A Review of the 2003 Season
Dave Wright (Saturday 1st XI Captain)
A mixed season for the club on the field, with the 1st XI immediately bouncing back into the Premier League as Division 1 Champions whilst the 2nd and 3rd XI's struggled at various times, mainly due to player shortages arising from a catalogue of reasons.
For the first team the goal was to make a swift return to the top flight, where on the evidence of the tail end of the 2002 season we knew we could hold our own. In skipper Dave Wright's first full season as captain, he had at his disposal basically the same squad as last year minus two long‑term absentees.
On the overseas player front, sadly John Weber continues to be blissfully unaware that he has outstayed his welcome. The 40 year old (mental age 7) entered his fourth season a much bigger shadow of the athletic all‑rounder we initially welcomed back in 2000. However begrudging thanks must go to the veteran opener for his twin contributions of painstaking, scratchy innings at the top of the order and also his part in bringing fellow Queenslander Steve Paulsen to the club for the season.
Two early wins in the League Cup gave the side confidence going into the league campaign and we opened with a convincing 9‑wicket win at Chingford. The home side were bowled out for 152 with the skipper (4 – 19) well supported by Weber's fellow Dad's Army extra Sean Balmford (3 – 23). We eased home with plenty to spare with Aussie Paulsen showing for the first time some of the strokeplay we would never tire of watching throughout the season.
Our next three games only yielded draws, the third of which at Hornchurch produced a real runfest. We racked up 299 – 3 with Paulsen scoring a mighty 160, ably supported by Matt Humphrey who fell just 5 short of a century. Despite some grumbling from the home support that we had batted on too long, the captain's decision was justified. With both opening bowlers unavailable to us the home side nearly pulled off a sensational win, ending up just 15 runs short with 2 wickets in hand.
A near miss at home to early pacesetters Orsett followed as we finished 6 runs shy of our target of 251 after half centuries from Paulsen and Small. Although we remained unbeaten, we needed to start winning a few games to stay in touch.
A nailbiting 1 wicket win at home to Westcliff‑on‑Sea kick‑started the campaign. The visitors were pegged back from an ominous looking 173 – 1 to be dismissed for 250 with Rob Wickes leading the attack with 4 – 59. In reply we slumped to 81 – 4 but at this point Steve Paulsen took over and with some support from Jamie Walton and Paul Jones blasted his way towards the target scoring a sparkling 119 including seven sixes. He fell with 32 still needed but Simon Moore (31*) shepherded the tail to victory although not without a few alarms, none more so than the last man surviving a huge LBW shout on his way to a composed 0 not out.
We followed up with an altogether more straightforward 8 wicket at win at Walthamstow. Simon Moore led the way in an immaculate 17 over spell as the home side were hustled out for 163, Moore ending up with 5 – 31. With Paulsen out due to injury, fellow Aussie Clint Simpson was promoted from the second XI and after suffering some hairy moments with the ball he belted an unbeaten 68 to see us home supported by Weber (47).
The first half of the programme ended with us being on the wrong end of a draw at home to Chelmsford before a fine win at Woodford Wells. Moore again was the star, bowling throughout to claim 5 – 52 as the home side could only muster 150 – 8 on an awkward day for batting. Despite a couple of wobbles we got home by 4 wickets to sit second just one point off the lead at the halfway stage.
July proved to be an awful month for the side. Chingford emphatically avenged their opening round defeat, bundling us out for 113 on a blameless pitch with only Rob Wickes (40) offering any resistance. This after the consistent Michael Hindley and Steve Paulsen had shared 8 wickets in the visitor's total of 202. A flat performance saw us succumb to strugglers Horndon‑on‑the‑Hill despite a maiden 50 from Laurence Tredget to finally match the quality of performance that his mouth always claimed him to be capable of.
Worse was to follow the next day as we were brushed aside all too easily by derby rivals Brentwood in the quarter finals of the League Cup to temporarily lose local bragging rights.
The month ended with the weather saving us from a likely defeat at home to Harlow. Defending a total of 264 – 7 built around Paulsen's third ton of the season and Rob Wickes' unbeaten 85, that figure was in real danger of being overhauled with Harlow on 173 – 3 with plenty of time to spare, when the heavens opened to save us. A poor few weeks had seen us drop to fourth in the table, however we were still fortunately in promotion contention.
