By Dan Carpenter
After a reasonably successful debut campaign which saw a 3rd place finish in Division 5 last year, Melksham Cricket Club came into the 2018 season hoping they could go one better and gain promotion during what would prove to be a blisteringly hot summer.
The season began with the long-awaited opening of the club’s new pavilion, built to replace the old building gutted by fire during the 2016 season, and the occasion could not have been marked in better fashion with a brutal 9-wicket win over Biddestone 3s. Gary Ings set the tempo with a destructive opening spell of 4-7 off 9 overs, blowing away Biddestone’s top order. This combined with Jack Footner’s 4-28 condemned the opposition to a meagre 75 all out; a target chased down with ease mostly thanks to a solid 36 not out from skipper on the day Matt Hunt.
This impressive start continued with two brilliant wins away from home which were indebted to some stand-out performances with the bat. First came a 113-run success at Royal Wootton Bassett 3s, with Joe Veacock and Russell Collins leading the charge with 111 and 112 respectively. The following game away to Bathford yielded similar batting heroics. Having somewhat toiled in the field earlier in the day, taking only 4 wickets as the opposition posted 198, opening batsman Daniel Carpenter (96*) and Tom Wallis (75) made a statement for themselves. The pair made an opening stand of 159 to engineer an 8-wicket win; a win that left Melksham sitting pretty at the top of the table 3 games into the season.
Melksham’s supremacy would soon be challenged though, first by a visit from Wanborough. The home-side once more endured a somewhat luke-warm afternoon in the field, restricting their opponents to 169 but only taking 5 wickets. The chase would prove to be a thrilling one full of ups and downs, with Matt Hunt, Joe Veacock and captain Rich Hemmings all contributing scores of 30+. In a nail-biting climax, it would be Gary Ings who would see his side over the line, hitting a six off the first ball of the penultimate over to wrap up a 2-wicket victory to continue the fine start to the season.
The team would quickly be brought back down to earth however the following week during the visit to Erlestoke. New-man Matt Lee made a positive first impression, conceding just 24 off 9 overs in his opening spell. This would prove to be one of few positive points from the 1st innings as the impressive Joe Dorgan launched an explosive late innings blitz upon the Melksham bowling attack, finishing with 110 off just 51 balls to see his side to 284-4. The batmen were able to muster a spirited response, with Tom Wallis scoring his 2nd fifty of the season with 69, but ultimately still fell way short as Melksham lost both their 100% record and their place at the top of the table.
The visit of struggling Collingbourne proved to be the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways. The bowlers recovered from their recent woes to put in a performance reminiscent of their opening day salvo, bowling the opposition out for just 75, with Chris Singh (4-20) the pick of the attack. The low target was chased down with ease by opening batsmen Daniel Carpenter (42*) and Tom Wallis (26*) as Melksham claimed a 10-wicket win to immediately regain top-spot. This win was backed up with another victory the following week away to fellow title chasers Westbury 2s. Daniel Carpenter (70), Russell Collins (66) and Joe Veacock (65) all claimed fifties as a comfortable 87-run win was achieved to continue the team’s rampant form. In the following game at home to Goatacre 3s that form was almost derailed thanks to a quickfire 117 from opposition batsmen Pete Turner, but Melksham were able to display tremendous grit to claw themselves back into the match. Eventually they secured a 4-wicket triumph thanks largely to a heroic fifty from Chris Singh. 8 games into the season, in imperious form and top of the table, Melksham were flying high.
The season would suddenly derail however with a trip to Purton 2s. Having been made to suffer in the field during the 1st innings, conceding 227-4, the team’s up until then dependable batting form deserted them in dramatic fashion. Melksham were bowled out for a humiliating 68 inside 18 overs, providing something of a reality check at the season’s halfway-stage for a team that up until that stage had been scoring runs for fun. The following week’s fixture, away to Biddestone 3s, could not have been a greater contrast though. Matt Hunt scored an impressive 128 off 115 balls, which in most games would have been the stand-out performance. He would be overshadowed though by skipper Joe Veacock, who ravaged the Biddestone bowling attack with a ballistic innings of 154 off just 78 balls, hitting 16 fours and 11 sixes along the way. Their efforts saw Melksham post a club record score of 355-4 which was easily defended, putting the previous week’s demons behind them in the most unequivocal fashion.
