An artist was installed as captain of the 4ths this year - you’d assume so anyway, given all the drawing Pete Lewis led the team to this year. Against often tough opposition - how many South African pros? - the season brought to the Mersey Squad more exciting additions than that time I spent a whole day off watching back-to-back episodes of Rachel Riley on Countdown.
Pete’s first move - as every good captain of men should know - was to lead from the front. This he did by immediately demoting himself to 11 in the batting order. It was a selfless act in order to promote younger players up the order to give them the necessary experience, and also allowed him to wear flip-flops while umpiring in often ridiculous conditions. At one point in the autumn his toes looked so cold I thought he was part-Smurf.
Despite such idiosyncrasies, Pete has had a very successful season as captain. Those draws masked a steeliness to the side that was achieved with some very clever leadership. By batting second as often as possible, the 4ths were able to save many matches - and bring through lots of emerging talent to the squad. I’ll let the skipper give you his thoughts on the season gone:
My first year as skipper has been a real pleasure, with each game bringing with it some unique moments - from James' wicket keeping, to 2dads' running between the wickets.
This year has seen the 4th team flourish and become really hard to beat as a result, drawing 9 games.
My aim for the season was to get as many junior cricketers involved as possible - and i feel that has been a success, with the emergence of some good bowlers in the form of Adam Critten, Ismail Khan, Junaid Shah, Aman Raza, Billy Heywood and Patrick Glare, along with Hammed Anjum and Tom Talbot.
In addition we have found some genuine batsmen, such as Alex Lakinson, Ibrahim Mahmood and a reformed Nick Campbell-Kelly. This bodes well for the coming seasons ahead.
As well as the young players coming through, the 4ths have welcomed some new and returning faces back into senior cricket. James Wickham has been an excellent addition, with his knowledge and love for the game being greatly appreciated by this captain - as well as the Spotify play lists for the away game drives. Olly Cox returned with his death bowling, Mohammed Shafiq showed there is more than one batter in the family, while Gary
Critten was finally given the opportunity to put all his coaching tips into action.
The stand out performances for the season for me are:
James Wickham’s 4-26 at home to Bredbury
Shabaz Shafiq's 76 at home to Wilmslow
Aman Raza's 4-15 at home to Stockport Trinity
Alishan Khan's 51 away at Ashley
Ibrahim’s 46* away at Bredbury
and the team performance against Lindow in what turned out to be our last game of the season - where we scored 176-5 - the best of the year.
So we move into next year with the aim of turning those draws into wins - and scoring some big runs with the bat.
Well that all seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Except that he didn’t mention my superb 28* in that friendly at Wistaston, which I think was in Cornwall it was so bloody far…. or that take of mine at Ashley, which was (in my humble opinion) a better catch than Scarlett Johansson is when she’s fluttering her eyelashes at you. But I won’t mention those, cos you’ll think I’m being an idiot (I am).
So, to finish - a few highlights from me too:
Aman’s leg spin sent most batsman into… well, a spin. I particularly enjoyed the game at home where he took 6-for in no time at all, & I hugely enjoyed shouting "just bloody rip it lad" and "it’s a bunsen!” from midwicket as batsmen emerged shaking from the pavilion.
Having spent much of the early part of the season watching AJ struggle, it was a delight to see the new Chris Gayle-like version emerge in the friendly T20 with the under-15s in September. More next season please!
Another return - that of Andy King - late in the season. It took guts to come back. Well done sir.
And finally, my favourite moment of the whole summer.. came at Cheadle Hulme. The 4ths, having reduced the opposition to bugger-all for mostly out, then found themselves faced with a South African pro who decided to knock 75-odd in the space of about 10 minutes. Which didn’t exactly seem sporting. However the situation was rescued by the Mersey number 3, Noushad, who told the rest of the team - in no uncertain terms - that they should win every game, including the ones in which they were being made to chase 250+.
We laughed. He left.
Incidentally, it’s been a delight to spend this summer with you lot, including the 1sts, 2nds and 3rds (except for that T20 of which we shall NEVER speak again), and I thank you for all being so welcoming. I hope you’ve enjoyed these nonsense articles. More to come next year… (HM’s very own TMS coverage, anyone?)
Updated 22:31 - 21 Feb 2018 by Joe Ingham