12 – Godmanchester (Home)
319-2 v 228-9
Team news…Unchanged, at last!
Maybe we did bat too long in this one but it was such a pleasure to watch (Sir) Alastair Cook caress his way to a hundred. Essex and England’s Keith Fletcher didn’t move from his deck chair all day, other than to retrieve one of Cooky’s crisply driven straight drives.
He totally dominated the attack and reached 164* before we finally pulled the pin. As we later learned by watching him on the biggest stage, he could have gone on for many more hours.
Pete Wargent provided a supporting role with a well paced 77 in a big partnership with Cook, and we declared after 63 overs leaving us with 57 to attempt to bowl out Godmanchester for the win.
It wasn’t to be, despite having them 9 down with 10 overs to spare their last pair clung on for a draw. We tried lots of variation but couldn’t defeat #10 or 11. Once again all our bowlers had pulled together and 2 wickets each for Barry / Batticiotto and McCoubrey were supplemented with a run out, and one each for Wargent and Symons.
12 points v 8 for our opponents was once again not really a fair split given the one sided nature of the contest.
13 – Vauxhall Mallards (Away)
285-7 v 137 all out
Lost by 148 runs
In = Raymond
Out = McCoubrey
We fell victim to our only beating of the season in the worst possible fixture.
It was the Steve Goldsmith show as he plundered an unbeaten 150 which utilised all of his experience and the small boundaries of Strumpshaw Lane.
The former Kent and Derbyshire man took a liking to all of our bowlers and he was instrumental in putting a big total on the board. Glen picked up 4 wickets but it wasn’t a day any of our bowlers want to remember.
In reply we slumped to 58-7 and our race was run. Despite the efforts of the lower order to battle for a draw and scrape out some batting bonus points we couldn’t do either. Mallards had done what we couldn’t, turned a dominant home advantage into maximum points by bowling us out.
We now needed to win all 5 of our remaining games and hope they slipped up to give us a shot at being champions.
14 – Bury (Home)
240 all out v 241-7
Won by 3 wickets
In = Bondin
Out = Raymond
Back to winning ways with a triumph at Drapers against a Bury side and in the process completing a double against them for the second year running.
The Bury scorecard makes strange reading with both openers registering ducks but from 9-3 they staged a slow recovery during which time we failed to take a wicket for another 50 overs. The partnership breaker was Colin Barry – he had caused the early collapse, and eventually ended with 5-51, and from 202-3 Bury subsided to 240 all out.
Alastair Cook took 3-55 from nearly 15 overs of off-spin, and I’m going to suggest that this was possibly the longest spell of his career. It was his final appearance of the season for us at Maldon as his Essex 1st XI breakthrough happened.
We executed two run outs including a Glen Batticiotto direct hit from the cover boundary whilst after 100 and 95 the next highest scorer was a mere 10.
Robbie Barber became the third opener of the day to register an ignominious globe, but Elmo wasn’t about to fall into the same trap. He registered another 50 and with support from Dubbers (46), Glen (68) and Ali Cook (40), our top order broke the back of the challenge to chase down a slightly sub-par total.
We lost a few quick wickets after passing 200 but the result was never in doubt and in truth the gap between the sides was much bigger than the 3 wicket margin suggests.
The boundary count of 23 v 30 and the 10 overs fewer that we faced provides a better measure in my view.
15 – Mildenhall (Away)
252 all out v 239 all out
Won by 13 runs
In = Hawkridge
Out = A Cook
A close game in which we came away with a good win. It wasn’t our best performance and at 132-7 we were staring down the barrel. A made-in-Sydney recovery followed as Colin Barry (65) and Tim Bondin (39*) shared an 80 run partnership to hoist us above 250 once again.
For the second week running it took a 5-fer return from Colin Barry (5-51, again) to secure victory for us. The margin was narrow and we got across the line having been able to take wickets in bunches, 3-3, 4-9 and 3-17. Pete Wargent grabbed the big wicket of Andy Mawson, an accomplished minor counties cricketer, for 87 to spark the biggest of those collapses.
16 – Norwich (Home)
290-7 v 228-7
In = Gozzett / McCoubrey
Out = Ainscough / Bondin
For the only time in the season we drew a game on the back foot although strangely both sides walked away with 9 points.
Our attack was depleted when Scoobie limped away from the crease after only 4 overs. Strong middle-order partnerships allowed Norwich to reach the highest score of any visiting team to Drapers in 2003.
