BY SCOTT McHUGH: Although he ended up without the silverware he deserved, seconds skipper Roger Smethurst and his players can look back with pride on 2012.
They demonstrated the skills and team ethic they possess nearly all the way through a long, hard and often cold season and we should not be at all harsh on a team who gave their all but fell tantalisingly short of silverware.
It was literally two performances with the bat – and a typical CLL botch job with the Werneth fiasco – that meant Heywood didn’t do a league and cup double, something that would have been remarkable for a club that always puts its first team first.
The two performances with the bat unfortunately came on consecutive days. They were bowled out for just 107 on a spicy wicket in the Burton Cup final against Middleton, and then suffered a similar fate the next day against Royton. They followed this up with a poor run chase at Unsworth the following week, which finally put paid to their hopes. The botch job, of course, was the replayed fixtures when Heywood had beaten the weather – and Werneth – early in the season. That club effort deserved an award on its own.
But to dwell on defeat would be churlish of me, and instead I want to dwell on a whole heap of positives that bode well for the future, as well as picking out a few personal high points of a season that I have seen much of and have thoroughly enjoyed.
THE CAPTAIN: Roger continues to do a marvellous job and the lack of silverware has hit him most. True, maybe he dropped the Burton Cup (sorry Rog), but he helped win several games with his tenacity with bat and ball. He turned the Burton Cup quarter final on his head with his wickets against Royton, and important runs, at Werneth, amongst other knocks, steadied innings that were in danger of collapsing. No club in the CLL can boast a better-behaved and better-respected captain than Roger, even if he was targeted unfairly in the disgraceful scenes at Radcliffe. He has coped well with a young side that share little of Roger’s interests, although team spirit is excellent and the young players obviously play for him. He maybe should be slightly more flexible with his batting line-up and not put the pressure on himself. But he’s a top bloke who helps make the club the great place to play cricket it is.
THE VETERAN AND ADJUTANT: Rick Purser’s played more cricket than I’ve had hot dinners, and it shows. In the best possible way. Young players try to copy Rick’s style of bowling in the nets, but fall way short. It’s testament to his enduring ability to bowl 15 overs and lead from the front. Rick may be the leading wicket taker in the second division this season, and it’s no fluke. He destroyed Clifton, taking nine-for at Crimble, and no one got at him all season. At times he also showed the skills with the bat that saw him bat up the order at Middleton back in the day. He was also a useful drinking ally for the captain.
THE (OLD) NEWCOMER: Although Sam Byrne’s form dropped off slightly during the season, his return from a fishing sabbatical was most welcome. Bowling from a huge height, he proved a more than useful back-up option for Smethurst, bowling key spells at key moments (Walsden, Burton Cup semi-final for one). Nearly caused a riot at Radcliffe, but it was worth it!
THE DAWSONS: The mainstay of the side. Phil needs to figure out a way to start scoring at the top of the order again, but he has done it before and just needs to work hard. Simon and Andy were the cutting edge to the Heywood bowling attack, while Andy was the one middle order batsmen who continually delivered, winning matches (esp. at Oldham and Clifton) for his side. The pair’s bowling with the new and older ball was excellent to see, and both should, if they get their heads right (a big if!), be opening the bowling for Heywood next season.
THE KEEPER: At 16, Scott Jones is proving himself to be a real prospect. Standing up to Ricky P, he has learned the hard way the need to stay low to take balls on bad wickets, or keep hold of balls bouncing steeply on wet tracks. He really has come on in leaps and bounds and I am glad Roger gave him his chance all season. His batting is useful too – a biffer – but his glovework really stood out and bodes well. He thinks he has captaincy potential, but he doesn’t know the fielding positions. Plenty to work on Scott.
THE YOUNGSTERS: Most of the team are young, but there are under-18s and under-15s that are showing exceptional promise. Andy Dawson has been documented already, but Wes Hunt really looked the part at times this season and should be a first-team regular before long, scoring lots of runs through the leg side. Along with Jones – already mentioned – Dom Fawcett has shown signs all season that he has the temperament and ability to do really well, and his 50 in the run chase at Clifton a couple of weeks ago is a real boost to him. He should be guaranteed a place high up the order all next season. And then there is Ben Thulborn at just 14. He showed his promise in the last couple of games and, like Fawcett, will benefit immensely from a season in the top five.
To sum up the season, however, I’d say Heywood are almost, almost, a side capable of sweeping all before them. With the ball, they are the best team I have seen this season. That’s not being biased, it’s just an observation. They have pace and guile and variety, and have plenty of back-up options when needed. They back this up with some good fielders used to fielding on Crimble, with good arms and hands (most of the time).
However, to really succeed the team needs to score more runs in the top four. Way too often the middle order has come in under too much pressure and it has only been the quality bowling and top innings from time to time from Hunt, Andy Dawson and Smethurst, that has got them out of trouble. People like Chris Booth, Jones and Purser have also contributed at times to help Heywood set decent targets that they shouldn’t have done. Then the bowling has come good and won the game.
I’ll finish by naming my player of the season and my one to watch.
PLAYER OF SEASON: It comes down to two players. Andy Dawson dug his side out of many holes this season with both bat and ball, form which earned him call-ups to the first team. However, I am sure Andy would still expect more. For me, however, there is no doubt the player of the season is Rick Purser. He has led from the front, scored vital runs when needed and taken bucketfuls of wickets opening the bowling. His nine wickets against Clifton were memorable, and he finished the season with six against Walsden in the rain-affected game. In between there were numerous key performances, and it’s testament to his impact that teams actually talk about having a plan against him! At 55 his enthusiasm is unquenchable and he is a brilliant example to his young team-mates.
ONE-TO-WATCH: Ben Thulborn. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he will be a top player for this club if given the right chance. He’s good in the field and has the onside strokes which separate the excellent players from the merely good. He is also willing to learn, and next season should see him come of age.
I’ll be picking my 10 best pictures of the season for the seconds shortly too.
Same with the firsts. Hope I have not upset anyone. Don’t take anything too seriously.
Enjoy winter and get ready for a belting season next year.
- Clifton Swept Aside As Seconds March Through To Second Round Of Burton Cup
- BURTON CUP FINAL: The Route To The Final
- BURTON CUP FINAL: Victory Would Give Smethurst Greatest Pleasure
- BURTON CUP FINAL: We’re Prepared For A Massive Test
- Seconds Come Unstuck After Poor Performance With Ball
- Top Order Collapse Kills Seconds’ Hopes
- Talented Youngsters Help Seconds Recover Their Mojo
- Seconds Bounce Back To Defeat Clifton
- Smethurst: Plenty To Improve On Despite Opening Day Success
- Roger Smethurst’s Second Team Review Of Season (At Last)