By Mike Walsh

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, even before Nelsons momentous victory in 1805, before Henry VII victory at Bosworth field in 1485, long before Harold Bluetooth (and that was before the introduction of the extra smartie as well), in 965, and so long before Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 a group of boys were very bored.

Picture the scene, Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Horsell, reasonable Sunny was the number one tune at the time, my dinosaur needs to go on a diet by Mr Caveman and the square wheels was blasting out of the local cave (next to the bowls club).  A group of boys were participating in their favourite pastime, club cricket.  Boy, could they club in those days, ask the local T-Rex.

Bosh, Windy Millar bangs another Mike Walsh hand grenade into the tennis court.  Bang, bang Penners fends off another Chris Wearne delivery with his head.  Ar, ar, yes the Munge stretches for a misplaced Fowlsey swipe, and Simon Hockley needed a new loincloth as he was rubbing balls too much.  These boys were bored, they had nothing to do on Saturdays so they all got together to form their own team, (well in fact they all had been dropped the previous week by that horrible 3rd team captain, Peter Smith for being crap!).  It was  sad but true but they had to form their own entertainment – some were better at it than others!  What could they do, what was to be their inspiration, the great Aussie Bradmans team of the early 50s, the Windies 80s team, no we shall find solace of that team of all teams the Knaphill 90s team.  All they now needed was a name, the 4th XI was too obvious, what about the Carnival cried the Munge, Windy bought the 12ft boots, Penners brought the giant plastic hands, Wearny bought the permed red and green hair and Mike brought the clown bus with red hub caps.  Well in a nutshell that’s how it all started.

After four years of friendly fixtures, some had moved abroad.  Some were now alcoholics, some had ventured into ones cricket and well some had stayed put.  The next big challenge for the nascent team was an adventure into league cricket.  People had their doubts, I was being heckled in the streets, receiving hate mail, castigated by John Humphries on radio (fortunately it was only aired once on an October morning at 3.30 am on Reykjavik radio), and slammed I a TV interview by mark Nicholas, (which also fortunately shown in error may I add, on Bogotá Channel 2 instead of Take the High Road). The pressure was tighter than a jammed stopcock, could we make a fist of it?

Well, overall, yes we did.  Expectations were high, we were a reasonably successful friendly paying team.  Going into the season my biggest concern was would we score enough runs.  In fact my biggest concern turned out to be the teams strength and we regularly eclipsed last seasons average total of 140.  The bowling was patchy, the lack of a strike bowler or bowlers was evident on some occasions or even the depth of the bowling attack, now that a minimum of five bowlers were required.  Shall I mention its name, do I need to say its name, it’s a subject frequently mentioned in match reports, so I won’t mention it again, needless to say it was flaming exceptional!

We had a baptism of fire and it couldn’t be put out as there wasn’t any showers at our opening game against Headley.  Charlie got walloped by a bloke in black trainers, the bowling figures got mucked up by the opposition, the unmentionable subject was rather poor, personally run out, lost by 81 runs and then changed in the car park.  Great, can’t wait for another 17 matches of league cricket!

That was the biggest caning we received all season.  It became obvious that some of the younger players, Clive, Trevor would have to nurse the even younger players, Andy and Peter who would in turn……….etc through competitive cricket.  Even though some of us had played 3rd XI cricket the 45 over game was a different kettle of tuna.  Did we ever resolve that debate whether tuna was better in brine or spring water, something for next season to look at then!

We learned in some areas quicker than others, such as the need to bat for 45 overs, either to gain maximum batting points, or just to squeeze each valuable run from the opposition.  Something which was more difficult was scoring or more acutely the missed opportunities of taking singles.  It was evident from the opposition that the taking of quick singles was paramount.  To the credit of the team they got to grips with the new game and several credible performances should be noted.

Andy Walker started the season prolifically, top scored in the first three games, with scores of 41, 51* and 40.  Rob Staples with the performance of the year, 109 against Wimbledon Village, coming in at 41-5 which worsened to 64-7 and eventually finished on 236, incidentally he took 3-26 and took a superb catch.  Qaiser Nawaz with 87 and Pete Grafton 57 against league runner up Cheam Parish.  Pete also got us out of the smelly stuff the following match when we were chasing a low total of 76 and found ourselves 16-4.  He steered us through with an unbeaten 47.  Trevor's unbeaten 43 in our 10 wicket victory at West Byfleet.  Gribblers 68 almost did the trick in our 2nd game against Headley and a very destructive 69 not out by the WBC pitch preparer Mr C Johnson against Temple Bar.  Two superb knocks, not only because he turned up late for one, by Awais Khan, both unbeaten on 85 and 97. Also notably Paul Gorgolis hit a career best 96 not out and Gihans 59s at Wimbledon and Cheam respectively.  Also, even though he had a disappointing year, Salim hit his maiden 50 in the last game against West Byfleet.

Even though I've highlighted these great performances, there are plenty of other fine team batting performances.  We adapted to bat through our overs to get those extra batting points.  Often enough it was the tail that was left at the end and it would be unfair not to mention Faisal and Smithy whom both got stuck in and stayed with the recognised batsmen and\or guided us through to those extra batting points.

The bowling was patchy as previously mentioned and there was only one five for performance all season.  Often opening bowlers would bowl without luck, such as Charlie versus Headley (2nd game, definitely not the first!), Nick Challen and Shiraz versus Wimbledon and Mansoor Suleman in the reverse game.  The biggest problem was who to bowl at the right time and how long their spell should be, something I've not totally mastered yet! It was often the case the opening bowlers had the oppose 40 for 2\3 from 12-14 overs but had used most of their overs up.

However, there were fin performances from the Woods.  Trevor was the team meanest bowler and recorded 4-18 against Ashford and 4-14 versus the Vandals.  James often bowled too well for the opposition and couldn't find that elusive knick knack or hula hoop.  Spin twin Mr Smith at the death bowling of 4-34 against Headley.  Faisel demonstrated his no.1 mantle with 4-11 and 4-41 against Ashford and Cheam respectively.

m getting bored and Munge is getting a sore finger so I will sum up.  Glad we entered the league its been a big learning curve, learned a lot and look forward to an improved season next year.  If you take all the opposition individually there's no-one we should be afraid of and we should take that on board next season.  We often gave the top teams a challenge, we beat Cheam once, took Wimbledon to the wire twice and should have beaten Temple Bar.  Unfortunately the nature of the 4th XI is that we provide for the elevens above us and it sometimes leaves us exposed, there's not a lot we can do about that.  However, there are areas we can improve on and I personally think that my captaincy wasn't always up to scratch.  I have learnt, and if elected I have a few ideas which will involve the senior players taking some new roles.  next season I want to hit the ground running so bring it on!

Special thanks to Clive, Trevor and Peter for your assistance in often trying circumstances, and to Charlie for putting more effort into ground preparation that WBC.  Also thanks to Munge for writing this crap every week and Paul and Damo for off the field assistance!

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