by Damo Honey

The 2003 season started with due cause for optimism for Woking and Horsell 1st XI. Last years side, which had come so close to promotion remained intact and was bolstered by the return of 1998’s leading run scorer Ian Meyer and the arrival of Ross Morley (brother of leading player Glenn) to spearhead the bowling attack. A friendly against old mates from Chertsey couldn’t have gone any better, with all the batsmen spending some time at the crease and all the bowlers blowing out any cobwebs from the winter. However, by 3pm on the first day of the league season this optimism had been blown away as Addiscombe’s seamers ripped through our batting order on a damp pitch for a paltry score of 65! The first of far too many spineless batting performances in 2003.

The eagerly awaited clash with Dulwich (and especially their wicket keeper) didn’t offer many crumbs of comfort either. Quaggy and Damo reduced them to 91 for 8, but the inability to finish off the tail (something which was to prove costly more than once) took the game beyond our reach, as only Glenn (50) came to grips with a rampant Dulwich attack led by the ageless Kenlock.

Send inflicted our third defeat of the season with Hartfield showing for them the sort of application that we needed from our batsmen scoring a painful 2* in 50 balls but not giving his wicket away. Purley crashed 240 against us, although how this happened no one quite knows. Damo’s 4 wickets had restricted them to 140 for 6 with one batsman crashing 101 out of these runs. However, the 7th wicket partnership produced absolute carnage; at one stage Couch was hit for 5 consecutive fours on his first team return. The batting performance was embarrassing; the sight of Walshy sat under his towel for 2 hours in the changing room after the game said it all.

Eventually the first win arrived at the expense of Egham. Roger White taking 5 wickets on his long overdue bowling debut. This was the catalyst for a 4 wicket victory, which was achieved despite our by now customary middle order collapse and inability to finish off an innings. However, the tide had not turned two more defeats followed against Chessington and Maori-Oxshott. Both were sides on paper that we should have beaten, but both showed far more courage and determination than our shell struck side. Even the usually reliable bowling attack was showing signs of failure. Niggling injuries to Quaggy, Glenn and Ross threatened to decimate our bowling ranks. Only Damo was able to be consistent picking up a 5-wicket haul against Oxshott, after they had raced to 100 in just 10 overs. The batting was starting to look up though, Quag struck his first 50 of the season against Chessington following up his 47 against Purley and the middle order put together some useful 20’s and 30’s but failed to build on good starts.

The 2nd win came against Streatham-Marlborough, Mark Surridge taking 7 wickets and Regan Smith scoring 60 as Ben Storey crashed the winning runs off Streatham’s “superstar” overseas player in a nerve wracking last wicket victory. However, it was back to the same old story the following week against Old Midwhitgiftians. Glenn and Quaggy laid the foundations that the middle order failed to build on and 7 dropped catches scuppered any hope of victory, when things looked so promising when Ross removed Gary Butcher 1st ball.

By far the best performance of the season was against bitter rivals Ashtead. Toby (72) and Quaggy (81) put on 150 in a score of 261 for 5, Glenn added a quick fire 50 and Mark and Damo did the damage with the ball to complete a thrashing which had the Mentalist bleating away in delirium about how he was going to drink his own body weight in Stella and Ashtead wondering just how a side that had won only one game all year can play like that. Any chance of building on this win was wiped out by Camberley’s star player Kaminski, whose destructive 98 and opening burst left the Woking in tatters at 20 for 4 in reply to 240. Glenn (81) and James Morley (42) rescued the innings and enabled Woking to pick up their first draw in over a year and pass 200 for the 3rd time in 4 innings.

Amidst absolute mayhem and controversy at Brook a winning draw was the result with the scores level. 7 dodgy decisions, broken bats, lost caps and a disciplinary warning were the initial outcomes but more importantly fears began to creep in that these lost 9 points may return to haunt at the end of the season. Once again the inability to finish off an innings or chase anything over 130 proved crucial against Dorking as their 8th wicket pair survived 28 overs to set up a 30 run win. Our innings only being notable for Walshy’s “shot for 7”!!

Things were looking desperate – a win was required and the whole team stepped up to the plate against Old Wimbledonians. Ross (narrowly missing his virgin 50 for the club) and Glenn led the way with the bat before Roger banged some useful runs at the end. After Rosco took a wicket in the first over the team were on fire, the fielding and especially the catching was outstanding. Tobes and Regan held on to bullets and all the bowlers played their part.

