Overall it was a successful season for the 1st XI, however it felt more a case of what could, and probably should, have been in the end.
After the disappointment of being relegated in 2013 there was excitement around the 2014 season, with many changes on and off the field. We welcomed several new faces into the squad that would strengthen all areas. However the worried faces were soon back after a heavy defeat to league new boys Hawkins in the first game of the season. From this training and game intensity upped massively and we didn’t taste defeat for the next 16 weeks, picking up 9 wins, a winning draw and a losing draw to go with 4 abandoned fixtures. Victories against Bridgnorth, Streetly, Astwood Bank and Hawkins in the return fixture were particularly impressive. South African overseas player Abel Mokhuane proved his talent on a couple of occasions.
At this stage Stratford were sitting pretty at the top of Division 3, with the bowling unit and particularly seamer Tom Grundy to thank. Grundy picked up 34 league wickets at an average of 10 and if it hadn’t been for an untimely injury would have taken many more.
The second loss of the season came away at Kings Heath, but the Panthers bounced back with good team performances to beat Quatt and Milford Hall in the following two weeks. With Sutton Coldfield having secured promotion with 2 games of the season remaining it left Stratford needing one victory from their remaining couple of fixtures. By this stage Mokhuane had returned to South Africa leaving a considerable hole in the top order, yet confidence among the team was still high.
Old foes Fordhouses used the conditions to their advantage to take victory in the penultimate game leaving the simple equation of a win against already relegated Newport to achieve promotion at the first time of asking.
Sometimes in sport fortune favours the brave and a nervy looking Stratford were always second best in Shropshire as Newport romped to victory, in turn aiding local rivals Bridgnorth who took second spot.
The immediate feelings of disappoint were clear but in reality many of us would have taken 3rd place at the beginning of the season, and especially after the first game.
Top performers with the bat were:
Abel Mokhuane – 379 runs @ 34
Dexter Purser – 376 runs @ 29
Nat Gregory – 358 runs @ 51 from only 9 innings
Chris Whelan, Aidy Witts and Ben Piggot also made match wining half centuries during the season.
With the ball, Grundy shone, taking 2 x 6-fors, and was well backed up by:
James Urquhart – 26 wickets @ 21
Mike Brown – 24 wickets @ 22
Aidy Witts also chipped in with a 5 wicket haul.
One thing that really showed was everyone contributed at some point, without relying on a couple of individuals as many other sides do.