The following week saw another win at home to Wootton Bassett 3s, although this time by a significantly tighter margin. After a somewhat laboured batting performance, Melksham put in probably their best performance in the field of the season to edge out Bassett to win by 25 runs; Chris Long and Chris Singh the standout performers with the ball with 4 and 3 wickets respectively. This game would however prove to be precursor to a horrendous run of results which threated to unravel the season. First game a shock defeat to bottom of the table Bathford. The team put in another below par performance with the bat in the 1st innings, scoring a meagre 158. A couple of dropped catches at key moments during the 2nd innings saw Bathford secure a surprise but thoroughly deserved win at Melksham’s expense. A trip to by then run-away league leaders Wanborough would serve only to deepen the team’s woes. A 1st batting horror show of a similar ilk to the Purton game saw Melksham slump to just 63 all out, with only one batsman reaching double figures, as Wanborough won by 7 wickets. The final nail in the coffin for Melksham’s promotion hopes appeared to have been nailed with the visit of Erlestoke, in a game which mirrored the fixture between the two sides earlier in the season. Joe Dorgan once more put to bowlers the sword as Erlestoke blitzed their way to 299-8. Despite Melksham putting in a vastly improved batting performance, posting 190 in response, a 3rd defeat in the road appeared to have finished any aspirations of a successful season that the side had harboured.
As the up until then glorious weather of the summer vanished along with the team’s form, Melksham faced a long trip away to basement side Collingbourne. The fixture proved to be a wash out as Melksham’s winless streak was extended to four games, although not before Russell Collins scored a stand-out innings of 80 on an extremely volatile wicket that at time bordered on dangerous. The elusive win would finally be achieved at home to Westbury 2’s. An impressive display by the bowlers, spearheaded by Matt Lee (3-19) and Jack Footner (3-14), saw the by then mid-table side slump to 115 all out, a target chased down with relative ease as Joe Veacock smashed his way to another quickfire fifty. The end of season renaissance would continue during the penultimate game of the season away to Goatacre 3s. The home-side were able to post a respectable 189-8 during the first innings, but this seemingly difficult target was chased down almost effortlessly thanks to fifties from Tom Wallis and Matt Hunt as well another quickfire slog from Joe Veacock. On that same evening, the season would be suddenly reinvigorated by the shock news of the defeat of Erlestoke at the hands of struggling Collingbourne, a defeat which reopened the possibility of Melksham finishing in a promotion spot.
A dramatic end of season finale ensued the following week at home to Purton 2s. Batting first Melksham were able to post a commanding total of 252, thanks largely to the efforts of Joe Veacock (95) and Matt Hunt (75). Although Purton initially threatened to chase the target, a stubborn opening partnership was eventually broken down and the wickets soon tumbled, effectively securing victory on the day. However, word filtered through that an emphatic 8-wicket win for Erlestoke meant that in order to secure enough bonus points to attain promotion, Melksham would need to bowl Purton all out. The boys kept their nerve well throughout the closing stages of the innings, regularly taking wickets throughout; Chris Long (3-38) and Jack Footner (2-25). Nevertheless, the wicket-hunt would go almost to the wire. It would not be until the last ball of the penultimate over when Matt Hunt, who over the course of the season had treated his teammates to a comical succession of dropped catches, made himself the unlikely hero with an expertly held catch at leg gully off Joe Veacock’s bowling to secure promotion, sending his teammates in wild ecstasy and end the season in a triumphant manner.
Overall, with promotion secured on the final day of the season; 2018 can be considered a very successful one for Melksham. This is without doubt down to the fantastic effort by the players throughout the campaign. Chris Long was the standout bowler, picking up an impressive 21 league wickets closely followed by Chris Singh and Jack Footner who managed 18 and 17 respectively. Andy Footner one again showed his class with an economy rate of just 2.81- a fine effort from the veteran bowler. With the bat, not one ton was hit in the 2017 season; in contrast, 4 were hit in 2018 so special mention to captain Joe Veacock who scored a massive 154 vs Biddestone and 111 vs Royal Wootton Bassett. Shout out also to Matt Hunt who scored 128* vs Biddestone and Russ Collins who scored 112 vs Royal Wootton Bassett. Runs were shared about in the 2018 season, with 5 batsmen all scoring well over 300 runs each with Joe Veacock and Matt Hunt being the pick of the bunch, scoring 661 runs at an average of 47.21 and 488 runs at an average of 48.80 respectively. Special mention to Dan Carpenter who showed a huge improvement with the bat, scoring 372 runs and hitting his first ever 50 with a score of 96* vs Bathford. In the new season, Melksham will have to work on their fielding however with some absolute shockers being dropped (Matt Hunt- I’m looking at you!). Jack Footner once again showed his safe hands- taking 5 league catches whilst Tom Wallis and Andy Footner also took 5 each.
Finally, a huge thank you must go to the supporters and volunteers of Melksham Cricket Club, without whom, there would be no club.
Thank you to Auto-Tech Melksham Ltd for their support and kind sponsorship for the 2018 season.
BRING ON 2019!