As we approach the middle of the league season at Adwalton CC, now would be a good time to look back and reflect on, not only the season so far, but also the progress we have made in the last year.
At the half way point of the league season 2017, the 1st XI were coming under heavy pressure. Having only managed two wins in the first eleven games of the league season, Adwalton were a side bereft of confidence and languishing second bottom of the table with a meagre 78 points of a possible 220. To add some perspective, the league leaders, East Ardsley were already 100 points clear, despite being one of only two clubs that had indeed been beaten by the Drighlington based side. Some positives to be taken then perhaps, however, a heavy defeat to local rivals Crossbank Methodists suggested that a change was needed sooner rather than later.
After frank discussions with the club’s senior leadership team, including now Cricket Committee Chairman, Paul Bennett; Adwalton saw an upturn in their fortunes. A run that saw them win 7 of their last 10 completed fixtures, Adwalton finished the season mid table with a very respectable 234 points making some improvement on the season 2016.
1st XI captain, James Curtis stepped down at the end of the 2017 season. With a successor already in place, Adwalton had formulated plans as to how they might progress through the winter and continue their run of good form into the new season. Ryan Robinson, formerly of Scholes CC was appointed club captain for season 2018. Having guided his previous club to promotion to the Premier Division, success was already a habit for Robinson. With him, came Gareth Lee. Lee had been an integral part to Scholes’ promotion push in the previous year, and his abilities and experience were felt to be essential to help drive on a talented but inconsistent squad of players at Adwalton. Recruitment didn’t end with Robinson and Lee though, Matthew Lyles, formerly a junior player at Adwalton returned to his home club after an absence where he plied his trade in the Dales Council cricket league.
Robinson began making his plans for season 2018 during the autumn and winter of 2017. He, together with the senior leadership group, decided where improvement needed to be made and what needed to happen to make them a reality. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’m really pleased with the response from the players already here, and the club as a whole to the new signings. Without their support, I’m not sure we’d have been able to get over the line in some close finishes, so I’m really pleased with that. It’s also great that everyone has contributed something significant at some point so far this season. There’s still work to be done, our fielding needs to improve and we need to be more consistent when bowling but so far so good in terms of results.”
The plans that were made through the off season appear to have been well judged. Adwalton’s 1st XI are currently unbeaten and sit top of the table as they approach the half way point of the league season. Having completed 8 fixtures already, they’ve secured 153 points, giving them a gap of 7 to second placed Jer Lane. Some turn around then, given the position Adwalton found themselves in 12 months ago. Whilst the obvious reasoning behind this change is the contribution that Gareth Lee has made, it would be unfair to suggest that he hasn’t been supported well by existing squad members. It’s true that Lee currently sits top of the 1st XI run aggregate having scored 327 runs already this season, but he finds himself only 13 in front of Matthew Donohoe, currently in his seventh season at The Green.
We spoke to Donohoe to gauge his opinions as to why there has been such dramatic turnaround at Adwalton.
“The season so far has been really good. There have been some really close games this year which we could have lost, but we’ve found a way to get over the line. I think that has a lot to do with the confidence running through the team. After finishing the season strongly last year, and then adding Ryan and Gaz to the fold it’s put a lot of belief in that we’re good enough to challenge at the top of the division. It’s not like the new lads are doing all the work either, everyone has stepped up. Josh Bennett has been terrific behind the stumps and is starting to find runs at the top of the order. Thomas Lindsay has been great with both bat and ball. Chris Priestley has played some important innings with the bat and our overseas player, Max Merton has adapted quickly to bowling in England and is taking wickets. All of that combined has made us a good team.”
Donohoe’s sentiments are well merited. Young starlet Thomas Lindsay, enjoying his second season playing regularly in the 1st XI, is making valuable contributions with the bat having scored 198 this term. A return that sees him currently among the top 15 batsmen in the division statistically. True also, that Josh Bennett has kept wicket very well. With 11 catches and 5 stumpings already, he’s top of the division’s fielding charts, and 7 victims ahead of his closest competitor.
Factor in the bowling performances that Australian overseas Max Merton has produced, taking 13 wickets at an average of 26.0 at the top of the attack; the 24 wickets scalped by Lee and the support from Gary Lewsley (9), Vinit Patel (8) and Thomas Lindsay (12) and it’s becoming apparent that Adwalton are more than just a one-man team. Whilst the statistics show that Lee is the standout player, he’s supported well by a team that are more than capable of producing should their talisman happen to have an off day.
All of those factors are inevitably helping the 2nd XI and their quest for promotion. After what was a promising start last season, the 2nd XI found themselves at the mercy of an underperforming 1st XI. Captain Andrew Ingham found his bowling abilities required in 1st XI during 2017, opening batsman Paul Bennett was also needed to make the move. As such, the 2nd XI found themselves victims to the inconsistent performances created by a team that are constantly in a state of change. This term, with a slightly larger club squad, the 2nd XI are reaping the benefits of being able to consistently pick a core of 7 or 8 players. Ingham has returned to his duties as 2nd XI captain for 2018 and is joined by former 1st XI captain James Curtis whilst previous first team wicket keeper Chris Curtis is also available to the seconds.