The return against Hornchurch again created high drama, with the bat yet again holding sway. Our recent poor form with the ball continued as the visitors built up an imposing 281 – 9 with our inspirational skipper (his words) off the field for most of the innings after deftly using his ankle to stop a very well timed drive. Things appeared to be looking a bit bleak against a strong looking Hornchurch attack. However in a remarkable run chase we got home. The reborn Matt Keane got us going, taking 3 boundaries off Drum's opening over and although he lost opening partner Weber soon after, this bought the bang in form Paulsen to the crease. Their partnership of 151 in the 18 overs that followed was one of the highlights of the season. Paulsen was quickly into his stride making batting look ridiculously easy as usual, but Keane wasn't merely a bystander, producing some of his trademark effortless strokes. At the start of the last hour we stood at 159 – 1 off only 18 overs. Keane went for 48 with the score at 186, but Paulsen continued on relentlessly until he was finally dismissed for a stunning 134 including 21 fours and 2 sixes. Their efforts had got the requirement down to 60 off 9 overs. In fading light amidst rising tension Matt Humphrey (34) and Rob Wickes (36*) saw us to the 18 points with Wickes clouting the winning runs around 8p.m. in only the 37th and penultimate over of our reply.
An altogether different game at Orsett produced an equally satisfying result the following week. Losing the toss on the hottest day of the season and sent into the field we stuck manfully to our task in the conditions to restrict the home side to 202 – 6 in their 52 overs. On a pitch deteriorating rapidly and despite an excellent knock from John Weber (64) we were in real trouble at 119 – 6 with all the top six gone. However led by dogged resistance from Gary Sapsford (usually a master of damp conditions but now showing his versatility) and some powerful hitting from Balmford and Hindley we edged home with 3 wickets and a couple of overs to spare.
The summit meeting at Chalkwell Park went very much to plan for us from the moment Michael Hindley knocked out the middle stump of Westcliff's in form opener Williams for a duck. Despite allowing the home side to recover from 119 – 5 to reach 209 we made the target look easy. Weber dropped anchor to bat throughout the innings for 76 and there was an air of inevitability about proceedings as he and Paulsen serenely progressed to the winning mark. Sadly Paulsen was dismissed seven short of another deserved ton, but Matt Humphrey wrapped things up with a cameo 31 including 6 fours and a six to allow us to open up a 10‑point cushion at the top.
Points were dropped in a disappointing home draw with Walthamstow. A position of strength in the field was again wasted as the visitors recovered from 143 – 5 to post 264 – 9 in their allotted overs. Simon Moore (5 – 62) and Dave Wright (3 – 60) were the wicket takers, but too many loose deliveries and some sloppy fielding were to blame in a lopsided performance. We were then unable to post a realistic run chase as despite 70 from the ultra consistent Paulsen we were unable to put together any meaningful partnerships causing our lead at the top to be cut to three points.
Never a side to make things easy for ourselves, the penultimate win at Chelmsford was a bit too typical of our performances this year. The home side's 268 – 4 was built around some good batting but aided by a bowling and fielding performance that definitely didn't reflect our lofty standing in the table. Then after an opening stand of 65 between Weber and Keane was broken the win was really only achieved by the efforts of Steve Paulsen. With no one able to provide any lasting support, Steve took matters into his own hands to win the day with a brutal 119* closing with two huge sixes in succession to effectively settle things with overs and wickets running out.
Going into the last game at home to Woodford Wells our lead was still only 3 points and with relegation a distinct possibility for the visitors, there really was all to play for as the crowd of staunch supporters, groupies, injured players and professional drinkers shuffled expectantly into the ground.
