October 2014 - Malmesbury CC

It was a close run thing in Wiltshire League Division 1 but Malmesbury pipped Wootton Bassett to the title in the last few weeks of the season following a battle between the two for most of the second half of the year.

You lost to Bassett in early August with them chasing down 230 to win by 1 wicket. That must have been a devastating blow to the team, how was morale at that point?

 We thought we had blown it! In our home game, that Bassett also won we hadn’t really shown our best but had the worst of the conditions on the day. This time we had posted a competitive score and seemed to be in control about three quarters of the way through their innings only to drop the guy who went on to win the game in the last over.

And then of course Collingbourne went and beat Bassett 3 weeks later to record only their 2nd win of the year (at that point) and leave you needing to win on the last weekend to guarantee the title. There must have been a few prayers said when that result came in!

We were away to Bradford Town when the first report came though on Twitter of Collingbourne’s win. We dismissed it as I think we had wound the Bassett skipper up the week before in a similar way and so, only really got confirmation the following day.

You only lost twice all year, ironically both times to Wootton Bassett, and in fairness a lot of your victories were pretty comfortable. What was the secret to your success?

Batting. The statistics are undeniable. Over 50 runs for each wicket all season. Our number 10 & 11 never got out in to the middle. This took the pressure off the bowlers and even compensated for the occasional bad day in the field.

For a club of Malmesbury's stature, with a proud history in the higher divisions of local cricket, it must have been a tremendously well received title. When did you know you were confirmed as champions and how did you celebrate?

As soon as the skippers six bounced off the fence to win the last game we knew that regardless of what happened at Bassett they couldn’t catch us. The game was over early and by the time the 2nd XI returned from their away game the celebratory BBQ had all been eaten and the party went on late into the evening. We have some traditional ‘bar games’ that we play including bar long jump and drinking games involving golf balls and they all came out.

A return to the Wiltshire Division of WEPL is a huge incentive, for all sides in the Wiltshire League. It's a strong division you're returning to, what's the feeling in the club about your chances next year?

We are confident but, hopefully, not complacent. We lose some of our youngsters to university early on and have to address a lack of squad depth over the winter but I would be disappointed if we don’t take the winning formula that we had this year, into next season.

James Gillespie had a stunning year for the club, scoring crucial centuries at the back end of the season and contributing runs though the year, finishing with 853, comfortably his best year for the club. Just put into context how valuable he was to this success?

 James has always been a consistent player and technically very accomplished. We gave him a run in our 1st XI when he was 15 and although he typically only scored 20s or 30s he batted for long periods. We were happy to encourage him to bat as long as possible and this season he put away the bad ball but also dominated bowlers who were bowling well.

You've put a high value on developing young players at the club, of which James is one. This policy has obviously borne fruit in 2014. Are there others we need to keep an eye on?

Josh Langley led the bowling attack at 17yrs with 33 League wickets. This year with James Gillespie at university in Nottingham, look out for James Gaunt to step up and contribute runs.

You've also developed an Academy within the club this year. How has that been received and what have you learned from its implementation in its first year.

The Academy is crucial to developing players and extending the cricket opportunities available from our group sessions only to group and one-to-one coaching. We, perhaps, do things differently to other Academies in that our sessions are free and open to all members and so we find that mainly those youngsters with a real drive to learn take up the sessions regardless of their current ability. The ethos is that we value raising the game of any player rather than just the elite.

The club's second team didn't fare quite so well this year but you also run a development side in partnership with local Charlton CC in the Cotswold & District League. How did that come about and how successful has it been as a concept?

Although we have had a 'successful' year we are conscious that our depth is not what it needs to be to continue that success. We are at the same stage with our 2ndXI that we were with our 1stXI three years ago. We have committed to a number of very young players as the core of the 2nds and are prepared to support them through to maturity just as we have with our 1sts. The collaboration with Charlton CC is vital to this aim most of Charlton’s adult players have kids who attend Malmesbury school and our Junior sessions so the collaboration came out of conversations held after these sessions. Malmesbury do not have a second ground in the area on which to create, a 3rd & 4th XI and even if we did we believe that trying to run too many teams could  be detrimental to the viability of close-by village sides. Charlton have totally bought into the idea of providing a platform for our young players and some of the older ones too, adopting a Code of Conduct in-line with our Clubmark status.

Quick singles...

How long have you been in existence? Until recently we thought 1870s but recently a local historian brought us newspaper cuttings from the 1830s describing cricket at Malmesbury and even at our Wortheys ground.

Describe the club in 3 words? Inclusive, Community, Cricket (because cricket is what it’s ultimately all about)

Who were your best batter / bowler / fielder in 2014?
*Batter: James Gillepsie 853 runs @ 85.3.
*Bowler: Josh Langley 33 wickets @ 14,
*Fielder: Our wicket keeper, Michael Collison is high quality and very consistent.

What is the proudest club moment to date? Since I have been here? I can’t look beyond this season but The Western League wins in the 70s & 80s must be higher.

Who was your toughest opponent this year? Easy one. Wotton Bassett. It’s only a matter of when and not if for their progression through the Leagues. Box pushed us close as well.

Where were the best teas in the league this year? Collingbourne.

Nicest ground you played at this year? We are lucky, overlooked by an Abbey, surrounded by fields but Hinton and Urchfont are pleasant and Ramsbury in Div4 is impressive.

Which club had the best showers in Division 1? Not us! I think we could all do with a bit of attention to this detail. I would expect Bassett’s new facilities to be Premier League standard.

And finally...if you could sign any player in world cricket for 2015 who would you get? AB De VIlliers although I don’t think we could afford the lost ball bill!