The 2nd XI have made an impressive start to their league campaign. An opening day victory over Hunslet Nelson put them in good stead and provided much needed confidence going forward. The excellent start they’ve enjoyed is only marred by two very close affairs, resulting in defeats. The points return of 134 see Adwalton currently sitting second in the league table after 8 completed fixtures, 19 behind league leaders Jer Lane and 6 points ahead of third placed Oulton.
2nd XI captain Andrew Ingham offered his thoughts:
“Overall, I’m really pleased with how things have gone so far. If we’d have been offered this position at the start of the season I’d have snapped their hand off. It is slightly bittersweet though. The start could have been better had we not lost a game to the weather in which we posted a score of more than 250 in the first innings, and with a bit more focus we could have turned the two losses we’ve experienced in to wins. We’ve had a super start though, which everyone involved should be proud of. The start of the season has shown that we’re as good as anyone in the division and we should definitely be doing all we can to aim for a promotion place. Whilst that will take a lot of hard work, if we are able to keep turning out strong sides and keep focused game by game there’s no reason we can’t achieve it. However, player availability is going to be crucial, particularly through the holiday season where squads are tested to the max.”
Similarly to the 1st XI, their success hasn’t been down to individuals, but rather the collective efforts of the entire squad. Whilst James Curtis currently sits top of the run aggregate for the division having scored 347 runs to date, he’s only 100 runs ahead of Will Cutt, a 17 year old batting all rounder who has started to turn potential into runs on the board. Paul Bennett has also contributed 201, meanwhile Craig Wright has shown good form in amassing his 172 so far this term. All four currently reside within the top 20 batsmen within the division.
Additionally, the performances of the bowlers are not to be ignored. Ingham has a return of 13 wickets, whilst the vastly experienced Simon Bagnall has produced the same at an average of 16.38. Those two have been supported well by the up and coming bowling all rounder Chris Blakeney (10), James Curtis (11), Tom Marshall (8) and young fast bowler Thomas Davidson (5). Ben Allinson, too, has been instrumental with an economy rate of just 3.48 runs per over.
Ingham also shared his opinions on the performance of the current squad:
“It would be easy to say that the difference this year is having stronger players available to us, but actually the team isn’t too dissimilar to last season and for me the biggest difference is seeing contributions from around the team due to the increased competition for places. It’s no longer the case of two batsmen or bowlers doing all the work in an innings for us. I think that’s down to players realising that if someone isn’t performing, someone else is staking a claim for a place in the side. That’s a big change from last year where at times, simply being available ensured you were selected. It’s been great to see James Curtis and Will Cutt score maiden senior centuries; Chris Blakeney starting to contribute runs again, especially in pressure situations and the way Matthew Lyles has fit back in at the club is really impressive. The atmosphere around the team is the most pleasing thing though. The lads all clearly get along really well and support each other one hundred per cent which is huge when trying to move the club on to the next level.”
There are clearly many positives to be taken from the performances of the 2nd XI, however, Ingham knows that there are still things that need addressing:
“We’re still learning how to be ruthless on the field. Whether it’s bowling at a lower order or early on in a chase we still have a tendency to let games slide and make things harder than they need to be where the best teams kill games off.”
Cricket Committee Chairman Paul Bennett is feeling very positive given the start that both teams have had to the season.
“The season has begun as well as we could have hoped with both teams challenging for promotion. I’m especially pleased considering that Ryan Robinson has missed the last two fixtures due to injury, so our squad are seemingly coping with that well. I feel the difference this year is the quality that Gareth Lee and Ryan have brought to the side. We now go out with an expectancy of winning, and I think this has made other players raise their game which is what we hoped would happen when we approached them. We’re seeing a lot more consistency in players, not just the junior players but also from key men we already had like Matthew Donohoe, so I’m really pleased with the response from the squad across both teams. Those playing 1st XI aren’t just sitting back and expecting Gareth to win a game for them, they’re wanting to contribute and prove they’re on his level. So many people have stood up to ensure we get the result we want. Chris Priestley, Gary Lewlsey, Josh Bennett, Max Merton and Vinit Patel have all played important roles at various times already this season. Thomas Lindsay has also applied his talent well this term, having already scored more runs than he did in the entirety of 2017. Similarly, in the 2nd XI, the form of James Curtis with both bat and ball has been brilliant, Will Cutt has scored his first senior century and Andrew Ingham being able to captain the team has been a huge benefit to the young players playing within it.”
Exciting times seemingly lay ahead for Adwalton as they progress into the second half of the season. A lot of work has evidently gone in to turning the fortunes of around of a club that were struggling to adapt to the demands that playing within the Bradford Premier Cricket League brought. Seemingly, recruitment was done shrewdly and cleverly, and the result of getting the right personnel in is that those already at the club have made a determined effort to ensure that an opportunity isn’t wasted.
Updated 15:54 - 16 Jul 2018 by Ben Allinson
With promotion and even silverware a realistic possibility, there’s plenty to be optimistic about up at The Green.