The valiant team of (mostly) volunteers responsible for running Blackheath CC have had a lot to cope with over the first month or so of the season, including not only complex and seemingly ever-changing Covid-19 regulations but some of the coldest and most miserable spring weather anyone can remember. However, the determination of all those involved to keep going regardless has been astonishing, as reflected in the remarkable statistic that despite all the rain we hosted no fewer than eleven junior and senior matches at our Blackheath and Grafham grounds this past weekend, every one of which was completed.
Amongst the games played at Blackheath on Saturday was a comfortable victory by the men's 1st XI over Headley - pictured above in rare evening sunshine. Thanks to some miserly bowling, especially from Josh Cummings and skipper Alex Bertola (3 for 11 from 9), we restricted Headley to just 138, a target which the Blackheath top order breezily knocked off with more than half the overs to spare (Pete Melhuish (56 n.o.): see scorecard. The victory puts us top of I'Anson Division 1 after 4 weekends and 3 victories, with one match abandoned.
The 2nd XI have had a tougher time of it, losing all three of their games so far played, although they came within a whisker of defeating Chiddingfold in their opening match. Though our batting line up has plenty of pedigree, they would be the first to admit that they are perhaps not the most agile in the field, and facing other clubs' somewhat more youthful 1st XIs almost every week in I'Anson Division 2 is a big ask, at least until our own young guns become available in greater numbers in June and July.
The 3rd XI meanwhile have won two of their three games so far played in I'Anson Division 6, and sit third in the table. This weekend saw a nail-biting victory over Tilford 3rd XI, who after bowling us out for 70 on a very challenging pitch at Thursley, were themselves dismissed for just 56 (Will Breach 4 for 21 from 7): see scorecard. Such a scorecard would never be seen at Grafham, where despite the weather the square and outfield are in as good condition as we could possibly have hoped (see picture below) and our newly refurbished facilities are attracting much admiration from visiting I'Anson teams. Indeed, with benches now being installed, mobile nets in place and sight-screens and an electronic scoreboard on order, it will soon be more than a match for many clubs' main grounds.
Our men's Sunday team has had mixed results so far, with comfortable victories against Wonersh, Shamley Green and Old Dorkinians, but losing out to August Flies yesterday in grim conditions, despite a magnificent 115 n.o. (the top score of the season so far) from Ronny Harrison. Others have also shown fine form with the bat on Sundays including Tom Vickers (101 retired) and Graham Oliver (94 not out) against Shamley Green, and 13 year old Rob Greenway, with successive unbeaten half centuries (not to mention several more for the U13s team). Sadly, however, we were unable to sustain our tremendous run of form of recent years in the National Village Cup, losing in the second round to a strong Valley End side.
Our women's section have been training hard each week but are yet to play a match (their scheduled opening fixture on Sunday at Farncombe being postponed due to the weather and pitch conditions), however the junior season is well underway, with all the league boys' and girls' squads having played at least one game and some of them half a dozen or more.
Leading the way have been the boys' U13 squad, who are exceptionally strong this season with 3 full county squad members and many other seriously good players. They are undefeated in the Surrey Junior Invitational League and have also progressed to the third round of the ECB County Cup, with comfortable victories over Sanderstead and Purley. The U12 boys are hot on their heels and are also undefeated both in their SJCC Division and in the County Cup, having already defeated Reigate Priory in the first round. The U11s too have taken a big stride forward since last season, with excellent wins against Normandy, Merrow and Grayshott, whilst there is a wealth of talent in the younger boys' squads as well, reflected in results.
The girls have played fewer matches (several having been lost to the weather), but are unmatched in their enthusiasm. Thursday evening training sessions at Grafham are a hive of activity, with up to 90 women and girls attending regularly. The standard is remarkably high, and many are visibly improving on a weekly basis, thanks in significant part to the coaching team of Danny, Ronny and Tom. The U11 girls have so far hosted 2 tournaments at Grafham in both of which many of the players were playing their first ever games of cricket. The opening tournament against Cranleigh and Merrow was a particularly enjoyable occasion, marking the first girls match ever played by Merrow CC in the club's history. It was played in a tremendous spirit and fittingly each of the 3 teams won one and lost one match.
Off the field, it has also been a busy time, as in addition to all the usual day-to-day tasks, there has been a huge amount of further work created by a combination of the weather (covering and uncovering numerous pitches and rearranging postponed matches), the pandemic (digesting reams of changing advice from the ECB, as well as keeping all sorts of records which would not normally be necessary) and the fact that we now operate at two busy locations. A huge thank you to everyone involved in keeping the show on the road, including in particular our Welfare Officer and "Covid Tsarina" Alex Jones, our Treasurer Richard Brocksom, our facilities and grounds team of Terry Brockman, Simon Jones and Colin Parrott, and our Junior Fixture Secretary, Sean Kitson.
Finally, I'm delighted to say that we have now found a replacement for Terry Marter as pavilion manager in Kate Bendy, whom some of you will have met at the club over the weekend. Kate lives just down the road in Bramley and comes to us with a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry. She is brimming with enthusiasm and ideas and I am sure will do a fantastic job for us. If you have not yet met her, please do introduce yourself when you are next at the club.