The Tigers’ third season ultimately turned out to be one of slight disappointment, despite finishing with a winning margin of 11 victories against ten defeats. Continuing their excellent form of 2013, the team won seven of the first eight games, but then finished with 9 defeats in the last 13 matches.
There were a number of reasons for the downturn, most notably lack of commitment from some members: only eight players were available for two of the fixtures and the side took the field on four occasions with only ten players. Constant rotation of the captain was not conducive to a winning formula, nor was the lack of bowling resources which emerged in the second part of the season, all contributing to the team being unable to defend reasonable totals against strong batting sides.
Nevertheless, there were many positives, including victories over Eastons and Cincinnati, avenging the only two defeats of 2013 (the former being the most exciting finish of the season), retention of the Nelson Cup and a highly successful trip to Oporto, where the Tigers obtained two convincing wins.
The batting held up reasonably well, a total of 3652 runs being scored for 144 wickets at an average of 174 per innings or 25.36 per wicket, as compared to 2013 (where one match less was played) of 3690 runs for only 115 dismissals at 184 per innings or 32 per wicket. Chrises Wright and Dane continued their excellent form, as did Barnaby Pinfield and Mike Herlihy. Ian Porton and Stewart Taylor also contributed big runs and Mike Delanian was a consistent run-getter despite not achieving a really big score. Chris Wright contributed the only century of the summer (100 not out in Oporto) and there were 16 scores of 50 or more by seven different batsmen.
But it was in the bowling department where things began to go wrong in the second half of the season. Only Matt Webster, with 22 wickets in 14 innings, showed any consistency. Chris Dane, Stewart Taylor and Steve Bignell bagged many wickets in the first part of the summer, but could not buy one between them in the last few matches, whilst Chris Wright plugged away valiantly without too much fortune. Ian Daffern and Mike Delanian raised their respective profiles from occasional bowlers and John McGirr weighed in with useful wickets on his guest appearances.
Despite this dearth of bowling prosperity there were a number of notable achievements, including three five-wicket hauls. Mike Delanian mesmerised the Cincinnati batting in the Paulin Ground gloom to bag 6-31 (the club’s best ever figures); Steve Bignell bamboozled Graces early in the season with 5-33 and Simon Warren’s accuracy on a low wicket in Winchester bagged him 5-29. In addition, Stewart Taylor took the club’s first hat-trick against Sunderland in the Nelson Cup.
In the fielding department, 62 catches were taken as opposed to 63 the year before in one
game fewer. The plan for Jimmy Carter to take over as wicket-keeper was put on hold when he broke a finger early on and was not available for a number of matches. Barnaby Pinfield, Ian Porton, Dave Rawlings and Steve Bignell shared the glove duties, producing some notable catches and stumpings. In general, the fielding held up well despite some creaking old bodies.
Craig Murray and Richard Burgess captained the side well, albeit in slightly different ways. Craig led by example, frequently contributing some useful runs and wickets himself and excelling in the field, whilst Richard came up with some interesting innovations which usually paid off, though he personally had a disappointing season with the bat. Phil Hill, Gisli Bergmann, Jimmy Carter, Chris Boden and Steve Rennie also made some positive input in the matches they were able to play.
However, the main bone of contention remains players’ availability. Out of a club fully paid membership of 18 only 5 managed to play more than two-thirds of the fixtures, whilst another six only managed more than half, leaving seven who contributed very little. Recruitment of some new (hopefully younger) players is therefore going to be vital if the club is to move forward. In total 28 players were utilised over the season, including guest players in five fixtures, as compared to 25 players in 2013, with 3 guests in just one match.