by David Gibney

As a team playing at such a level for the first time in their history, consolidation of a place in Division 1 was always going to be a major achievement for the 2nd XI this season.  Given that call ups to the inconsistent 1st XI, injuries and extended holidays robbed the team for long periods of many of the players who had won the 2nd Division championship so convincingly last season, the final league placing of 8th and jubilant avoidance of relegation on the last day of the season is something that the team can be proud of.

Hopes of a much higher position were held after the first few weeks however, as good wins against Camberley, where Adam Portlock scored 59*, and Beddington, against whom Toby Aldred scored 66, were set aside close fought defeats against Midwives and Normandy.  From there though a mid season malaise followed, with heavy defeats by Walton and Spencer and 4 drawn matches, all of which could and possibly should have been won, particularly at Sutton where a good run chase fell 3 runs short in the final over.  But by this stage the side has lost its captain, confidence, and ability to win, and the three defeats that followed to Camberley, Beddington and Walton were sorry affairs.

Bottom of the table, three games to go and finding points impossible to come by, relegation seemed a certainty, especially as Epsom reached 92 for 4 chasing 112 to win in the next game.  It was at this point though that the season turned again, as stand-in captain Peter Hobbs took it on himself to inspire his team to a nerve-destroying, fate-defying victory with a 5 wicket burst as Epsom were bowled out for 99.  The relegation clash against Old Whits the following week was no less heart-stopping as the bowling of Hobbs again and James Morley almost turned another certain defeat into a win – 1 point the eventual result – but the final weekend victory over Spencer, more comfortable this time thanks mainly to fifties from Morley and Jayson Bird, was enough to ensure survival and high spirits at the end of season party.

Sadly there weren’t any consistently strong performances throughout the season worthy of mention, probably the main reason for the tally of only four wins all year, though Hobbs deserves enormous credit for bringing the team together and getting the most out of them when it counted.  The emergence of some of the younger players towards the end of the season, notably Shiraz Hussain and Uzman Zafar, was a real positive though, and the team can reflect that they are more than able to hold their own at this level - only champions Walton outclassed them twice this year.  With some old hands returning and some new players coming through, there is every reason to approach next year’s campaign with renewed optimism.

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