Well it was a season which in truth promised little, but produced so much more than that! With the washing up liquid barely dry on the tarpaulin, it dawned on me as I sat down to write my plans for the season that following the loss of five of last seasons team which completed the 2011 season, Gibbon were only left with six regular ‘Originals’ players. Losing Wayne to Buckingham Town, Blackie and Sykesy who moved away and Ollie and Will to University commitments was a huge blow for the club off the back of a season where we posessed what many had said was arguably one of the most talented teams to ever represent the club. In addition with some loss of players to the seconds, it was clear that in order for the club to progress, it was with a very heavy heart time to consolidate the club into one team in order for us to move onwards and upwards.
As the new look Originals were due to start their campaign, the rain, which was to become a familiar sight this ‘summer’put pay to us getting our season underway away at Westcott, without a ball bowled. This was followed by a very difficult game away at East & West Hendred taking place on Marsh ‘Club Day’, where Marsh were soundly beaten with a very understrength team due to the festivities. Things brightened up however, with a home victory against Tetsworth in the Airey Cup, where Alex Wallace starred with a classy 70.
The Originals were much changed, as Jules, Guesty, Lewis, Tommy, Charlie and Steve T stepped up from the seconds in Division 7 and despite being trumped by the eventual winners Chadlington at home, the seeds of our team spirit were starting to come together as we scrapped for every run and cheered eachothers achievements. That said, probably one of the major low points came the following week as we were defeated by Faringdon, where in truth we were poor in all departments, dropping over 12 catches along the way! It was at this moment on one of my familiar jaunts around the fields perimeter with Jules that I don’t mind admitting that I wondered whether this would be a season where we didn’t register a ‘W’ in the all important column. This was not down to the quality of the players within the side, but more how long we would all take to adapt to such drastic changes to our circumstances following the early season difficulties. How wrong I was………
Our bowling qualities were never in doubt, as the strength in depth was there, but with key members of the batting line-up lost and several players adapting to coming up from division 7, it was important to find a formula to get the best out of all of us……..we found this at home to Oxford Caribbean, where we registered the first of many great victories this term. Crouchy was magnificent with the ball, taking four wickets to restrict the visitors to 81 all out, putting behind us the nightmares of the week previous at Faringdon. Despite such a low total to chase, the victory was never certain until the winning runs were hit by Carlos, who hit an unbeaten 33 following a quickfire 21 from the makeshift opener Stu, as Gibbon struggled to find people to bat in the top order, having the influential Joe Leonard sidelined with a knee injury. That first win tasted sweet and only lifted the spirit in the camp, which was building week on week, as despite not getting many wins on the pitch so far, the boys sure knew how to enjoy themselves together regardless of the result!
One of the most disappointing moments of the season came a week later at home to Stonesfield when having restricted the visitors to 131, Gibbon were skittled for just 59…….lessons had to be learned and fast! Steve T’s 4-30 was the only highlight in a bad day at the office. As the English summer did it’s work, the rain saved us at Freeland, before the elements put pay to our next two outings. Our second victory of the season soon came after the enforced lay-off, with a fine home victory over Tetsworth, who we skittled for 92 with Matty bowling a superb spell of 6-19, before easing home by four wickets. Carlos (24no) and a superb 21 not out from young Charlie Shipperley, who established himself as a major part of the Gibbon top order saw us home.
After another disappointing batting display against East & West Hendred, we went into which was undoubtedly the turning point in our season……a double header weekend where we played the top and bottom teams of Division 2. We went into the Chadlington game really looking to enjoy ourselves and just do our best…….and this approach paid off for sure! Jules and Joe, welcomed back into the team following a long lay-off, were starting to provide us with the platform vital on which to build an innings, giving the middle-order the opportunity to bat with more freedom. Jules looked majestic with 22 and Joey back to near his best with an elegant 28 set it up, as Stu (33no) and the lower order smacked the ball around at the end to get us up to a decent total of 166 against the runaway leaders. Despite our upbeat mood, we knew that we were playing against one of the most formidable players in the OCA and the game could soon be gone if we didn’t bowl to plan. Things didn’t start great as the bowlers failed to find the answers, but as in many sporting events there is usually one moment which turns everything on it’s head and arguably the wonderful midwicket catch by Ryan Callow did just that to both this match and in turn our entire season. After an impassioned speech by the skipper, Carlos bowled superbly bagging another five-for to add to his tally and the boys scrapped for every run as we miraculously pulled it out the bag to win by 36 runs to spark joyous scenes. This was without doubt one of the best wins in my time of playing for the Originals for the last 20 years and one which will live long in the memory of all who were part of it. This was followed up by an excellent victory in the rain the day after against Watlington, where Rupert Shipperley hit a match-winning 59 to elevate us from the relegation zone. The spirit was so strong at this point and we knew we could reach our aim of securing division 2 cricket for next season!