Having reduced Mitcham to 150 from 140 for 5 there was renewed hope that perhaps relegation could be avoided 2 weeks early, but once again the total proved too big. Porters battled valiantly and fell just short of his debut 1st 50 (and re writing the lyrics to his famous song). Damo joined him a spirited 30 run partnership in 4 overs, which took them to the verge of victory before he inevitably injured his hamstring and had his stumps castled next ball.

The performance against Old Hamps was as disappointing from a Woking side as I can remember. On a damp pitch Roger and Glenn had reduced the Old Hamps batsmen to below 2 an over. However, as they tired and were replaced everything fell apart – 70 runs were scored off the last 10 overs and the batting was an absolute sham. Walshy stood firm above this and with only the company of Damo and Giles took the game to the last ball, only to see Giles’ off stump pushed back and Old Hamps had prolonged their div 2 status by 1 week and put our future in jeopardy.

However, results went our way and we went into the last game knowing that things were in our own hands. Win and we stay up. Our innings had everything – solid start, rain, return of an old player, a batting collapse, a spirited fight back, shocking umpiring decisions. Roger and Rupert took us to 153 from 91 for 7 and this proved to be enough – just. Damo and Glenn taking three wickets apiece – the latter flying through the air to hold on to a caught and bowled chance with only a handful of overs left. Results again went our way but it was nice to stay up with a win.

So relegation was avoided, but this has truly been a wake up call for many players who have enjoyed so much success over the last 5 or 6 seasons. The averages tell the story of underachievement; only Glenn (505 @ 29) and Quag (362 @ 24) averaged over 20 with the bat, though both will also be disappointed with their returns. The main players with the ball were Damo (32 @ 15) and a heroic effort from Glenn (25 @ 14) bowling every other week with a serious knee problem took over 15 wickets.

There were signs of promise elsewhere, the re-emergence of Porters as a 1st team player, Rosco showing that he has got the ability and given an injury free season, a bit of luck and a few early nights on a Friday – he will be the player we know he is capable of being, skipper Walsh returned to being his immovable self with the bat towards the end of the season and surely must back himself to back up the order – if he can score runs at a reasonable rate. And what would we give to have Rupert Kitzinger back playing regularly at the club, an opening bat who has still got that ability but added the asset of bowling with genuine pace to his armour since he left a few years ago.

The truth was that the cracks of 2002 had been exposed as craters in 2003. Winning is a habit and so is losing. I have never seen the heads go down like they did this year and what was once a side which had great banter and piss taking amongst themselves, almost started bickering at one point. However, games like Ashtead and Old Wimbledonians showed just what we can still do, the old spirit is still there it had just been hidden for a bit. However, we need more people fighting for places in the 1’s from the 2nd team and below like Porters and Roger did this year. Everyone should want to play 1st team cricket and we cannot afford to have comfort zones for those players who currently occupy a spot in the top team.

Even the bar was not the same place as it has been the last 2 years, fines fell apart after the game cos no one could be bothered to do them (hardly surprising as its difficult to get excited about doing them week in, week out after a heavy defeat). However, there were signs of repeats of the 2001/2002 bar scenes despite the total absence of Hasselhof-Rhino Ratings and the temporary (?) absence of Aftershock, the excellent Summer Party and Karaoke socials organised by Porters, gave Damo the chance to test his cocktail and shooter skills again with great success. Roger joined the returning Pringers in a feast of botty sliding and Phil “Mini the Mooch” Barnes showed us all what karaoke singing is all about! And the 25 of us that were still drinking at 4.30am on that night showed that you don’t have to win to have a good time!!

So to next year. Well who knows what will happen in the winter player wise, but it seems likely that we will take on the 2004 season without Dikko, who will be taking the summer off to teach Sam golf! Whoever starts the first game, the key is getting a winning start, gaining that extra bit of confidence, which helps so much. We need to get on a winning roll as opposed to a losing one. We also need to stop losing so many games, ok so a losing draw only gets you one point (which isn’t much help) but in your mind you know that you haven’t lost and that is where the difference is.

So here’s to next year and a chance to put the strife’s of 2003 to rest.

All that remains is to thank Erica, everyone who has come to support us this year, and congratulate Dulwich and Camberley on deservedly gaining promotion, and commiserate with Old Hamptonians and Chessington who were relegated despite taking maximum points off us.

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