2nd XI Season Review 2002

The King is dead, long live the King!

Following last season's power struggle between Stewkesbury and Jones, (see 2001 review) the new Captain, Mr. Grant Neven was now in charge and looked to bring stability and success to the 2nd XI, two things that had been severely lacking in previous years. 2001's failed Division 5 campaign ended with relegation to the bottom tier of Saturday Dorset League cricket, even after the bottom side, Gillingham 2nd's, withdrew from the league half-way through the season. "Stumpy" Neven was hoping his side would be capable of bouncing straight back at the first attempt after the side's weak batting line-up was strengthened by the news Rev. Bill Gates would be available for the majority of the season after his impressive showing at the end of 2001, and with the addition of ex-Surrey league opener, Kev Dodson. However, the team received a massive blow as it lost last season's Young Player of the Year, Chris Skinner, who was seduced by the dark side and he left to play for Weymouth's 4th team.

Things looked bright for the new skip with an impressive opening day victory against Sherborne III at Reforne, as the visitors were skittled for a paltry 32, the new-look new ball attack of Sam Polley and Scott Males doing the damage as they removed the top six batsmen between them. It was left to Gates and a rare appearance by Jo Trevett, to knock off the required runs. 20 points in the bag and sitting atop the table in the first week was more than the little big man could have expected, but the very next week as Wayfarers 2nd's administered a crushing 117 run defeat, questions were asked if his fledgling team could win away from home.

Neven proved his critics wrong, as after the game against Old Blandfordians at Reforne was cancelled, due to a waterlogged pitch (rain affected games were to be a feature of the early season), he took his side to Shillingstone and ground out a gutsy victory, leading by example as his undefeated innings of 19 (though the Western Gazette report claimed it was 28) secured a tight 3 wicket win. Flushed with success on the road, Neven's side then proceeded to lose at fortress Reforne to promotion rivals Suttoners II, the veteran opener John Baxter was the only man able to resist the visitor's attack.

The next game was cancelled again due to rain, 2 consecutive bye weeks gave the captain time to rethink his strategy in preparation for the match away to mid-season table-toppers, Branksome 2nd's who were unbeaten at that point. Calling in a favour from Club Captain, and now stand-in 1st XI skipper, Graham Elenor, Neven secured the services of Bill Trevett to beef up the bowling attack, as well as Simon "Chalky" Barrett, as batsmen were thin on the ground. With Chalky carrying his bat up until the final ball of the innings for a gritty 68, and Trevett taking the pressure of the regular bowlers with a 5 wicket haul, a memorable 40 run victory was secured as Triangle moved up to the heady heights of 3rd position in Division 6.

Inconsistency then struck again as buoyed by the win against the league leaders, Stumpy took his team to rock-bottom Sherborne III's and received a lesson in humility, as the old adage "catches win matches" couldn't have been more apt as a wasteful fielding display gifted the home side's one batsman, Bibby, an easy century. This was helped largely by Jones dropping him on 4 then going on to record figures of 5-0-48-1 as the first change bowler, while Sam Polley only conceded 12 runs off his first 7 at the start of the innings, returned to take 2 wickets in a final over maiden. Triangle collapsed to 42-6 chasing 199 for victory, and only knocks of 46 from Scott Males and 34 from the skipper lent the final total some respectability as promotion hopes dwindled.

Good wins against Wayfarers at home and then Old Blandfordians away put Triangle firmly back track, and a handy 15 points earned in the controversial draw against Shillingstone, thanks to a very close no-ball call by umpire Neven, when it looked like the visitors had snatched a dramatic 4 run victory, placed Stumpy's side very much in the promotion hunt. Another crushing defeat this time away to Suttoners, spoiled Triangle's momentum they'd built up at the end of July and effectively put them out of the promotion race, having to rely on either Wayfarers or Suttoners slipping up in their final matches, as at this point eventual champions Branksome were virtually out of reach.

A chance to gain maximum points against Bradford Abbas at home was lost to the rain as Triangle's rivals pulled away and the islanders were left to battle it out for 2nd in the final weeks of the season. Neven's team was left to battle for pride in the final game against now champions, Branksome, but alas were unable to repeat their heroics earlier in the season and slumped to a 6 wicket loss. Tony Quayle returned to action to hit an unbeaten 77 as he and Kev Dodson put on 92 runs as they helped set a challenging total of 163 for victory, but Branksome's key man James "Fella" Purnell was in top form. Only the magical swing/spin of Quayle brought his innings to an end, 6 runs short of his century but the visitors were able to cruise to a six wicket win.

On reflection the final analysis of played 14, won 5, lost 5, drawn 1 (with 3 no results) averaging 12.09 points, was a marked improvement on 2001's wretched season, which ironically mirrored that of the 1st XI's Premier Division campaign this season. The captain gained a lot of positives from this year as Scott Males's bowling as well as his batting improved to the extent he can now almost be classed as the side's genuine all-rounder. Mark Nott grew into his role of opener, and with some coaching may just move his feet enough to become a fixture in that position, though time will tell whether John Baxter's attempts to turn him into a left-arm spinner succeed. Sam Polley continued to fulfill his promise as a new ball bowler taking his fair share of wickets, and helping to ease the burden formerly carried by Rupert and Scott and to some extent, The Duke, who only made fleeting appearances in 2002, due to his scoring commitments with the 1st's.

With the news that Tony Quayle is transferring back to the island's prison service, Triangle hope to see him batting and hopefully, bowling, more than every other week. Jo Trevett has also confirmed he will be available for more games next season thanks to his work commitments lifting, these are exciting times for the 2nds. With the rumours of yet another challenge to the 2nd XI Captaincy from Richard Stewkesbury proving just a rumour, Stumpy will be looking to leading his troops in 2003. With a more settled squad promotion to Division 5 isn't out of the question, but can the Pocket Pasty let himself dream of lifting some silverware?