The team line-up was fairly familiar at this point, as Gibbon found the formula they had been searching for with those who had strengthened us from the seconds, with Jules opening up with Joe, Charlie, Sam and Guesty stepping up superbly in the middle order ‘hub’ providing valuable runs and young Tommy Leonard taking his opportunities with the ball, bowling with aggression and plenty of skill. The youngsters provided us with that extra spark in the field with Charlie, Tom and Sam giving us the youthful exuberence we were in need of to complement the more ‘experienced’ fieldsman!
Inconsistency reared it’s head again as we were beaten heavily by both Faringdon and Oxford Caribbean, leaving our aims clear for the remainder of the season………two wins from three would keep us up. The trip to Stonesfield was vital and we were boosted by the return of Briefo and Hammy to strengthen our top order. We bowled and fielded as if our Division 2 lives depended on it as Stonesfield rattled up 213-8. The tense run chase was begun by Jules (22) and Joe (39), before Briefo (68no), back from a broken wrist sustained from the first ball of the game at Freeland earlier in the season and Stu (61no), steered the team home with an unbeaten 116 partnership to take us one step closer to the safe-haven of mid-table. The Freeland game at home the following week was just as important and despite Gibbon struggling badly to find enough players, the visitors were having similar personnel issues and both teams took the field players light. Freeland were shot out for 75 thanks to 4 wickets from the swing of Matty, before we made light work of the target with Jules and Joe yet again setting up victory to take us to safety. The early finish was a little too much for some however, as several members of the squad were seen….and heard in the early hours causing mayhem at the Chairman’s abode, much to the annoyance of the lovely Mrs N, who had done her very best to get us barred from the boozer earlier in the evening!
Our final game made it three from three and five wins from seven, with a fine victory at Tetsworth, masterminded by the big-hitting Will Hammond (90) and Carlos (32no) who took the game away from the hosts with a superb stand of 129, after Matty had secured the bowling cup earlier in the day with a couple of wickets to top off a good season with the ball.
A phenomenal season, in which a new team was formed and the stature of our great club raised beyond anything any of us could have expected given the loss of players and consolidation into one side. All have played a massive part in this success, from those who have stepped up from the seconds with such courage and no shortage of talent and have never looked out of place some five divisions higher up the OCA, to the established ‘Originals’, who have adjusted their games and given everything for us to achieve our division 2 status. The individuals are way too much to mention, but despite difficulties with getting teams on the park at times, it’s been an absolute pleasure to lead the side to what is certainly one of the greatest achievements we have ever had in my time involved with the club.
In addition to the players, there are many who make our success possible who myself and all the players would like to thank. Debs and all the tea ladies, who always do us so proud with their wonderful work providing us with the best teas around! Barry Timms and all the umpires who make our life so easy by organising the rota and carrying out our umpiring to such a great standard. Nick Turner for cutting the outfield each week. Barry Leonard and his team of groundstaff who have continued to improve our already excellent pitch and square and John Tofts who does such a great job at keeping our mowers going deserve huge praise also. I’d also like to give special mention to Mikey Timms and the committee, who tried so hard to keep the seconds afloat at the beginning of the season and who do such a wonderful job………the seconds will return one day for sure! If i’ve missed anyone then please forgive me……
Well all that remains is for me to thank the players, you’ve done the club proud, as we look forward to celebrating our success this Friday with our end of season presentation meal at the Greyhound.
This season has been without doubt one of the best in memory and the strength of us as a club pulled us through the most difficult times to take us onto even bigger and better times to come…….this is why we are and will always be proud to be MGCC!