A Review of the 2023 Season
A very wet Spring saw the bottom half of the outfield completely waterlogged and just 4 out of 20 scheduled April fixtures completed and we did not play a single game at Forest Side until Monday May 1. Ironically the square was playable and had been since the beginning of April.
The lack of pre-season games saw the First XI not play until the League Cup tie away at Hornchurch, and we entered that game with just one of the side that seven months earlier had so convincingly won the trophy. The side had been decimated with a few players having left, two having family matters to now deal with and various other reasons. Chairman of Cricket Jamie Hill took it upon himself to take on a Team Management role and help steady what was initially a rocky ship. As the weeks went by things settled down and although a few of the missing players returned one by one in the meantime we had the Premier Division and its demands to contend with. Inevitably we began the season out of the League Cup and the League campaign with 5 straight defeats but there were signs of improvement as the games went on with a win at Hutton in mid-June and then two excellent consecutive wins against Wanstead and Brentwood in July gave reason for hope of staying up. As the weeks went by we were locked in a relegation battle with Buckhurst Hill and Loughton with 2 from 3 to take the drop. In the end it came down to what was effectively a winner takes all game away to Loughton on 26 August. Chingford scored 258 but the second innings was rain affected with a revised Duckworth Lewis target of 172 from 25 overs being needed. At 119-7 victory looked a formality but the Loughton no8 had other ideas and his 53 in 34 balls took his side home with 2 balls to spare. Inevitably 12 defeats in the 18 games tell its own story and we were never going to stay up with that record. Best performers were Tom Balkwill with 474 runs at 36, Sehan Weerasinghe 439 at 39 and Joe Byrnes 392 at 49. With the ball we were short of quality seam bowling but the excellent off spin of Sehan Weerasinghe did capture 16 wickets with an economy rate of just 3.36.
With so many players having to shuffle up the teams we were somewhat more than a little bit worried about the prospects of the 2s, 3s and 4s who had all been promoted up a Division in 2022. We need not have worried as these sides all more than held their own at the higher level and a lot of credit for this goes down to the yards of hard work put in by Mark Campbell and Ian Butcher over the last few years that is now providing a well stocked conveyor belt of match ready and talented Colts and was reflected in a Club record breaking number of Colts fixtures being played.
The Second XI, back in the Premier Division performed a bit erratically but 5 wins was enough to secure 8th place but a comfortable 18 points clear of the drop zone. Kishen Patel was outstanding in the 5 games he played, rattling up 470 runs while Peter Stone (290) and Harry Houldsworth (271) made good contributions. With the ball George Duke led the way with 22 wickets, well backed up by young leg spinner prospect Tomas Biswas (17) and the evergreen Richard Offord (17)
The 3rds were one point tantalisingly short of a return to the Premier Division so had to settle for 3rd place in Division 1. Following a change of Groundsman at the Peter May the playing surface was restored to something significantly upgraded and Ali Butt (622), Usman Younas (516) and Nic Knight (388) took full advantage. With the ball Steve Thorne (28), Raja Tariq (26) and Scott Prestedge (19) led the way.
The 4th team finished a creditable 4th in the Premier Division West and it could possibly had been better if the early season form had been maintained. Usual suspects Bernard Storm (535) and Stuart Cox (308) dominated the batting with a useful 203 added by promising colt Bilal Ahmed. Again with the ball it was Bernard Storm (19) and Stuart Cox (17) leading the way.
Ian Butcher had volunteered to run a 5th xi playing friendlies all away from home to provide a pathway from the Colts into senior cricket. His plan was well thought out and executed and not once at all did we struggle for numbers. 9 games were played in a window early May to mid-July and 3 games were won including a fantastic victory at Herongate. Batting wise, the side did rely on a few “older heads” to hold things together and occupy the crease as some of the youngsters did not quite come to grips with the prospect of batting in a longer game but if the learning takes place it will all have been worthwhile. Bowling-wise there was an abundance of talent on display and the likes of Greg Heath, Adyan Waseef, Zaen Aasaf and Jared Smith all look unlikely to be in the 5ths for long !
The Sunday XI had an incredible season with a record of P18 W16 D1 L1 once we finally got the season under way. The Chess Valley League Division 3 Title was secured with a record of P9 W7 L1 A1. Harry Houldsworth hit an incredible 918 runs at an average of 102, testimony to all the hard work he has put in on his technique the nets over the Winter and one for others looking to improve their game to mimmick. With Tom Balkwill also averaging >100 with 549 and Ali Butt (629) and Ross Simmons (449) regularly amongst the runs at times it became very difficult to give everyone a game. With the ball six bowlers took double figure wickets but spinners George Duke (42) and Talal Sultan (25) led the way.
Sunday 20 August saw the Chess Valley League game against London Maccabi Vale.. The day proved a Chingford Statisticians delight as Joe Byrnes (224*) first broke the Club Individual Score record and with opening partner Harry Houldsworth (191*) they smashed the previous Club Record Partnership with an undefeated stand of 436. Congratulations to both. Incidentally Chingford won the game by 306 runs, another record - for a win batting first.
At Chingford we do incredibly well with our friendly cricket and fulfil a Cricket Week, Bank Holiday Senior Fixtures and schedule a programme of 26 Sunday fixtures plus pre-season and end of season Saturday games, which must be the envy of so many Clubs.
Planning permission was finally granted by LBWF for a block of 4 storey flats on the derelict stables site next to the scorebox so the outlook in that corner is likely to change in the coming years. A Crowdfunder with the aid of some grants and donations was planned and proved to be successful and works for a complete refurbishment of the Cricket School should shortly come to reality.