As we build up towards to the 2021 season, First Team captain, Toby Pugh has provided his thoughts on a very unique 2020:
It has often been said that you can’t play games of sport on paper. Well for the first half of last season that was all we could do as a series of made-up visualisation league match reports featuring former Dons started off my first year of captaincy. When deciding the result yourself things tend to go very well.
Eventually after cover driving toilet rolls, reading Jeff Cook’s weekly look back at the 2000 championship winning side hoping he said something positive about me and trying valiantly to think of Maldon players from 15 years ago with the most run outs for the weekly top 20 quiz we got ourselves out onto the cricket field in July where we were involved in a local mini league under Covid rules. This was to provide not only much needed cricket but also a competitive edge as the top two sides would qualify for the final. Something we very much wanted to achieve.
We opened up for my first game as captain away to Witham with early wickets plus two of the catches of the season from Dan Haylett and Chris Harris. It seemed like my visualisation match reports were coming true. Not to be. Watching the opposing captain Jake Wakelin smash 190 off 99 balls was to prove our undoing, against a strong Witham side that would eventually end up the overall winners.
This was the start of a disappointing run which led deservedly to no victories in our first four games. Lowlights being our horrendous fielding display away at Braintree where we must have given them at least 50 runs although the tree in the corner of Braintree’s ground was thankful for Rilo holding it up for 25 overs after he contemplated what might have been when their batsman who went on to score a century was dropped off a simple caught behind chance from his bowling (I hasten to add it wasn’t Jimmy keeping that day).
With four games down and four to come there was little chance of us reaching the final which made the end of the season all the more special. Unsurprisingly it was Chris Harris who led the charge with an awesome and savage assault on the Witham attack scoring 134 as always in these situations you need a partner and Max Byrant’s supporting 50 in an unbeaten stand of 120 was equally as important if not quite as emphatic. Further wins against Wivenhoe, another excellent century from Harris and another century stand this time (193) with Jimmy Ainscough, and Braintree coupled with a friendly win against Halstead led us to a winner takes all game against Coggeshall to determine who would play Witham in the final.
After a quite magnificent 161 from Jimmy Ainscough, ably supported in turn by Ben Gibbons, Mackenzie Jones and Jack Plumb, put us in the box seat as Coggeshall would have to chase down 306. This is where our run came to an end as Coggeshall kept in front of the run rate throughout and despite moments where it looked like we could win they eventually reached their target with 3 overs and 4 wickets in hand.
It was not to be but I couldn’t have been prouder of our second half of the season. Our fielding improved and the attitude was excellent. Taking it to the last 4 overs of the season was an achievement in itself. Especially with the injuries list we accumulated. Usually seasons can be blighted by availability issues, not this year, this year was an injury list to rival Liverpool’s.
It included two knees, two backs, a broken toe and two damaged fingers. Despite this every player who came in did a great job but in the end we fell a fraction short of our end goal.
I have to say being first team captain of Maldon is an honour and privilege and even though it was not the season we wanted due to the global pandemic I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, mainly thanks to great group of lads both on the pitch and off, some of which I would like to mention and say thank you to now.
Firstly the departing Chris Harris, words cannot do this man justice for the contribution he has made to our club. His move to a higher level with Frinton is well deserved and I know all of us wish him every success in the Premier league where undoubtedly he will show what a quality all round player he is. For me personally, he has improved my cricket and given me a second wind and determination.
Both on the field leading us in all three parts of the game and off the field with his organisation of team events he is a giant and I know that he will always want what is best for our club. I can only selfishly hope after landing a few Premier League titles with Frinton that we will see him back again on the pitch rather than just off it.
Martyn Coker what a job he has done this year producing the second best Twitter account of the season which kept us all going in difficult and frankly boring times. Another good club man and asset to us with the ball on the pitch.
Returning players such as Dan Haylett (leading wicket taker), Jody Brown and Jon Matthews are always good to see and their attitude and contribution to training and matches was fantastic.
Ben Gibbons took over the role of second team captain with Liam Saxton taking an unsuccessful golf sabbatical (losing from 6 up and 3 up to Gary Bannister and yours truly respectively) and was a great support to me in both trying to organise the teams and sharing information on players that I had not seen. Added to that he averaged 52 with the bat, no mean feat when you are trying to captain at the same time.
Youngsters like Ieuen Thomas, Mackenzie Jones and Jim Gregory all making significant contributions in their first team appearances last year provides us with hope and a good feeling for the forthcoming season and future. It is always great as a captain when your opposing number comes up to you and asks about one of the younger players with a WHOSE THAT! Which is exactly what happened when Macca was charging in at the Coggeshall opening batsman.
There are a few players I haven’t mentioned like Elmo who never fails to produce whether it is with ball or bat, Max who made important contributions with the bat last year, Ross ever dependable and a real team man which was evidenced by his morning drive from Brighton just to play, Jimmy our outstanding keeper, second leading run scorer last year and an absolute rock of the team who everyone looks up to. Plus players whose seasons where curtailed for various reasons but I look forward to working with this year in Ando, Coppen and Matt Wild.
My last thank yous go to Statto who was an ever present scorer when other teams couldn’t be bothered and I have began to realise does a lot of unheralded work behind the scenes and the Chairman Steve Brown, I know last season wasn’t ideal for a first team captain as their first but for a first year chairman the difficulty must have been tenfold. He is always at hand for help and support for me and what a job he has started to do in moving the club forward.