By Michael Murray

The 35 scheduled matches of the Martlets 2014 season resulted in 9 wins, 10 losses, 2 ties, 5 draws (inc 1 with scores level), four cancellations and five abandonments due to the weather.

Of the games cancelled, only one was as a result of the Martlets not being able to raise a side, while the other 3 were down to the opposition. Of the 131 players who represented the Martlets in 2014, 63 were bona-fide members, which represents a slight increase on previous years, but still points to a heavy reliance on guests to make up the teams. The cricket sub-committee has looked at this and will offer greater support to match managers in getting teams together in 2015.

Turning to individual performances, Ben Speake and Darryl Rebbetts both boasted 2 centuries apiece and impressive averages of over 100, but the leading run scorer in 2014 was Adam Davies, who amassed 4 centuries in 10 innings on his way to an aggregate of 728 runs. Charles Davies (Adam’s twin brother) topped the bowling charts with 18 wickets, including two 5-wicket hauls.

The first action of the season was against the MCC at Arundel Castle and the weather once again played a part, though not in the usual way! After the use of the Arundel weather radar had resulted in the prescient decision to play a 30-over-a-side match in 2013 that finished just before the predicted downpour, a similar forecast led to the same overs reduction in 2014. However, the weather deceived everyone. The wind picked up and took the dark clouds away and the game ended at 2pm in bright sunshine, which remained for the rest of the afternoon. The Martlets won the toss and batted.

Brad Gayler (62) and Adam Davies (73) batted more or less throughout to get us to 168 for 4. Sadly, this was not nearly enough, as the MCC polished it off for the loss of just one wicket with 6 overs to spare.

The first win of the season was achieved in the following match at Brighton College. The incessant rain of the previous fortnight meant that the College wicket was going to be even slower & lower than usual, but with one of the opening bowlers still en route to the ground from a casting session in London, the Martlets opted to bat first. Old Brightonian Adam Davies was again in the runs and provided the backbone of the Martlets innings. It was his battling knock of 72, ably supported by 20s from Adam Scott and Paddy Jadeja that allowed us to post a competitive total of 173 from our 35 overs.

In the field we were quickly on the defensive, though, as young Calum Waters proceeded to bat as if he needed to get somewhere in a hurry, which it turned out that he did! Before departing for some A-level tutoring, he smashed the Martlets bowling to all parts and when he was finally bowled by David Twine for a whirlwind 43 from 25 balls, Brighton College had raced to 65 in 7 overs. The home side were unable to capitalise on this start, as our bowlers settled down and started to turn the screw.

Three Bridges’ Kiwi Ben Speake was the pick of our bowling, taking 4 wickets (including 2 in successive balls) for just 17 runs, while David Twine recovered well from the early onslaught to grab 3. The College’s innings petered out at 111, leaving the Martlets winners by a handsome margin.

The fixture at Goodwood CC produced the first of the season’s nail-biting finishes, as well as Paul Walker’s first entry in the ‘Match Report of the Season’ competition: “For anyone present on this sunny afternoon, this match will live long in the memory. Forget 2005, forget 2009…..this was nail-biting, top quality cricket. Well, it was certainly nail-biting and it was cricket. There were numerous occasions, when even the clanking construction of the City of the Festival of Speed fell silent. Those lucky workers atop cranes and grandstands gasped at the sight of John Ashworth`s diving left-handed slip catch which removed the Aussie pro off Derek Horsham. They downed tools and looked on transfixed, as a remarkable last wicket partnership between Ashworth and Walker breathed life into an innings which had been heading towards catastrophe. When Lord March himself leant out of his bedroom window (apparently) to order his workers back to their toils, he too was spellbound by the drama unfolding in the far corner of his lawn. The very first ball was something of a wake-up call.

Unsportingly, Goodwood insisted that the “mulligan” rule was not to apply and The Treasurer returned to the picturesque pavilion bemused. An unplayable ball had popped up, stayed low…or words to that effect. In went young Louis Ramsey who with Mark Chapple steadied the ship somewhat. Chapple deserved more than his 20 and Ramsey was unlucky to score only 9. Joe Waylett looked solid, despite the scorebook recording he was stumped for a duck. Jason Galley, making his Martlets debut, was given out LBW by another debutant, Mr KC Lee, the umpire. The Skip, who had done his homework on the match official, had also given a Martlet debut to Martin Allen, football manager and media pundit. Martin had been Mr Lee`s hero at Upton Park when playing for the umpire`s beloved West Ham.

Will Rydon was the victim of another debatable LBW and it was only an attractive innings of 32 from Craig Talbot that got the Martlets to 124-9 when Walker senior strode out for his customary Goodwood batting disaster. It was difficult to determine who was more surprised, Walker, his team or the opposition, when he and Ashworth declared 50 runs later on a much more respectable 174-9.

Tea was enjoyed under the cedars, before 20 minutes into their reply Goodwood collapsed to 14-5, Horsham and Ramsey having done the damage in fine style. Panic gripped the Martlets, however, as the prospect of an early return home to Countryfile and the children`s homework spread through the ranks. Yet the Skip had the answer. Shortly after bringing himself on, Goodwood sprang back to life and the 6th wicket didn’t fall until some 132 runs later! The game was becoming an epic. When Will Gammon was finally bowled by Chapple for 86 the tide began to turn. A run-out followed by an LBW to Chapple and a fine catch by Waylett off Horsham meant a Shakespearean climax. Goodwood still required 15 as Johnny Heaven entered the fray. The Martlets had given it everything…fantastic team spirit and a dogged determination. Yet it was not quite enough – Heaven dispatched Horsham for two emphatic 6s over the pavilion and the dream was over.”

