With defeat on the final weekend of the season, Stratford’s 1st XI were relegated from the Birmingham League Division 2.
Despite the hope following last seasons promotion and a winter which saw several new arrivals – overseas player Yassir Sirdar, batsmen Dave Bailey and the returning John Price, plus allrounder Perry Derrick – the team couldn’t find enough consistency in either batting or bowling to stay in the division.
The season started encouragingly, with victory away to Old Elizabethans – but 6 wickets for Mike Brown the following week couldn’t prevent defeat at home to Tamworth.
Dave Bailey scored an unbeaten 104 away to Stourbridge as Stratford chased 238 for the loss of 7 wickets. This was the first 1st XI century by a non-overseas batsman since 2013. Fortunes changed quickly though – in the very next game, Stratford were bowled out for 39 inside 21 overs in a humbling home loss to Womborne.
The team showed good strength of character to win their next two completed games – first by bowling Penkridge out for 94 in a tense 4-wicket win, with James Urquhart returned season-best figures of 5-29. C&R Hawks were then bowled out for 79 as Mike Brown and Ady Witts bowled unchanged to take 5 wickets each. Victory was easier said than done – after 6 ducks, Stratford scraped a 1-wicket win.
A trio of defeats followed to leave Stratford in danger of relegation at the end of July. A crucial defeat during August came at home to bottom club Stourbridge. After Ben Pigott’s 6-48 saw the visitors bowled out for 217, the hosts were all out for 164 with Dane Kirby carrying his bat for 72 not out.
Victory at home to Halesowen gave the team hope – Jake Salmon (122 from 106 balls) scored his first ton for the 1st XI – but defeat in the final two games of the season confirmed Stratford’s fate. They fell 11 runs short of the 181 needed to beat C&R Hawks before being bowled out for 158 in a 3-wicket loss away to Coventry & NW.
Stratford finished just 11 points shy of safety but ultimately didn’t do enough with bat or ball to stay up.
Dave Bailey topped the runs table, but was the only player to pass 50 more than 3 times, though Dane Kirby played some useful innings after being promoted from the 2nd XI midway through the season. The bowling attack was expertly led by captain Mike Brown who took 40 wickets (bettered only by 4 players in the division), but was shorn of last seasons leading wicket-taker Tom Grundy – first to injury, then to relocation.
That said, the 1st XI will start next season with promotion firmly in mind. The club recruited well last winter resulting in a much larger pool of players across the club’s three teams compared to last season, and a couple of new players could make the difference next season.
Many thanks to all players who took part, to captain Mike Brown, to the appointed all umpires, to scorer Nigel Turner and others who helped out during the season, to all who helped prepare the wickets at Swans Nest (including Brian Webb, Yas Sirdar and Chris Calcott), and to club sponsors REPL.
Read on for final table plus batting/bowling statistics.