1st XI Season Review 2002

One win, 14 defeats, 98 points at an average of 6.53, and 4 Captains. It doesn't make pretty reading for Portland Red Triangle's return to the top flight of Dorset Saturday League cricket, which unfortunately ended in relegation from the NSA Premier Division. Many bemoaned the lack of an overseas professional to lend some much needed class and to pass on his experience to the other players as the reason for at times, a pathetic showing against superior opposition. At the end of the day Triangle were just not good enough to stay in the division and thoroughly deserve to be playing in the first division in 2003.

But let us not start on such a sour note, gentle reader, as we take you back to the halcyon days of early May. Martin Hewson was in charge as Triangle took on local rivals Dorchester in the county town, full of hope and promise. Apart from wicketkeeper Dave Blackman, Portland were at full strength, with new summer signings from Speedliners, Will Curtis (taking the gloves) and Glenn Kelman put straight in the side. Simon Browne proved to be the catalyst that day as he followed up a solid opening day fifty by picking up a five wicket haul as Dorchester's middle order collapsed in spectacular fashion. Chasing just 214, the home side looked to be cruising to victory as they lost their first wicket with the score on 154, but then the next 7 wickets fell for only 51 runs and Dorchester were 6 runs short at the end of their allotted overs, as the islanders picked up a most improbable victory.

Buoyed by their unlikely success, Triangle hosted Hamworthy at Reforne, and it was here that they started on an unenviable run of 14 straight defeats. The contest didn't start well as the captain won the toss and bizarrely put the visitors in on a pitch which looked ideal for batting, but his decision appeared to be vindicated as they were restricted to just 209 after 50 overs. There was a sign of things to come as Martin had to withdraw from the game due to injury as he missed a caught and bowled opportunity and suffered a hefty blow on the wrist. This gave Jason Styles a rare chance to shine with the ball, as he picked up a wicket in a tidy 5 over spell. Triangle were unable to press home their advantage as the top order crumbled to 35/6, but luckily Dave Blackman was back and helped by Gary Randell and John Ryan, gave the home side's score some respectability before he was last out, caught for a gritty 47 with just 5 overs to go. Portland finished a woeful 95 runs short, and only managed to pick up just 4 points, something which was to become a recurring theme over the season.

Next up was a visit to Weymouth, and a meeting with their new summer signing, South African U19 star, Siraag Abrahams, a bowler who had been clocked at around 85mph. Triangle were restricted to 148/7, but it was Tom Steadman who did the damage picking up 3 wickets, as Abrahams' reputation worried most of the top-order out, but he only secured the scalp of Hewson, caught off his glove as he tried to duck under one of Abrahams' numerous bouncers. Blackman once again resisted the opposition attack to notch up an unbeaten 41, assisted by Randell and young Doidge who batted well for his 21 runs. Weymouth cruised to victory as they lost just two wickets on their way to an easy win, with John Ryan picking up season best figures of 2/26.

Poole proved that beating Portland Red Triangle was no mean feat as they breezed past their hosts at Reforne, passing the home side's target of 176 with 12 overs to spare and 7 wickets in hand, as a promising 85 run opening partnership between Hewson and Jan Davey and then good work by Browne and Randell was undone by another mid-order collapse coupled with a slow run rate in the final 15 overs (48 runs for the loss of 6 wickets).

The match away to Broadstone was to set yet another trend for Triangle in 2002, as they managed to throw away a game when victory looked a certainty. Batting first, Hewson's side posted a modest total of 202/9 as 5 batsmen managed to get themselves out after getting into the twenties and looked set. The hosts responded with a steady 46 runs off the first 12 overs until a change of bowling brought on Davey and Kelman who, with John Ryan, helped to restrict the batsmen to just 50 off the next 25 overs. Randell returned to take 3 wickets in four overs and Broadstone looked to heading for defeat at 152-6 with just 6 overs remaining, as Hewson brought back his medium pace duo, Browne and Ryan, to close the innings. Unfortunately Broadstone hadn't read the script as tailender Spraggs took the initiative and smashed his side to victory with an over to spare, and Triangle saw vital points slip through their fingers.

Words were exchanged in a heated debate in the changing room straight after proceedings between John Ryan, Simon Browne and Club Captain Graham Elenor, as a lot of finger pointing and a criticism of certain bowlers tactics and bowling well outside leg stump for four wides so late in the innings was questioned by a senior Triangle official. With the Wimborne game called off due to a waterlogged Reforne wicket, it gave some players a chance to cool off in preparation for the visit of title-contenders Parley and their West Indian star, Carl Brissett. It was the opening bowlers France and Brooks who accounted for the top-order, including the run out of Martin Hewson who collapsed in the middle and was helped off the pitch. On the spot physician, John Ryan, thought it was just a calf strain and the skipper would be back in a few weeks, but after being rushed to outpatients, he was found to have ruptured his achilles, ending his season there and then.