Following the (apparent) plan we'd employed all season, we elected to chase (given the hot summer, our own excellent batting track and the form of Paulsen it was really the only option). Again however the bowling attack was unable to simultaneously fire on all cylinders and the visitors must have fancied their chances of defending 285 in a game they had to and knew we probably had to, win. The burgeoning opening partnership between John Weber and Matt Keane again gave us a sound platform with a stand of 139. Weber went for 58 to cap a consistent season (633 runs with 7 fifties) which if he'd taken his doctors advice he would have missed totally (dodgy knee and potential liver damage). Keane, the revelation of the second half of the season went onto a career best 78 However with a steep run rate required and another stumbling performance from the middle/lower order it was again left to Paulsen to provide the finish, which he did with possibly the most devastating innings of his golden summer. His unbeaten 94 occupied only 49 deliveries and with 8 wickets down and the skipper in his pads going through mental torment, Paulsen fittingly launched his seventh six of the day out of the ground to secure the title.
The celebrations went long into the night (and the next week for a few of the players and supporters) as we looked forward to another crack at the top flight and the challenge of all day cricket, not to mention the challenge of dragging people (mainly balding openers) from their pits to traipse round the county on a Saturday morning.
Although at times there was a number of good performances from within the side we are under no illusions that in order to compete next season we need to consistently perform as a team and not rely on individual brilliance. At which point a final mention must go to Steve Paulsen for his stunning season with the bat (1151 runs at 76.7 with 5 centuries and 5 fifties) some occasionally unplayable leg spin and not to mention a couple of unbelievable catches, without whom we undoubtedly wouldn't have prospered as we did. We are uncertain at this point of whether Steve will be in Shenfield colours next year, but certainly he would be more than at home in the Premier League with hopefully a bit more support from the rest of the batsmen. We look forward to next year where we are hopeful that our mostly young squad can achieve good results and add some consistent cricket to our consistently good team spirit.
Throughout the depths of the winter of 2002–3 the sad second team captain spent many a happy (or depressing) hour considering his options for the following season. With the first team squad looking a bit thin the prospects for fielding a settled side looked bleak. Then on one damp, cold Loughton spring morning a hairy, lanky vision appeared out of the mists to the East. It was a Clint from the land of Oz who proceeded to bowl extremely fast but unfortunately seemed to have left his radar at customs. His batting, however, went from strength to strength scoring 977 runs in the seconds including 4 centuries. He also picked up 38 wickets with his mix of pace, unwavering enthusiasm, choice language and uncertainty on his and the batsmen's part as to each balls final destination. Support was not always forthcoming from his colleagues, however Matt Keane scored heavily enough to warrant a promotion to the 1st XI where he played a significant role in their title run in.
Wickets (the lack of them) continued to be a problem throughout the season especially after the aged captain's left knee finally and completely gave way in June. Fortunately the not quite as experienced Peter Rider was a more than capable deputy for which I personally and the club in general owe him thanks. For much of the season we managed to stay in the top three or four but a combination of a lack of wickets and an inability to stop the opposition scoring vast amounts of runs plus appalling late season availability saw us finish in mid table.
On a positive note the bowling of Joe Heddon and Anthony Hill who spent most of the season in the second team gives us cause for hope for the future. Further progress and a continuation of last season's positive attitude should see both taking more wickets.
The third team produced some mixed performances, which saw them finish mid table. 46 players in all contributed to the 3rd XI over the course of the year - beat that Claudio Ranieri.
Topping the batting averages were David Castell, David Sinclair and Barry Griffiths. Anthony Hill and Ben Vowles led a youthful bowling attack until they were rightly promoted to the second team. However, the surprise leader of the averages was emerging leg spinner, Sam Allen. The pick of the cameo performances came from all‑rounder Katherine Sutherland who steered the side to victory against Billericay and then brought the Gidea Park batting machine to a halt the following week.
Hard work put in by the colts, coaches and coordinators paid dividends for the 3rds. Under 13s Lewis Harris and Billy Shallow took winning wickets and scored winning runs respectively.
So long as Shenfield's playing staff can avoid falling out of trees, falling off barrels and sticking their thumbs in taxi doors then a healthy 3rd XI can look forward to a good 2004 season.
Off the field the season ended on a sombre note with the sad loss of Greta Burrows, wife of long‑standing president John, after a long illness. Greta was a tireless supporter of the club at all levels and everyone involved with Shenfield both in the past and currently will sorely miss her presence.
2003 League Tables
1st XI Division One
2nd XI Division Two
3rd XI Division One
|Gidea Park & Romford||18||16||1||1||0||0||315|
|Hadleigh & Thundersley||18||1||1||1||14||1||95|