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Mid-season round-up

Men’s cricket

Despite some outstanding performances, for our men’s teams the first half of the summer has been characterised by more than their fair share of might-have-beens and ever-so-nearlys. Last Saturday was a case in point, as for the second week running, all three of our league teams lost the toss, were put in to bat first, and despite having much the better of the contests found themselves unable to force victories.

Tilford has not often been a happy hunting ground for our 1st XI over the years, and on Saturday their total of 150 (Ronny Harrison 42) looked distinctly under par, especially when Tilford progressed to 47 without loss. But the game was then turned on its head by a tremendous spell from our Kiwi overseas Ian Souness. Extracting not only turn but sometimes extravagant bounce, Ian’s left arm spin was close to unplayable. Well supported by a predatory array of close catchers, he proceeded to run through a strong Tilford batting line up, taking 7 for 35 from his 14 overs. Sadly, after his spell ended Tilford managed to survive the last few overs, finishing on 111 for 8.

With a little under half the league season gone, the 1st XI currently stand in third place in I’Anson Division 1, now not far behind Tilford but some way adrift of leaders Grayswood. Several of our batmen (notably Pete Melhuish and Harry Bardon) have looked in great touch, but we have been a little unfortunate at times and too often victory has just eluded us. It will be tough to win the title from here – our last ball defeat to Grayswood in the first match of the season feels increasingly costly – but it is not impossible, especially if drier and bouncier pitches during the second half of the summer continue to help our secret weapon from New Zealand.

The 2nd XI have found it tough this year playing a series of rather more youthful 1st XIs and are currently ninth in I’Anson Division 2. However, the last few weeks have seen a distinct improvement both in performances and in results, with some of the younger players coming to the fore. Last Saturday’s game against Fernhurst 1st XI was a case in point; the fact that we reached a respectable total of 174 owed much to Ben Stefanik who hit an excellent 44 down the order at 7. Ben (2-22) and Harry Wilkinson (3-28) also then bowled excellent spells, as did veteran Chris Lewis (3-12) – although we were unable to dislodge the final wicket, and Fernhurst finished on 139 for 9. With availability improving further in the coming weeks, there is every reason to hope that our blend of youth and experience will see us move up the table.

The 3rd XI had a similarly frustrating game last weekend, after making 199 against Witley 2nd XI at Grafham, underpinned by 50s from Keith Hemshall and Tom Hufton; again they were unable to force a victory, with Witley digging in to finish on 141 for 7. As with the 2nd XI, after a sticky start, 3rd XI performances and results have both generally been improving as the season has progressed, and they now sit in seventh place in I’Anson Division 6. It has been particularly encouraging to see consistently strong performances from some of the younger players (amongst the bowlers, Will Nash has stood out) as well as from one or two newcomers. Again, as availability improves in late June and July, there is every reason for optimism.

As reported in a previous weekly bulletin, our run in the National Village Cup came to an end a couple of weeks ago after a nail-biting finish to the Regional Final ended in defeat at the hands of Valley End. Sadly, our Stevens Cup run also came to an end this week at Dogmersfield on a difficult wicket. Having restricted Dogmersfield to just 86 from their 16 overs we had high hopes of victory, but all our batsmen struggled to find their timing, in particular against the idiosyncratic spin of Zafran, who finished with the remarkable figures of 5-8 from his 4 overs as we subsided to just 63 for 8.

Away from competitive cricket, Sundays so far this have seen the usual variety of opposition of widely varying standards. Notwithstanding some generous and imaginative captaincy in the best traditions of Sunday friendlies at the heath, one or two visiting teams have struggled to give us a decent game, whilst some of our batmen have made hay. Tom Vickers in particular has stood out, seeing us home with big innings in a couple of games.

In contrast to some of these matches, last Sunday saw us take on a formidable Flashmen team in what has become the annual Tommy Dann memorial match. Batting first, we managed around 200 from our 40 overs against a strong bowling attack thanks to some enterprising batting, especially from Will Melhuish – his ramp shot for 6 off Ben Ladd-Gibbon (see picture above) rivalling the one played by Joe Root off Tim Southee a couple of days later. However, Ladd-Gibbon had his revenge when he came to bat, dispatching our bowlers to all parts in a blistering innings, albeit with the benefit of a couple of lives. Although the scoring rate fell back after he eventually departed, the Flashmen chased down our total with the best part of 10 overs to spare. For further photos of the match (and links to past photos) click here: Blackheath Flickr photos.

In the coming weeks, aside from our scheduled weekend fixtures, we are looking to arrange a few more T20 evening games in midweek, probably on Wednesday evenings. These will be of a decent standard, but not only for our regular Midweek XI players but also for some of those who have not had the opportunity to play in the Stevens Cup, including in particular some younger players. Further details about these games will follow.

Women’s cricket

The main issue facing our women’s teams so far this year has been availability. In common with several other clubs, we have sometimes struggled to put out teams and have had to concede a couple of fixtures. However, the squad has won every game that they have actually played, including against Chiddingfold, Frimley and Grayshott.

There are plenty more fixtures in the coming weeks, and there are signs of improved availability for these, as we have been joined by several new recruits at training recently. However, if there are more potential women players out there – whether you have played before or are new to the game – we’d love to hear from you. Please contact either Helen Mansell ( or Sue Stefanik (, or just come along to one of the training sessions at Grafham on Thursday evenings from 6.30pm and see how you get on.

Junior cricket

Our older boys’ A teams are probably as strong as they have ever been this year. At the time of writing our formidable U14s are again undefeated (though currently sit in mid-table having so far played only 3 games) and are through to the fourth round of the County Cup. Our U13s were also undefeated until last week and are currently top of their table, although sadly they lost their County Cup quarter-final to Chobham and suffered their first league loss against Esher at the weekend. Our U12s are also top of their table and remain undefeated in the league, although their County Cup run was recently brought to an end by Croydon. All three squads’ B teams have also had their fair share of victories.

The younger boys’ and girls’ squads result have been rather more mixed. All have had some good wins but have sometimes suffered from availability issues, especially for midweek games. There is no doubt, however that all these squads contain some real talent, reflected in the ever-growing number of Blackheath players making it through to Performance and County Age Group cricket. A big thankyou is due not only to the team of coaches but also the many parent assistants and administrators who make it all happen.

Social activities

A highlight of earlier this month was the Ukraine football fundraiser at the club. A mixture of club members, local residents and around 20 of the ever-growing number of Ukrainians now living locally got together to watch Scotland take on Ukraine in the World Cup play-off and enjoyed a fantastic meal cooked for us by the Blackheath Ukrainian contingent. Many thanks to all involved in arranging and supporting this event, which also raised over £500 for charities supporting Ukrainian refugees.

Otherwise, Friday and Saturday evenings at Blackheath have been as sociable as ever this season, with our regular BBQs on Fridays and evening meals every Saturday following the league matches. The quality of this season’s Saturday suppers, usually cooked by Blackheath resident Vicky Cadelina, has been exceptional this year – if you have not come along to enjoy one of these, they are strongly recommended.

Finally, a reminder that cricket week (the first week of August) is now only just over 6 weeks away. We are much looking forward to entertaining our usual opposition teams and to the delicious home-cooked suppers every evening during the week. Not to be missed!

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