YMCA Cricket Club, Bristol
Playing cricket at Golden Hill since 1902


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Back Row: Mac McMahon, Paul Davis, Phil Dowle, Shaun Parker, Chris Drew, Mike Tilzey
Front Row: Matt Iles, Tom Milsom, Andy Spicer, John Colley

When Martyn Lee and I took on the roles of vice–captain and captain in 2003, our aims were to secure the the highest ever league position and, if possible, win promotion to the top division of Second Eleven cricket.

The season, however, proved to have many ups and downs. The summer was dominated by record breaking batting performances that helped us achieve the highest ever finish, third place. But it was also a season that would, ultimately, end in disappointment and frustration.


Looking back at the season

The Narrowest of defeats
The season began, as planned with the annual annihilation of University Staff. However, it was the result of the following match, against Bedminster, that would play a major factor in the outcome of our season. And so it proved to be, when the resilient opposition claimed our final wicket, in dramatic fashion, to earn a narrow one run victory at Golden Hill. The defeat ensured that, for the remainder of the season, the YM would have to play ‘catch–up’ to the Clannage based team.

Despite the early set back, we recorded a number of superb victories in the following months, as good as. Most notably a 64 run thrashing of an over confident Thornbury team in a match which produced 400 runs at home but still couldn’t prevent a slightly bitter, Thornbury from reporting our pitch!

Another, memorable game was the slender victory over the ‘auld enemy’, Patchway in another high-scoring match. Indeed, the only loss, between the Bedminster defeat and the final game of the season, was inflicted, not for the first time, by a ‘swaggering’ Phoenix West Indies side who we always seem to play on a scorching hot day, when visiting their Kingsweston ground.

Fell at last hurdle
Having maintained second place in the league all season, the YM faced the two remaining fixtures  requiring just one victory to guarantee promotion.

The first of these matches was against Phoenix West Indies. In a controversial and tense match the YM were within 35 runs of the victory celebrations before the light became so poor as to be dangerous to our batsmen. As captain, I took the now fateful decision to abandon the game to bad light (mystifyingly, much to the opposition's annoyance) in the belief we would ‘live to fight another day’ in our final match of the season at fourth placed Thornbury.

But it was not to be. Our late arrival at the Tockington Manor ground proved a bad omen and an experienced and powerful YM side were to suffer a shock defeat against a weak Thornbury side, comprising of many younger players. I made a poor decision to bat first on a damp wicket and it cost us dear. We performed very poorly and were dismissed for a low score and, despite our efforts, allowed one batsmen to dig out a half century and enough runs to win an easy victory.


The Players

Probably the best batting line up ever
Looking at the players, I believe the line up of Kirk, Stone, Davies, Drew, Tilzey, Steven and McMahon was the best the Second Eleven have ever produced. During the season four players exceeded 300 league runs for the first time which, in turn, produced a series of record totals, including the all-time highest score of 260 for 5 v University Staff (see table below).

Highest League Totals by YMCA Elevens
260 for 5 YMCA 2nd XI v University Staff in 2003
253 for 3  YMCA 2nd XI v Horfield in 2000
252 for 3  YMCA 2nd XI v Pucklechurch in 2003
246 for 5  YMCA 3rd XI v Twyford House in 1986
240 for 6 YMCA 2nd XI v Pucklechurch in 2002
244 for 10 YMCA 2nd XI v Carsons/Magotsfield in 2003
235 for 6 YMCA 3rd XI v Timsbury in 2003
230 for 5  YMCA 2nd XI v Stoke Gifford in 1996
230 for 5  YMCA 1st XI v Gordano Valley in 1995
228 for 2 YMCA 2nd XI v Patchway in 2003

James and Pete - joined the 100 club

Amongst many superb individual batting performances the maiden centurions, James Steven (105) and Pete Kirk (102*), ranked as most special. But outstanding contributions were also made by latecomer, Mike Tilzey (who should have been another centurion), Paul Davies and the ever reliable Chris Drew.


Good bowling but occasionally overlooked
Given the record breaking batting it is hardly surprising that the bowling performances were, on occasions, over looked.

Matt - career best of 7/29 v Pucklechurch

But the bowling attack did have its moments and, throughout the long season, only Patchway were able to score over 200 against us. In addition, three players took 20+ wickets in the season including Andy Spicer (21) who, after a poor start, once again produced the goods when needed, Phil Dowle who played his first injury-free season in many years (23) and top wicket taker, Matt Iles (24) who made a significant contribution in mid-season before fading in the latter stages, as the pressure grew.

Whilst Matt will surely return a tougher player, a word of caution for the new captain...
If the Second Eleven are to go one better and win promotion next year, I believe it will need to strengthen the bowling attack or face losing to the tougher opposition in a repeat of this year. In Spicer and Dowle, the club
are blessed with two very effective players but both are now in their 50's. The time to look for a younger strike bowler, perhaps in the mould of newcomer, Tom Sillitoe, must be now, whilst he has the cushion of regular large run totals to defend during his introduction to 2nd team cricket. The problem, however, is not confined to the quicker bowlers. Last season the team also lacked an genuine spinner capable of taking 20 wickets whilst keeping the run rate down, although its true to say few clubs appear to have a decent spin option these days including the two promoted teams.


A Personal View

So why did we finish third?
I firmly believe we had the strongest squad in the division, so why did we finish third?
Some will simply say we weren't good enough. However, if there's one thing I've learnt as captain then it's the importance of team spirit. Indeed the Second Eleven themselves and, more recently, the Third Eleven's (with a win excellent over Timsbury) have proved how effective working as a team can be. Disappointingly, as the leader of many different YM teams over the years, I found the 'dynamics' of the 2003 squad to be slightly unbalanced. Too many senior players lacked the respect that, I believe, a Club Captain is
entitled to and performed, especially in the final few weeks, more as a collection of talented individuals, rather than a closely knit group. We were ruthless at dispatching the poorer sides but visibly lacked the self-belief required to give us the edge in the vital championship deciders. This was no more evident than the final game at Thornbury when we couldn't raise our game despite the high stakes. Perhaps we shall all learn from the

And finally on a personal note

Martyn - 100% Supportive

As a player I didn't perform last year, partly due to suffering a frustrating hand injury which affected all parts of my game. On occasions last year, I felt I didn't have the full backing of all the players and there were occasions when senior team-mates offered only negative criticism, often indirectly, and made tactical decision without my knowledge, a situation I found untenable. I realised at the Pucklechurch away game that I no longer represented the best option as the Second Eleven leader.


And finally, a special mention for Martyn Lee, the most supportive of all vice-captains. He gave me 100% backing throughout the summer and captained very well in my absence and I thank him for that. A thanks also to his brother, Neil for his hard work with the scorebook and averages.


I wish the new captain all the best. He will inherit of squad a very fine
cricketers but will need to be strong minded and brave in selection if he is to lead them to promotion.

Shaun Parker
2003 Second Eleven Captain

© 2005 YMCA Cricket Club