Pownall and Nick Cockrell were followed by 3-9 from Peter Kelly to wrap up the win.

 

Yet another double-header followed the weekend after with Wigan visiting in the League and Huyton in the semi-final of the Chester Cup. The Wigan game ended in an incredible draw with the both sides ending on 184-5. We batted first with Ian Seabury continuing his good form with a battling 92*, ably supported by 34 from Ted Williams. In reply Wigan were cruising with 81 for the opening wicket but then just seemed to stop going for it – their skipper Mark Cullen understandably furious with his batsmen at the end. The Sunday game with Huyton saw us progress to our first ever Chester Cup Final with a comfortable 53 run victory. Our total of 221 all out was built around an excellent third wicket stand of 108 between Mike Jackson (44) and Nick Cockrell (64). In return Huyton put up a spirited response before superb bowling from Nick Cockrell (4-36) and Peter Kelly (3-24) eventually dismissed the visitors for 168.

 

Back to the League and following yet another abandonment due to the rain, this time at Liverpool, we were looking nervously over our shoulders with the threat of relegation looming large. With five games left our fate was very much still in our own hands with games against four of our closest rivals to come, starting with our final Bank Holiday double-header. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory at Northern where a blistering start from Phil Calrow (47 from 39 balls) helped us on our way to 146 all out. Excellent bowling from Phil (7-34) saw Northern teetering at 99-6 but sadly we couldn’t finish them off and they scraped home by two wickets. The Monday game with Highfield saw the opposition bowled out for 172 – another magnificent five-wicket haul for Peter Kelly (5-54). Sadly another batting collapse left us 56-6 and facing at another defeat. Despite late battling from Neil Disley (15 from 54 balls) and an exciting sixteen over 8* from the Skipper we were bowled out with just two overs left for 86.

 

Despite these two heavy defeats it was still in our own hands with an effective relegation ‘six-pointer’ (or should that be ‘fifty-pointer’) away at Newton-Le-Willows. Victory would have left us safe and effectively relegated the home side. On a decidedly dodgy looking pitch we were duly stuck in and left in a dire situation by an opening burst of 7-18 from seamer Rob Halliwell. From 36-9 some late hitting from Matt Pownall (19) saw us limp to 63 all out. Newton had no such difficulty in reply and knocked the runs off for the loss of just one wicket. The game was all over and done with by 3.15pm.

 

With safety still far from secure, the last thing we needed was the visit of a Bootle side who were in a position to secure the League title with a win. Despite a battling 62 from Nick Cockrell we were dismissed for 129 and the visitors made light work of knocking off the required runs for the loss of four wickets – Ted Williams taking 3-14.

 

Away from the pressures of the league we had the club’s first Chester Cup Final to look forward to. After an abortive first attempt at the Shack the week before where heavy rain caused the game to be abandoned after 37 overs, the game eventually went ahead at Leigh. Having won the toss and batted, only Ian Seabury (40) showed any fluency and our total of 132 all out looked well below par. Sadly this proved to be the case and the home side won at a canter with fifteen overs to spare and six wickets. Congratulations to Tim McKiernan and his team – they were simply better than us on the day.

 

And so to the final game of the season with three clubs still threatened by relegation – ourselves, our opponents Wallasey (nine points ahead of us) and Newton-Le-Willows (five points behind us) who faced a daunting trip to a Bootle side still requiring a point to secure the title. There were various permutations with the simplest being if we won we were safe. We could draw or lose provided we scored more points than Newton. We won the toss and batted and were determined to put in a solid display, coming off after 45 overs on 197-5. Excellent contributions from Ian Seabury (51), John Davies (31) and Scotty Isaac (35*) gave us three crucial batting points. In reply, Wallasey gave it a really good go and while comfortable at 124/1 the run rate was creeping up with just seven overs left. To their credit they really went for it and a flurry of wickets and big hits followed with the home side eventually finishing just two runs short on 195/8. Pete Kelly again bowled superbly to take his fifth five-wicket haul of the season with 5/86 and even the skipper pitched in with a couple of wickets at the end. By this time news had filtered out to the middle that Bootle had beaten Newton-Le-Willows and once we’d figured the maths out we were able to finally breathe a sigh of relief as our survival was confirmed.

 

Overall it has to be said that, especially given the previous years impressive finish, it was a largely disappointing season. Too many poor batting displays left us far too close to the drop and this is something we will have to work hard on for next year. It was difficult to find form at times with the season being so disjointed by the seemingly continuous rain but other teams coped and so must we. However, the high points were the excellent batting form of Nick Cockrell (476 league runs at 52.89) and Ian Seabury (370 at 28.46) and a superb bowling return from Peter Kelly (45 wickets at 19.47). The 2nd XI is still a very young side overall and I’m confident that we will be stronger for another years worth of experience. This is equally true of my captaincy and I hope that this will also continue to improve. There are definitely grounds for optimism and I’m sure we’re all starting to look forward to next season already – once we’ve got Christmas out of the way!

 

MH