Four victories followed against Newick, Christ’s Hospital, Seaford College and Warwickshire Pilgrims, the latter achieved against a strong side of Birmingham League players, thanks to a century from Adam Davies and a half-century described as “swashbuckling” from George Martin. West Chiltington & Thakeham CC denied the Martlets a fifth successive victory, as they held on for a draw with 9 wkts down and it was a similar story against Lancing Rovers, although Rovers were also very much in the hunt for victory, just 6 runs short when stumps were drawn.

The Martlets held the upper hand for large parts of the match against St James’s Montefiore CC at Arundel Castle, with Dom Keats’ 4 wickets helping to reduce St James’s to 108-7 at lunch, but contributions from two Martlets in the oppo’s ranks tilted the game in the Sussex League side’s favour.

Adam Davies’ 125 rescued the St James’s innings and Michael Murray’s ensuing 4 wickets meant that, despite a fine half-century from Darryl Rebbetts, the Martlets lost by 32 runs.

A fine victory was achieved at The County Ground against Brighton Brunswick. Our bowlers all displayed good control and determination in the face of a flat Hove wicket and one extremely short boundary to limit Brunswick to 219-8 in their allotted 40 overs. Despite a poor start to our reply, the Marlets won with an over to spare thanks to fine performances from Backhouse (67*), Phelps (53) and Campopiano (49).

The game at Tonbridge School against the Yellowhammers was a truly memorable one that produced the first of two ties. A young Martlet side (the manager was 12 years older than the next youngest player!) was gathered together to play on the Head at Tonbridge School. The Martlets won the toss and elected to bat on a typically flat wicket made for batting. At 10-2 from 6 it was a difficult start, losing Adam Davies and David Twine, but then Brad Gayler and Alistair Stanley came together to put on a 129 run partnership, with Brad scoring 81. Ali and Philip Ellwood then put on 100 for the fourth wicket, with Philip scoring an excellent 40. Ali continued to bat superbly well and when the manager joined him he continued on to his century in fine style off 104 balls. With a quick 29 off 12 balls from the manager to support Ali, the score moved briskly on to 310-5 when the Martlets declared with Ali scoring a superb 138* off 119 balls.

A generous half time declaration was rewarded as the Martlets took to the field for the 50 mins before tea to see Nick Kent and Rob Noble bowl superbly. Nick bowled four consecutive maidens whilst Rob took 4-29 at the other end leaving the Yellowhammers 43-4 at tea….perfect cricket so far from the Martlets.

However, the game was turned on its head by Chris Morgan as he dispatched every bowler around the park scoring 134 in just 99 balls. He was ably supported by some young Yellowhammers scoring some brisk runs too, including one 15 year old Tonbridge boy scoring a 50 off just 20 balls. In just 20 overs after tea, the Yellowhammers smashed 200-1 and the game looked like it would be over before the last 20 could begin. Fortunately a wicket from Ben Twine, some excellent spin bowling from Eddie Blake and Omkar Khot and then a superb second spell from Nick Kent, in which he took three wickets in three overs, took the score to 295-9 with 11 overs still left in the match. Runs still came freely as the 10th wicket partnership reached 309-9. David Twine then bowled a superb over to concede just one run to tie the scores. Rob Noble bowled the first ball of his next over, induced a leading edge from the no.8 (who was set on 37) and had him caught at extra cover to scenes of relief, jubilation and emotions at the most amazing fixture and tied result of the season. Rob quite deservedly recorded a rare five-wicket haul on the Head with 5-40 with Nick taking 4-52. In all, 620 runs and 15 wickets for a tie….

A victory against Osians CC, the sporting branch of a Mumbai auction house on their UK tour, was achieved thanks in large part to another Adam Davies century, before an unbeaten 150 from Kiwi Ben Speake was the highlight in the win over Cryptics CC.

In a season remarkable for the number of close finishes, the highlight, due to the occasion and venue, was probably the Martlets v Junior Martlets fixture on VPs Day. The details of this match are recorded in the Juniors section (see p. 9) so suffice it say here that Michael Murray’s excellent early declaration had two effects. First the closest of close finishes and second, the necessity for the older VPs present to be dispatched home a little earlier to avoid any need for coronary care.

Two days later, there was another extraordinary game at The Castle, against Lady Mary Mumford’s XI. Set a target of 252 for victory by the LMM XI, the Martlets innings started with a flourish of back-foot strokes and rapier-like square drives from the bat of skipper James Chadburn before he was dismissed for 32. Two further wickets before tea put us slightly behind before an authoritative innings of 55 from ex-Sussex man Toby Pierce put us back on track. The stage was set for a mighty innings and in strode Trubshaw. Wielding his bat like a battle axe, he proceeded to smite the Lady Mary XI attack to all parts, including burying John Barclay’s bowling into the sightscreen at the Castle end. But even he fell tamely for 39. Talbot quickly followed and the Martlets looked like they might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There was a hush in the close, 9 to win and the last man, Ben Speake, at the crease. But even he, off the back of a golden summer with the bat, couldn’t drag the Martlets over the line and incredibly we ended the game with the scores tied on 251 with 9 down. September saw Tim Dodd mastermind our regaining of the Sandy Ross trophy with a 77-run victory over Free Foresters, thanks to an innings of 110 from Kiwi Steven Rae and a miserly spell of 3-21 from The Secretary, before we ended the season with a 7-wicket loss in the resurrected fixture against Eton Ramblers at Arundel.