Vice-Captain, Simon Barrett, took charge, and saw Triangle slump to 108 all out after just 33.1 overs, where the magnificent Brissett recorded figures of 3/9 off his 10 overs. Only Simon Browne and Gary Randell provided any noticeable resistance as the home side's batting order shorn of Styles and Blackman was torn asunder. Parley wasted no time in collecting maximum points as Brissett (65*) ably assisted by Cutworth (33*) knocked off the required runs in just 17.3 overs.

Stalbridge were the next team that had the honour of beating Triangle as the mantle of leadership passed not to Vice-Captain Simon Barrett, but to Club Captain, Graham Elenor. Portland restricted Stalbridge to just 231/5 in 50 overs, but were reduced to 47/4 before a fifth wicket partnership of 114 between Jason Styles (59) and Simon Browne (61), looked to have got the side back on track. Ex-Dorset pace bowlers, Matt Chant and Steve Forshaw accounted for both of them, Chant recorded impressive figures of 5-32 as Triangle's tail fell 51 runs short at the close.

Simon Browne assumed the role of Captain as Triangle pulled out the stops for the visit of Colehill, introducing the big guns of ex-Triangle batsman Mark Caswell and ex-Weymouth goalkeeper and future star of Sky One's Dream Team, Danny Potter, to the line up. A fine 120 run partnership between Caswell (41) and Potter (95) at the top of the order, with contributions from Styles, Browne and Curtis, set an imposing target of 279 for victory. Colehill set about their task and had 67 runs on the board after just 13 overs, and then 133 after 25 overs. It was a middle-order partnership of 96 between Nigel Woodruff (72*) and Rob Ryan (41), which took the game away from Triangle, though not helped by Danny Potter coming back into the attack after taking 3 early wickets, to finally finish with 3-79 off his ten overs, as Colehill eased to victory with 3 overs to spare.

At the half-way point in the season, Triangle were taking root at the bottom of the Premier Division, with just 1 victory and 7 straight defeats, the future was looking far from rosy, and alas it didn't get any better as Dorchester came to Reforne looking to avenge their opening day defeat. Graham was back in charge as Triangle batted first and the locals were able to witness the return of Gray Randell to his best form, as he hit 67 runs off just 60 balls, including dispatching Dave Trotter (recently called up to the Dorset squad) for 4 massive sixes, 2 into the car park, as the home side finished on 199/9. Dorchester were never really troubled as they successfully chased the target, always keeping up with the run rate as Walbridge and Rendell both fell one short of half centuries. Simon "Chalky" Barrett, now in his new role as Triangle Spokesman, commented on the days proceedings "So near yet so far once again...we haven't been disgraced and I'm sure we will win again before the end of the year."

Portland were denied a chance to score much needed points as the game against relegation rivals, Hamworthy was cancelled, so with a week's rest, Elenor's men entertained title-chasing Weymouth on top of the island. It was not a happy meeting as Triangle were skittled for just 111, with Weymouth's impressive new acquisition, New Zealander Glen Dawson, picking up 3-17. Gary Randell continued his run of good form, hitting an unbeaten 34 as his teammates crumbled around him, though the visitors continued appeals to the umpire unsettled some, especially the usually placid Jan Davey who had an altercation with former Danish coach, Simon Talbot. Weymouth didn't hang around as they secured the points in just 24.5 overs, despite the early loss of Dean Janaway who was bowled by evergreen John Ryan. Spokesman Simon Barrett praised Weymouth's "ultra competitive attitude" and also told the local press "They totally outplayed us and look a good bet for the title...we'll keep battling away, although we accept it will now take a minor miracle to avoid the drop."

Triangle travelled to Poole, looking to pick up more than the solitary point from the week before, but came up against another Kiwi, Guy Bidwell, who hit 101* as the home side amassed 221/8 off their 50 overs, with Simon Browne the pick of the bowlers with 2-19 and Jones (making his 1st XI debut) held a truly outstanding catch on the boundary. Triangle replied poorly as Barrett, Blackman, Ryan, Browne and Jones fell in quick succession as they slumped to 28-5, Gary Randell tried to salvage the innings before he was dismissed for 27. Tail enders Alexander Charlton and Bill Trevett added 48 for the 9th wicket, but it was in vain as the visitors were all out for 117, 104 runs short and only 5 points for their trouble.

The islanders looked to gain revenge for their embarrassing defeat earlier in the season, as they entertained Broadstone. John Ryan was opening the batting, and Graham had retained the services of Jones after his single piece of good fielding against Poole (not his 6 runs off 40-odd deliveries) and Jan was moved out of his coveted opener's spot. It was Randell (141*) and Browne (93*) that stole the show as their fourth wicket partnership of 213 set a club record, and set a surely unassailable target of 300 for victory. With the required run rate being 6 an over, Broadstone's Fry and Broom raced to 80 off the first 15 overs, before Browne and Davey accounted for them, but brought Triangle's nemesis, Jon Powell to the crease in the 28th over with the score at 142-4. With 'keeper Rob Wallace (52), Powell hit a classy 78 as they put together a 112 partnership, as Broadstone reached 240-4 with 10 overs left. Trevett and Randell then dismissed the pair, but it was Spraggs who once again hit the winning runs as the visitors won with 5 balls to spare.

