16 Sep 2012 - David Harkin
After successfully being promoted back into the Kent Premiership at the first time of trying, the Vine Second team were looking to stay in the Premiership in 2012. To be crowned champions, was not expected, but was thoroughly well deserved. The 2012 Season proved to be memorable, especially because it took to the 6th game of the season (18 in total) to register their first win.
The season, as expected, was a tough start. It always is at the Vine and is something we will keep attempting to improve over the coming season. With the football season finishing, University boys away and school cricket happening, amateur cricket, not just at the Vine, always struggles in April and May. We are no different. However, the Vine did get 3 full sides out and attempted to be competitive. The first game of the season against Bexley was called off and then 3 tough fixtures versus Bickley Park, Sandwich and Tunbridge Wells followed. An unstable top order and poor fielding meant the Vine struggled in all three fixtures and confidence was low after the defeat at the Nevill against an upbeat Wells attack. Winning the league at this point was not even a glimmer. It would take something special to really kick start the season.
The Vine took a more experience Second eleven away against struggling Lordswood. After losing the toss and being asked to bat on a slightly overcast afternoon the Vine turned to openers Anthony Shales and Greg Adams to get us off to a good start. What followed was one of the best displays of batting ever seen in the Kent League. Shales, coming back from injury, looked as though he had invented the game of cricket, attacked Lordswood openers before destroying the rest of the Lordswood attack. He raced to 50 in the first 8 overs and then gallantly went pass a returning 100 in the 17th. Reverse Sweeps, Cover Drivers, Pull Shots, everything in the manual Shales displayed. He continue to race to 150 before Adams went pass an impressive 50 at the other end. Captain David Harkin really couldn’t believe his eyes as Shales took off his helmet, raised his bat and become the first Vine man to score 200 in a Saturday league game. It was a special moment, achieved in 106 balls, 27 fours and 11 sixes. The Vine picked up a winning draw and a run of wins followed.
The Vine bowled Dartford out for 113 (Julius Cowdrey 4-13) and knocked them off in 24 overs, chased down a very difficult 213 versus Blackheath on a rain effected game of the Vine (Adams 66* and Day 36*) and then rolled Hartley for 111 (Miles Richardson 4-11) and knocked them off in 23 overs away at their place. The early defeats of the season soon were forgotten and the Vine lifted themselves out of the bottom two and started to look upwards.
The seconds then welcomed our local rivals Bromley to the Vine. Typically aside who have always got the better of us over the years, this would prove to be a test of how well and far the side had come over the last 4 weeks. The Vine got off to a great start with Miles Richardson and Simon Parkinson, but after some weak shots a score of 200+ faded away. Captain Harkin and Timothy Shaw (30*) made some late blows to take the Vine to 175/6, a competitive, but not a great score. However the Vine came out after tea and began to shape their season as Gethins and Goodworth did the damage. A season changing spell by Mike Thompson 3-7, meant the Vine ended up bowling Bromley out for 112 and taking a super 20 points.
The Vine destroyed Bexley away, bowling them out for 76 and then came the most important game of the season away againstSandwich. Simon Parkinson was stand in skipper and did a sterling job. The Vine posted a competitive 166, again thanks to a late set of blows by Timothy Shaw (42) and looked completely up against it when Sandwich were 89/0 at drinks (25 overs). However Parkinson had 3 top class spinners in his team who began to turn the game on its head. Slowly but surely the wickets began to tumble. At one point Sandwich needed 4 to win with 2 wickets left and some great death bowling by Cowdrey and a well caught catch by John Gethins, left the Vine celebrating like at no other point all season, nicking a victory by 2 runs and a crucial 20 points. All 10 wickets were picket up by the 3 spinners – Julius Cowdrey (5-36), Maurice Holmes (2-42) and Tom Coldman (3-38). Now the Vine believed they could win the league.
A fantastic hundred on the Vine by Miles Richardson (108) against Tunbridge Wells teed up a winning draw against them as the Vine couldn’t displace young James Meddling and Nigel Keess. Mikey Thompson (105*) came out firing the flowing weekend against Lordswood, with the Vine this time doing the job and bowling them out for 152. The Vine then were frustrated away against Dartford, after they decided to not even attempt to chase down a competitively posted 225 by Sevenoaks, with Simon Parkinson (58) and a super Alex Rayner (55). However with 3 games remaining the Vine knew that 2 victories were needed to secure the title.
Simon Parkinson scored his first hundred (103) in 5 years on a blistering hot day away against Blackheath, but although a high 256 score from Sevenoaks, it would prove to be 30-40 runs too short on a cracking track as Blackheath decided to make the last two games a nervy finish for the Vine against Hartley and Bromley.
Hartley, smug from the year before stealing the championship on the Vine, were in a very different position this season facing relegation, came to the Vineyard with a much stronger outfit that early in the year. When the covers came off and the game reduced to 30 overs a side, the Vine strolled out onto the dampest wicket, with no idea how the pitch would play. However, a focused Richardson (50) and Parkinson (49) pretty much single handled won the game in the first 10 overs, destroying Hartley with some huge shots, taking their breath away. A surprised Harkin, was delighted to see the team post 167, with Ed Goodworth hitting some big blows in the last over, but knew that Hartley had the potential to strike back.
Goodworth and Richardson got the Vine off to a good start and then it was down to our double act, Maurice Holmes and Julius Cowdrey to start to pin Hartley down. With news coming in that many of the grounds inKentwere struggling to finish their games, it soon became apparent that the Vine had an outside chance of winning the league there and then. With Hartley out of the running in the chase, the Vine needed 3 wickets in the last two overs. Holmes knocked one over and Cowdrey clean bowled a tail ender first ball of the last over. A swift fielding change and soon celebrations were at their highest as Greg Adams caught the number 11 and Cowdrey finished of with 4-31, but importantly the Vine sneaked a 20points from no where and were crowned champions with a game to go. A messy night would follow!!!
The last game the Vine went away to Bromley and put in one of the performances of the season after being 20/4 after the first 10 overs. Oscar King didn’t seem to notice, and smoked 50 from 36 balls before Matthew Boardman hit a very tidy 48 to take the Vine to 188. The Vine bowlers bowled tightly and began to restrict Bromley well, meaning they fell short, the Vine picked up a winning draw and 2012 was finished. Champions at the first time of trying and 17 points clear of Sandwich, proving how important that game was.
2012 was a brilliant season. Without a victory until June no one would have expected it. Consistence at the top of the order with Parkinson, Richardson, Adams and Thompson was one of the major factors. The middle order in Boardman, Rayner, Iqbal, King, etc hit important knocks when it counted. Of course Shales innings was one of the most memorable in recent years. The Vine also had a frightening bowling attack with seamers Richardson, Gethins, Goodworth, Shaw, Thompson and young Mikey Smith showed his promise and real spin options in Cowdrey, Holmes, Coldman at times and Rayner. However the side gelled this year. The banter was brilliant. Experience and youth combined and the players really developed. 2013 we must not be complacent. Our aim will be to stay in the league and be competitive again. Our stars of 2012 must push on and become bigger stars in 2013, many of which have, quite rightly, first team ambitions.
We must say a huge thank you to Pip Burrows and John Harkin who picked up the mantle this season of the umpiring (and Mike Patterson who stood in on a couple of times) and of course Susan Harkin who did many of our home teas. We had great support with Andy Richardson joining us at most games too – more support in 2013 is welcomed! Thank you lads for a great year, a proud year to be captain. Roll on 2013 our 279th season of cricket on the Vine.