Windsor 1st XI began 2009 with high hopes following a strong finish in 2008 when the team gained 140 pts in the last half of Division 2a. Heading into the new season with a newish squad compared to last season with Bird, Millman, Gregory and Chorley unavailable, Windsor were looking to make a strong start after 4 or 5 years of mediocrity.
The pre season games certainly didn’t give any indication of the performances which were to follow; Windsor flattered to deceive at Egham and pulled up short at Datchet, but redeemed themselves with a convincing win against a very weak Boyne Hill side (much to the dismay of Tim Smith Esq who found himself humiliated against his former club).
Heading into the first league game against Basingstoke at home, the team had been working particularly hard on their fielding, the one discipline in which they felt they had the upper hand on every single team in the league. As the game unfolded, it was ironically to be this discipline which lost them the game. Having won the toss, Windsor batted on a slow and low Home Park deck and were restricted to 134/7, Kemp providing the only resistance with 42*. Dropped catches cost Windsor dear and the opposition scraped home 6 down. Despite all the positive vibes, Windsor were staring another average season in the face.
Not to be perturbed, skipper Wes Nichols stressed the importance of simple basics to all the troops in the changing rooms. From here every member of the team made the commitment to value their wicket and work harder in the field to put pressure on the opposition.
The second half of this vow stood Windsor in good stead in their second game, away against Chiswick and Latymer. Having been inserted on a green top, Windsor crawled to 137 off 48 overs in difficult batting conditions. In response, Chiswick couldn’t cope with the pace and bounce of Nichols and Kemp who, in tandem, ran through them for a meagre 98. With 25 points on the board, Windsor had broken their duck and were hoping to build on this momentum over the following weeks against league new boys Eversley and Cove.
The team (and assorted female entourage) arrived at Eversley in buoyant mood and upon seeing what looked like a hard and fast deck, their mood improved further. Nichols won the toss and duly elected to bat. Windsor faced a good, pacey attack on a fast deck which suited their batting down to the ground as they were able to post 230 in their allotted overs, with some excellent hard hitting from Birch and Malik at the top of the order and Harris lower down. Windsor were determined to back up their bowlers in the field and despite a howler from Birch, Windsor were electric in the field and out played the opposition with ease, Kemp and Nichols again providing the fire power.
The season felt well and truly alive and the team were bonding well both on and off the field. this being the key ingredient to their success! Excellent wins followed against Cove and Marlow, a game which some in hindsight view as the catalyst for the remainder of the season. On a wet, miserable day Windsor vs Marlow was the only fixture to be played. Inspired by the batting of Nichols (who self executed himself run out on 99) and the bowling of Kemp (4/25), Windsor picked up 25 points and established a lead at the top of the league which would never be breached.
As an aside, it is important to note the commitment of second team wicket keeper Mervin Care who travelled from home to field for Adam ‘The Groin’ Weston. The team were all grateful to Merv for coming over, and despite dropping one of the best bats in the league, he made a valuable contribution to arguably the most important win of the season.
Nichols had sculpted his team into a ‘bat first and bully’ outfit over the first month of the season. The aim was always to score 200+ and then bully the opposition with the pace of Kemp, Nichols and Hartridge away from home and the guile of Harris and Mohindru at home.
Their chasing form was soon to be tested against Beaconsfield and Bagshot in consecutive weeks as the team pulled through with (almost) flying colours. Thanks to sublime bowling performance from Mohindru (7/26) v Beacs and Hartridge v Bagshot (4/38) the batting chased smaller totals with Nichols, Birch, Weston and San Jose all contributing to steer the team home and secure another 40 points.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the season has to be the fact that at some point or another, every member made a crucial contribution to the team. Against Finch it was the turn of Ben Harris to prove what a talent he is, ripping through the opposition with a return of 7/32. With another 25 points in the bag, Windsor headed to local rivals Datchet in high spirits…. What happened during that game scarcely deserves mention but needless to say that from 1-11, the players were gutted by the 132 run loss.
The feeling whilst sat in the away changing room at Datchet, listening to ‘We are Champions’ belting out from next door was a great motivating factor that would inspire the team throughout the rest of the season, and thankfully one they were able to impart on their rivals 9 weeks later.