Injured skipper, Martin Hewson tried to lighten things up by talking to the Echo, "It looks as though we need to score 400 to win a game...I blame the groundsman!". Stand-in Captain, Elenor (still in shock), made some rare comments to the press as well "To hit 299 and still lose is beyond logic really...I suppose it's indicative of the way our season's gone", then the effects of the summer sun caused him to descend into madness, as he said "We're still in with a faint chance of avoiding relegation".

With the Wimborne game cancelled yet again, Triangle were left with three games to save their Premier Division status, but unfortunately the next fixture was away to title-challengers Parley. Graham Elenor finally conceded defeat as he lost his "Red Adare" tag as PRT's saviour, with the club facing almost definite relegation. John "Poindexter" Ryan stepped into the breach, becoming the first non-member captain in known history of the club, promising salvation and a new winning mentality as the phrase "it's still mathematically possible to avoid relegation" became his mantra.

His new-found, can-do spirit was apparent as he gave the new ball to Glen Kelman who then repaid his captain by conceding a truly abysmal 22 runs in his one and only over. So sickened by this betrayal of trust, the new skip took over and duly removed Parley's ace batsman, Carl Brisset for just 22 runs. A 3rd wicket partnership of 114 between Neil Rogers (56) and Kelvin Sutherland (46) took Parley to 163 in the 40th over, before Ryan turned to ex-Dorset spinner Jan Davey. The big man responded with his best performance of the year, recording figures of 5-34 as he carved up the middle order and Parley were restricted to 222/8. Triangle's top order failed once again as they slumped to 57-5 after 27 overs, with only Jan Davey (30) resisting the home side's bowlers. The always inspirational Jason "Country" Styles and Alex Charlton put on 40 for the 6th wicket, and tail-end battler, Trevett sent a Brissett delivery over the rope, but the islanders were dismissed for 152 in the 48th over.

Ex-skipper Hewson was able to comment on the threat of relegation from the sidelines, even though he wasn't actually present at the game, as Chalky's comments were being ignored, and resorted to tired clich�s as he bemoaned the current regime's plight, "It's a tall order, but it's not all over until the final ball is bowled. We have just about got used to the idea of going back into Division One, but stranger things have happened."

It was back home again as Poindexter's men looked to mathematically avoid relegation against Stalbridge. With only 8 men turning up for the opposition, spirits were raised, until the skipper realised opener Simon Barrett was also running late, and thrust Bill Gates into the no.1 slot alongside Jan Davey. As seen in the picture on the right (one that's always worth seeing again), the good reverend was all at sea against the Stalbridge attack, who although under-strength, still had Chant and Forshaw among their ranks. Reduced to 20-4 in only the 7th over, former Spokesman, Simon Barrett had arrived at the ground and was straight into the action. Belying his poor form for the 1st XI throughout the season, the veteran opener embraced his new middle-order role and scored his maiden century and also beat his previous best. It was his partnership of 101 for the 6th wicket with Gary Randell (returning from a 2 week holiday) and then shared in another partnership of 96 with Styles (46*) as Triangle finished on 253/7.

The 8-men of Stalbridge (and the fact only there were only 8 of them can't be emphasized enough by the author of this piece) were undaunted by this target, especially when one of them is ex-county player Jamie Dike, who produced a wonderful innings of 130*, aided by young Doidge dropping him twice, the first time on 30. The opening partnership of 126 with Andy Taylor (45) and then one of 71 with Jason Forsey (35) for the second, set the visitors well on their way to victory. Stalbridge skipper, Matt Chant (26*) then joined his teammate as they eased to victory with over 3 overs to spare and sent Triangle back down to Division One from whence they came.

John Ryan was looking for a positive finish to a torrid season, as his men looked to stop a run of 13 straight defeats with a win away to Colehill. Things were looking bright as the home side were wavering on 7-2, before Chris Edmonds (44) and Mark Krentzman (60) rallied to take the score to 99 after 17 overs. Davey and Elenor (!) then struck as Colehill were wobbling again at 134-5, but Ross Blandford's rapid 53 saw them recover to 208. Colehill's skipper Nigel Woodruff came in at no.8 and smashed 84 runs in just 55 minutes as his side were bowled out for 337 in the final over. Triangle's reply couldn't have started off much worse as Gates, Blackman, Curtis and Barrett all fell cheaply as the visitors were on the rack at 11-4. Davey and Randell then came together and steadied the ship before Jan was out for 19, then a cameo from the captain saw PRT once again in trouble at 78/6 after 20 overs. Randell's soul mate, Jason Styles then came to the crease, and the runs flowed off their bats as they put together a quite fantastic 192 run partnership for the 7th wicket. Gary (147) then Jason (69) were both dismissed with the score on 270, and it was left to Charlton, Trevett and Elenor to try to get the required runs, but they fell 40 short as Triangle ended on a very respectable 297/9.