Saturday, 04 July 2020

Youthful squad prepare to test skills in higher league

WARGRAVE is set to play Home Counties Premier League cricket once this season is under way.

All play is currently on hold in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic but players are now permitted to train again individually or with one other person after lockdown restrictions were eased.

The new campaign will be a step up for the club, whose first team will be turning out in Division 2 — the league below Henley — after they secured promotion last year.

They were crowned champions of Division 1 in the Morrant Thames Valley League, having beat Falkland by 58 runs in the final match of the season.

Mark Firth topped scored on the day with 77 as they finished on 282-9 from their 50 overs. In reply, Falkland never kept up with the required run rate and closed on 224-6.

Last season’s top performer with the bat was Mishen Silva, the club’s professional, who top scored with 663 runs at an average of 44 across the games he played.

The 21-year-old Sri Lankan batting all-rounder is useful with the ball in his hands too, having clocked up deliveries that were around 85mph.

Silva, who played under his passport name Ashera Mahavidanalage, was all set to re-join the first team again this year but this looks unlikely now due to the delay brought by covid-19.

Other top batsmen were Michael Holder, a signing from Theale and Tilehurst in 2019, who hit 559 runs at an average of 33 across the games played, including two hundreds.

The 25-year-old also took 16 catches and will be one to watch this season as the club looks to stay and perform well in the new league.

Opening batsman and captain Imran Malik, 20, who also plays for the Berkshire 2nd team, hit 537 runs at an average of 35 across the games he played.

Firth led the bowling pack, taking the most wickets last season, claiming 44 victims, at an average of every 18 balls.

Silva also starred with the ball for his side, taking 20 wickets at an average of every 22 balls. Sherry Ahmed, 20, was the third highest wicket taker, claiming 16 victims at an average of every 18 balls.

More is expected of Ahmed, who also plays for the Berkshire 2nds, as the leg spinner only played a handful of games last term.

Toby Greatwood, 18, has also been tipped to star this season. The bowling all-rounder is a product of the Middlesex Academy and also plays for Berkshire’s 1st team and Middlesex 2nds.

A new signing for this season is Rhodri Lewis, 18, who comes from Henley, the reigning champions of Division 1. The left arm spin bowling all-rounder is another product of the Middlesex Academy and also plays for Berkshire’s 1st team.

Neal Robinson, 33, the club’s director of cricket, who hit 352 runs and took 12 week’s last year, says the club believes in bringing through young players into the first team.

He said: “We have a very young squad — we rarely have more than two players over the age of 25 in our match day side.

“With our second team being comprised of Berkshire youth county cricketers from U15 up to U18s, there are lots of players ready to come through.”

Wargrave 2nds, 3rds and 4ths will be playing in the Thames Valley Morrant League.

The 2nds will feature in Division 4a, in which they finished mid-table last year but the 3rds will be playing in Division 6a, having been promoted as runners-up last season. The 4ths, which was only put together last season, will again compete in Division 9A.

The club also puts out two midweek cricket sides, a 5th side featuring female cricketers and parents, a Sunday side and a thriving Colts section, which has about 150 members.

It offers entry level cricket to those aged under-five to under –seven and has two sides at under-nine, one under-11, two under-13, one under-15, one under-17 and one under-19 side.

There is also girls’ cricket from age groups under-11 to under-17, a soft ball ladies’ side and a girls’ and dads’ friendly side.

Robinson says: “The first team is the pinnacle of our cricket and tasked with setting an example in terms of training, playing and behavioural standards.

“The second and third sides look to prepare players for first team cricket and developing players of potential to play this standard in the future, whilst offering a high standard of club cricket to players of this ability.

“The fourth side works to develop our talented younger players and utilising the experienced senior players to enhance this cricket environment.

“The friendly side and Sunday cricket is the first step for our juniors into our senior teams. Our ethos is to develop young players while our senior players add value.”

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