The visiting Josh Marquet unleashed a rapid spell and at 64-5 it looked like we would suffer defeat but once again the lower order came to the party as we ended on 228-7 with Colin Barry solving the crisis with an unbeaten 71 in tandem with an unusually restrained 18 not out from Marc Gozzett (wherein he didn’t try to square cut half-colleys for once).
The draw meant it wasn’t possible for us to catch Mallards, and in the end their greater experience meant that they would be Champions again.
One more win would mean that we were more than just safe…we would secure the runners-up spot.
17 – Cambridge (Away)
271-8 v 275-6
Won by 4 wickets
In = Symons
Out = McCoubrey
Arguably our best display of the season, chasing down a large total in only 48 overs to win with nearly 6 overs remaining.
In a stellar performance, outswinger Glen Batticiotto, who had recently struck a ton for Essex 2s with Nasser Hussain an impressed partner, took 5 wickets and followed this up with an unbeaten ton in what was a clear man of the match effort.
Cambridge had 3 or 4 guys who had played first class cricket and we actually had them 183-8 before a late rally saw them post a strong total. Glen shone with the ball taking 5-61 whilst Colin toiled up a hill and into the wind, once again conceding under 3 runs per over off the maximum allocation of 18 overs – the 2 wickets he had to his name were scant reward for his stellar efforts.
In reply Barber and Elliott really did start like express trains, both hoisting maximums with 50 of their 60-run opening stand coming in boundaries.
Glen and David Randall added 127 for the 4th wicket and regular boundaries from everyone (40 in total) resulted in us galloping across the line in double-quick time.
In doing so we secured second place in the table for our best ever EAPL finish.
18 – Clacton (Home)
285 all out v 251-9
We stumbled to 94-5 but the lower half raised this significantly to a very healthy 285 thanks to Jeff Cook (99 – close but no cigar in my attempt to become the 5th centurion of our summer), Jimmy Ainscough (41) and Tom Hawkridge (29).
Actually the only time all season that we were bowled out at Drapers!
In his final game the legend that is Paul Symons strangled his way to a 5-fer but our weary seamers couldn’t finish the job and the away team yet again escaped 9 down and 34 runs short….yet another (winning) draw to close the campaign. It’s frustrating to think what a monumental difference just 3 or 4 more lower-order wickets would have done to our campaign.
We ended with 9 wins, 6 draws (5 came at Drapers where no team batting second lost all 10 wickets, it really was too flat for this format), 1 rained off, and just 2 defeats
Bear in mind that we had only won 3 games in the previous 2 seasons in the EAPL this represented a great achievement.
For the only time I can recall we went unbeaten at Drapers and in the process were invincible at the Farm.
We scored 4,113 runs in total (averaging 242, that increases to 294 batting first and 304 when batting first at Drapers), nearly 700 more than we conceded.
Our run rate was 4.4 v 3.7, that’s quite a big margin over nearly a thousand overs!
We also took 40 more wickets than we lost!
Our batter of the year was never in doubt from day one, and Elmo totalled 779 runs at an average of 56, including 3 tons and 3 half-centuries.
The bulk of the runs came from nine players who were automatic picks every time they were availabl
We managed to hit six hundreds, as well as eighteen fifties, but only nine ducks – and for me this very clearly shows how effective our batting unit was.
Bowler of the year was Colin Barry but Glen Batticiotto, Adrián McCoubrey, Paul Symons and Toby Pugh all had great days.
Our strength in depth is illustrated in that our other wicket-takers were P Wargent, A Cook, J Cook, P Raymond, I Elliott, T Bondin…the skipper certainly had a lot of options that season although I remember getting a telling off from our coach for trying a few experimental overs from David Randall in a failed attempt to break a partnership in one of the home games!
The final league table shows Mallards (who somehow went out of existence in 2019!) clearly ahead of us but we all knew we had given them a really good run and with a little more fortune could easily have massaged a happier ending into this story.
In five of our six drawn games we had the opposition 9 wickets down and couldn’t secure the winning moment
No regrets though, we were truly great that summer, and this only five years after being awful!
Great credit to all 18 players who represented us as well as to our coach ex-England quick bowler Neil Foster who sought to inspire us with words of wisdom, visualisation techniques, and finger-breaking catching practice. It was to our advantage that we were blessed with good availability and five players played every game whilst another three played all but two games.
We had grown from a relegated unit into the second best team in the entire region!
Success always builds momentum and this was evident in the following we developed both home and away as the hierarchy of the club and many stalwarts of earlier times travelled to watch our games.
Hopefully there can be a similar success story again for this new generation of ‘Dons as they embark on a post-relegation re-building process. Up the ‘Dons!
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