At the turn of the season, Windsor had their noses in front, a position they certainly were not used to. The team were confident and with the return of the mercurial Huggins the batting looked significantly stronger and the bowling was as lethal as ever. After the debacle at Datchet, Windsor had to start again and they did so in emphatic fashion winning 4 of their next 5 games (It would have been 5 form five but for the rain at Basingstoke), claiming a total of 112 points. It was this amazing run which was eventually to seal Windsor 1st XI as league champions.
Throughout the season, skipper Nichols had led from the front and it is noticeable that in this run of five games, he accounted for 20+ wickets and scored more than 200 runs. This kind of form dragged his team out of the doldrums and the team is indebted to the captain for his performances throughout the year. The self proclaimed ‘Daddy’ can now surely lay claim to be one of the better players in the TVL and take limitless satisfaction in beating his twin from Datchet with whom he was separated at birth!
With four games remaining, Windsor were league leaders by a massive 50 points and whilst the league wasn’t over, the remaining games provided Windsor with the opportunity to play some champagne cricket.
Arguably the highlight of the season came over at Finch, a happy hunting ground for the Windsor boys in recent years. Some of the older heads (Oliver ‘hot pants’ Birch and Jon ‘Symbols’ San Jose) had a torrid day but it was a joy to see some of the colts being introduced into senior cricket. U/15’s Jack Barton and Kris Baumgartner were rewarded their debut and both batted, bowled and fielded superbly in a dramatic last ball win inspired by Bevan ‘the finisher’ Malloch. The finish was so dramatic that Mrs Malloch was reduced to tears and Mrs Barton could hardly watch as Jack hit the winning runs. The team celebrated in typical fashion, all piling into town still wearing their whites for one of the more bizarre nights of recent years. It was this day/night which the scribe feels encapsulates the season more than any other: A superb game of cricket, followed by a great night, enjoyed by all of the team.
In summary, 2009 has been a season to remember. The 1st XI have been crowned Div 2A Champions, had won the East Berkshire 20/20 and came runners up in the Farnham Royal Knockout (only to be beaten single handedly by a test match player, which sadly is a luxury that Windsor will never be able to afford). As mentioned, the hallmark of the team was that week in, week out, blokes would stand up when needed and make vital contributions to the team.
After 2 seasons, Nichols has been successful in getting his side to display a change of attitude from the outfits of prior seasons. Windsor started working together as a team and from there grew confident together. The 1st XI was finally committing to each other and not themselves and started to play proper cricket, not just turn up and hit and chase a ball around in the afternoon. Training and practice was getting put to use on the field and the side never EVER made excuses.
As such, it is difficult to highlight individual contributions. However, from short mid-wicket it was apparent that 4 or 5 individuals made a massive impact on the side. Promotion was the product of 2 years of hard work from Wes Nichols, who has integrated himself fully into his new club….. The side will need his runs, wickets and leadership in the more testing Div 1 next year.
Mark Huggins has added a real edge to the batting line up, the maturity in his batting was a joy to watch for those who have watched the fat slogger hole out for years on end, he now has a role of responsibility in the side that will be needed for the younger guys to learn from.
Adam Weston, who provides the perfect foil for the more aggressive batsmen in the line up give Windsor a much needed backbone in the middle order and his grit will be a vital ingredient if Windsor are to thrive next year.
Oliver Birch possibly single handedly taught the side from out int he middle to importance of rotating the strike and taking all singles on offer. His 2nd 500 run season in a row gave Windsor the platform that allowed them to get those 200 totals.
Finally, Ben Harris who with his bowling and fielding gave Windsor another gear in the field, has come of age in ’09. Windsor will be looking to Ben next year when the chips are down to lift the side when they’re chasing leather to all four corners.
All in all, a fantastic season. It is rare that everything goes your way on the sporting field but it is fair to say that with 14 wins out of 18 games and the highest points difference from 1st to 2nd (78pts)throughout all 18 TVL leagues, Windsor have had one of those years.
Lets hope the squad can remain tight knit and committed over the closed season, train hard and come back ready to mount a challenge for Div 1, a task which although very difficult, is within their grasp.
Cheers for the memories.